Marco Polo explored middle and far east, beginning from Venice. However, he never took his way from Helsinki to Venice. The Vikings maybe did.
Alpo and Timo did. First 170 km from Helsinki to Turku in pouring rain. Then, 600 km from Stockholm to Helsingborg. Crossing the Danish Isles Sjaelland and Lolland, and through entire Germany from Puttgarden close to Lübeck to Mittenwald close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Ville joined the caravan in Nürnberg, and I had the opportunity to meet the expedition in Schongau, Bavaria. From Schongau, all you have to do to reach Venice is to cross the Alps and let go downhill towards the Mediterranean.
From Schongau, no shower. No indoor accommodation. No organized transportation. Rare indoor meals. All you need you have with you. On your kickbike.
Kickbike? A good question. Better try yourself.
Especially Uphill. My training was not actually good enough, considering the company. During the previous day, I hung around in Munich, and in the evening kicked only 30 km through the Fürstenrieder Forest to Starnberg. The following morning, 50 km from Starnberg to Schongau, taking all the small shortcut paths available. (Fortunately none of them was very long.) Schongau at 1 p.m. and chatting with Bavarians up to 4 p.m. It was easy to find the meeting place on the first bridge of the river Lech in the immediate vicinity of the township.
The remaining leg for the day was only 30 km to Oberammergau and soon after this village the night reached us. So, this day I traveled only 80 km, and the best day of Alpo and Timo had been 190 km between Erfurt and Nürnberg. However that was enough.
This caravan was an expedition of high morality. Especially Alpo and Timo felt that their holy task is to leave some potential energy behind. Thus everything which was left behind, including human excretions, was left on as high elevations as possible. On the other hand everything which was taken onto the caravan was taken at as low positions as possible. I have to admit that it took 48 hours for me to fully understand the idea of increasing potential energy, but when I once understood it, I did realize the high morality of potential energy. This is how the mountains become higher!
More uphill to Ettal and then the first downhill: 250 m down to the valley of river Loisach. Up the river valley to Partenkirchen, rice and tuna lunch on the foothill sunshine and through the village of Mittenwald. Good-bye, Bavarian Weissbier.
Between Seefeld and Innsbruck the top speed of the journey was recorded at 82 km/h, Alpo was the hero. Fully justified, since Alpo was the one having both a Harley-Davidson - type descending seat and a speed recorder, the others hardly reached more than 70 km/h.
A minor delay was due to mounting climbing which Alpo and Ville could not resist. The opportunity was appealing: very steep walls surround the narrow valley of the river Inn. Some more potential energy produced again...
Speed through Innsbruck and speed uphill. From the city, two kilometers horizontally and two hundred meters vertically, and you find yourself in the middle of countryside. This was the first timing place: Alpo headed the rise with 17 minutes, I was left 14 minutes behind.
Immediately after the village Igls the dark took us by surprise. The tents were raised in the dark, and food was prepared in still darker. Only now I realized that Alpo and Timo had not washed themselves for two weeks and that they were wearing the same clothes all the time.
Patsch at 1000 m, no breakfast. Mühltal had a shop with yogurt, bread, cheese, sausage, cookies and beer, all of which were placed into the leather bag to be covered from the wind. In the Sillerthal, the Autobahn was 400 meters below us, the Bundesbahn somewhat higher. Anyway, we had to get down since there was no road up there anymore. From Stainach another climbing of 400 m to Hümlerhof which took an hour, but the scenery was really worth it. Still more exiting was coming down: the minor dirt path was that steep that it was very difficult to ride and extremely difficult to wheel the bike down by hand. This may be most feasible backwards since there is a brake only in the front wheel, but it is not easy to walk the bike backwards. So I decided to ride, fell only once and survived again.
Austria was a country of 24 hours and less than 100 kilometers, but very good slopes!
The language really did not change. Down to Sterzing (Vipiteno) and Brixen (Bressanone), all together 500 m, and the people were still speaking German. Commercial signs were mostly in German only.
25 km east on flat land and with good speed, and the night reached us. Having breakfast in the village of St. Martin close to Bruneck, we met the first Italians speaking Italian instead of German. However, still St. Martin was mainly German- speaking. The people of Südtirolen were very friendly and truly interested in the Kickbike Safari.
The race started at 11.00. I was bet to be the slowest and I was given the tire reparation tools.
Fantastic scenery. Even if the race was on, I took myself time for enjoying and taking photos - it certainly would be hard enough in the steep elevation close to the finish.
There was a logging operation in the very steep valley of the river Gaderbach, a skyline system was employed. The German-speaking loggers were happy to be photographed, and really astonished hearing that the kickbike safari had been coming all the way from Helsinki, Finland. Nice fellows, Gute Reise!
One bad choice of route, and I traveled a couple of kilometers on a dirt road which was in bad shape. Up the Gaderbach valley, and the Dolomiten Mountains appeared as fantastic sceneries. However, I do not recommend longer stays exactly in the upper parts of the Gaderbach Valley. There are too many restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops, and the frequency of such objects seems to correlate negatively with the quality of human contacts.
However there were also somewhat refreshing meetings. After the village of St. Kassian, Alberto Tomba met me with his brand new convertible BMW roadster. I tried to help him to find a particular castle, but it did not appear in my map. Alberto was asking for a cute place to eat something. I did not want to depress him by saying that I have not been eating indoors for days, I just told him that there are about 30 restaurants within the next 5 kilometers.
Alberto has a very good self-confidence - or actually I think he was not fully aware of the situation, we had never met before. I think the blond sitting in his BMW was VERY close to step out of the car and sit onto my kickbike luggage- carrier. However, she obviously knew what kind of elevation there was in front of me and maybe she considered that with such an extra load I would never be able to cross the mountains. Maybe she was right.
Walking and kicking, depending on slope steepness. I washed my clothes and myself in a mountain stream and felt happy (Ville and myself used to wash ourselves daily, unlike Alpo and Timo. Ville even had some soap with him and he even used it, despite the threaten of doping charges...)
At 1900 m, I got rid of power. I simply had to sit down, rest and have some wine. There was still almost 300 m to go, and I decided that I will only walk upwards now. That did take time.
Finally I got up to 2192 m. Eight meters more climbing on a small hill and it was 2200. Time to celebrate.
Dolomitenlauf Marathon Results, 42.195 km, 1400 m net elevation: 1. Alpo 2.43. 2. Timo 3.00. 3. Ville 3.15. 4. Spede-Setä 5.05.
(Unfortunately no seconds were timed since Timo had thrown his expedition chronometer into the river Donau three days before.)
Cortina D'Ampezzo seemed to be the first town which was really Italian-speaking. We passed through and stopped for INDOOR dinner in a pizzeria in the village of S. Vito. Being used to living outdoors, we hardly knew how to sit on chairs. Alpo and Timo had been using indoor toilets on the way, but only entering the toilet like bandits, usually without buying anything from the restaurant. The enhanced stress level due to civilization got down when we set up the tents on a minor field in the immediate vicinity of the village S. Vito.
Fantastic Alpine sceneries continued still about 50 km south from Cortina. Something remarkable happened close to Longarone: Ville proposed that we would go swimming in a nearby lake, I agreed and Alpo and Timo joined us! The were both swimming at least four minutes, both having their clothes on so that also the clothes were washed! (Naturally, Ville was the only one using soap).
Lunch time close to Ponte Nelle Alpi. However, it was Siesta time as well, and all the gas stations were closed. Due to improper attention by Alpo, we did not have enough fuel for the spirit cooker for preparing the pasta of the day. However, there were the closed gas stations. We selected one with six gas tanks and two diesel tanks. After collecting all the gas and diesel residues which were left in the tank tubes, we had enough fuel. Such a fuel is very long-lasting: the gasoline burns first producing a very high temperature. The diesel then continues more slowly. Only at this stage we realized that it was completely unnecessary to buy fuel for the sprit cooker since it can be collected from the gas stations during the Siesta, free!
The flat 30-km distance between Conegliana and Treviso was kicked with a high tempo, at least 25 km/h. When arriving Treviso, we felt thirsty and had quite a few beers INDOORS. Tents were set up in the immediate southern vicinity of Treviso.
Venezia Street-Orienteering, Results: 1. Timo 14 2. Spede-Setä 22 3. Ville 22+ 4. Alpo 24
(Again, the results are in minutes only since the chronometer still is either in the Donau or in the Black Sea.)
The entire journey of the caravan was 2500 km and it took 19 days. In terms of countries, the final result was 6-0: the caravan crossed six countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria and Italy) but no country crossed the caravan.
The expediters are now wondering if there is another part of world where one could create still more potential energy...
August 9, 1996