After arriving at Pajala and setting up camp, Oli and I explored the campsite. We were mulling over the difficulty of the crazy golf course when the cyclist we passed on the way in to town arrived at reception. He looked slightly bemused as the guy running the camp site was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t around either when we arrived, appearing out of thin air like a latter day Mr Ben to check us in. I waved to him and pointed to reception to let him know he had another visitor and gave the cyclist the thumbs up, to let him know assistance was on its way.
We continued our exploration, discovering a tributary of the Toureålven through the woods at the bottom of the site. There was a suspended walk way crossing this smaller river on which we had ten minutes of scary, bouncy fun, trying to tip each other in to the river some ten meters below. When we got back to camp the cyclist had pitched nearby to us. He struck up conversation, in English; he must have seen Big Blue’s number plate. He was from the UK himself, from the north of Scotland. His name was Paul and I guessed he was in his late fifties.
We talked about our journeys, me feeling quite proud of the fact that I managed to get myself and my eleven year-old son to the Arctic in and eight year old Land Rover. I assumed that Paul had flown to Sweden and then hired his bicycle to tour the region. Then he told me had cycled all the way. Again, I assumed that he meant from Scotland and began thinking what an amazing achievement that was. It had taken us four days to get here by car, god knows how long Paul had taken! So I asked him when he had set off. He said that his journey began in March. From Cape St Vincent. In Portugal. And he had cycled every inch of the way! I don’t even know how far that is, but it is a huge distance.
Then Paul explained his route. Not only had he set off from the most south-westerly point of mainland Europe, he decided to go the long way! He came up through Portugal and Spain, telling me how fabulous the city of Cordoba was and also the small town in Spain where the roads are made of sand because there are no cars, only horses. He told me of his struggle through the south of France, cycling in to the Mistral and only managing 20k a day. Not only had Paul crossed the Pyranees, he had crossed the Alps in to Switzerland, where he spent some time in the mountains with his wife.
His journey then took him through Germany, at the time of the torrential rains and flooding, and then on through Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland and back to Germany to get the ferry to Denmark and on to Sweden. His destination, like ours, is Nordkapp, the most northerly point on mainland Europe; the end of the continent. Where the midnight sun gives way to winter ice and the raw power of nature.
Paul, you are a true adventurer. You have dreams and you make them happen. You have made me realise that this is how life is meant to be. Dreams are OK, but no matter how big or small they are, you have to make them live. I hope I meet you on the road again and we can tell each other what happened with our dreams.
I salute you, intrepid adventurer. Travel safely, dream big. And do it!