It’s not a good feeling to wake up and to have your head filled immediately with the knowledge that the next hour or so of your life is going to be miserable, frustrating and clumsy and that there’s no-one there to help, provide moral support or simply to take it out on. But this morning is all of that.
Wedged into a hollow of snow, my wind-battered tent has become encrusted with ice on the inside. It’s impossible to avoid brushing it all over my clothes, sleeping bag and mattress whilst struggling out of the warmth and into my down jacket.
I unzip the door – more ice crystals – and discover that the wind has filled the porch with fresh snow. My stove and pans have vanished. I dig them out, getting my gloves covered in snow in the process. I need to keep everything as dry as possible for it to keep me warm. But I can’t.
The wind is still gusting, as it has been doing all night. Every gust is accompanied by a cloud of flying ice shards. Everything is covered in snow and ice as I stumble about, trying to work out how to pack my stuff into the panniers that are the only things preventing the tent from blowing away.
I open my kilogram packet of cheese and cut into it while my porridge is cooking. It’s frozen solid. I might as well carry a brick around in my pannier. The porridge freezes to the side of the pan before I’ve finished eating it. My moustache gets full of the stuff. Instinctively I wipe my mouth with my hand and I now have a glove covered in porridge. I fume and try to wipe it on my trousers. Now I have a moustache, a glove and a trouser-leg all covered in frozen porridge. At about this point I begin to consider throwing myself in front of the next passing vehicle.
Thankfully, the day gets better once I’m on the road again. It’s a headwind, of course, and a long climb towards the border, but just before I arrive I come across a historical happening – a troop of horse-drawn sledges heading for the annual winter market in nearby Roros. I pull up on my bike and unintentionally steal the show. Suddenly two bus-loads of tourists forget about the sleigh-riders and start taking my picture and enquiring as to what substance I’m made from to be doing such a trip.
Then I find a cafe which sells hot-chocolate for 50p. The wind drops. I receive a message telling me my grandmother has sent me some money to sleep under a roof for the night. The pendulum swings the other way; suddenly it’s all good.
Due to the dismal progress made over the previous few days I set a target for Funäsdalen, about 70km from my camp, which I will reach at all costs before the day’s ride is over. The terrain is unforgiving and it’s well past dark when I arrive in the first of many Swedish towns I’ll come to on this leg of the trip.