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Post from Kirkenes in Norway, where I arrived yesterday. One more cycle to reach the Norway-Russia border, from where I set sail from in May 2017. But the anticipated euphoria of completion has slipped away just as it was coming into reach.
Instead - since peeling away from the Baltic - my companions have been a gentle melancholy and a rising anxiety.
Sadness comes with deeper reflection upon how completely we have conquered nature. Through a combination of brute force and ingenuity we can go anywhere, and assume a right to do so. Through might, we take and transform at will, and all is now with our reach. The collateral ecological damage - that wasn't supposed to matter - we discover perhaps does. I fear especially for the fragile arctic ecosystems that cannot be protected from a warming climate.
Anxiety finds release upon reaching the sea. A stranded seaweed tideline and salt in the air brings familiarity, and tears that gritted teeth won't stem. How I'd missed the sea. Norway lifts my spirits. I smile and realise that my breakdown is in fact a breakup. A relationship is ending. After two-and-a-half years of familiarity with this way of life, change is on the way. Of course I am anxious, though now the cloud has lifted.
The sea brings peace. The sea I know has rise and fall. However much we become accustomed to other seas, the connection to our own is greatest. As salmon are pulled to their home river, we too are pulled.
As at the beginning of the journey, I am fortunate beyond words to have the support of Kirkenes local Helene. She taught me expedition-craft and helped get me to the start. Since waving goodbye in 2017 she has skied across Greenland from west coast to east. We will pedal the last 60km together on Friday afternoon when she's finished work. At Grense Jakobselv, where the Pasvik river meets Barents Sea, this windsurf and bike round Europe will have become a closed loop.
To all of you who have helped - and you are many hundreds if not thousands - it will be the moment to raise a beer and say THANK YOU.