Bike packed. Ferry not booked (in case he misses that one too). Ed sets off for Dover for the third time. The first departure has been discussed already with an aborted trip to Germany. The second time has not because it involves all the of activities related to leaving and going on a trip but ends somewhere around the M3 junction of the M25 motorway at which time Ed realises that his new DRZ is not the one that is going on the trip with him and he promptly turns around and goes home to have another think about things. You couldn’t make it up, no really. At any rate, third time is indeed lucky and Ed arrived in Dover, fingers not killed by the vibration, and proceeded to board the 11.50am ferry to Calais.
To anyone not familiar with the P&O company policy on motorcycles, the lack of four wheels and handbrakes necessitates the tying-down of motorcycles to ensure they remain upright on the high seas. In the case of the unfortunate attendant that morning, trying to secure a tall, springy dirtbike with a single ratchet-strap was akin to watching someone trying to catch eels with their bare hands. In the end he gave up and went off to find his supervisor, whose years of ratchet-strapping experience enabled him to tame the beast with ease, the only casualty being Ed’s sheepskin cover that ended up wrenched from its straps instead. Bike secured, Ed continued on his way to France.
The mission that Ed had accepted was effectively to get to Turkey, in posession of a Carnet de Passage, at the same time that Dan gets hold of his Iranian visa. That way they’d both be ready to grab the Turkmenistan visa and head for the Iranian border. Simple, hey.
For those not in the know, the Carnet is a vehicle temporary import document that Ed and Dan need to get their motorbikes into Iran without paying huge import fees (for more info see here) and due to the fact that Ed had changed his mind about which bike was going where, the RAC had cancelled the old document and were about to reissue a new one. Which they then had to stop doing and re-issue the old one. At a cost, of course. Indecision is certainly expensive. The new document would then have to be DHL’d across Europe to, in this case, Matt at the Sakar Hills campsite in Bulgaria, for Ed to pick up on route. A perfect plan but would it pay off?
The ferry ramp went down and he was off. The
little Mighty 250 straining at the bit as it charged down the french autoroute, devouring the miles. Ed’s target was Germany. Symbolically, the Nurburgring where Ed and Dan had only just managed to reach on the last attempt. The weather was clear and sunny. The bike felt good but why were all the drivers cutting Ed up that day? On one close encounter Ed reached for the horn button only to be greeted with silence – the horn was dead. On closer inspection so too were the indicators. Nothing. That’s not a good start but it’ll take more than that to break his new found momentum this time.
Sure enough with the day’s miles dispatched, Ed rolled into the Europa camping site, following in the footsteps of Dan the previous fortnight or so before, with just enough daylight to get settled and fix the bike. Sadly with no joy, but an early morning inspection revealed a disconnected plug under the fuel tank (why do problems often hide in the hardest to reach places?) and soon Ed had restored horn, indicators and headlight and was ready to face the road again.
The only other challenge of the morning was actually wanting to get out of the tent because the temperature had sunk so low overnight that Ed’s tent had granules of ice stuck to it where dew had frozen to it! Even the campsite owner felt sorry for Ed and only charged him 5 Euros instead of 10.
In Ed’s hurry to keep moving that morning he missed a fuel station on the motorway. Sure enough as the bike reached 190miles on the trip counter, he was forced off the motorway to find fuel, at which point he stumbled across a strange trinity of convenience nestling by the side of the off ramp: a petrol station, a Burger King and an erotic supermarket. Intrigued, Ed stopped to fill up and felt compelled to sample its burgers, as if put before him by a higher power, although he wasn’t sure about the meaning of the supermarket nextdoor; the blacked out windows put paid to any further investigation although the encouragement on the sign did say ‘Open 6 am to 1 am’. Doesn’t get much sleep then, the owner.
Spectacular valleys, forests and grassy plains all rolled out in front of him as Ed sped south-eastwards. Today’s target was to be Austria and the next campsite on an email which Dan had kindly radioed back. Having been on the road most of the day and with the light fading, Ed pulled off the main road into a campsite. He paid in advance, set up his tent and looked longingly for a bar, which was to be found on the site and almost empty of anyone to talk to. Ed walked in and immediately the local barfly beckoned him over. A beer appeared and Ed’s new dutch bestfriend proceeded to tell him about all about his world travels. A menu was found but another one was required in english because either Ed’s german is terrible or there were some rather eclectic options on offer. A bit of both as it turns out and Karl only speaks english or dutch. One option mentioned toast. Thinking this to be odd, Ed compared with the english menu and sure enough, an option for bar snacks was just that, toast. A frankfurter was ordered to prove that british diners know what they like in a german menu and at that moment Ed’s new friend chose to announce that the management were calling the police to evict him from the bar because he causes trouble and had been warned not to go there anymore. Just Ed’s luck – the crazy person wants to be friends. Time to call it a day, Ed thinks. The pint and sausage disappear down Ed rather quickly. Having turned down the offer to pay Ed’s tab, Ed got up to leave just as a postcard with an address was thrust into his hand. It was Karl, the new buddy’s address, if Ed should ever be passing through. Ed thanked him and returned to his tent making sure that no one was following. The postcard was dropped into the stuff sack with no more thought and Ed crawled into his tent.
The night passed free from any visits and Ed was woken early by the mountain air. Camping at 700m was always going to be a little chilly but despite the lack of ice, it was still absolutely freezing. The twofiddy (250) was just as eager as ever on the winding roads across Austria towards Graz handling the 1300m high passes and 15% decents which the day’s journey provided, although today the added bonus of snowy peaks and mountain pastures proved a feast for the eyes and the glorious sunshine kept the cold at bay.
The mountains then largely behind Ed, the GPS odometer showed it was time for fuel and upon stopping Ed was greeted with a smell of burning. These queueing lorries get hot so it is not that surprising, thought Ed. A tap on the shoulder by one of the drivers and a point to his luggage showed where it had recently been on fire with blackened contents now evident. Exhausts always seems to pick a fight with the closest object, this time Ed’s PacSafe roll bag was the loser.
Closer inspection revealed only the outer bag had been damaged and most of the heat had been taken by the items at the end of the roll bag. A spare rear chainwheel (sprocket), a melted lump of plastic Tesco food bags and what else should Ed find? The card from Karl, burnt but useful after all.. (and no, those aren’t kisses. I’m hoping they’re birds. Maybe Karl’s a birdwatcher or something)