A peregrine adventure in Finland

After midsummer I’m going to be walking the first part of the soon-to-be opened St Olav Waterway, joining Finland to the St Olav Pilgrimage to Trondheim via Sweden.

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to test out the first half of stage one of the route with a friend (as we were invited to visit friends over that way) so I downloaded the step by step instructions gave a cursory look at the map and off we set. We live here, and know the area pretty well, what’s more both of us have completed the Camino Francés, so my thinking was that this particular stage can’t be that difficult!

Getting out of Turku was easy. These were familiar roads, cycle paths and we soon spotted the St Olav Waterway signs.

So far so good.

The terrain was easy, the route was very well sign posted, and we made excellent progress.

Then we arrived at a part of town that I’d never visited before – a nature reserve near the sea, with fabulous boardwalks over the wet marshy land. This is probably the point I should mention that my friend and I weren’t on foot, but on bicycle. We were, after all, en route to a party, and as seasoned pilgrims we knew that it was possible to cycle the Camino rather than walk and assumed that the St Olav Waterway would be the same.

The boards were quite narrow and the land very wet, but that wasn’t the problem… it was the fences.

Somehow we managed to get our bikes over (or round) the obstacles (there were three of them) and push our bikes along through the nature reserve. The sun was shining, the scenery was lovely and we were laughing (a lot) at the assumption I’d made that the route would be easy on a bike!

We made it through the nature reserve and happily got back on our bikes for the next stage of the journey! It wasn’t long before we encountered a tougher obstacle than the odd fence … a very, very steep flight of stairs!

I stopped and reread the instructions. Somehow I’d missed the bit that said the view was

a reward for the steep climb up the stairs

steep stairs? .., with a bicycle? Mmm no, no, no.

We couldn’t even see the top of them! There was no way I was going to push my bike up …especially as I was fairly sure going down the other side would be just as hard (possibly even more so!) So, this was the point we abandoned the pilgrim trail, navigated a tiny path through the edge of the forest, pushing our bikes over aged tree roots for what seemed like an eternity!. It was definitely an adventure, a great work out of our upper body muscles and our nerve .- and trust me, we were still laughing – but it was exhausting!

My friend was quite familiar with the small countryside roads on the outskirts of Kaarina, but although we crossed and cycled down many of those mentioned in the step by step instructions we didn’t actually manage ever to see the st Olav Waterway sign again.

We did arrive at our destination (eventually) , about two hours later than expected, a bit hot and quite tired (thankfully we had water with us!) but we were still laughing at our naivety and filled to overflowing with wonderful stories to tell!

It took us less than 30 minutes to cycle home … Later this month I’ll head over to climb those stairs and see the actual the St Olav Waterway takes down from the viewpoint. With luck I can stop off at my friend’s cottage for coffee again!

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