The bike stalls.
The bike tumbles onto its side.
Only 100 yards into the trip and I’v already dropped the bike at a junction.
Its 6 in the morning, been up since 5. I am tired and very nervous. That’s my excuse anyways.
I battle to lift the 300kg bike back upright. I just about manage. My riding is terrible. I cannot relax, and I cannot adjust to the extra weight. But as I hit the M3 things start to come together. Clear blue sky. Beautiful, I hope it lasts. I have a 3 hour stint on the motorway to get to Dover ahead of me. Not very exciting. Still as I make my way up the M3. A commute I do every week in the car. I already feel the difference of being on the bike. I am noticing more. The lush trees by the side of the road, the early morning mist, the blue sky, the amazing sunrise dissipating the mist, I feel the fresh air. I do this rout ever week but I am noticing details I have never noticed before. Traffic gets heavy, I filter through. God its nice to be back on two wheels. Three hour pass, I get to Dover… The Shit hole of England. Rows of 70s styled buildings, deserted streets. Everything is covered in dark suit from the forever passing lorries.
Passport control, Ticket control, I park the bike in my lane. First time I am off the saddle in three hours.
My KTM clothing was not delivered on time so I am still riding in my BMW RALLYE 2 suite.
Another biker spots me and comes over:
“Did you get fired from BMW or something?”
I meet him again on board later and we chat for the whole crossing. He is from Ireland and to be honest, I did not really understand what he was saying in most part of the conversation.
After debarking I head straight to Calais. Probably the Shit hole of Europe to be honest.
I set at a café and plan my day. I decide to ride to Bruges, the mediaeval capital of Europe. I set off again in the ever increasing heat and ride through the industrial wasteland that is the north of France. Chimneys and wind turbines fill the horizon. Coming out of Calais, I take a wrong turn and end up riding down an amazing road chasing a river. It takes an hour before I decide to head in the right direction again. But this is what this trip is about. No plans, no rules, just riding and exploring.
I fight against the wind into Belgium. I observe the Belgium countryside… Flat fields. As far as the eye can see. The horizon only broken by church steeples., and criss crossed by power lines. Not forgetting the odd depressed cow, bored of looking at a constantly unchanging environment.
I ride into Bruges. Onto the narrow cobbled streets. I meander my way through the town and park at the main place. The town is packed with tourists. I find a café and tuck into a whole deep friend chicken and fries as I sit under a parasol admiring the truly ancient architecture and clock tower. I set off back onto the motorway, jammed packed with lorries from all European nationalities.
The border town of Antwerp. The nightmare begins. I am stuck in traffic looking for a hotel. The heat rising from the engine is unbearable. I’m exhausted, I need to rest. I cant go on much longer. I slowly make my way down the main strip. I see hotels, but I am confused by the traffic system. Finally I find a holiday inn. It takes me a couple of attempts to find the entrance, but I get there. Finally I can rest. Shit there full! I have to keep searching. I loose the main road after I take a wrong turn. I ride around aimlessly for around an hour before I find the city centre again. Purely by luck! I need a drink. My hand will soon cramp up because of clutch use. Then its game over man. The heat is unbearable. I enter another hotel. No vacancies. Back on with the search. I consider riding to Rotterdam, but its just to far. It would not be safe to ride in this state. I lost my temper with this shitty town hours ago. Who would want to stay in a dump like this. I find another hotel. “Fully booked” is the answer. I cant go on. I stop at a shop and buy a couple of cans to re-hydrate. In the corner of my eye, In a street out of the way I see a hotel sign. I gear up and ride straight to it. I am greeted by a charming and extremely friendly elderly lady.
“Only doubles, no singles”
“I don’t care Il take a double”
I barge into my room, , unload my bag and head straight for the shower. I stand under the cold water for a good 30 min. Damn that feels good. The room is lovely and I have a double bed. Now I sit in bed, writing this, eating Jaffa cakes and drinking ice tea. Drifting in and out of sleep I am looking forward to tomorrows riding. I am especially looking forward to finally getting out of civilisation.
Iv just finished my Club sandwich that was delivered to me by the pretty room service girl, and now I am soaking in a warm bath. I arrived in this Holiday Inn in Hamburg a couple of hours ago after a very tough day. I set off this morning after a short night. It took me ages to fall asleep as I was worried about leaving my bike outside on the street. I skipped breakfast to save time. I was determined to complete the long motorway slog so that the riding could really start. I sped along the flat and continuously straight motorway towards Rotterdam. The Netherlands country seemed to be completely criss crossed by concrete motorways and railway lines. I seem to have missed entirely the windmills and poppy fields “as seen on TV”. (I did see three windmills). Convoys of trucks, as far as the eye can see role along the motorway network, with hardly a car in sight. I love trucks and I indulge in a bit of truck spotting to help with the monotony of motorway riding.
“Wow” Check out that new Scania”
I also do a bit of Helmet Karaoke to pass the time. In your helmet, no one can hear you sing..
The approach into Rotterdam is impressive. Across a steel bridge, and then modern, beautifully architecture corporate high rise towers as far as the eye can see. After Rotterdam I head east towards Germany. The wasteland of motorways and railroads start to give way to a very flat uninspiring countryside. I stop at a petrol station for a sandwich. The heat is strong. I am starting to struggle. I inspect the map. “Shit”. I am not making the progress I was expecting. Still 100s of miles to go and I am already exhausted and getting aches and pains. I need to make it to Hamburg at least. I am determined. 400kms to go. I am going to do it in one stint. I set off. I struggle with the monotony. My Ipod is out of battery and I have nothing to think about but my pains, tiredness and the damn heat. I can feel the heat from the engine battering me. Every time I pass a truck I am hit by the unbearable heat from there engines. Its not good, I have to stop. I park up on a lorry park. I take off as many layers as I can. Everything. So when I put my RALLYE 2 jacket back on, I am wearing nothing underneath. I open all the vents built into the jacket and only zip it up half way. 220km to go. I set off again, I keep going, mile after mile. The German country side is beautiful. But I can only tell you that from memories of previous trips. I am concentrating all I can on the road ahead, passing lorries, watching out for cars wanting to overtake me. I sit further back in my seat to try to relieve the pain in my knees and my back side. My throttle hand is killing me. I think it is a left over pain from when I fractured it. I get to a traffic jam, I filter through and get to the front. The cause of the jam? A military truck has lost a tyre and is running on rims.
Any speeds lower then 60 is agony because of the heat. I watch the countdown markers go by. 200km, 100km, I start to think I may make it to Denmark… I finally get to Hamburg and see the Holiday Inn and ride straight past it. I can keep going, I know I can. But I cant. Within a 100 meters I do a U turn and park up at the hotel. In my room I feel the fresh air con on my face. Its bliss. I take off my jacket, take a
out of the mini-bar and sit on a chair looking out over the canal. I just sit there. I can feel the beads of sweat dripping down my back. The air con feels great. I drink two whole bottles of water. Right time to order room service. I’m happy the bulk of the motorway is done. Tomorrow is the first non-motorway section, then a final section of motorway, and no more motorways until I get back to England. Let the riding really begin.
Iv taken a hasty retreat into the tent before the millions of creepy crawlies had the chance to eat me alive. What a marathon of a day. Its 11pm, although you would have never guessed as the sun has yet to fully set. Iv just set up my camp after struggling up a very beaten path, nearly getting the adventure stuck. Not the best of camps this. No water, no food, but it will have to do for now. I will be more prepared tomorrow. I’m finally in Sweden after hours of riding.
Struggling through the traffic and rubbish direction system in Hamburg I reached Denmark at around lunchtime. Finally a non-motorway section. And what section! It is strange. Denmark is in many ways……………………………….......... ...................................
My apologies. You may have noticed I did not finish writing about yesterday. Well I was just to damn tired. So lets catch up with yesterday.
I was saying Denmark was strange in many ways. Just like Belgium, flat, never ending fields, not much to say about it. However there was something different about it. There was something… Something that made it more beautiful, more likable. It was a place where I wanted to be. Everything was neater, for lack of better word. The villages were not littered with barns made of steel. The view of the countryside not spoiled by warehouses. Fields gold in colour, uninterrupted by barbed wires. No mud tracks, no abandoned farmed vehicles, no railway tracks, no random piles of concrete. As I headed east towards Sweden the countryside changed to forests, rolling hills, breathtaking river crossings. Then I landed in Sweden. It left me speechless. The vastness of it all. Fields as far as the eye could see. Picturesque little villages, roads so wide, trucks twice the size of UK ones rumbling down the roads. Volvos everywhere. It really looked, and felt like a different world. Every house, every village built so far apart from each other. You really had a sensation of vastness.
I left the motorway, into the back roads to set up camp. As I rode into the sunset I just couldn’t believe I was there. That I was part of this moment. A moment I had only dreamed of before.
Right back to today. Day 4. I have once again set up camp. But I am cheating slightly. I am in a campsite, and have just finished a hot meal from the restaurant. My first hot meal in two days. I’m not really sure what I had. I didn’t understand the menu, so I just asked the waitress to get me something nice. And nice it was. I was so tired I just couldn’t go on. I did sleep last night, but woke up often. Mostly due to loud animal noise I had never heard before. I set off early. I needed fuel and there simply didn’t seem to be any stations around so I stopped and asked an elderly lady. Instructions weren’t so clear. She didn’t speak English. Another lovely lady told me to follow her and she would take me there. Brilliant. I needed that. I rode all day. Cleared the motorway section early and loved the fast beautiful A roads that followed. I noticed a large amount of classic American cars. Most of them broken down on the side of the road, but still, these roads were perfect for them. The further north I rode the less houses I saw, and the fields soon gave way to forests, lakes , rivers and mountains. The best way to describe Sweden is to compare it to a train set. Everything, and I mean everything seems to have been placed in a way so that it looks good., and fits in perfectly with what is next to it. Every house, every village, every tree, every lake, every pebble has been placed in a way so that the overall effect looks amazing. You can look at a house and it looks stunning. Zoom out look at the village and it looks stunning. Zoom out, look at the whole view it looks stunning. Now zoom back in, look at one tree it looks stunning.
I finished the day on a beautiful road. Zig Zagging around the wooded mountains, over huge rivers and little streams. A great riding road too, but I am to tired to make the most of it. That is one of the reasons why I decide to stop. I want to wake up fresh and truly enjoy the road in the morning. I am just a few km away from the Norwegian border. I only have three days to get to Northkapp. It will be a real challenge. I am doubting it will be achievable. At least today I wasn’t struggling against the wind like yesterday. However the heat is still proving to be a huge problem. I am hoping the further north I go, the day will cool.
I am sitting on a small sandy beach inches away from the water, looking at the mountains in the distance. The sound of the seagulls and wavelets is soothing, the gentle chilled breeze is calming and the sand between my toes is relaxing. I sit here, having just made a difficult decision. I have to say goodbye to Nordkapp before even getting there. It is clear the distance to be covered is just too great. I simply do not have enough days left. I am exhausted (As I am typing this I realise I keep saying I am exhausted every entry …. But I really was…. And It was getting worse every day 27/07/08)
Riding 8 hours a day I simply cannot go on at this pace. Tomorrow will be my last day heading north. One final push to reach the arctic circle. Then I will start heading back to Bergen to catch the ship home.
I set off early this morning and finally entered Norway. After years of dreaming and 4 difficult days of pain, heat and miles after miles of riding. Was it worth it? YES! It sure was. The beauty of Norway is outstanding. If Sweden was a hand made train set, Norway has a beauty only nature could create. The grandeur of it all! The man made parts were also irresistible. The lovely wooden houses, The towns built along one main high street, just like the ones you see in American movies. Oh! And the roads! Meandering there way over and around the mountains, following rivers, crossing small streams and giant lakes. Wide sweeping bends. The best day riding I have ever had and probably ever will. Until my return of course.
The heat has dramatically come down. In fact snow was still present on some of the bear mountain sides. Tonight I am at another campsite. I find myself to tired after a days riding to find a wild place. The days of riding are catching up with me. Yipee is now covered in dirt, insects and I have now dropped her numerous times. Yet she rests at night beside my tent, eagerly waiting for tomorrow. By far the best companion I could have asked for..