In And Out Of Practice

By Jane Mountain | August 4, 2013

4660 km so far.

This morning was Stephen’s outdoor class in the park in Helsinki. We’ve been very excited about this one, partly because we’re staying with fellow yoga nerds while we’re here, and partly because every time Stephen checks Facebook, another 20 people have signed up for the class.

Rusty Bones

Everything in Helsinki seems to be within an easy bike ride, so we hopped on the bikes and rode down to the park. There were a few people there when we arrived, and over the next 20 minutes or so, more and more people showed up, almost all on bicycles, to take part in the class.

bicycles on waterfront in helsinki

More yogi bikes, Helsinki.

It felt great to be outside practicing with everyone, though I have to say, some of the longer holds Stephen had in the class this morning were a little challenging for me. My body is out of practice doing “real” yoga classes, and the combination of the work I did in St Petersburg with the work here was a little much for me.

When I got too tired, I took a break to take a few photos. As you can see, I’m not very good at shooting yoga photos. Guess I need more practice.

yoga outside helsinki finland

Final twist, Helsinki.

On the Facebook invitation, Stephen had invited everyone to an after-class picnic, so when we finished, we spread out our mats and blankets and shared some food and chat.

Jaakko, Yacine, Jane, and Stephen, post-yoga, Helsinki.

Jaakko, Yacine, Jane, and Stephen, post-yoga, Helsinki.

As you may know, I’m not always a fan of chatting with strangers, but at least I’ve had a lot of practice doing that on this trip. When it’s with people who do yoga and ride bikes, it’s easy.

Everything Feels New Again

Finally, we had to drag ourselves away from the picnic because today we’re getting back on our bikes. I’m really excited about getting on the road again, and thrilled to return to our unrestricted do-what-you-feel lifestyle.

It’s been 10 days since we last rode, and we’re a little out of practice. Our bikes felt extra heavy today and hard to handle after all the unloaded riding we’ve been doing. Everything felt just a little wrong. We kept having to stop to adjust panniers, pump tires, and change our layers. Getting out of town was SLOW.

Fortunately, it was the most beautiful ride we’ve had for ages. Bike paths led us more than 20 km past beaches, cottages, fancy suburban houses, and marinas. It was a sunny Sunday, so everyone was out, swimming, biking, boating, and walking.

sailing outside helsinki

Sailing outside Helsinki.

It felt like we were riding through some utopia, where everything is clean, everyone is happy and healthy, and no one ever cries.

We’re also a little out of practice when it comes to feeding ourselves. We hadn’t eaten nearly enough lunch to support our afternoon ride, and our snacks were a little sparse, so we decided to stop early and cook dinner overlooking an inlet.

Cooking dinner in Espoo, just outside Helsinki.

Cooking dinner in Espoo, just outside Helsinki.

It was a great idea, because we were both on our last legs, but man, it was sure hard to get moving again once we’d eaten.

Yes, You Can Camp Here

Wild camping is totally legal in Finland, so our plan was to stop when we felt like stopping and look for a spot.

How does one find a good free camping spot? Well, in Finland, you look for a lake or a piece of coastline on your map, ride there, and set up camp. At least, that’s what we did today, and it really was that easy.

We are set up near a rocky shore of a small, pretty lake. All evening, people have been popping down to the shore with their families, jumping into the lake, swimming for about 5 minutes, and then leaving. There have never been more than two groups of people here at the same time.

stephen floating in a lake

Stephen afloat.

It felt very strange to set up the tent in broad daylight with all this going on around us. I tried hard not to worry that someone would yell at us or tell us to move along.

If this is really OK, why doesn’t everyone do it? I guess they all have cabins in the country, so who needs to camp?

After getting camp set and dinner made, it was our turn to swim. We stripped off and waded in to the cool (but not cold) water. Don’t worry, the families were gone by then, so there was no one to see us in the nude. It feels amazing to wash away the day’s road dirt in the great outdoors, rather than in some slightly dank campground shower.

Even though we only cycled 26 km today, by the time the sun started to dip below the horizon, we were exhausted. We might be a little rusty with the whole cycling and camping thing, but it felt great to snuggle into our sleeping bags and fall asleep to the sounds of the lake.  

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  1. Comment by Maria

    Maria August 7, 2013 at 6:31 am

    “If this is really OK, why doesn’t everyone do it? I guess they all have cabins in the country, so who needs to camp.”

    Many of us(myself included) do camp here in Finland quite often but you have to remember Finland is in European standards quite a large country (338 424 km²) with few people (5,3 million) so there is so much space to share. That’s why people don’t camp near each other.

    For instance I rarely do it in urban areas (to me that is the whole Southern part of Finland, up in the north, there are endless forests).

    Nice that you came to Finland! Have a safe trip!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane August 9, 2013 at 2:15 am

      We are starting to understand the empty space thing a little better now that we’ve ridden through the archipelago, though I imagine it’s much more crowded than places further north. I’d love to come back some day and explore the rest of the country!

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