The clerk pushed two oozing kebabs across the counter. Our legs were trembling, mouths watering. We needed those kebabs.
“So you’re going on vacation NOW?” he asked.
My friend and I were looking for adventures and had decided to ride bikes around Gotland, a 176-kilometre long island in the torso of the Baltic Sea. It was late August and most people at the Nynäshamn harbour south of Stockholm were either closing up shop or going in the opposite direction. But that was just the point, to arrive when everyone else had left.
IN PICTURES: Biking around the Baltic island of Gotland
A few day trips down the empty roads, fighting the ruthless upwind that kept forcing legions of bugs into our mouths, we eventually reached the southern end of Gotland.
The incoming waves intertwining around Gotland’s tail were mesmerizing. Plants were scarce, but the shoreline offered another resource in abundance: white, exquisitely shaped, flat rocks.
A skipping frenzy was inevitable. This primitive pleasure kept us occupied until our shoulder joints ached and the bones of our index fingers felt like they were about to poke through the skin. It was a purifying activity: trying to shoot down the setting sun.
We then mounted our bikes once again and headed north.
Gotland is a sparsely populated and rural place. The ground is all limestone, creating a unique flora, and a myriad of sublime places to take a swim as many of the old quarries fill up with water. The rare conditions make them look like little splashes of the Mediterranean, dropped into the pine forest.
In the island’s northern end, a strait separates the little island of Fårö from the mainland. We spent a full day there, most of it in awe by the massive limestone rocks, the “raukar“, shooting out of the ground.
As it started to drizzle that night, we set camp behind an old windmill. It towered over us like a watchtower in the night, creaking in the subtle wind. At dawn we headed south again, fueled by a speedy breakfast of canned mackerel.
The coarse, asphalt road meandered through organic farms; vast pastures with unconcerned sheep basking in the outback tranquility, while other horned beasts seemed to be guarding the 19th-century limestone houses. Down the road, two men were firing rifles in their backyard shooting range.
Hours later we crumpled on the shoreline outside of Visby, the medieval capital of Gotland to which we had arrived a week earlier. With 450 kilometres behind us, the circle was closed. We had found our adventure.