1977 - Part 3
Fortunately, the 300 km journey from Hagen to Hamburg went without a hitch and we arrived without incident at Germany's second city. Here we spent a night of restful sleep in a youth hostel, thankful to have escaped the madness of the previous day.
One of the Trappus, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons; (although forty years on, maybe the statute of limitations is over), insisted on taking advantage of the delights Hamburg has to offer within its notorious red-light district. He did everything he could to persuade us to join him in his escapade, but failed. We left him to his own devices to the pleasures of the flesh.
Heading for Denmark
Rising very early, we treated ourselves to a traditional German breakfast of Brötchen (bread rolls), cold meats, cheeses, soft-boiled eggs and sugary delights. We were feeling in great shape, having eaten little the day before as our appetites were suffering the effects of a hangover.
The distance from Hamburg to Aarhus is only 343 km and the weather was cold but without the hazards of snow or ice, so the journey was quickly completed via Neumunster, Flensburg and finally Aarhus.
Taking advantage of the late ferry crossing at 4pm, we had time to briefly visit Aarhus, a lively University town, Denmark's second largest city with a population of 300,000.
Much to our disappointment there was no snow, but a strong wind was blowing and accompanied us all the way. Oddly, whilst on our city visit, we came across a typewriter store called Triumph. Being an ardent British motorcycle fan, I couldn't resist the temptation to have a selfie in front of the store bearing the name of one of my favourite motorcycle brands and home to those beautiful machines built at the Meriden factory.
Left: Yours truly posing in front the Triumph shop. Right: The MC Dragons team, Marc Pfeiffer and yours truly, waiting at the dock for the ferry to Oslo
A few more outfits 'en route'
As we waited dockside to board the ferry, a few outfits of fellow German rallyists, also on their way to the Krystall, arrived. Somewhat reassuringly, we were no longer alone 'en route' to the rally and the appearance of fellow bikers confirmed for us that we had at least got the correct date and direction for the rally.
The outfits of fellow rallyists...
These guys were well equipped from head to toe. Perfectly outfitted to face the biting cold, dressed in warm overalls and riding machines specially prepared for winter and able to transport mountains of luggage.
...waiting like us to board the ferry.
We soon established a dialogue, albeit briefly, but the language barrier prevented us from establishing deeper ties.
Finally, boarding time arrived and we followed the loading crew's instructions to park the outfits. Once our machines were strapped down and secured, we were free to explore the ferry and all that it has to offer during the sixteen hour crossing until we arrived in Oslo around 6am the next day.
The only sure thing about luck is that it will change
The highlights of this crossing can be summed up in two anecdotes.
The first being the episode concerning the slot machines. There were several on board. The Danish krone we had were not going to be much to use, except perhaps on the way back, so why not get rid of them by trying our luck on the slots?
We were all taking turns on the machines but luck was not with us. On the contrary, the machines swallowed our money but of course gave nothing in return. Perfectly normal I guess, since slot machines have a reputation for being rather one sided. But every cloud has a silver lining and that day Lady Luck chose to smile on me. Suddenly a cascade of coins began to clatter forth incessantly, creating huge piles of cash in the tray at the foot of the machine.
I couldn't believe it. Not used to that kind of luck, especially with games of chance, I guess it must have been my lucky day. I wasn't sure how much I had won, probably very little in fact, but the ‘waterfall' of coins had a dramatic effect on me and my surprise was palpable. Had I been alone, I would probably have stopped playing, contenting myself with this unexpected bonus, but my assembled friends were keen to witness another miracle win and of course they were instantly united in encouraging me to play on. So much so, that of course the inevitable happened and my 'mini-fortune' rapidly disappeared. There's a moral in there somewhere!
The longed-for ice turns out to be frightening
We had often complained about the absence of snow and ice since our departure, but we would quickly come to regret that.
That evening, after a visit at the bar and despite the expensive cost of drinks in Scandinavia, we indulged ourselves. So much so, that we didn't have any trouble falling asleep later.
That is, right up until a loud scary noise woke us. What did we hit? Are we going to sink? It took us a while to realise that what we were hearing were blocks of sea ice striking the boat's hull. The startling noise reverberating around the ship inside was actually very scary, never having experienced anything like it before and we were left wondering if our fate was to end up like those on board the Titanic!
None of us could get back to sleep. The closer the boat got to the Norwegian coast, the more the ominous noise increased. None of us dared rest until early morning when we reached the safety of the harbour in Oslo.
The sea looked roughly like this
Colder than a penguin corpse
Oslo was decorated like a birthday cake, frosting everywhere. Ice covered the road like death's welcome mat. I knew the weather in Norway was going to be freezing cold, but I didn't expect such a painful and glacial welcome.
It was cold, ice cold and it was going to be one of those days when even the warmest of clothes aren't enough to keep you warm.
Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer, we'd have frozen to death! (Mark Twain)
The cold instantly licked at my face and crept inside my clothes, seeping right inside me like freezing liquid, making its way into my bones and chilling my fingers and toes into a desperate, painful clumsy numbness. My muscles ached and I felt colder than a penguin corpse.
Having just set foot on Norwegian soil our adventure was only just beginning. The hardest part stretched out in front of us; 330km lay ahead in even worse weather conditions before we could achieve our final goal: Savalen.
The brutal wind, icy cold conditions and relative lack of full-body movement to enable us to warm up even slightly, were inevitably going to make for a ride that would chill us to the bone. We would undoubtedly turn into a couple of rapidly frozen ice cubes, looking for all the world as if we'd been ejected from the devil's own freezer!
...concluded in Part 4 ...
- Jean-Francois Helias