Before I arrived to Oulu, the wheel rim of my bicycle got broken down. A friction noise was coming from the rear wheel but I couldn’t recognize what the reason was. With the rising noise pedaling also became harder. I had to stop and download all my bags and the load. I checked the rear wheel thoroughly. Holy shit! The wheel rim got broken. This was not good! The city Oulu was very close. I called Tunturi which sponsored me throughout Finland for a new wheel rim. The next day I went to the address they sent me in no time flat. The name of the mechanic was Pyorasuvala. The interest they have shown was excellent.
They got astonished when they learned what I am doing and where I am going to. I left my bicycle at 10 am and was told to take it back at noon. Okay. “By the way, there is some problem with the cable of the Sigma, do you have a new one?” Yes, they have. “And also please overhaul the chain”. After I hang around in downtown for two hours I returned to the store. Photos shot. Just as I was tending to leave:
– Gurkan, Tanturi sent the rim for you, but handwork makes up 225€. Together with a discount of 100€ you have to pay 125€.
The ones who were abroad would know if there is handwork it is really very expensive. For example, I had my haircut lastly in Moldova. As I heard the prices just for a haircut, I started to cut my hair by myself. Now, the rim was taken off, the spokes were removed and the wheel was built. This is really a hard work. I also built the wheels of my bicycle now standing at a museum in Ankara. I spent hours to learn wheel building in the atelier of Gungorler Bicycle shop. I can easily rebuild my wheel on the road if I need to. If I had known that I would be charged, I would build my rear wheel. I didn’t object at all, thanked them for the discount and paid. I was told to go to a bicycle shop after 300-400 km and let the wheel be trued. After I told the mechanic that I had built the wheel of my previous tour bike and would be able to take the bicycle apart and rebuild on the spur of the moment you should have seen him making a grimace and the puzzled expression of his face.
I met Eric who had just started from Europe for a world tour before I departed from Turkey. His destination was China. He also turned a mountain bike into a tour bicycle. His rim was broken on the way. I took him to Gungorler Bicycle shop and said: “Vahit, this man has a broken rim”. Vahit Abi (Abi: elderly brother) built the wheel right away and restocked the missing components. I remember that it took about two hours. As I said, wheel building is a hard row to hoe. If you go on a long tour it should perfectly work. Eric wanted to pay for his work, but Vahit Abi said:
– Gurkan tell him, no need to pay. I wish him a safe and sound voyage.
I oriented a pair touring towards Japan to Vahit Abi also. After seeing his work of wheel building, they called him as “sensei – the master”. Hahaha. I know that, in every corner in Turkey, the mechanics owing a bicycle shop would behave like this. They help, offer meal wishing safe and sound voyage. We Turks like to help to travelers. I pay for the handwork and put it down to experience. I intended to stay in a hotel or hostel in this city but they were expensive. I sent some messages to Warmshowers and Couchsurfing but didn’t get any reply. Nothing to do, keep on going. I slowly pedal towards the skirts of the city. The bicycle road is snow covered but due to the cold the snow is such hardened feeling as if pedaling on asphalt. Anyway, I reached the small settlements outside the city. Constructions started as settlements became rare. I pedaled downtown in Oulu which was a quite alive city. The bicycle roads were really broad. For new incomers new settlements are required of course. The interesting case was that the bicycle roads were accomplished before the buildings in the construction areas. I pedaled some 5 km to the end of constructions. Buster, just as I was thinking that the road would hopefully not a dead end one, the road ended abruptly. Pofff.. I have to pedal back those 5 km. Nothing to do, I returned back to the construction area and saw a worker.
– Hi, may I ask you something?
– I wonder why you accomplished the bicycle road before people settle?
When it is decided to the location of the construction area, first the roads for the heavy construction equipments are established and then the bicycle roads for the workers. J In Ankara, there is a road called Incek Road which goes to “Konut Kent”. On this road there are two slopes surrounded with huge and empty fields. The ones who might pass through this road shall have a look, the sewer system is already installed for years but still there aren’t any constructions or settlements. This sewer system has connection to nowhere. It was so for years. Perhaps, new houses are being built meanwhile. Sure, infrastructure is important, what I just meant to present how our priorities differ. Nevertheless, that part of Ankara is quite suitable for bicycle roads.
I guess if I take this road I would be on my own for a long time without crossing the main road. Good!.. To be able see the side roads on the GPS is great. The Finnish government let the roads roughly be cleaned and the mother nature turned the rest into slick ice and sprinkled with snow on top. There is a line broad enough to pedal with my bicycle. There are tiny hills scattered all through the forest. I am climbing up and down continually. The night dives down. I need to find a place to erect my tent. Although I am pedaling through a forest, any time I leave the road I got embedded till waist height into the snow. Therefore, I must to find a suitable place to camp. Again, I climbed up a hill the road holding on hillside. I had pedaled almost 70 km in this unfrequented terrain when I stopped and looked at the horizon.
– Gurkan, in what sort of terrain are you pedaling? Auu… What the hell is this?
I take a look at my back the scenery remains the same. Forest is reaching the horizon. There is forest everywhere, but really all over. My family is from the Black Sea region of Turkey. We always say that one can encounter every shade of green, there is forest as far as the eye can reach. But I haven’t seen such a green forest in my life. I already mentioned in my previous article that apart from settlements (also in the cities there are countless green parks) every single spot is covered with forest in Finland. I watch the amazing scenery for a while and remember Mongolia. There, you could turn to any direction but the scenery remained the same. It is a strange feeling to stand in the middle of such a terrain. The night falls. It is difficult to find a suitable camping place in such a forest reaching the horizon. I turn the front and rear lights on and continue to pedal. I am not the one who likes traveling through night! But I would always pedal on my own in a huge forest covered in white where silence is predominating. As far as I can see there aren’t any settlements nearby. The only thing that cuts the silence is the noise of squeezing snow (The ones participating my presentations in Turkey would remember what this deep silence means. Anyhow, I wasn’t able to explain also at that time what I tried to mean)
The city just before the Arctic Circle is Rovenievi. While I was passing through the city I saw a Turkish restaurant and decided to stop by. As you enter the restaurant you run into the portraits of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and then that of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Inside, at a corner you can see the portraits of all the Ottoman Emperors. The decoration of the restaurant is quite authentic. The man sitting at the cash point gets astonished as I say “Selam” and even more after telling that I came from Turkey all the way with bicycle.
In fact this part of route was not originally planned. Also, pedaling to the European North Arctic Circle was not meantioned among my destinations. Crossing the Arctic Circle in Alaska was already meant. The major route was Helsinki-Turku with bicycle and then Stockholm with ferry. But, I thought that already being here and already pushed my limits in Russia under that cold, why not to pedal further north.. I would have gone till Greenland if there had been a running ferry in this period of year. That’s it, you wander around…
The owner of the restaurant is Hudaverdi Abi. After having my dinner he offers me tea. I don’t like to drink tea so much but I didn’t drink brewed tea for such a long time. “I would like to drink, Hudaverdi Abi”. The conversation deepened, the night has fallen.
– Abi let me just pedal to the Arctic Circle.
– Buddy, I’ll give you a ride.
– Thanks Abi. I don’t use any other transport vehicle if I do not need to.
– All right.
It doesn’t matter whether it is dark outside because, there is an illuminated bicycle road from the city to the Circle line. While pedaling, I also come across with people jogging on the bicycle road. Huh, this is a different modus vivendi.“Honey, I’ll just jog till the Arctic Circle and turn back”. It is about 10 km away from the city. A Santa Claus park is erected near to the Circle.
Well, Santa Claus was from Turkey, but is adopted by Finns. The Finns constructed a village for Santa Claus at Napapirri through which the Arctic Circle line crosses. It is presented to the kids as if this is his working place, a clever attempt to make out of it an attraction center. To say “Wow, we crossed the Arctic Circle line” alone may not be not enough.
You shall have a photo with Santa Claus, buy toys, socks and underwear all with the theme of Santa Claus or reindeer. There are also jewelry shops. J Leaving the souvenir shops, you run into sledge reindeer. You may take a tour. I swear I had done a better job than the guys with the sledge reindeer if I would have put a table there and written “Crossing Arctic Circle with bicycle from Turkey, 5 euro”. I come to Arctic Circle and cross first with my bicycle and then take a couple of photos.
Boo! A Shell petrol station erected on the Arctic Circle line… Don’t get surprised of course a world known petroleum company would open a station right on the Circle line where else then. Let me look if there is a suitable camping place? Oh, yes. Just behind the station, I erect my tent. Great, there is also free Wi-Fi.
Just across the petrol station is the Santa Claus hotel where one night costs 420 TL. J If you would like to overnight right on the line of the Arctic Circle, it will cost only 10€ plus the breakfast is on the house. No shower, shared toilets, password Miami J
I erected my tent just on top of the Arctic Circle line and stayed there for 2 days.
Pedaling on ice makes the body exhaust 3-4 folds more than usual. Entering a snow covered road results in consumption of a higher amount of energy. Following the main road does not improve the situation since the right-hand lane is also usually covered with snow and ice. You consume additional energy to maintain your balance which makes your muscles to work heavily. All these really forced me all the way through.
I prepare the camera for a video record, that’s no small matter I pedaled all the way up to the Arctic Circle. Everything is ready. ACTION… Silence for a couple of seconds, I’m lost for words….
– Hi, this is Gurkan Genc. My journey around the world with bicycle started on September 9th 2012. Right now, I am at the North… hahahahaahhhahahha!
– Once again. Hi, this is Gurkan Genc Hahaha!
Right at that moment you recognize what you have undertaken. It is really not an ordinary man’s job.
– Buddy, what’s up?
– Fine, I pedaled to the Arctic Circle, snapped some fresh air and would set free towards south… How are you?
Formerly as I was reading the articles and watching the videos of world tourers I noticed that they were sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. Laughing, crying, yelling are the ways of expressing their feelings for the cyclists achieving their goals. How come someone express the pleasure of achieving a seemingly impossible dream?: The Karakum Desert, the Pamir climb, the Walkhan Gorge, the Gobi Desert, the Arctic Circle, camping at minus 38 centigrade, feeling minus 57 centigrade on the bicycle and various destinations just ahead. From the very beginning of my journeys, I always believed in myself that I would come through with flying colors. This manner of a bicycle journey is not just about traveling the world from country to country and from city to city. At the same time, it is an odyssey of discovering me myself.
On the sixth day of pedaling my head starts to itch if I had not the opportunity to take a shower. After pedaling 100 km per day (I increased the distances on purpose since the same scenery remains and the silence felt doesn’t change) slipping into the sleeping bag with all the sweat and sleeping at plus 24 centigrade make me as anybody stink to high heaven. I mentioned before that I change my underwear every three days. If you do not stay in hotels in winter you won’t be able to wash your belongings. Well, what do I do? I wash my hair, my underwear and socks and also shave myself in the rest rooms of petrol stations or restaurants. I wring my laundry, then remove sogginess with paper towels and finally wrap into my towel. If I do not wrap into towel, the wet laundry gets frozen at this cold weather. In the tent I place the still soggy socks and underwear between my sleeping bag and the liner. The temperature inside the sleeping bag rises up to 24 centigrade which lets them dry till the next morning. The same way, I also fill up my thermos bottles in the rest rooms. After Russia, I have never paid for drinking water. The quality of the tap water in Finland is almost equal to the best drinking water sold in Turkey.
I met with Erasmus students while I was staying on the Arctic Circle line. These students from all over the world gave me their addresses and mobile numbers inviting me to their countries.
Just as I was about to depart I ran into a Spanish group. They immediately took their mobiles out and looked at my web site sharing with their friends on Twitter and Facebook J. Alberto sends occasionally messages as: “We keep on following you”.
Anyway, let’s continue to my journey. By the way, I was not able to watch the northern lights unfortunately! This is just a stroke of luck. You might not be able to watch the northern lights while pedaling for two weeks in the north and someone visiting for just two days would run into them, pure luck! Anyway, I would stay for a longer time in Alaska and hope to catch the northern lights somewhere there.
I request that the following question be answered by only the ones residing in Izmir. The person determined upon drawing will receive a scholarship for a foreign language course for one year from Izmir Buca Turkish-American Association. The participation conditions and the e-mail address are given on this web site. The answers should be sent between 11:30-22:30 on March 7th 2013. Answers sent afterwards will not be taken into consideration. The answers will be evaluated by myself.
“Where is the Turkish flag which had waved at the rear of my bicycle during my Turkey-Japan tour now residing? The importance of this place and information about this place”
Sude Ozyurek gave the right answer to the question and won the scholarship.
You may sent your opinions, whether positive or negative, about the general structure of my web site to Engin one of my team mates. email@example.com