Kiruna, 4 September 2006


The train is full of Swedes. I don't understand any of them. There are only a few subjects I understand in a borrowed newspaper. I fail to understand the world news. Swedish is a still a very foreign language for me.

The night train takes me from Stockholm to Kiruna, the biggest city above the polar circle. It is only after Böden when 2 ladies enter the cabin that I am able to understand a little bit. They speak Mandarin. Now, my my Chinese is not perfect either, but at least it is better than my terrible Swedish.

The ladies are from Taiwan and planned their journey back home, on Internet. Their idea was to join a tour. Well, that is just a partial truth.

So, this trip is a bit of an unexpected adventure for the ladies.

The enlighten their journey even further, the train halts for an hour. The locomotive broke down. An other one is on its way, so I think there is no reason to panic.

A Swedish announcement tells about a train strike further up. As far as I understand there will be a bus in Kiruna for the ladies. A fine arrangement in my eyes. But it is an additional stress factor for the Chinese ladies.

And why don't I panic? Isn't my travel plan messed up by this delay? I think to myself: In a hurry? Sit down and relax
Well no, my travel plan is much simpler and thus more flexible:
  1. To Kiruna by train
  2. Stay there for almost a week, do a bit of cycling.
  3. And head back to Stockholm by train.
Now this plan is so simple it can not fail.

Cycling around Kiruna

In Kiruna the Chinese ladies head straight for the bus. The next day I cycle out of town on a rented bike. It's downhill, fast, very fast.

My destination is a small lake. It should be only a dozen kilometers. I am not in a hurry, yet halfway I sit down to relax. Going downhill is very nice and all, but how about the return trip going up? I pause for lunch and head back. It seems wise to keep the return journey as short as possible. Gravity is not working in my favour.

The smooth path down is a boulevard of pain going back. The further he went,
the longer
was his return journey.
I switch to the smallest gear, but to no effect.

My heart has trouble pumping enough oxygen around my body. Sweat runs down my spine after a few hundred meters. Sweating in Lapland was not one of my expectations. I'll have to break down this return journey into many small stretches and plenty of breaks. I plot the slowest ascending back. It takes me hours of sweating to reach my point of departure.

Ay, ay, my very own travel plan was way too detailed. The bit about heading for Kiruna by train wasn't too bad, but I'll have to rethink about cycling here for a couple of days. If only I'd simplified my travel plan to a blank piece of paper. That is far from detailed, but offers the ultimate flexibility. A travel plan is only complete when you can't take anything out.

Till next nut,