FINNS ON BICYCLES: ANTTI AITTOLA
This is the second part of the blog post series Finns on Bicycles – encounters on the road. This time let me introduce to you: Antti Aittola, a 23-year-old man from Porvoo, Finland. Antti left his hometown together with his friend Lauri Ketonen in March 2014, and after spending 27 months cycling through Asia, Australia, South America and the East Coast of USA, he finally returned to Finland in July 2016.
In November 2015, me and Antti met up in Ushuaia, Argentina. From there, we cycled together for one month through the isolated and windy provinces of Tierra del Fuego and Santa Cruz, all the way up until the small town of Gobernador Gregores. There, our roads parted as me and my aching knees decided to hitchbike for a break to Chile, with Antti galantly continuing his fight against the winds.
Antti Aittola: encounters with strangers
Random acts of kindness in Russia, Kazahstan and Thailand, as told by Antti Aittola.
1. A letter for countrymen in Russia
“During our first week in Russia, it was still cold and we were afraid of camping out, after hearing so many horror stories about Russia. In Kolchanovo village we met a really hospitable old couple who were worried about a couple of onions which I had attached to the rear rack of my bike, getting cold. With minimal mutual language me and Lauri managed to introduce ourselves and our mission. We ended up sleeping in their sauna and getting our clothes washed. The couple was really worried about our plans, and the woman even wrote a recommendation letter for us, which we could show their countrymen in case we needed help on our way. That kind of hospitality was something we didn’t expect to face in Russia – oh how wrong we were!”
2. Boat ride with a TV crew in Kazakhstan
“One of the most memorable days in Kazakhstan was when we reached Lake Balkhash. At the local bazar one of the sellers gave us a huge water melon and we went to the beach to eat it. While enjoying the heat and happy beach atmosphere, I got interested in some boats at the nearby port. We cycled to see them, but the gate to the harbor was closed. The port was actually for local coast guards, but they were happy to let us in and see the place. At the same time, there was also a local TV group by the boats. Apparently it wasn’t common to see two Finnish bicycle travellers in Balkhash, because the TV group immediately wanted to include us in their program. So, we had a boat ride on the Lake Balkhash with the TV group and the coast guards. We really enjoyed that day, but the day wasn’t even over after the boat ride. Afterwards, a local grocery store also treated us to our shoppings before we went camping.”
3. Unquestionable hospitality in Thailand
“In Thailand we had some difficulties finding good camping spots. The land was often either fully built, farmed or otherwise not suitable for camping. One evening, after a day of cycling we went into an abandoned warehouse and set up our tents there. When we were about to go to bed, an old Thai man came into the warehouse. I was about to go and say ‘hi’ to him, and to apologize for the fact that we had come into the warehouse without asking him for permission. Before I could say anything, the man smiled kindly and started to show us the warehouse. After showing us the light switches and the power plugs, he started to feed some wild cats which were also living in the warehouse. Then the man just disappeared, without asking any questions on who we were.”
4. Coins and water at a Russian village
“In one Russian village, I walked into the village center with our empty water bottles to ask someone for water. I was a real stranger there. I noticed how people started locking their cars and gates as I approached their homes. People were afraid. Finally, I found a muslim man making firewood behind his house and he was happy to fill my water bottles. As I was about to leave, the man came back and offered me some coins. I tried to refuse the money, yet without success. I gave the man a wooden man I had sculpted in return.”
5. Accomodation at a crossroads in Kazakhstan
“One day in Northern Kazakhstan a road we were on simply ended. We had two options: either to go back to where we had started that morning and do a 300km detour or to push our bikes for about 30kms across a muddy field. We decided to take the shorter route. A family at the end of the road was really worried about us. They said if we were going to do the walk, we should first rest a night at their home and keep going the next day.” (In the video below, Antti’s travel companion Lauri playing guitar with the son of the family.)
“I’m currently living and working in Helsinki, yet I’m still hungry for adventures. There are so many places I’d like to visit and my bucket list just keeps growing.”
“You never know what the future will bring, but I feel like I’m going to start traveling again at some point in 2017.”
Follow Antti Aittola’s adventures:
All photos courtesy of Antti Aittola.