2nd May in my cabin on the stenna Hollandica, the multi-million new ship built only last year for this route from Harwich to Hoek van Holland and back. I managed to take a wrong turn even before I left Cambridge and then got bizarre messages from my GPS. Nevertheless I know the way here well by now. Its such a beautiful twisty route to Harwich from Cambridge and I always seem to take it on sunny late afternoons on the way to catch this ferry. I arrived among the first dozen vehicles and got chatting to a German woman from Hamburg travelling with her husband.
I like the way that these trips open up brief conversations with strangers. Then a couple of cyclists ask us where they can buy tickets. Its sunny but so windy and I retreat into the strange cabin staffed by a few machines only where I buy tea for £1.40 and eat the first of my stash of muesli bars and shelter from the wind. A fellow with a bicycle asks for my help putting the wheel back on and later we ask eachother to take pictures of ourselves next to our various two-wheeled modes of transport.
Two Polish guys (one just visible in the picture above) on big bikes arrive but dont seem to want to talk much though they offer to shake hands with me. They are riding all the way back to Poland tomorrow. I can’t believe it. After waiting for hours in the cold, so cold I wait with my helmet on, we ride up the spiral ramp to the boat. When we get level with the boat I look up and the enormous mouth that takes us in. I wish I had been able to film this enormous entry. We tie down the bikes praying they are still upright at the end of the journey and jostle my way up the elevator to my deck and stagger into my room and drop my bags and helmet on the floor. I look in the mirror and smile. So far so good, no self-doubt, no boredom. This will be a new kind of trip for me. Lets see whether Norway’s wild camping and beautiful sites offers something that the crowded, mobile home filled sites of Germany and southern Europe don’t. Tomorrow is a bit of a ride though, but not that daunting if I break it into two 2 hour slots with another hour on the end. I will be tired by the end of it for sure but intrigued by the Hollenstedter Hof hotel. I’ve stayed in two so called biker hotels in Germany. One I found awful (the dinner was ghastly) and the other was very pleasant.
Its already ten past ten UK time that’s 10 past 11 tomorrow’s time. So suddenly its time to prepare to get my head down.
The boat had two coaches with Czech number plates full of Asian passengers. ‘Will all the Indian people who have not yet eaten, please go to the restaurant’ – that’s what the Dutch lady announced.
Day 1 Home - Harwich 68 miles, moving time 1 hr 50 minutes, average 40.0mph, max speed 70mph
(the three main ferries - Harwich to HvH, Hirtshals to Kristiansand and back, and Esbjerg to Harwich and the one hotel night near Hamburg came to about £500.)