Running Baleal to Caldas da Rainha

This is the brief documentary of one of my favourite runs ever, a 34km one from the surf mecca of Baleal on the Portuguese Silver Coast to the major inland urban centre of Caldas da Rainha, well known for its famous thermal spa hospital. The first 16km leg of the journey saw me moving north along the Atlantic coastline to Bom Sucesso, which is located on the northern banks of the mouth of the Lagoa de Óbidos (Óbidos lagoon).

After a welcome lunch break, I headed off on the second leg of 18km, following the nature trail that hugs the lagoon’s shoreline. As I left the lagoon behind me, I climbed to the hilltop village of Arelho. From the high vantage point at the Arelho village church, I took a brief moment to reflect on the trails that I had just covered, with a panoramic view looking back over the entire lagoon, which was fortuitously accompanied by the ringing of the church bells!

After leaving Arelho, I entered into some serene countryside, basking in solitude in the blazing late afternoon sun, as I meandered through forests and farmlands to finally reach my destination at the municipal square of Caldas da Rainha.

Thank you for sharing this running adventure with me, and be blessed,


Golden sunset at Caldas da Rainha

Suotaival & the Friendship Inn

Torronsuo would be the third National Park that I would visit on this maiden vanlife journey. It’s located between the towns of Forssa and Somero, and covers an area of 25.5 square kilometres. This swamp area, which was declared a national park in 1990, is a typical ombotrophic raised swamp. From the ancient Greek word ómvros, which means ‘rain’, these kinds of swamps or bogs receive all of their nutrients from the rain, rather than from streams or springs.

The Torronsuo bog has a thick turf layer with its middle part raised above its edges. The turf layer is, in fact, one of the thickest measured amongst all Finnish bogs, even up to 12 metres in some parts. The habitat is a valuable home for many species of birdlife and butterflies, with roughly a hundred species nesting there. I set out to explore the main areas of the swamp by walking the 8.5km Suotaival loop, which literally translates as ‘Swamp Passage’.

‘Suotaival’ by Jyri Manninen

After completing the Suotaival in the mid afternoon, I headed off to what would be my final destination on this first ever vanlife trip, the Ystävyyden Majatalo, or the Friendship Inn, which was established in 1988, as a place to offer people with, essentially, life guidance and support services. Originally, the inn was the Kruusila dairy, before then becoming a holiday home for the Suomen Pienviljelijät (Small Farmers of Finland organisation) prior to the change in 1988.

Ystävyyden Majatalo – the Frienship Inn

It’s possible to go and live there as a house resident while receiving the needed help. While doing so, these residents do voluntary work to not only maintain the premises, but also for supporting the needs of other visitors and guests, such as when various kinds of retreats and other events are organised there. I had, myself, spent several months here in late 2016, early 2017, to, essentially, get realigned after the end of an 18 year marriage; and things obviously worked out rather well, as I’ve never felt better about life. I’m now much better focused on directly my energy towards the people and things of true and meaningful substance. It’s actually where the spark and confidence to openly throw caution to the wind first manifested in my heart, to start my camino, bicycle touring and, now, vanlife adventures.

To every single person that has ever supported me, no matter how great or small, I dedicate this video to you, as well as to Puuma, the now passed-on Majatalo house cat, who would, through his amazingly calm and gentle demeanour, infect all those graced by his presence with that same peacefulness and the simple joy of just being. Thank you, and I’ll see you again then in the next one. Be blessed.

Here lies ‘Puuma’.

A night in the forest

As I watched memory lane disappear in my rearview mirror, I felt excited to now be venturing into completely new and uncharted territory. I had an approximately 150km drive to reach the Päijänne National Park. The park was established in 1993, has an area of 14 square kilometres and consists of 50 unbuilt, inhabited islands. It’s located at the southern end of the Päijänne Lake, which stretches from Jyväskylä in the north to the city of Lahti in the south. Given its size, I had to choose to explore just a small area of it on this first short visit. So, I decided on the Niemisjärvi area, which is very close to the main park base at Evo. The area is centered around three  key lakes, the upper and lower Niemisjärvi, as well as the Vähä-Koukkujärvi. It offers great facilities for either a single or multi-day visit, and as I was staying overnight, I set up my van in a specially designated, and secluded site for travel vans, and I very much appreciated the convenience of the dry, compost-based toilets.

Lower Niemisjärvi

After a quick snack and chill, I headed off to explore, which would include circumnavigating the three lakes along the trails and over the network of duckboards. There was also an initial section, all the way from the start to Vähä-koukkujärvi, which was built to accommodate the use of wheelchairs, to make it accessible for visitors with physical impairments. Vähä-Koukkujärvi is the smallest of the 3 lakes, and the environment there has been specially set-up to offer nature and fishing experiences for young people.

Staying overnight at this national park was just so much nicer than at the ABC service centres on previous days. Not that they were bad, but spending time in solitude, in the deep peacefulness of nature, was on a whole new level as far as experiences go, and it certainly made me even hungrier for more of the same!

After taking a moment to soak in the rays of the early morning sun through the trees, I fired up the van and got an early start on the next leg of my journey, to Torronsuo National Park. As it would be just a relatively short drive of some 120km, there was absolutely no rush. So, I stopped halfway at a roadside rest area to make myself a cup-a-soup and coffee. At the same time, it was a good opportunity to practise my roadside water-boiling skills in the presence of a fairly strong breeze. I think I put my IKEA exercise mat to great use!

It was rather hot upon my arrival at Torronsuo around lunch time, with the midday sun blazing down strongly from high in the sky. In other words, it was an absolutely glorious day to go for a relaxed 2 hour long stroll over the Suotaival loop. In the next video, I will show you all of the best parts from that hike. So I’ll catch up with you again in that one. Thanks and be blessed.