Mr Mark Plus his Guides’ Guide Joy!
As a Tour Guide the first meeting of any group is always a bit tense, almost like your first day in a new school. You know the feeling, will they like me? Will I like them? Are they going to be sociable? These questions were answered in a split second when all the clients turned up in one big bunch smiling and happy after they had met at a local restaurant quite by chance before meeting up at Harwich ferry terminal. Woop woop its going to be alright… Unlike last year where Felix and I had been delayed by the holiday traffic coming up from Cornwall. I had arrived early this year with my wife Joy. Harwich ferry terminal is a lonely place while waiting for the group to arrive. Even security stopped to ask what we were doing there so early at 4pm when the ferry didn’t start to board until about 8pm? ‘We like the view’ seemed to be the right answer as he drove off in his shiny new 4×4 but he did drive past slowly a couple of times just in case…
The group were a mixed bunch as per usual, we had another Joy who had arrived with her husband Steve also called Mac. Then there was Steve and Gail and Steve who was called Lou with Kenneth called Grahame plus three John’s a Denise and a Marge ‘In Charge’ not forgetting Jenny who was with a John (one of the three) both from New Zealand. Marge and her husband John were from the USA. That left the Gloucester contingent Mr Paul and Rich followed closely by Mike from Bristol. Last but certainly not least was Snowy (a vast mop of white hair ) or Chris as his friends know him.
Introductions done hands shaken bikes looked at and smiles duly noted we joined the queue for the ferry to The Hook of Holland which is an overnight crossing. Showered and changed we met in the bar for a few beers and a chat. The crossing was flatter than flat thank goodness as Paul suffers a small amount of ‘mal de mare’ apparently, don’t worry mate your secret is safe with us..
Off the ferry and the weather is lovely and dry on our way to the first coffee stop. My ducklings dutifully following in line astern as they say in the navy we arrived some 80 miles later, glad of a coffee and sticky bun. We always do the first days ride in this fashion so that everyone gets to prove their Sat Nav’s can get them to a destination, sometimes its a bit scary trusting such a problematic piece of technology. Sat Nav’s sorted from now on the group can split and ride at their own pace.
This trip is twenty-one days long so its no mean undertaking but surely thats what an adventure is all about, to be slightly out of your comfort zone with the knowledge that there is a guide who is there to help if required. the first couple of days is spent riding through the countryside and occasional motorway of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark where we take in the towns of Oldenburg and Flensburg before making the crossing from Hirtshals to Kristiansand in Norway.
The fast ferry across the Skagerrak (which is the name of the sea between Denmark, Norway and Sweden is as fast and dramatic as it sounds. The ferry powers itself through the sea speeds of between 44-48 knots or 50-55 mph but the rides seems effortless. With duty free shops and cafes onboard time (3hrs) passes quickly and once through Customs we are out onto the roads of Norway and some spectacular roads within a few miles of the ferry. Then it rained… and rained a bit more, in fact it rained on and off for the next 10 days but that’s something we can’t control. The tour that was a week ahead of us had a lot less rain but thats how the cookie crumbles unfortunately.
Did I say the views were amazing though? No! Well I had better say it again then, the views are ammaazzzing!!!! It seems like every corner you go around the view just gets better and better. Almost like the scenery is trying to outdo itself with every turn, I love it! We pass waterfalls, fjords, bridges and ferry’s lots and lots of ferry’s. These can last 5 minutes or 30 minutes but either way they are clean efficient and give you unfettered views of the views. Getting on and off ferry’s is so easy that after you have done it couple of times its the most normal thing to do in Norway. Unless you like tunnels then there are loads of them. If the Norwegians can’t get around the mountain by ferry or road they dig right through it. My wife tried to count how many we passed through but gave up on the second day after losing count at over 32! Yes 32 tunnels. We went through the worlds longest road tunnel at 15miles, it even had roundabouts in it and some of the coolest blue lighting you would want to find in a tunnel. We stayed in places you have only ever seen in picture and magazines. We’ve all seen the picture of the person standing on a small outcrop of rock overlooking a fjord just before they jump into the air with a wing suit on. Well that’s just up the road from our first two night stop at Eidfjord. There were opportunities to ride a secret bikers road or visit the Flamm Railway which Rich and Paul did while John, Marge ‘In Charge’s’ husband and I took on the secret bikers roads. The weather cleared, the views appeared and we returned to the hotel with the biggest stupid grins on our faces. Other’s spent the day exploring the town and local walks with only occasional rests in the best sticky bun shop in the town coincidentally owned by the lady who also owns the hotel we were staying in. The hotel was lovely and even had shoe driers!
While we stayed in Eidfjord Jenny had a birthday which we celebrated over two days with the worlds biggest cake provided by Bee from the hotel, awesome.
Next we stayed in the UNESCO registered town of Geiranger in a hotel at the top of some wonderful hairpin bends. Thanks must go to John the New Zealander for helping people understand the ease of which a hairpin can be completed. That was good news because on our second rest day many of the group went up the Eagles Road out of Geiranger to the Trolls Ladder as an optional ride out.
The rest of us walked in to the town by walking beside the wild waterfall that spills into the fjord below.
The next day everyone climbed up the Eagles Road and crossed the Trolls Ladder to ride down the alpine hairpins on the other side. Our next nights stop is worth a mention just on its on. We parked our bikes by the side of the Atlantic road and walked 200 metres to the jetty where we were collected in a lovely fast boat which took us out to the island of Havstuer Haholmen some 20 minutes away. This island is magical in its location on the edge of the Atlantic with stunning views all around. The accommodation on the island is made up of fishermen huts but huts like you haven’t seen before. They are warm well fitted out and have some of the comfiest beds I’ve found. Leaving the following day after a great meal on the island we are treated to a trip on a replica Viking Longboat that has sailed around the world promoting the protection of the worlds ecology and was built by the original owner of the island.
Steinkjer was where Mike had a new chain and sprocket fitted to his bike before we all set off to Mo-I-Rana and a two night stop. The following day we set off for the Arctic by way of the Arctic Circle Raceway and a quirky motorbike museum in the town of Storforshei. Soon the Arctic Circle visitors centre comes into view and bizarrely the male members of the group found it compulsory to remove their shirts for a photograph much to the amusement and amazement of the centre staff and many visitors who stared open mouthed as a group of ‘older’ men removed half of their clothing for their own apparent amusement… A tradition has been started though I fear…
From the Arctic Circle we traverse the peninsular into Sweden where the roads are flanked on either side for endless miles by pine forests and seemingly arrow straight roads. Another two night stop in Mora gives the group the chance to ride around the circumference of a volcano crater or stay closer to the hotel and visit some of the museums that celebrate the artist Anders Zorn.
Our course is now ever southward towards Gothenburg and the ferry to Fredrikshaven. Now we head south through Denmark stopping off briefly at Denmarks highest point which is an altitude sickness inducing 170m above sea level! There is a visit to Egeskov Castle for those who had the time otherwise it was a coffee a quick photo and onwards to Flensburg.
After Flensburg we have (and we cant hide this fact) a ride right across Germany to the ferry again at the Hook of Holland. Paul was a bit late and Mike got a bit lost but still made it with plenty of time to spare.
In the bar two John’s, three Steve’s, two Joy’s, Denise, Gail, Mike, Paul and Rich with myself (John and Marge) had the biggest yet tiredest grins after completing over 4000 miles with rain and the occasional bit of sunshine over 20 days with great people, lovely hotels and excellent food. So we had better have a beer, cheers!
The following morning we departed in different directions but with the knowledge that we are part of a brotherhood who completed Magellan’s Norway 2018 Tour 1st trip going 2nd and thats no small achievement.