“I find a map and draw a straight line, over rivers, farms, and state lines, the distance from ‘A’ to where you’d be, it’s only finger-lengths that I see”
Stockholm, Canon 5d2, 16-35L
Someone asked me recently about why I had a blog. There has only ever been one main purpose of this site and the hours I spend writing the blog.
The route home from Stockholm
The bread in the hotel was hard and to try and overcome this, I was trying to mush it up by taking gulps of overly brewed coffee. The restaurant was heaving as all the tourists pushed and shoved to get their plates full and then emptied before their date with the coach. I lost the will to live trying to get any real food in the scrum and had ended up sat on the floor with this hardened dough and sludge. I ached, shifted my weight off my right bum cheek and drew my feet in quickly as people darted past me to get to a table. I’d put on the old faithful combat pants with all their glorious stains and the smell of body odour wafted gently up to my nostrils from the trainers I had bought all those months ago in Andorra.
“I touch the place where I’d find your face, my fingers in creases of distant dark places”
At 9am the place emptied, leaving me, the waitresses and tables, and a floor, full of food detritus. I grabbed some eggs and a banana and sat down at a table, my head resting on one hand as I munched on an egg, looking down at the wasted food spread all around me. Back to the room, open the window to get rid of the small of BO and a brush of the teeth and off I went into Stockholm on the metro.
Exhaustion is never a good thing, it has a habit of opening the doors in your mind that you would rather stay closed. My footsteps were laboured as I left the metro and popped out in the city centre. A relaxed day for me I reasoned. A slow coffee at a local cafe and a read of what there was to see and do in Stockholm. I got some rough bearings and then, as always, I just set off walking.
“I hang my coat up in the first bar, there is no peace that I’ve found so far”
With a really humid morning and aching limbs, I eventually found the waterfront, navigated to a bar and ordered an IPA. I had two as I sat there watching the Swedes go about their lives. There is no doubt that they are a beautiful race. It matters not what age or what sex, their genes (I presume) are such that they are all just stunningly beautiful. They all look healthy too, really healthy. I chugged on my beer, noting that the man in the mirror had dark, glazed eyes.
I wandered aimlessly, finding myself at the steps of a museum. Whilst I’m sure that the history of Swedish agriculture from the 13th century is riveting, I declined the 10 euro admission and wandered through the park, eventually finding myself at Fotografiska. With multiple exhibitions on display, I saw some stunning photographs and some truly inspiring imagery and stories. From the plight of romany gypsies through to a stunning piece on safari animals in run down suburbs, it was a welcome chance to take it slow and just unwind. I spent a few hours in there – it really is worth a visit even if you are not a photographer. I’d been blessed on the trip to visit this place along with seeing Caps’s work in San Gimignano and the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.
“Their words mostly noises, ghosts with just voices, your words in my memory, are like music to me”
The skies were darkening and within minutes the heavens were dumping a months worth of rain on to Stockholm centre. Dashing under a canopy at an outside coffee shop, the temperature dropped, the roads were flooded in minutes and I shivered. I ordered a coffee as the storm wasn’t going to pass quickly. others fought for space under the canopy too, my coffee came out and the waitress smiled, saw me shivering and returned moments later with a blanket. No one else was offered a blanket and I found out after I had paid that it was her personal one that she wore when working in the kiosk. I took her hand, placed it in-between mine and thanked her. Her eyes smiled. Waitresses, god bless them.
Pedal, pedal!! iPhone
One of the things of riding solo is the lack of contact and even just a simple hug or the touch of a hand is amazing. I don’t mean this in a sexual way but just in a human being way. Hugs are huge.
Sitting there watching the roads flood and the rain pound down gave me time to think and the combination of exhaustion, cold and a few beers was a potent cocktail allowing the demons to run amok. Watching the couple on the pedalo provided brief amusement, they were half way put onto the lake when the storm hit and it took them a good 15 minutes to get back to shore. Bless, they were drenched to the skin but they were smiling.
“I’m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground, I pray that something picks me up and sets me down in your warm arms”
The storm passed, I headed back into the centre and made a bee line for the stores. A new pair of jeans for me, massively reduced in the sale (well, reduced to only a silly price) and fresh socks. Back at the hotel, I stripped off my combat trousers and smelly trainers and had a brief moment of reflection before I placed them in the bin. Gone, but not forgotten, may they rest in peace.
Working out my trip back home took up some time. Looking at various routes from Stockholm to Holland meant I could either get a ferry from Trelleborg, ride through Denmark or ferry to Denmark and then ride and…yet even more options. I decided that I would be best to ride to Trelleborg on the Southern Coast, purely because there was an overnight ferry to Rostock in Northern Germany which landed early and I could be in Hamburg by 10am. My bike was booked in for a service. i keep saying ‘my bike’ but she always been ‘Honey Bunny’, not sure I ever mentioned that before! I could then sleep overnight in Hamburg while HB was serviced and pick her up the next day and head for the Hook of Holland to get the ferry home. I pre-booked the ferries, nipped out to do the bike checks and hit the sack early.
It was a long and uneventful day travelling to the South Coast – taking the road out to Gotteborg and then heading South, arriving several hours early for the overnight ferry. As we boarded, I remember feeling that home was getting closer and tonight I would be out of the Nordic states and back into mainland Europe.
Waiting for the Trelleborg ferry, eyes like….in the snow, 2000 miles in 5 days
The ferry was surprisingly full, I hadn’t booked a cabin – why bother when we were docking at 5am? I found a patch of couch, didn’t even get out of the bike gear and shuffled for quite some time until the armour in the knees, hips and shoulders wasn’t completely uncomfortable. Believe me, if you can sleep in fully armoured bike gear then you are very tired. I woke every now and then and I remember seeing a woman breastfeeding, a man with his head in his hands and 2 children counting beads. It’s always a strange feeling, eyes half open and with those faint noises of snoring, breathing and the rustle of shifting clothes, underpinned by the incessant rumble of the engines of the ship. Ferries, I love them.
“After I have travelled so far, we’d set the fire to the third bar, we’d share each other like an island, until exhausted, close our eyelids”
Having woken at about 4am, I’d wandered aimlessly trying to separate armour from skin and had a brief wash in the toilets with soap that had about as much effect as smearing mayonnaise on my face. I’d slept OK given the conditions but for others, they had found their own little hobbit hole, their place of warmth and comfort on board. I sense that beer may have been involved. Or maybe murder, who knows.
Sleep, induced coma or death, you be the judge, iPhone
Damn it was cold as we disembarked and hit the autobahns outside of Rostock. I had a couple of hours of riding to get to Hamburg and it was about 4 degrees with a light rain. Unrestricted autobahn, throttle on, I made great time, grinning as I passed a police car at over 100. Not often you get to do that legally. Arriving at the dealer before 8am, I dropped off the bike, agreed with them that I could store my gear and panniers there and headed for the bus stop. It seems that German bus drivers have the same technique as the British when someone doesn’t understand their language…they speak louder. With a piece of paper and an address of a hotel and a 10 euro note, I had no clue where I was going. He was getting irritated, i shrugged and he eventually took my money and gave me some change. To be fair, I had been through so many countries and currencies he could have handed me chocolate coins and I wouldn’t have known. I put in my ear plugs, switched on a bit of Sabbath and watched the outskirts of Hamburg pass me by.
“And dreaming, pick up from the last place we left off, a joy you can’t keep in”
I had 2 nights in Hamburg while Honey Bunny was being serviced. I did nothing but sleep. Arriving at the hotel at 10am, I could (thankfully) check in early and I crashed out, sleeping until 6pm. I headed out to the bar opposite, ate a burger and chips and then went back to sleep, waking at 8am the next day. Breakfast, back to bed and slept till 3pm and then hit the bar again opposite the hotel and back to bed. 3 months of tension, exhaustion, aches and fatigue came pouring out. I felt better on the second morning as I headed back on the bus to pick up HB.
All serviced, heading for the Hook and Home, snazzy new jeans
Out of Hamburg and a full days ride to get to the Hook. Uneventful with the only item of note being the poor standard of driving by the Dutch. As bad as the English. Germany still tops the board in driving skills and road sense. I joined the queue of traffic for the ferry, boarded, ate and found my cabin.As the ferry departed late in the evening, I took one last look from the back of the ship, watching Europe fade slowly away until the last twinkling light vanished into the embrace of the night.
Entering the UK was an experience, I had just gone through 15 border checks and not been stopped once and always greeted with a warm welcome. Uk was a bit different. I rolled up to the border check point. ”Take your helmet off’, I did so even though the bikers before me didn’t have to. ‘Where have you been to’ he asked as he thumbed through my passport. ‘Well, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy,oh and then I went back to…’, he looked up ‘what was the purpose of your trip?’. I stopped, paused and then said ‘I haven’t told you everywhere I’ve been!’. He dead-eyed me. I momentarily thought of talking about running some goods for my Bolivian friends but the prospect of rubber gloves wasn’t appealing. ‘Erm, voyage of self discovery’. He dead eyed me. ‘How did you pay for this?’. I looked at him and answered ‘with money’. He pursed his lips, obviously realised I wasn’t a terrorist threat and passed my passport back and waved me through. Welcome home.
Farewell Europia, Iphone
It was a surreal journey home through Cambridgeshire and then up the A1. Road signs, cameras, costa coffee and BP service stations, a real shock to the system. It felt almost the same, but not as intense, as when I returned from living in the USA for a year as a teenager. You’ve been off having all this ‘adventure’ and yet life has just stayed the same and plodded on where you used to be. It’s very, very odd and takes time to re-adjust. More on that in a later blog post though.
So, the reason for the blog post and the site? It’s great that others get enjoyment from my posts and I hope it inspires someone to do something different or even just think a little differently, the world is waiting out there – it really is. But the real reason is that it is for you Nimmy. I hope one day, maybe already, you will read this and be able to share some of my journey with me. On every day of the trip I thought of you, just like every day in normal life. I love you and miss you.
“I’m miles from where you are, I lay down on the cold ground, And I pray that something picks me up and sets you down in my warm arms”