Bikepacking Around the World Since 2014

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Words by Taneli Roininen @gonebikefishing

‘Could you make a quick recap about your trip to our blog?’, asks Clayton, the PR wizard of WTB. ‘Sure’, I responded from the Casa de Ciclista in Bariloche, Argentina. Three and half years, 38 000km and 34 countries in brief… Si, señor!

Chile, 2017.

It was October 7th in 2014 in the tiny village in the woods, in a tiny country not too far away from the North Pole. The late fall in Finland was as rainy as it usually is. I was twiddling with my shiny new GoPro, which was mounted in the end of a silver coloured selfie -stick. I was alone in the yard of my parents house who were at work, standing in light rain with my heavily laden bike, trying to make an excited looking face for a selfie to be posted on Instagram before starting my trip around the world. After 5 minutes of fake smiles I gave up and just got on the bike. Neighbour asked where I am going. ‘Indonesia’, I replied, getting a blank misbelieving glance as a response. I wanted to believe I could get there, and further.

Argentina, 2018. Photo by Janne Corax.

I had been dreaming of cycling around the world for years, but the opportunity never revealed it self. Or perhaps there had always been an opportunity to just do it, but what I had wanted to do in life and who I had been with had prevented me to seriously looking into a five to seven year bike trip (or how long this will eventually take?). I had gotten a superb quality higher education, had a dream job and was happy in a stable feeling relationship. If someone had told me in the beginning of the summer that I would sell nearly everything I owned a few months later and get on the bike in the fall fly fishing rod in my pannier, I would have laughed.

Tajikistan, 2015. Photo by Ann Johansson.

There are moments in life, when it all clicks. When the pieces of a puzzle fall into their right places and it all feels just right. My ex-girlfriend leaving me out of the blue felt first like a curse, but then soon like a blessing. Maybe it was true that she was not happy with me and maybe she had made me give up on some of my day dreams, which would eventually make me unhappy as well. Inside me was a flame, a desire for a grand adventure and now when she was not there suddenly anymore, living upon that desire and feeding that flame felt like the only right thing to do. Even more so, because of my heart defect seemed to be slowly getting worse and the doctors had informed me that there would be no more going to high mountains post-surgery, due to the medication I would be dependent on the rest of my life. No one knows if I had five weeks, five months or five years to my heart surgery. How could I not allow myself to follow this opportunity?

Chile, 2017.

Now, roughly 1200 days after ‘leaving it all behind’, like someone could describe it, I am sitting on a sun faded plastic chair in an empty camping ground in Fiambala, north Argentina. The owner lets me to sleep here generously for 2.5 euro a night, feeling probably something between pity, admiration and sympathy toward this homeless-looking, ghost white, red bearded character.

I can’t help myself thinking what concrete my trip has given me and if I could have spent the years somehow better. What am I really looking for? I headed into the wild in search of pristine nature, perfect trout stream and the most beautiful remote mountain pass, but maybe what I eventually found was myself. Now I know what keeps me motivated, what gives me energy and what drains it from me. I have been extremely driven all my life, that has always helped me to do what I have wanted and that has taken me across the world to Latin America as well. If what I have and what I will learn about myself on this journey helps me to direct that drive and energy to what make a difference to our degrading planet and my own happiness, I consider the years more than well spent.

Argentina, 2018.

The challenges of cycling around are not physical ones. Everyone riding a fully loaded bike as their unpaid day job would reach fantastic fitness in no time, but to be able to put in the hours day after day, month after month and year after year is a different story. When the years roll by, it is easier to see the million reasons to stop, than the few very good initial reasons (or new ones!) to pursue the grand goal, whatever it might be. I have had my moments on the road, when I find myself wondering the purpose of it all, but so far i have managed to convince myself to keep pedalling. Paved roads are currently my poison and untouched nature my remedy. Even half a day on tarmac kills the sense of adventure and feels like failure. Therefore I currently plan my routes as far from the human civilisation as possible, trying to find the smallest possible road from A to B through the wilderness.

Argentina, 2018.

I usually ride alone, not only because I nearly never meet other bike tourers on my routes, but also because I feel that solitude is an important part of the challenge. There are moments of course, when I feel lonely as well, but as long as I have somewhat control or at least know when the solitude ends, it’s ok. There are two types of fun on a bike tour: type one fun is that you are having fun in the moment and type two fun, when something was fun in hindsight. Most of the fun on my trip has definitely been type two fun, combined with glimpses of type one. For me, pushing myself and taking well calculated risks bring often the biggest reward eventually, the most type two fun. It is one of my ways to feel and live my life to the fullest. At least today.

Tazikistan, 2015. Photo by Ann Johansson.

From the Beginning. Where I Will Go.

I started my trip from Finland and toured the winter of 2014-2015 in the backroads of Europe, before continuing in the spring to Middle East and Caucasus region. I crossed the deserts of Iran and Central Asia in the heat of the mid summer of 2015 and the frozen Tibetan plateau in China in the early winter. I had an unplanned stop in Bali for more than a half a year (because of a girl...), which made me to skip Australia and New Zealand. Since the early 2017 I have been exploring South America, I toured Patagonia in snow through the coldest time of the winter and the Central Andean dry of Puna in the warmth of the summer in early 2018.

I am continuing north along the Andes through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, before crossing the Darian Gap human powered and sprinting through Central America. Then I’ll be checking out the trending Baja Divide before continuing across North America along the Great Divide all the way to Alaska. Then there is just one more country to travel through, one more wilderness to cross: Siberia, Russia. At least that is the plan.

My planned route around the world (or is it a just a big loop?).

‘Dreams should reach beyond once lifespan’ a wise women told me in 2009. During the past years I have been doing exactly what I have wanted, at least, if not realizing my dreams. The miles I have put in have found their purpose by helping me to become who I am today. My trip continues as long as I feel that staying on the bike is what I want, or as long as my heart allows me to. What is certain, though is that I will be exploring the cultures and the natural beauty of the Planet Earth the rest of my life on two wheels, in a way or another. The bug has bitten me, I am infected.

Greetings from the Andes,

Taneli Roininen

Argentina, 2018.

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