Month: November 2014

Day 16 – Hirtshals to Esbjerg

The next morning we woke up and headed down to get breakfast in the main restaurant. I felt tired but hoped the food and coffee would get the body working. The breakfast was the usual self service cooked affair with orange juice, tea or coffee and various cereals and fruit on offer. I plated up some cooked food, grabbed a strong coffee and ate as we chatted about the trip and the final day we would all be together. Gregg would be leaving us later the in the afternoon to head back to Vladimir’s where his luggage was stored and he would be there another day or so before flying back to the USA.

IMG_1065 IMG_1066 IMG_1070

You could see from everyone’s faces that the trip had taken it’s toll, everyone was tired and I for one was feeling pretty emotional thinking about the fantastic experience and the great company I had been with over the last 15 days. Part of me wanted to get home, have a real shower and sit in front of the TV with my other half, another part of me longed for the journey to continue.

We packed up the cabin and geared up before heading down and once again loading the bikes up and undoing the tie downs. Thankfully the bikes were all upright. The day would be split into 3 really with he initial ride taking us to the campsite where Hans and the group would stay. The second part would take us to a stop over for lunch where Gregg would leave us followed by the final stretch where we would arrive in Esbjerg and embark on the 18 hours trip back to Harwich. We rode off the ferry and headed off south through Denmark, once again back in the country we started out from some 14 days earlier. The landscape was very different from the one we left behind, flatter with lots of farms (some very smelly!). The roads were good though, excellent tarmac and condition. It was a slow ride, lots of villages and speed restrictions on the way but we weren’t in a hurry. We stopped for a quick fuel up and toilet break before carrying on.

Eventually we pulled up at the campsite where we would split from Hans and his group. We thanked him for his hospitality and his company, said our goodbyes and continued south on our journey.

20140605_110908

The weather forecast had indicated possible showers during the day and unusually they were right. The skies darkened and as we rode the patter of rain drops started to hit my helmet and the bike. We continued on but the rain wasn’t a shower, it became heaver, the sky turned black and in the distance I could see lightning. Within minutes the rain was coming down at a torrential rate, lightning was flashing and hail started pummelling us. The visibility became so bad so quickly that cars and bikes were pulling over on the motorway! Somehow we continued through this until the next services where we pulled off to get out of the weather, soaked, cold and a bit fed up. We fuelled the bikes then grabbed a meal in McDonalds and tried to dry out a little although the rain was still falling so there was little point. I took a toilet break after eating which in itself was an epic feat of contortionism! I had a one piece rain-suit on over two piece textile bike gear, over a fleece, over a t-shirt, over thermals. It took about 5 minutes to reach a state of undress that actually allowed me to take a pee! The reverse re-clothing exercise was even worse as I tried to get soaking wet gear on over semi-wet clothing with cold clammy hands.

When we finished eating and chatting we geared up, the mood had become bit more solemn as this is where Gregg would leave us. I felt pretty emotional to be honest, you can’t help but bond with people when you do this kind of adventure. Although I knew of Gregg through the IT community I hadn’t ever met him before and I can honestly say he’s a great guy who I hope will be a friend for the rest of my life. We all just clicked, the humour and banter was as natural as it could be.

IMG_1888

(Photo of Gregg saying goodbye! credit to Paul!)

We walked out into the rain, said goodbye and watched Gregg ride off into murky distance before we ourselves climbed back on the steel horses and headed in the opposite direction. We rode for the next couple of hours with the traffic steadily getting worse as we approached the bigger towns and cities. It seemed odd not seeing Gregg either in front or riding right up my arse! I hoped he would ride safe and find his way to Vladimir’s house without any issues. As we reached Esbjerg and rode into the port we could see the ferry docked and waiting.

20140605_160839 FB_IMG_1401976455214

We couldn’t get on right away so we joined the waiting queue before passport control. We waited for an hour or so but thankfully the rain had stopped and we spent most of that time admiring an old guys vintage motorcycle.

IMG_1077

As we rode onto the ferry I took a brief look around, proud of what we had achieved, the distance we travelled since we arrived in that very same port on that very same ship 16 days earlier, the places we had seen and the new friends I had made. I felt sad to be leaving it behind but I was also looking forward to seeing Caroline who was patiently waiting at home. We strapped the bikes down, lugged our gear up to the cabin and got changed before heading for a bite to eat. I We once again decided to eat in the lower deck snack bar rather than fork out a tiny fortune in the restaurant. It was funny to think that a few months from then the ferry service would stop forever and if we wanted to ride to Norway again we would need to take a ferry to the Netherlands or Eurotunnel to France.

After a bit if chat, reflection and relaxation it was time we headed off to bed. The next time we awoke we would almost be at England’s shores.

 

Advertisements

Day 15 – Skudenshaven to Hirtshals

Today was the day that we started on our way home, a trip that would take 2 days to complete. We had a busy day planned, a trip into town to do a bit of sightseeing then packing up and riding down to the ferry port at Stavanger to catch the overnight ferry to Hirtshals in Denmark. I woke up with the sun beating through the window and lovely blue skies again. We had been really very lucky during this trip to have had so few days of rain, things could have been very messy indeed. I got up and went downstairs, took a shower and got the camera ready for a day of snapping photos.

IMG_0916

Arvid arrived in his big old 4×4 and for the first time in weeks we took a ride on 4 wheels. We headed to his house first for a spot of breakfast before heading into town. First stop was the Skudeneshavn Motorycle Club where Arvid and Hans hang out. They have a building they rent which has a workshop area and a “club lounge” to hang out in. Really nice setup and one that other clubs in the UK should consider. We had a group photo taken and were given a club patch each as a keepsake.

IMG_0938 IMG_0929

We parked in the town and walked around the harbour and the narrow streets. The town is very pretty and full of character, white wooden buildings topped by orange tiles, boats tied up along side. I was very much reminded of places like Disney or a film set, surely this town couldn’t be real?

IMG_0948 IMG_0955

IMG_0956 IMG_0960

We walked around the streets, taking in the sights and soon Arvid surprised us with a stop at a tiny cafe/waffle house run by an old local gentleman. The place was a real curiosity shop full of a mish-mash of items on tables and shelves. A map on the wall showed the locations of many of the visitors to this tiny little shop. We had waffles with jam and coffee and it was damn tasty.

IMG_0967 IMG_0970 IMG_0976

After we had filled our bellies with goodies we had a walk around the main park in the town, taking a look at the moonstone, so called because it kind of looks like a meteor that is sat out of place with the surrounding rocks.

IMG_1001 IMG_1018

The view from the park across the bay was very impressive and Arvid told us stories of his growing up in the town.

IMG_1013

Arvid suggested we go back via Liv’s work so we could say hi. On route we passed a childrens playground which was of course an excuse to egg Paul into playing on the toys.

IMG_1027

We stopped at Liv’s and had a coffee and biscuits before heading back to the car and then back to pack up our gear at Hans place. Arvid whisked me to the local store so I could buy a ton of Firklover Chocolate for my girl Caroline back in England. She had asked me to get some and I dare not not take any back!

IMG_1028 IMG_1029

So we packed the bikes up and got our gear on, although we had a day and a half left it was still a sad moment. In hours we would leave Norway and say farewell to Arvid, Liv and the country that had shown us some of it’s wonders over the previous weeks. We mounted the bikes and along with Hans we rode down to the supermarket car park where Arvid and Liv were waiting to say goodbye. A few minutes later we were heading off back towards Stavanger and to the meeting point where Han’s friends would join us.

Arriving at the port we joined the queue of bikes already there waiting. The ferry looked pretty impressive from the outside, bigger than I expected. We got Hans to take our final photo in Norway, all of us feeling a bit tired and sad to be leaving behind such am amazing country.

IMG_1037

We got the bikes on, a bit of chaos involved and panic as the bikes were lined up in such a way that strapping them down was a nightmare. Then, bags in hand we headed up to find our cabin and get changed so we could relax for the rest of the night. One thing I learnt from the first overnight trip was to pack the panniers and topbox so you can easily get to what you need as you can’t come back once you leave port for the open sea. Paul’s experience and advice with the ferry process helped a huge amount!

IMG_1045 IMG_1044

The boat was pretty nice with a lot more facilities than the Harwich to Esbjerg ferry. I was really impressed with the level of decor but that is from a person who has never been on ferries this size before. The cabin wasn’t actually as big as we thought but still big enough for our needs with 2 pull down bunks and 2 fixed lower bunks.

We changed and headed to find a place to eat and drink, meandering through the corridors and dodging other passengers dragging suitcases behind them. We found a couple of restaurants, one of which was a proper sit down and dine affair the other more a self service cafe which is the one we opted for. The food was pretty decent and not over the top price wise and we sat eating watching the sunset over the sea. Once dinner was over we had another wander, locating the bar, shop and reception. We bought some wifi passes and I popped into the shop to look around before heading back to the lounge area to try and catch up with the news from the rest of the world and update our social media pages. Unfortunately the wifi was once again pretty awful so apart from a brief and slow conversation with Caroline over Facebook little else was done.

IMG_1059

Hans arrived with the rest of the gang and we spent a bit of time planning the route for the next day before heading off to bed.

IMG_1061