29th June: riding from Emden to HvH and thoughts on the Stenna ferry to Harwich

Thursday 29th June at just gone 9 pm – because I am on the Stenna ship to Harwich and we have just gone back into British time. I’ve just been up on the deck. When the ship left the dock at the Hook of Holland I watched all the way as it sailed out of the harbour. It was amazing because I think of Hook of Holland as a small place, little more than the ferry terminal and its infrastructure but as the ship sails up towards the spit, I suppose, there is a beach at the end which is rather beautiful and what look like apartments in a small semi-circle facing out to the sea, right on the sand. They must be amazing places to stay in. And there is a spit, a road that goes out further and, after that, a wall made of rocks. I have no idea how they would have built this. The wall goes out for half a kilometre, or a full kilometre maybe. And at the very end of that is a small light house and after that you are in the open sea. All of this with the sun setting though it was freezing cold in the wind. After seeing the ship away from land I went back into my cabin to, again, get my head down early to not be too tired for the morning.

(On my recording, I did neglect to mention my enjoyable ritual of having fish chips and mushy peas and a small bottle of chilled white wine in the restaurant. After a couple of weeks of cooking by my tent, I really appreciate this kind of meal.

Once at Harwich, I have to ride back home to deal with all the domestic things awaiting, needing sorting out. I think it is about two hours to ride home. Who knows? Certainly on the way out from central London to Harwich the traffic was terrible. It’s a bit of a heartsink journey going back into London. Its much nicer leaving London.

Now, earlier today: The crossing from Kristiansand to Emden was calm. I had one coffee and a croissant and then another coffee before packing everything up in my cabin and sitting on deck for the last half hour or so of the sailing. We got off the boat about half past ten in the morning. There was a huge number of motorcyclists that people seemed to stand in crowds to watch (even a German policeman waved at us all). There was a line of maybe 100 or more motorcyclists all taking this turn and then that turn. Eventually once we got on the the autobahn – A31 I think –  this large group dispersed. I rode down that long road for a while and then turned right into Holland. I stopped for a snack, then carried on heading towards Utrecht and Rotterdam, stopped again for petrol and a drink and then headed off. I don’t know whether it is getting worse or I am more nervous but the big ring roads around Utrecht and Rotterdam have so many lanes and most drivers are really wanting to drive as fast as possible. It was really crazy. By the time I got to the A20 and then the A12 and then the smaller roads to the Hook of Holland there is not so much traffic but it is crazy before that. It’s a nasty bit of riding for any journey to Europe that involves landing at Hook of Holland you have to run that gauntlet before you can get very far.

That is the end of my recording of that day and of the whole trip. The ride down into London was not too bad though when I arrived home I found that my bedroom had been flooded because someone staying here (my sister in law) had left the Velux window over my bed open all night (she went off to stay elsewhere) in torrential rain. The water even ran through the floorboards and down into the next floor. My mattress was soaked. Then there was less than a week before I set off on a family holiday to the outer Hebrides so I had little time to reflect on the trip immediately afterwards. But now (in mid-September) is a chance.

First – its such a shame about the Holland Norway line going bust and leaving, I read, 75,000 people out of pocket and another group stranded. It is a useful route, not cheap but not terribly pricey either.

Norway as a m/c destination: its beautiful obviously with a varied terrain and also offers the challenge of a ride all the way to Nordkap. Camping sites are plentiful and many have cabins which are brilliant alternatives to camping or hotelling (expensive). Its not too expensive if you don’t eat out or buy wine or spirits. It’s a long way to go to get there – and now there’s one less ferry route.

GoPro 11 and helmet set up: I captured some good footage but forgot the short adapter cable that joins my helmet mic to the camera so no running commentaries. This has made putting together a series of videos about the trip a bit less interesting – though I have lots of footage.

Mosko Moto luggage. I’m reluctantly getting used to the Revolver luggage and took a much larger Shad roll top bag instead of the standard MM roll top – more than twice the volume I think. Stashing shopping was a pain and I lost my home made cake and bread from the back of the bike on the way to Harwich. 

The Garmin Zumo XT GPS behaved strangely and often stopped charging for no reason. If it breaks down I’m tempted to try something completely different- an Android approach here.

The bike was good. At the ports I could see I was the smallest bike amid loads of big GSs.

More to come on this post plus pics…..

June 27th Scary hairpins on the coast: RV44

Tuesday 27th June. I’m still staying in my cabin in Ogna Camping, on the coast, south of Stavanger, and the cabin is very nice to have. Last night it was blowing a gale. It seems very windy here by the coast and it was wet again. I sat here and I luxuriated because I wasn’t in my little tent. I have paid for a second night here. This morning I thought I would take a short ride around here. There’s a place called Tondstad. Its about 50 or 60 miles from here and the road there is meant to be good to ride. I headed off, got some petrol, on route 42 up to Tonstad –  its quite high up. About 20 minutes into the ride I could see I was riding towards really quite dark clouds and the road started to look as though it had been wet and there was a fine drizzle in the air. I did not bring my waterproofs for some crazy reason. Maybe I forgot that I was in Norway. I thought, in a slightly defeatist way, ‘right, I’m outta here if it starts raining’ but it never did start raining. I got to Tonstad which is a pretty place and then I looked at the map and could see that route 42 carries on further. The question was, shall I go back the way I came or shall I take a slightly longer route? The GPS said that it would take 50 minutes to get to a place on the coast called Flekfjord and from there, it seemed there was a coast road back up to the campsite which is north of Egarsund. I did some spirited riding and there was not much other traffic. It was really enjoyable. I got to Flekfjord and then I was routed by the GPS onto the RV44 which is a road that hugs the coast. Its known as the North Sea Road. See this link on BestBiking Roads. And that’s when the excitement really started because it – well, I had no idea –  it’s a really twisty road full of steep hairpins going up, going down with lots of traffic, like caravans going both ways, though mainly going in the same direction as me which was good. It was the kind of route where you are asking – is this corner second gear, no, its first gear? Lets not go too wide coming out of it and there was just hairpin after hairpin. I would look ahead and see this line of caravans going up at some impossible angle, high above me but actually really close. The ride was on the borderline between exciting and really scary! And tiring because there was so much of it. Eventually the traffic came to a halt – on the flat – at some roadworks for five minutes or more. I turned off the engine and then realised that I did not have my helmet camera turned on so did not record any of that amazing riding. So you will just have to take my word for it.

Once the light changed I headed off, still quite a long way back to the campsite but on a much easier road to ride. I got back here about 3.15 or so exhausted. And now I must confess my mind is on packing for the morning and getting down to the ferry terminal by about 1.30. This seems a good time even though they have delayed the ferry from 3pm till 5pm (I think) but check-in still starts at 1. I am sure we can get on the boat early. We could last time. In the afternoon the sun shines into this cabin. Its beautiful and I have the curtain open. And its lovely and warm and the little porch is great – but as soon as you step out further you are in the wind (recording now includes wind noise) and it takes the temperature down by lots of degrees. My bike is sitting there in the sunshine looking a bit sad. Its covered in mud and the tyres look a bit worn, and the dodgy GPS connection needs sorting. But it has done me well.

25th June South of Stavanger: Norway on another Sunday

Sunday 25th June: In the evening. Its ten past nine though it doesn’t feel that late. I’m in my tent in a campsite just north of Stavanger. I don’t know where exactly I am. But I do know that this campsite is right next to the E39. Its next to an embankment that goes up to the main road. The road goes over a bridge over a fjord and I can see a little bit further is a ferry that crosses the fjord. Again, today was beautiful riding with a couple of ferries and on one of them two Norwegian guys riding motorcycles and chatting to them which was nice. After the ferry we went our separate ways with some really long tunnels going down towards Stavanger in fact I got a recommendation from Thomas Hansen for some places to buy food on a Sunday near Bergen. He had some good recommendations, but I had already found somewhere which was by a small harbour with lots of children jumping in to the water on a warm sunny Sunday morning. I had to wait there for quite a while for this small shop to open.

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No beer to be bought on a Sunday

In the end what I bought there was not bad. Riding: It got to 3.30 or twenty to 4 and I thought I might as well stop somewhere rather than run out of road to enjoy for the rest of these few days. But I know that tomorrow there is rain forecast and in fact one of the bikers told me that torrential rain is forecast with thunder and lightning.  And it makes my heart freeze the thought of it tomorrow. Its forecast to start raining at 9am and rain until 2 in the afternoon. So that has put me in an anxious mood. On the way here I rode into one campsite, very slopy and gravelly which just did not feel right. It was packed full of families in caravans (it felt more like a holiday camp than a campsite for travellers) so I rode on and have ended up in this place. Even before I got off the bike in the parking area here at Austre Bokn Camping, I was looking at my Norcamp app for places that had huts because I could see that this place does not and I could not see any sites nearby that had huts. So here I am. It is one of those in transition places that was quite traditional but the new owners who have owned it since 2021 (I know that because they have written their biography and their ‘vision’ for the site in many languages and posted it up around the site) and are making the place slightly swanky so you have to pay for everything: you have to pay for a shower; you pay to use the kitchen; to use the washing machine and the prices are up on the walls everywhere. It’s a nice place but it has got some disadvantages: its really windy which obviously you can’t blame on the campsite but its unsettling – and being right next to the traffic (the sound of a truck going by on my recording). Tonight will be another night of wearing earplugs. Not only all day but all night! Looking back I remember how odd it felt trying to sleep in broad daylight a few yards a way from a traffic embankment.

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The view is beautiful – in that direction at least

But now I am really nervous about tomorrow. I really want to get packed up tomorrow before 9am when its forecast to start raining. I have an alarm set for 7am.

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Camping in a windy corner

I have been looking on the map and found what looks like a good campsite. I did start looking for hotels. They were either really expensive or there was a cheap one but I realised it was cheap because you shared – it looked pretty crappy actually. So I am going to head off to this place called Steinsnes NAF camping in Egarsund. I can see from Google maps that they have cabins and I just pray that they have a cabin that I can stay in tonight and possibly tomorrow night and I was also looking on the map for places that I could shelter on the way – get off the bike, park at a shopping centre and hang out inside for an hour or so if its pouring in Stavanger, or a petrol station… somewhere just to shelter from the rain, just stand there under shelter for an hour or even two, I really don’t mind. So I have lots of nervousness about tomorrow because of the rain. The dread is nearly always much worse than doing it – but I do want to get off before it rains. Its windy tonight here. I’ve got a lovely view over the fjord. I’m on a high piece of land here on this very slopy campsite but it is pretty windy. I am sure it will be fine. Worse things have happened at sea. I got very drenched three or four days ago but its just a memory now. In fact there is something about that kind of adversity that makes you really focussed on the moment. When you are riding along and the weather is fine, my mind is going all over the place but when things are tough you are really there. So I am hoping that I sleep well. Apart from the noisy traffic the place is quiet, very quiet. There’s no noise from other people at all – just the birds, the wind and the traffic. The traffic is getting quieter too… So, this anxiety about stuff its so – its not the end of the world. Its easy to get clenched up and hunker down, look inward. Its crazy. It doesn’t help but I have made a few plans which is good. Lets see what the next instalment brings.

Norway going south: June 22nd

Thursday 22nd June: Its Thursday and I am staying at a campsite called Hogkjolen Fjel Fannrem. Its located on the E39 to the west of Trondheim on the way to Alesund which is where I want to end up tomorrow night. Last night up on the E6 in a town just south of a town called Mosfjelt(?) was my first night of hiring a hytte – a cabin – which cost Kr400 – about £40. It was a cute little place. It had a fridge which I didn’t expect. It had lights. It had a mattress on the bed and a small cooker and a kettle. All in all it was fantastic. As I wrote earlier, it was the perfect space between staying in a swanky hotel and camping in my small tent which is the other extreme. I’ve been buying smaller and smaller tents in order to be lighter – because ‘light is right’ – right? Have I already said this but, being in a (small) tent is alright when the weather is dry but as soon as you add in rain, the whole thing becomes almost untenable (maybe a slight overstatement but it becomes extremely awkward) as you squeeze round and try to take off motorcycling clothes and boots in this small space. When the weather is questionable, staying in these huts is the perfect answer. Its almost an answer made in heaven. For example – no, lets start from today. I knew when I stayed in that hut last night that it was going to be raining in the morning and that it was going to start raining at about 8am. So, the bike was outside, of course, I was safely dry inside. The bike was covered up with the Oxford cover I will now always take with me travelling. And it rained right on cue at 8 o’clock. I dithered, eventually packed up. The rain was not heavy but it was more than a drizzle and I left though I wondered about leaving a little later. I think I got on the road by about 9.50 in the end. It was raining but I was in wet weather gear and it was OK. I rode for an hour, maybe more like two hours. What made things start to go downhill was when big trucks came thundering in the other direction. They cause so much spray and splash. Usually I can move over when I see them coming to the side of the carriageway to get away from the worst of it but one particular truck – maybe I didn’t move fast enough or maybe there was a particularly deep puddle but I got drenched and from that point my legs felt wet. Somehow they had got wet. I thought that this good quality wet weather gear (made by Klim) is fine but it has its limits or perhaps is starting to weaken. An hour later I stopped at a roadside diner – not a fantastic place but fine for the purpose and had a coffee and a strange cake. I sat at a table by the window and looked out rather despondent at the rain falling heavily by now. And in the end I just had to go back out and get back on the bike in this heavy rain. I headed off, continuing south on the E6 and I was thinking things like (the Buddhist mantra) ‘everything is impermanent’ and ‘it can’t rain all the time’ (after the song by Jane Siberry) and for a flicker of thought I thought: this is a privileged moment to be in the middle of suffering and to have this opportunity to think through these things. And I rode and maybe an hour later the rain stopped. I was going south and then eventually as I got further south, the sun came out! So I stopped at a roadside picnic spot and had a roll and some orange juice sitting on their benches. I think I kept the wet weather gear on – I can’t remember but I certainly felt a huge relief. Then I continued south, riding around Trondheim where they are doing huge roadworks and it was the kind of time that people are leaving work: lots of traffic, queues of traffic, lots of tunnels. Eventually I got around Trondheim and took the turnoff from the E6 to the E39 which is the road that goes right around the coast on this west part of Norway. This is a beautiful part of Norway. I gave myself a cheer in the helmet for getting on to this new road: having gone up the E6 and then back down the E6 and now I was doing something different.

At this point I put a random campsite into the GPS because I wanted it to route me round Trondheim to the right place to get onto this particular road. Then, maybe it wasn’t the same campsite that I put in but I stopped by a wide gravel drive off the main road towards a big site – where I am now. You could not call this place pretty but it is sprawling with gravel tracks everywhere. There’s even a mechanic’s garage just at the end of the drive where my cabin is planted where people are working on interesting looking vintage cars. The man that runs the site in the office is an older man who was interested in my motorcycle travel and showed me maps and some nice routes that he recommended, all of which I have forgotten and he showed me down to this hut. (That’s what I like about these old school campsites – that the people who run them seem genuinely interested in your travels.)

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Drying in the sunshine

This is hut number two in my travels. This hut has four beds in it – two bunk beds. It has a small kitchen with basic equipment and a veranda with a small table and chairs. The sun has been shining in making it beautiful and warm. I have all my wet clothes spread out, drying in the sun. The only thing that has not dried yet is the sheepskin (on the seat) which was soaking.

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Why do I like this campsite? I think its partly because it has a variety of people staying. There are people who are travellers. There is a German couple in the cabin next door who are travelling on two GSs, then there’s another German couple on one GS over in a tent (interestingly they had packed up and left before I event ventured out the next morning). There’s also some interesting looking vehicles around. Its definitely not one of those sites where all you see are Dutch families sitting around all day outside their huge white motorhomes. It seems much more to cater for people who have a different idea of travel. Interesting. I like it. I’d come back. And (I keep saying this) I really like the hut formula. I’ve been to two sites now and they have had huts available. I haven’t been turned away. 

Here’s a quick gear review: the bike is doing fine. A lot of riders are on big GSs here – which, of course, I don’t have any more. However, what my bike does not have is fantastic weather protection because I fitted a rally style front end and screen onto the bike. The original screen was actually better at keeping the wind and rain off so it is self-inflicted. I wonder whether a clip on screen extension would work, though perhaps it would look out of place. The helmet is fantastic. It is definitely water tight. I would know it by now if it wasn’t. Water runs off the visor quite nicely. Now that I no longer need to wear glasses, I’ve not been wearing sunglasses but have been using the drop down sun visor which I can, with a struggle, put up when I go into a dark tunnel and some of them are very dark and then down again when I emerge back into the sunshine. That works very nicely. The GoPro Hero 11 seems to work well though it runs out of battery at unexpected moments. It’s the same with my ‘B-roll’ camera, my Sony FDR – the batteries seem to suddenly go from ¾ full to being flat. Tomorrow my route is over to Alesund to pick up the rest of the route of the Motorrad tour and perhaps I will follow that round to Stavanger. Its Thursday and I don’t need to be in Kristiansand until next Wednesday. I did not realise I had so long so I can really take my time on this. It seems like there is a bit of rain coming but its not continuous – unlike when I looked on my iPhone app: the weather in the place that I left this morning is currently rain and its going to rain all night, all Friday, all Saturday and stop early Sunday morning. Whereas down here it’s a much more mixed picture. So, obviously, you have got to be prepared for rain in Norway and I think you have got to be flexible enough to do some dodging and diving in your route to avoid it.

Just south of Trondheim

Tuesday 20th June: That date makes tomorrow the Summer Solstice, the longest day. I heard somebody ask on the radio ‘what are you going to do to celebrate?’ What I’m going to do is be in the Arctic Circle where the sun won’t set at all but I am not going to stay up all night just to make sure that it doesn’t.

Today started off in that campsite just south of Trondheim. I woke at 6.45 and got going, packed things up which was so easy because everything was dry. I made a coffee, had a couple of cereal bars and left at 8.45. It always takes two hours to break camp – surprising. Then I was on the road. I put Mo I Rana into the GPS and it said that I’d be there by 4.30. This seems a reasonable time compared to when you first read that a trip will take 7 hours which seems very long, too long. There was though a bit too much traffic. I stopped for petrol and wasn’t sure whether to stop again. In the end I did stop at a scenic layby. I talked to an older German man there travelling with his partner on a motorcycle (or was it two?). They were taking a much more leisurely approach. He showed me his map of Norway. He’d drawn circles of every place he was going to stay, every few inches, whereas I’m travelling at least twice as far as them every day. So I headed off.

Eventually I decided I needed some food and drink so stopped at a little town and went to a supermarket where I bought a kind of cappuccino milk carton and a roll and that helped and then I headed off again. It was a long, long way, endlessly on this road, though it was beautiful but I was a bit tired I think. But then the heavens opened. I could see it coming. Beautiful mountainous views on either side and lakes and snow up on the peaks.  But the rain just fell down. I was wearing my waterproof gear already. It was so heavy and made visibility so poor that some people pulled off the road. I did for a moment or two but it was pointless. I kept going and then it stopped which felt so good. All the time the petrol was going down but I just don’t trust the petrol gauge. I had ridden 230 miles but the gauge was showing just under half a tank and telling me I could ride for another 120 miles. One day I will have to test it with some spare petrol.

At this place where I am now – which I will explain later – its not as far as Mo I Rana, maybe 30 miles south of there. I was wet and tired so stopped. I rode past this big campsite in the town which had a few tents but lots of cabins and a lot of them had motorbikes parked outside them and I thought ‘OK this is possibly a place to stay, in a cabin, like other people on bikes are doing’. I searched for a petrol station, found it then thought that I would stay in a hotel. I promised myself I would if it was wet – and it was raining again and I was wet.  I found the hotel that I am in now. Its called the Fru Haugens hotel in Mosjøen. Its £112 for a room but I had no hesitation. The bike was wet, I was wet. I came up into this economy single room. I took all these wet clothes off, had a shower, dried my clothes on the radiator, dried my helmet. Plugged everything in. Ah – it was such a relief, so welcome. The only downside is that they are remaking all the roads in this town and right outside my window was a man with a mechanical whacker and a digger, this incredible racket just outside my room.

I ventured off through this small town to a brand new supermarket in a shopping centre that’s open till midnight and bought food for dinner in my room. I thought having spent £112 on a room I am not going to spend more money on an expensive dinner here. The guy on the digger stopped and I felt my spirits lift – but then he started again and my anxiety wound up again. Finally, he stopped and went home and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I put in the Arctic Circle Centre into the GPS. It will take just over two hours to get there so its not very far. That’s fantastic and that will be Wednesday. The downside is that Thursday morning it will start raining – all day. But the app on my phone has a little symbol for rain which is perhaps psychologically misleading because it looks really dark. Now I have got, for the rest of my time here, to do these manoeuvres to avoid the rain. I even thought of going across the border to Sweden where there is not as much rain but when you look in more detail the amount of rain is much greater so I won’t do that but I do want to figure out some strategy. Maybe its just riding in the rain and staying in hotels. It makes the trip more expensive but maybe it’s the way to go. Anyway, it’s the Arctic Circle tomorrow on the summer solstice which is fantastic and then head back down south. Tomorrow is the 21st and my boat sails on 28th so I have 7 days to wind my way, perhaps down the coast.

Travelling north through Lillehammer

19th June: I slept pretty well in the end and woke up around 7.30 and tried to move as fast as I could although I took the trouble to make a filter coffee and ate a cereal bar–that was breakfast. The tent was wet, the bike cover was wet but thankfully everything inside was dry. I had to pack everything up before it had properly dried out. Amazingly, even though I woke up at 7.30 I didn’t actually leave until 9.45. I took ages to pack everything away, particularly when I was waiting as long as I could for things to dry out a little.  I headed off via Honnefoss and it was raining, drizzling, wet. I stopped twice to put on more waterproof gear and warmer clothes but once I had got everything right, I was very comfortable despite the cold and rain. I was thinking that when its super-hot (as it was in Portugal last year) you can take off as many layers as you want and open as many vents on jackets as you can but you still suffer with the heat. But when its cold and wet you can actually keep it out pretty effectively with the right gear. Perhaps that’s the impact of global warming on how I am approaching motorcycle travelling. I stopped in Lillehammer at a petrol station and had a welcome coffee and a roll. There was a bunch of six or seven bikers from Poland. I knew they were from Poland because they had it written on the back of their jackets (I just can’t imagine British bike riders doing that).

I headed off from there with a full tank of petrol and maybe about half an hour later, travelling north on the E6 (the E4 seemed to turn to the E6) the traffic thinned out and the weather even got better. I had looked at my weather app and I could see that where I was heading, Trondheim, was 25 degrees and in full sun. Where I was, was raining and about 14 degrees so that motivated me to get going. Gradually as I rode north the weather did get better and the traffic changed to only big trucks and travellers in camper vans – or at least that’s how it seemed. And lots of bikers. I went through a national park and it felt as though I could keep riding for ever. The road was really good, not too tricky; the weather was good, not too hot or too cold by this time, not too much traffic; the bike was running well. Everything was comfortable. I stopped about 30 miles south of Trondheim – in Støren I think is the place, found a supermarket and a campsite which is good enough. It’s a bit noisy because its close to the E6 but its also close to a river. I like the place. Its relaxed. A lot of people come here to fish. You need 10Kr for the shower so maybe I won’t bother because I don’t have it. I just had dinner: noodles, smoked salmon (again), and red peppers with a garlic olive oil dressing. With a beer I found in the supermarket and yoghurt and a couple of sweet things.

Storen campsite near Trondheim
Tablecloth stapled to the table

My entry here was so much more poised than yesterday because it was 22 degrees and just about sunny. There’s a lot of space and thankfully no mosquitoes. In fact I think I have brought here one or two mosquitoes that were squashed in my tent and somehow survived the day. So much nicer. The weather app is telling me that on Thursday it will rain all day but in the south it is sunny again. So I am trying to plan a route and a timing to avoid as much of the rain as I can. I won’t linger but if I travel back sound on Wednesday I might avoid some of the rain. I have promised myself that if its dry I will camp but if its wet I will look for hotels to stay in. That seems a good simple approach to travelling in Norway (I had not discovered cabins at that point).