Sysmä; tribulations and discoveries of a lonely biker

Posted by on 28/11/2015
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Sunny morning this August last day’s, that brings me a great view from the room’s balcony. Pity I’ve woken up too late and, as usual, laziness has prevented me to profit from the hotel’s breakfast. But anyway, I’m not used to eat anything right after waking up.

I wouldn’t mind to spend one more day here, in Ähtari, but I must hurry up; don’t ask me why. Is it true I’m escaping from the cold, or is it rather I’m getting tired of this trip, as absurd as my own sterile life? Whatever; let it be like that. I pack my things, pay the bill in reception and head for the parking lot. I believe this is, probably, the best moment of a motorbike ride: when you get astride on the bike’s seat, grab the handlebar, turn the engine on and, drawing back the side stand, put first gear (oh, that sober clanc noise!), release the clutch and ride on, lowering your helmet’s screen as you gain speed…

The sunny morning turns slowly into a cloudy day. When the thermometre indicates 11,5 ºC I stop one minute for putting another layer on. I meditate… for a few days now, perhaps since I left Norway, I’m feeling particularly gloomy and blue. Not only I’m very hesitant as to which way to take towards Central Europe (uncertainty that worries me much more than it should), but also disappointed in general, perhaps because I’m in the last third of this Journey to Nowhere and it’s turning out to be, indeed, just that: a journey to nowhere in every sense. It’s now undeniable that, whatever I was looking for, I haven’t found; neither have I soothed my sorrows, nor met anyone along with whom to wander this path (supposing that’s what I was after), leave aside finding myself. I keep not knowing who I am, or I know it even worse than before: my own self wears out a bit more every day, in the places I go past, the experiences I leave behind, the life I consume…

Suddenly a real time, practical concern rescues me from such useless grey thoughts for a while: asphalt has ended and I’m now on road metal. In the map it shows the same colour as other paved ones, but now is just gravel and loose stone, and it only get worse every kilometre. My anxiety sky rockets only of thinking I can get a flat tyre here, in the middle of nowhere. And I’m not riding an off-road. Nex time I take one of these secondary routes I’ll double check first; but then that’s what I always think, and never do. This map I got from Andrej is not too good: an old making from (I realize now) the year 1988, when Saint Petersburg was still called Leningrad. This road is three decades unpaved now.

I keep going slowly, fully focused on taking the not-so-bad parts of the road. After a few stretches of bigger stone, sharp and erosive, things get a bit better, and a little further on, just before coming to a junction, I finally on asphalt again. It’s been thirty dreary kilometres of restlessness.

Thus, what with one thing and another, this dull day of ugly meditations goes by. What a pity the sky is overcast, since today’s route–mostly along a lake, with bends and slopes–such a rare thing in Finland, today’s route would have been beautiful on a sunny day. Though on the other hand, as I keep repeating, after Norway I’m hardly excited by any landscape; and in fact I have taken but a couple of photos in the last week.

De Ähtari a Sysmä

From Ähtari to Sysmä

When I’ve done two hundred kilometres I decide it’s enough for today, and I stop in the very next town, called Sysmä. Though small, it turns out to have some commerce: bars and restaurants, two supermarkets, two petrol stations, several other shops, a campground and, best of all, a hotel right downtown: Hotelli-ravintola Uoti, which besides having some character is, luckily, quite affordable as for Finland (57 € a single room, which is not too far from the average 40-50 € normal in Central Europe, and definitely much more reasonable than the Scandinavian typical crazy prices).

Hotel Uoti has that rather spartan, yet a bit charming air from the Soviet-style buildings; and the bar-restaurant, being the town’s social heart, has got a personality of its own, and feels cozy. Besides, it’s the only local that remains open in the evening: everything else, shops, other bars and even the petrol stations, is already closed by 9 pm, when I finish my stroll. You can’t ask a lot more to such a small place.

After dinner, eager for some company, even if only the nearness to other human beings, I pop in the bar for a beer. The waitress is a lady in her late forties, pleasant and still good looking; and six local drunks boozing beer around a table make for a curious costumbrist picture, very Finnish. The one in the corner, half in tears, is tightly hug by his comforting neighbour for a few minutes; other two, on their naked torsos, are engaged in some arm-wrestling; whereas the remaining two keep some hot conversation, until one of them, intoxicated, while trying to get up falls aground banging his head hardly on the floor, and he stays there without budging, but still talking with his friend as if nothing had happened…

I look at them, careless rural drunks, then look at myself, pensive wandering tramp, alone at my table, and think: those people have truly nothing to envy me. Adventurer? Adventurer my ass.

I go to bed. Tomorrow, I hope, will be a new day. Destination: Porvoo, medieval town and last of my Finnish stages.

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