Here we go again. Walking the tarmac tightrope and heading for the horizon. Ditching the desk and running for the hills. Ten weeks, two wheels, 10000 miles. A few months ago I opened the door, looked in the stable and thought about what I should throw my saddle over. KTM 990 SMT with a hooligan kit and a very bad temper. R1100S with 170k and looking like a victim of a chainsaw massacre, split into big component parts and sitting on shelves. R1150GSA with 110k and a passport full of stamps. “I need a new bike” I think to myself. As if reading my mind, I hear some soft sobbing from behind me. Turn around and see a small puddle of metal tears under my old GSA. “All right old girl. One more time”. Decision made.
It’s simple plan. Distance: Far. Direction: East. UK to Bangkok. If you’re a fan of turgid, dry, humorless, self indulgent shit then you’ve come to the rigfht place, please enjoy:) Might keep your eyes busy for 30 minutes at least and if you can get through to the end I’ll send you a congratulatory ‘boredom endurance’ certificate for your efforts and to in some way compensate you for wasting your life:)
I do realize what a very very lucky bastard I am to be able to do these kinds of trips. I really do. I’m a very lucky bastard indeed, in fact I’m thinking of changing my name to Mr V V V L Bastard. I hope the following doesn’t appear blasé or dismissive. It’s not intended to be. I live on the edge of fantasy as I find reality hard to deal with in life so the lines between fact and fiction aren’t always obvious.
6:30 Sunday morning up and at ’em. Southampton to Soest. Out to Dover in the grey. Front of the queue with a couple of other bikers. “Where you off to?”, “Luxemborg, you?” “Bangkok”. Silence, of the ‘you taking the piss?’ variety. It’s strange how your mind rationalises things like this. Leave the house, turn left, follow black stuff till Bangkok. Forget about the scary places enroute. It will all be fine, just treat every day as it comes. I’m just happy to be moving, I really don’t care where, just as long as I’m moving.
Breakfast on the ferry, just taking my time. You don’t realise how tightly you’re wound up until you have time to properly unwind. Off the ferry and into the storm, twatting with rain all day day long playing a little mitalic melody against my visor. The rain has bought along it’s best mate the wind and they’re having a ball. Very tiring, like trying to walk supporting a fat drunk leaning on your shoulder all day as it pushes across the fast roads. Quickly through France and Belgium then into Holland for a short while. I pass Wankum. Ummm. Perhaps that’s where they train the Amsterdam tarts? Perhaps they need some people to practice on. So, When you think of Dutch recycling whats the first thing that comes to mind? Paper? Glass? Gimp suits? I think there are a lot of naked gimps in holland. I think they use the suits as overbanding on the roads. Nail one end in, grab, stretch, and nail the other end in then coat the whole thing in KY. Gives a good 20ft by 1ft strip of death. Can’t see the feckers in the pouring rain and a few times the bike does a wet dog shake on a corner and tries to chase it’s tail. Bloody scary but I’ve got to get my body back into the loose mode as it’s only going to get worse later I’m sure.
OK, what’s this. The GPS thinks that someone has moved Holland. From the second I cross the border the I’m riding in the fields and seldom on the road. Makes it impossible when it comes to junctions so just revert back to the maps. I’m not good with GPSs and I just bought this, stuck it on as I left home and didn’t think about it. What a tosspot. Quickly into Germany. It seems the German car drivers have almost exclusively taken up the ‘German Only’ option of one big fuck off accelerator pedal that runs right across the pedal box and can be used with both feet simultaneously. I’m watching very carefully as they scream along. I pull out to sweep past a car. I’m not hanging about, maybe doing 80, but as I pass I feel an pressure wave on my knee and something shoots past me in my lane between me and the barrier. Scares the shit out of me. Two foot further into the lane and I’d have lost my anal virginity to a VW Passat.
Go across the road to the hospital for breakfast. I like hospital food. All very German. Clean, exact, efficient. Breakfast amongst the nurses. Some people would pay for that. East east and east again to Berlin today. Not too far, maybe 300 miles. Weather is lovely. Dry but very windy, like my pants. The shatnav is still fubar. It knows what country we’re in but that’s about it. ‘Oh, sorry, you should have turned left back there’. ‘Don’t rush me, I’m thinking. This is hard you know. All the signs are in German’. ‘Oh, silly me, you should have taken that junction, please make a U turn….in 30 miles’ . Feck knows whats up with it. Still, it’s motorways all day. Wits being kept about me and all senses turned to max. Getting passed by fast cars in your lane isn’t unusual and it happens again and again, regardless of what lane you’re in. I don’t remember it being this bad in the past. In typically efficient German style though I see a column of 3 fast cars approaching, all at the max, both feet hard down. Whoosh…. Audi…. whoosh….BMW…..whoosh.. Mercedes…hearse. It seems you can hire a hearse to chase you to work and put your soggy body full of broken bones into a nice chestnut box should you not manage to emergency stop in the 2ft between you and the car in front. Good idea really. Like the 155mph speed restrictions on the cars. Great idea. I guess it stops them racing. That would be dangerous…
Still, don’t see any police all day long. Weird how 120mph in the UK will get you prison sentence, a staring role on ‘police camera action’, an appearance on the local news and a massive donation to HMRC while in Germany 120mph will just get you a ‘fuck off out my way’ flash of the headlights from the person behind. I’ve been passed by cars at well over 100 in my lane today. Seems to work ok though. They’ve got it all sorted. I tell you what, you can take the piss about the past but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to fight them now.
Approach Berlin and the shatnav just thinks its 1750 with 2 roads and a stagecoach station. Traffic is a prize bastard and I seem to have ridden straight into the red light district. Red traffic lights that is. Millions of the bastards. Takes forever to find the hostel and I have to keep stopping to let the bike cool down and stop it cooking my calves. Lovely hostel though and cheap.
I worship the God of google and bow to booking.com, masters of the traveling universe and locators of cheap gems the world over. 29 Euros. OK, its 29 Euros per square meter but I can sleep standing up no problem. It’s still not hit me yet. 2 days in of 10 weeks. It sometimes takes a while.
Spend ages just dicking about, trying to let the luggage sort itself out – just starting to get into a routine really. I won’t think about it soon enough. Just about to leave when I run into a young couple after a card reader. A young German bloke and a red headed girl with porcelain skin you’d have bet was irish but was actually from California. Get the first signatures on the panniers and take some pics of the bike by a wall of nice graffiti.
I go to get some milk from the supermarket. I’ve only got two hands and they’re full so I put the coins in my lips and go to pay. Take out the coins and expect her to put out her hand. She looks at me like i’ve just pissed in her porridge then given it a good shake.There is no way she’s touching the coins. I drop them on the counter and she puts on some gloves to pick them up and put them in the till. Weirdo. How’s she going to identify them when she gives them to someone for change? Some serious OCD problem there. Typically efficient German though. While we’re at it, if you’re thinking of starting a new business in Germany and you think that the ladyshave market might be a little too small, then don’t, whatever you do, think of selling warm air hand dryers. The Germans think they have as much effect as waving your hands under one of your own farts. Paper towels. Quick, efficient, Germans. See why you wouldn’t want to fight them. Shout “SCRAMBLE” and they’d be off the bog, hands washed, wiped and in the air in 10 seconds. The RAF would be queueing up at the Dyson. “What are you waiting for Chumley-Smithe? Get the fuck into your plane”. “Sorry sir. My hands look dry but they don’t feel dry. One more cycle should sort out the little blighters. Oh wait a moment, it doesn’t want to start. I simply cannot wipe them on my trousers. Ms Downtrodden spent simply ages getting these creases perfectly straight and true.” BOOM – game over. I’ve not seen one warm hair dryer anywhere. You simply have to have dry hands at 155mph.
Leave Berlin and head for Poland. The shatnav is wankered and doesn’t have a scooby where we are. It eventually gives up telling me it’s had enough and it’s going to move in with it’s mum. Into Poland and the road is all brand spanking new. It’s a flippin toll road too with equal cost for cars and bikes. Rock up to the toll booth and meet a young woman who obviously dies her hair with Heinz tomato soup, or there is an axe stuck in her head. I tell her that as a british citizen it’s highly likely that I’ve already paid for the road through the arse raping EU and that I would appreciate a free pass. She just makes a sound like she’s preparing to launch a flailing phlem so I quickly shut the window. Within a second there is a loud splat and it looks like someone has fired a chewed green jelly baby out of a shotgun. This road is new, straight and tedious. These early days are just about doing miles though. Get to Warsaw and spiral into a lat/long making random road choices. There is a big sports bike following me through the traffic. I pull over to let it through. The bike pilot has a long blonde plait and is dressed in very snug Arlen Ness. She’s a tiny little thing too. I sit behind her as we pull away from the lights and she quite unnecessarily and gratuitously raises her bum in the air. Perhaps it’s some sort of Polish insult. Perhaps I did something wrong. I’ll have to try and find out what it was, then I’ll have to do it again.
Get to the guest house. Lovely old place with big rambling rooms and a friendly host. There is another biker here. A young German who’s been off roading for 6 weeks up around the north cape. Spend a couple of hours chatting before bed.
The German bloke I was speaking to last night had been rough camping and this was his first night in a bed for 6 weeks. He said he had asked a Lithuanian farmer if he could camp on his land recently. The farmer had invited him to a family party but warned him not to try and do this again. He said many Lithuanians were so poor that the kids would come in the night, rob you of everything and probably put you in hospital too. Nice. Anyway, I’m off to Lithuania today. I have a vague idea where I’m going but another EU cash bomb is exploding on the Warsaw roads and many of them are closed or diverted. My poor old GS is panting like a dog in a desert and I’ve not got time to queue so “let’s off road”. Through a couple of housing estates along the pavements for a while then over a pedestrian crossing, through some road workers and we’re on the right road out of town. Satnav is still at it’s mums but it’s just one road all day today. Pretty soon the road begins to get groovy. Not groovy as in ‘man’. Groovy as in ‘take a soapy Jordan and drag her along naked on her front through soft tarmac’ groovy. They must have got through a lot of soap because this goes on for 250 miles. Works for the lorries though. 90% of the drivers are asleep as their trucks just sit in the ruts and play follow the leader. Just means that when you pull out to overtake it looks like you’re passing a flipping train.
Really cheap out here which is welcome. Breakfast by the side of the road, sausage scrambled eggs and coffee for £2.
Into Lithuania and it’s immediately different. Bit more like home. Rolling hills being harvested, the smell of cut crops in the air. Get to Kaunas and it’s a lovely hotel for €30. Lovely place Kaunas. People are starting to look different now too. More angular. Everyone is promenading in the evening sunshine and it’s starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere. There is an old bloke in the car park looking at the list of written destinations on the panniers. More warnings and a ‘be very careful out there’ farewell. Latvia tomorrow, then mother Russia.
It’s pissing down today and the roads are all running with diesel. Perhaps it’s some sort of decoration. ‘ahhhh, look at all the pretty colours….’. ‘Ahhhhhhhh, look at my legs broken in 100 places’. Not far to go today as I want to keep the speeds down and try to stick to the limits as much as poss. The plod get worse the further east you go and I’m keen to avoid them if I can. Turns out the only one I see all day has broken down and is being towed by a local with a tractor. Out into countryside in the murk we go. All going well. Everything is going nicely. Everything nicely signposted, then everything just stops. Roadworks. Miles and miles and miles of roadworks. Go to a light, wait 10 minutes, go to the next one. And mud. Lots and lots of mud. It looks like what my dog squirts out if I give her curry. Yellowish, greasy and disgusting. I’m a big fan of mud, as long as there are bikinis and wrestlers involved…but with a big heavily loaded bike and road tyres, then not so much. Anyway, couple of hours later I reach the end thank god. Sure enough, there is Jordan tethered to a tree chewing grass and being sprayed with soap. Ready to apply the top later.
Out here is in the countryside the houses are really poor. Really old wooden places with peeling paint and rusty windows, all being held together with snot and selotape. Looks like one good fart would blow them apart. I’d have to sleep with my arse out the window else i’d wake up in a field surrounded by matchwood. Into Latvia and that looks much the same, except for the roads. Forget Jordan, the Latvians have ‘gone large’. The Latvians use Kim Kardashian’s arse. Bloody great ruts you just cannot get out of without a stepladder. Later I see an old barn with a roof that’s all bowed in the middle. I think that’s where they sit Kim at night. A sort of ‘Kim rest’ Get to Reskene. Close to Russia now. Stop for petrol and the place is full of truckers trying to look hard, frightening and intimidating… and succeeding. Hotel is nice and the bike is safe is a garage with the garden tools and pots of paint. Definitely feels like we’re getting somewhere now. A real change in atmosphere. Feels quite isolated here as well and there are more ducks than people. Cross the border tomorrow and wave bye bye to Europe.