Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please click here for more info.
This week, I’m welcoming Ruben Arribas for an exciting postcard all about one of the countries I’m most desperate to visit. Ruben is a Spanish traveller who has been to 70+ countries around the world. If you value real cheap travel guides and offbeat destinations, he is your go-to guy. Read his tips and stories in Gamin Traveler.
Welcome Ruben! Last year you went on what sounds like a pretty epic adventure! Tell us all about it…
Last April-August 2015, I went on a bicycle trip with a friend – a bicycle trip from my hometown Mostoles (Madrid) to North Cape (Norway) and going down Lapland to Helsinki. It lasted 5 months and we did 9 500km. The route started with the Santiago’s Way in Spain and we cycled to North Spain, going to France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. We focused in cycling the whole way, but took 2 ferries (because there wasn’t any choice) but stayed in a very low budget that whole trip.
Sounds incredible, I would love to do something similar! What was your favourite destination on this trip?
My favorite destination was Norway. The landscapes are just breathtaking . The best moments in my bicycle trip was cycling around the Fjords. It takes 2-3 hours cycling around a fjord. You can’t stop looking everywhere and get impressed by how amazing the views are. It was summer at that time. It was never getting dark during the day. Another memorable moment was pitching the tent finding ourselves sleeping next to reindeers (whew!) – that was just so beautiful. First time it happened, I couldn’t even sleep. I was looking at them for hours. The reindeers were coming in different colors – white, brown and black. Ahh, great memory.
What kind of accommodation did you use?
Throughout the whole day of this trip, we are always outdoors. Cycling, getting food, meeting people, resting. For sleeping, I used wild camping 20% and couchsurfing 80%. Both were great, wild camping lets you breath freedom but comes with some problems: hard conditions like the cold, rain and mosquitoes. Couchsurfing is great! Meeting local people the whole way, people treated me so good through couchsurfing. Having the chance to have a great rest in a home setting, a lot of times even cooking delicious food for us. Everyday we get a host is a chance to have incredible conversations about life and travel and the culture surrounding us.
What did you get up to in Norway?
A run-down of the highlights of the trip, any landmarks you visited, or what sorts of activities you were doing – no need for a day-by-day narrative. Write as much or as little as you like!
Visiting the countryside was one of the activities we did a lot during our trip, and we loved it. It was a simple life in the middle of nowhere. You can breathe fresh air, milk cows, feed chickens. We pick blueberries and tomatoes, and even lettuce from a little garden in a place we were couchsurfing with. It’s totally a different experience than visiting a city with traffic and people everywhere.
What was your highlight of the trip?
Would it be bad if I say the highlight was the whole trip? Ha! That’s how I really feel, to be honest. The experience was amazing. It was my favorite trip. I love cycling and traveling. Having the chance to do both, I was happy everyday. Even if some days were really hard because of the weather and long distances, I never lose my smile during the bicycle trip.
I’m not surprised – the whole trip sounds like a highlight. It’s great that you enjoyed every second, even the tougher stuff! Did you eat much good food in Norway?
I enjoyed every food in the trip. Traveling by bicycle makes you hungry all the time. Eating cheap sandwiches with cold beer. Eating barbecue with salmon and meat after all day cycling. Local dishes cooked by my hosts. Especially in Norway, when the weather was very cold and I did 100+ kilometers, the warm meals from our hosts was really appreciated. My favorite in Norway was two new things that I discovered there. Dark sweet cheese and sheep ham. I’ve never heard about them before visiting Norway.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone planning a long term cycling trip?
The main tip I can give is about distance – to try and cycle no more than 70 kilometers per day, and without too much luggage. Try to cycle enjoying the nature and avoiding cities as much as possible.
Did your journey teach you anything new?
I learned a lot about the world. Every people that I met taught me something new everyday. I improved my skills in the nature like making fire and where to pitch the tent better. I learned so many things about myself, too. The 5 days of cycling over 100 kilometers in Lapland, under the rain and with mosquitoes and cold weather, was a very hard 5 days for me. Physically and emotionally. But I learned to fight everyday with your bicycle. The experience was worthy.
And finally: what do you love most about travelling?
Meeting local people, talking to them and listen about their stories – this is the best part travel has offered me, in any place I’ve been to. Each person teaches me new things. I love to see the world with their eyes. I also love exploring different places that local people recommend for me to see. Least touristic places are my favorite. And food, I love food. I love street markets where you can try different local food.
NB – All images belong to Ruben.