The first day of our biking adventure in Åland was a tiring, yet enjoyable one. Instead of the first leg of our journey taking 1 hour and 55 minutes as Google says it should, it ended up taking us almost 8 hours! But still, the roads that we travelled on that day were some of my favourites in Åland – they took us through small villages with traditional Swedish-style houses and tiny red mills, lush forests and colourful fields full of flourishing flowers.
We got up at around 8 AM, packed up our tent, had some breakfast and said goodbye to our perfect camping spot at Tullarns Äng, before walking into the center of Mariehamn, where we spent a few hours in the tourist information center getting everything sorted for the next four days of biking around the islands. The staff there was brilliant and a great help to us. We then went to Östra Hamnen (the east harbour), where we rented our bikes from Ro-No Rent. It cost us 60 euros each for a standard bike with three gears and a basket. Nothing outstanding, but pretty decent for four days on the road. It wasn’t the easiest bike to control to begin with, but I soon got the hang of it.
At about 12 PM, we embarked on our four-day journey with the first destination being the island of Eckerö in Western Åland. According to Google Maps, this short 34,8 km. ride should take just under two hours. Well, let’s just say that a lot of things had to go wrong for it to take eight hours instead!
While on the road, we stopped every five minutes or so to fix our bags back onto our bikes, as they were either too heavy, too uncomfortable or too loosely fitted. We also had a one hour food shopping stop before even getting out of Mariehamn, but we needed to stock up on food as we didn’t know when we’d see a shop again. And then there was the butt situation. Just half an hour into our ride, we both started to feel butt pains as the seats on our bikes were really hard, and it only got worse as the days went by! I soon realized that it wasn’t a good excuse for a break though – sometimes you just have to get on with it, no matter how painful and uncomfortable things are!
But despite all of the above, it was an enjoyable ride through the beautiful and peaceful countryside of the municipalities of Jomala and Hammarland. I loved the tiny, idyllic villages that we passed, where life is simple and slow-paced, just like our transportation around the islands was.
When we had crossed the bridge to the tiny island of Öra, which connects Hammarland with Eckerö, we decided to have a late lunch before continuing to the village of Käringsund on Eckerö. At this point, it was already past 5 PM, so we had spent over five hours riding from the capital, which just seemed ridiculous.
Over lunch, we discussed what the best option for camping was, and decided to set up our tent on Öra instead of Eckerö, which was the original plan. This allowed us to explore Eckerö without our heavy bags and it would make the next day’s journey 10 km. shorter.
We set up our tent in a little forest area next to the main road, hidden away by the trees. After locking up the tent with our heavy bags inside it, we set off on our now very light bikes to Käringsund, which didn’t take long to reach. Käringsund is the tourist destination on Eckerö, where the camping place and other facilities are located. For some reason, I was expecting it to be a big village almost the same size as Mariehamn, but I was surprised to see that there was almost nothing there. Still, it was a nice place to hang out for a few hours and play a game of minigolf, despite a few heavy rainfalls. Thankfully, that was the only rain we had during our time in Åland!
After the game, it was time to explore the area some more. We decided to bike to the nearby island of Mellanön, which is connected by a bridge. There were some really beautiful spots on the island, and it was very peaceful as there were hardly any people there at that time of the evening.
While Steve decided to ride a bit further on a gravel road, my sore butt and I decided to head back to the bridge to wait for him, where I watched the sun set behind the trees while writing in my journal.
When we were reunited, it was getting cold, so we decided to bike straight back to the tent, where we had a really late dinner and then had a comfortable night’s sleep in the silent forest. We had successfully completed the first leg of our journey, and were looking forward to what the next three days had in store for us.