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…..

Going home on the MS Romantika

STOP the presses! I have just (september 9th) learnt that Holland Norway Line has been declared bankrupt and I believe that some travellers with return tickets are having to make their own way home. This is such a shame as it was a startup in only 2022. When travelling with them it was obvious that ferries are such a complex business to operate. I feel so sorry for them, for those who had the vision for the company and for all of their employees who seemed a very sweet and professional bunch of people. There seem to be fewer and fewer ferries in Europe, forcing travellers to use carbon-crunching air flight. See here for some more details.

28th June: This is 28th June and this is the news from cabin 8814 of the Romantika. Its my second cabin on this voyage so far, the ferry sailing from Kristiansand down to Emden in Germany. In my first cabin, I thought I had vaguely heard some music in it and thought ‘this is going to be slightly annoying’, had a shower, had a short sleep and then I heard loud singing and guitar playing. It turned out that the cabin was right under the sundeck with the Entertainer who was, I presume, entertaining a whole bunch of people a few feet above me. I was really pleased with myself that instead of just putting up with it I felt no hesitation in going up to the information desk and asked if there was another cabin. As a result they have given me a new cabin on the same deck but right at the other end of the ship. I am so pleased. Its completely quiet here.

How did the day go? I didn’t sleep well last night (again). I was awake at 3.30 and slept fitfully until shortly after 7am. I got up and made some lovely coffee with my filter dripper which has been great. I washed up, washed out the little hut (which would have cost Krhundreds if I had asked the staff to do it). I headed out over the sand dunes to walk briefly on the beautiful beach. There was not a soul in sight – just footprints. On the way back to my hut I chatted to the couple of cyclists I mentioned before, who are Italian and certainly well into their forties. They had cycled here from Italy(!) and are cycling to Nordkap planning to arrive there by August. The timetable of people on pushbikes is so different to mine. I certainly take my hat off to them.

I headed off with the bike packed up (that is so satisfying) taking it easy on the road, unlike yesterday when I hurried around. Eventually the last 14k was motorway and lots of tunnels (and higher speed limits) and made it to the ferry. I was greeted by the sight of loads of motorcyclists who were mostly Dutch and German.

There were a couple of guys from England who told me what they had achieved (which immediately made me feel that I did not do enough, was not adventurous enough): they did some off-road riding, they wild camped, they rode the famous Trollstigen Pass, none of which I had done. They went up to the arctic circle too. They were nice guys. It was the sort of conversation you have where very quickly you realise that somebody is a talker and not a listener, so you just settle into listening and they talk – which is fine (and they had had an interesting time).  There was lots of luggage. Lots of people have lots of luggage on these large touring and ‘adventure’ bikes – metal panniers PLUS rolltop bags. Much more luggage than I have been carrying. In fact much more than I used to take when I had a large bike and metal panniers (I still have them and must sell them).  There were a couple of KTM 1090 Adventures looking very nice. One had nice black metal panniers. (I was tempted to think about getting metal panniers for my bike for a future tour on road (not offroad where they would be a liability.)

After a couple of instalments we got onto the boat – and I have already described the rest.

I’m now going to head off to the buffet early before things run out (you can see my German heritage at work here) and afterwards read more of Ubik by Philip K Dick (Wikipedia says: The story is set in a future 1992 where psychic powers are utilized in corporate espionage, while cryonic technology allows recently deceased people to be maintained in a lengthy state of hibernation.).

Tomorrow morning at 10.15 we get into Emden. I was looking at my map of the Netherlands thinking that I will ride straight down south on a German autobahn by the border and then turn right into the Netherlands because the motorways are much faster in Germany. I know I will get to the Hook of Holland early but its not too bad a building. You can sit inside and get a coffee from a machine. I would sooner do that than what I did on the way over which was such a drawn out and laborious ride. I will be happy to sit and read until it is time to board….

Its now 7 minutes past 7 in the evening on 28th June, on the ship and in my new cabin 8814 as opposed to 8141. A couple of observations: I have just enjoyed a pleasant hour or just less, sitting in the buffet eating salad, then fish, then more salad then some deserts and maybe three glasses of anonymous white wine. I was sitting there people watching – as usual. I was watching all the people that chose salad mainly and have come to the obvious conclusion that during the life-course people change their shape. That’s observation number 1. Observation number 2: after eating I strolled out on to the sundeck where the singer had been singing earlier when I got into my first cabin. It was two minutes past 7 when I arrived there and it was completely deserted. There was no singer, no audience and nobody making any noise at all. That whole event goes into the category of – well two things – possibly being hasty (in asking to move cabin) but the real category that my request to move goes into is into the mental category of ‘regretting choices’ which is an entirely useless category. It was the right thing to do – to move. The music could have gone on for hours  – and I remember the employee on the information desk mentioning to me that the entertainment lasts until 11pm.

There is no network here in the cabins which is nice, in some ways. Its very early, only 7pm but I will get to bed in a couple of hours. As I wrote before, we dock at 10.15, I ride down through Germany and the Netherlands and repeat this experience on the ferry to Harwich. The ride from Harwich into London will be the bleakest part (the A12 is no fun) but arriving home will be great.