"Bye mom, i'm off cycling among polar bears with my best friends. Don't wait up for me"
And with that said, I left home and drove to Milano's Linate airport, bright and early. The plan was simple: meet with Lorro and Sio as early as possible at the airport, wait for Cinelli (our main technical sponsor) to deliver us the bikes (already travel packed and ready to go), check in the gargantuan amount of luggages we're traveling with and enjoy a few hours in the duty free area, to chill out a bit before the big start.
Easy enough right?
They say "The adventure starts when you encounter the first problem"
Well then, we can truly say the adventure started RIGHT AWAY!
I met with Lorro and Sio perfectly in time, minutes before our bikes got delivered by our sponsor, Cinelli. We took 5 minutes re-distributing the weight between the bags, sipped on a nice coffee, felt like pro cyclist hanging around the airport with these huge boxed bikes, and headed to the check in counter with ample time.
Too much time, to be precise.
Turns out we were a good hour and a half early on the opening of the check in for our flight. Damn.
Several coffees and a couple breakfasts later (yes, we get bored easily. And we like food, a lot), we were all checked in.
All what was left to do was delivering the boxed bikes in the special luggage section and get ready to chill out before our flight.
Turns out the x-ray machine in Linate was too small for the boxed bikes so we had to open them up and scan every piece, one by one, to the amusement of the bystanding personnel.
Long story short? We barely made it through the security checks in time to shove a sandwich down our throat before boarding the plane.
Milan - Stockholm - Oslo - Longyearbyen.
We landed in Svalbard around midnight.
Time for the second problem. You see, we didn't really plan on bringing the bikes with us on the plane originally, so we organized our first days in Svalbard... well... bikeless.
And Svalbard is not notoriously known to be a place where one could easily find a bike box, let's say.
Long story short, since the campsite we booked (the only one in the island, and LITERALLY 400mt from the airport) was closed at night, we didn't know how to safely store the bikes (and he boxes!) for our stay and we didn't really have anyone to ask.
So instead of pitching our tent and leaving the bikes to their wet destiny under the VERY PROBABLE drizzle... We decided to stay in the airport for the night waiting for the morning.
Sounds like a good enough plan, right?
Although we started with an iron will and all the best intentions, the night got delirious pretty quickly and we had to eventually take turns in the tent to get some shut eye before going completely insane, between the three of us, hanging out in the entrance of a closed airport in the arctic region.
As soon as morning arrived (I can't really say "with the first light of the day" because, HELLO we were so close to the north pole and there's 24 hours of sunlight a day) we checked in the campsite, realized we could easily store the bikes under the common area in the winter storage, and slept it all off for the rest of the day.
Now, you might ask yourself : what's Svalbard?
Svalbard is an archipelagos of islands merely 1200 km south of the north pole, with one city, Longyearbyen, being the northernmost permanently inhabitated place on the planet.
Population? 1500 people, 3000 polar bears. True story.
It's wild. Beautiful. Pristine. Polar. And as desertic as the arctic region can go.
Currently being technically a part of Norway, it used to be a big coal extraction area back in the 20's, now being the home of a handful of brave people living off the occasional tourism.
On our second day, we explored. Which means we hung around in the common area of the camp, recharging every single one of our gazillion of electronic devices, figured out what do to in the following days, being attacked by the local birds not too happy about us taking strolls next to their nests, walked the 5kms to the city of Longyearbyen and ate a moose burger.
Not a bad start if you ask me, especially since the whole place is unique to say the least: black rocks, industrial remnants, people walking around with rifles on their backs (gotta be careful for the polar bears all the time), colorful building on the cliffs, parked snowmobiles as far as the eye can see.
Third day: time to get our hands dirty. Or to be more precise, wet.
We took a trip to Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian settlement on another island of Svalbard. Famous for having been left completely intact over time, as it got evacuated russian style: one day there were people living there, minors working, and families growing, the next day they all got told to leave and they did. Norway didn't like all the building they left behind though, so famously asked russia to pay for the removal of them. Faced with the costs, Russia did one of their smartest moves EVER: moved TWO people there to keep a bar and a hotel open, declared that it was not an abandoned settlement anymore, and dodged the insane fines that came with having to clean the place off.
Way to go russia!
Pyramiden is... well, spooky to say the least.
Incredibly abandoned (like, for real) but at the same time, it feels like people literally left yesterday. Our guide took us for a stroll around "town", told us old stories of the city, and on the way back, showed us one of Svalòbard glaciers, making sure we understood how freaking much it retracted ( we're talking 80mts) in the last 4 years.
What seemed like a perfectly nice and DRY trip so far turned for the worst, with heavy winds, bashing our little boat around, all nicely topped with a bit of rain and a lot of hail.
Long story short? We got to shore WET AS A GOD, regardless of the massive water repellent suits we had.
Still, WORTH IT.