You had plans didn’t you. We all had plans. I had plans. I had all sorts of plans. I had Tajikiplans.. Kazakplans.. Pamir plans and Magaplans for 2020 and just like everyone else I watched as the shutters came down, the borders closed and governments round the world closed their fists around their populations. Bugger…
So 2021 I remade the plans.. I had plans A to Z with different routes winding their way around trying to give them the best chances, and once again, they were slowly but surely struck off. My last plan to be deleted was to just ride to Magadan. Russia was open by air to UK citizens but not by land. I got quotes to fly the bike to Moscow (£5k!) and tried to look at other freighting options .. like ships to St Petersburg, but I couldn’t find a way through.
I went to breakfast with a couple of mates in July. We all had UK cabin fever and we needed to get out to taste some left hand drive tarmac. We decided to just hit the ‘fuck it’ button and go. Trying to find out where you could and couldn’t go and what you could and couldn’t do was almost impossible so we just decided to go freestyle and see how far we could get. So .. two of us threw the saddles over the horses and headed for the tunnel.
Getting out was no problem at all. No pre-tests required. Turn up, show double vaccination certificate, get on the train.
We were speaking to a bloke on the train who worked for NATO in Brussels. He wasn’t exactly positive about our chances when we told him our rough plan… which was nice ..
Off the train easy peasy.. no checks. So… first border.. Belgium. Pass the sign.. same as usual.. ok then.. the only thing trying to stop us was the weather. Pouring with rain and blowing a gale. Who would ever want to live in Belgium? Are land and houses free here? I can’t see any other reason to live in this place.
First petrol station .. are we allowed here? Anybody going to say anything.. ask to see anything.. only our credit cards. Perhaps they cant see we are British because we’re wearing masks ..
Then off to the first bed for the night. A room in a house in a tiny village.
And off to town for dinner. No certificates.. no questions asked The waitress looked at my hands and asked ‘are you having problems with your motorcycle?’.. errr .. nope.. not yet.. but it is a Ktm so its not completely out of the question..
Holland has recently changed all their speed limits to a blanket 100kph in the day (0600-2100 I think) and we didn’t want to give the police too much time to pull us over so we passed through the south as quick as possible without stopping and into Germany.. and again, no borders, no checks, no nothing. This was looking good. We popped into a town for some lunch and weren’t allowed to sit inside because my mate Brian had left his certificate on the bike but they’re happy to serve us outside
Get towards the hotel in Magdeburg and the sat nav tries to take us down a road that’s closed. So we reroute.. to another road that’s closed. We’re really really close .. and there is a path over there look .. we can just nip through there where those people are walking can’t we .. directly onto some Tram road works.. the sensible thing would have been to turn round at this point but my bladder alarm was feeling like it was going to go off at any point .. so we went up another footpath only to appear out on a big pedestrianised area.. with a police car parked on the side.. and another 20 police cars parked in a car park at the side of a big building .. and two policemen with their arms crossed looking in wonder at us as we rode through the pedestrians right in front of the police station. I think one policeman bet the other that if my Ktm could keep going for 100m without breaking down then he’d let me off.. which was nice
This was the first time we had to produce our certificates in order to check in. Not many people about here, lots of places still closed. It really feels like we shouldn’t be here at all but again, went out to eat outside with no problems at all.
Today we’re heading for Kolobrzeg, some random Polish seaside resort town neither of us have ever been to. Not into the swing of things quite yet.. it always takes a few days. If it takes me more than 1 minute to pack the bike then something is wrong. Its just got to be grab and go.
I love this bike… I really do LOVE this bike. Every time I wake it up in the morning it thrashes and clatters and swears and farts and snorts and fills the air with the scent of adventure… and unburnt fuel.. my favourite combination ..
We head off ..taking the easy and fast route along the autobahns with all the fucking lunatics who didn’t specify a brake pedal in the list of options. Its blowing hard like it has been since we left and the journey is accompanied by the constant blur of wind turbine blades sending shadows racing across the tarmac.
Its really quiet out on the road. No cars fully packed with kids and luggage, no foreign plates, and everybody here is keeping there distance.. I can’t get anyone to put their hands on my helmet no matter how hard I try ..
It starts to proper tit down again and we head for the temporary embrace of Ronald MacDonald. You cant even order a meal here without flashing your QR code. Ours doesn’t work of course so we have to go manual and show the manager. We end up doing this quite often.. showing somebody something they don’t understand or recognise but that eases their conscience enough to let us carry on ..
The German/Poland border is the most active we’ve seen. Plenty of activity, but the road is open and nobody is stopping us so on we go.
We decide to pop into Szczecin because Brian has been told its a shithole and he never ever ever ever believes anything anybody says and wants to see for himself. Big old place with crawling traffic and trams and people everywhere. A real contrast to where we’ve been so far. No masks, no distancing, life looks normal. We go to a cake shop, always our destination of choice, and I finally manage to get my helmet into the hands of a young maiden .. and her mum
And just for the record .. we quite liked the place ..
As we get closer to Kolobrzeg the heavens burst and paint an already grey landscape with yet another coat. This place is advertised as a holiday hot spot. Lots of roadside adverts with kids on sunny beaches and lots of smiling white teeth.. but not this year it seems. People we speak to say the summer has been a washout and that this fucking relentless wind has been a feature for months.
Dinner is served in a plastic tent in the square with heavy rain sounding like paintgun pellets hitting the canvas.
We’ve come up this way because I wanted to visit Gdansk but Brian has heard that Gdynia is supposed to be nice so we head off into the storms. F*ck its raining .. its all gone biblical and I can’t see a bloody thing. We’re on single carrageway roads and its getting almost impossible to ride so we decide to get some cakes to soak up all the water
Everything is soaked right through to the skin .. time to break out the touratwat waterproof glove liners
Now this is one of those days that we do so you dont have to .. I’ve done a lot of shit days over the years but this one is right up there with any of them. When we eventually get close to Gdynia the world comes to a complete standstill, and it doesn’t seem to change for hours. The place is just in chaos. The EU has packed a big squadron of of C17s with Euros then flown over here with the back door open and everybody is rushing around trying to grab it and spend it.. mostly on the roads. Every road contractor from here to eternity has turned up and started to dig for tarmac.. its like a black gold rush .. and the traffic is carnage. I’m sure the Ktm’s engine is about to turn to liquid metal at any moment, and my balls are glowing red like I’ve slid down a huge banister naked .. we filter for what feels like hours and hours just to get down to the waterside where I hang my balls in the water and sit in a cloud of steam to calm down.
See .. this girl knows its going to be 3 days until she can eat again .. because of the traffic .. well that’s her excuse anyway..
Tonight its Torun, a little walled town a long way south, so back into the metal melee we go for another few hours of chaos. Torun is well worth the trouble though. A beautiful place full of increasingly beautiful people.
Some of whom need the assistance of a pole when they dance ..
A lovely warm evening. I’m beginning to feel reality slipping away now .. I love that feeling.. When I sit at home I’m constantly thumbing thought my memories but I really began to think a lot of them were getting towards their use by date .. I was getting desperate to top them up and refresh them and now its starting to fall into place.. old memories are pushed to the back and new ones fill their places..Next: Up The Baltics