So we finally made it …..and it felt so good preparing to get on the road again.
We were up early had a cuppa, then Stew and Lez set off for the carboot sale, while I went out into the glorious bright blue sky day, for a last jog and exercise session round Crow Nest Park. The skies were big and wide, and the air really fresh. There were so few people about, just one or two walking their dogs; it felt like I had the place to myself, and the ducks. I managed a good 50 mins, and have really enjoyed the sessions I’ve been able to get in here. Back at the house, the guys weren’t too much longer, Elaine was up making tea, and then Jason came to pick us up, and we met granddad and grandma at the Toby carvery Bruntcliffe, 9am, for a big buffet breakfast. It was Jason’s treat, and so a nice feed – even with breakfast Yorkshire puds!
Back at home, I wrote out the cards for Lez and Elaine, and Jessica and Anthony’s new house too – and suddenly it was sinking in that we were actually leaving. Lez and Elaine were also getting things packed in the car, as they were heading off to Filey for a couple of nights too. And then time to go; a last few photos by the bike, and big hugs and thanks – hoping we’d see them again next year in Oz.
Jason was following us up to granddad and grandma’s – a final cuppa together in the back garden, and a couple more last photos, and more big hugs and thanks all round.
It had been wonderful to be around everyone for the past couple of months; we’d done so much and had some great times, sharing stories, meals and getting out and about too. Sad to be saying goodbye, as we really weren’t sure when we would next see each other – but so happy too that we were at last beginning the next leg of our adventures to get back to our home in Oz.
We climbed aboard the fully laden Fritz and as Stew drove us out on the street we were all waving our last goodbyes, till we disappeared round the corner. The driving temperature was pretty ideal, and the bike handling well as we made our way onto the M62 east. Hull was only a good hours drive, and we sped along in quite a daze really. Traffic wasn’t too heavy, and we were already enjoying the journey. We arrived in Hull around 1pm and had time to lose – so Stew parked up by the marina, where we walked round for half an hour before legging out near the waterfront and the old Victorian toilets.
I was quite weary after all the activities of the last few days, and so happy just to relax by the sea wall, dozing, while Stew was flicking through his magazines. It was good being in the full bike gear as the clouds were building, hiding the sun, and by 3pm it was actually starting to rain. We decided we might as well head to the ferry dock. It all went really smoothly; no huge queues trying to get on – We were directed straight up the loading ramp, and parked up next to another BMW R1150r. We didn’t catch the name of the couple, but we chatted away for the 20 min wait before we were boarding. The ferry ‘Pride of Hull’ was huge, swallowing up the tiny cars loaded with people. We loaded on deck 7, and Stew secured the bike with the straps provided. Our cabin was on deck 10 – hundreds of them. But we followed the signage, and were soon getting out of the riding gear – then heading off for a wander round the boat. We took our books and magazines, and soon found a nice quiet table by the window overlooking the docks, and spent a couple of hours reading with a celebratory bottle of beer, before heading down to the galley for a buffet dinner (we couldn’t resist the curry options – delicious)
It must have been the flattest North Sea ferry crossing we have ever done – it was so calm, there was no lulling rolls in the waves to get you to sleep. But even so we slept really well, and didn’t wake till the ships announcements at 6.30am, to say the breakfast room was open. We weren’t very hungry, just nice to get the buffet again; tea, coffee, juice and any kind of breakfast you liked. The place was really busy, but it didn’t take long to get seated, and we had a nice table with some other folks by a window. The day was quite grey in the early morning light, but brightening as we approached port. Rotterdam Europort it huge, and we enjoyed watching all the port activities as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.
We were on the road by 9.15am, after a quick passport check. I’d set the GPS to Coppenbrugge, and it directed us very well on the road to take, out passed Utrecht and onto Apeldoorn, and then into Germany. It was so nice to be driving through my mums old birth country – enjoying seeing the flat lands, the huge waterways and barges, and the Dutch language signs – ‘Dankuwell’. The motorway was in fact quite busy, so a lot of concentration to keep apace, and keep out of the way of the dodgy truck drivers who just couldn’t keep in lane.
Another 40 km and we pulled in at the next services, filled up with Petrol and had a Mac break. We needed to find somewhere to stay – before we got to Oznabruck. We decided Saltzbergen or Rhein would do, and noted down a couple of campsites, and cheaper rooms. The cheapest being 58 EU, so not really cheap at ~$85. We’d not set off again more than 5 mins, when the clouds burst, and we just had to pull over to put the waterproofs on !! But it wasn’t too bad in the end.
We crossed into Germany, and saw that the motorway ‘Uit’ was now labelled ’Ausfahrt’. And we were on the A30. I pulled us off at junction 7, to Rhein, and after a plugging in the GPS, found the TAT-Gastenhaus was just 1 km down the road. We found it no problem, and it was a bit unusual for a hotel – a kind of eco; energy saving community. We soon had a room organized for 58 Eu, and we glad to be stopping for the day around 4pm. Even more so half an hour later, when there was even more persistent heavy rain – and so glad we didn’t end up camping. Later on the afternoon had brightened lots, even patches of blue and sunshine, so we headed out in search of a supermarket, as we were cooking for ourselves for dinner. And then had a relaxing evening reading and doing some work on the computer.
We’d checked the computer and it wasn’t a long drive to Coppenbrugge and we decided we’d take the slower back road. Olaf wouldn’t be home till he finished work in the afternoon, so there was no rush. So after a cuppa we both started the day going out for a jog. There are some great cycle walkways all around, taking you off the roads. Stew’s knee was a bit achy so he did a smaller loop around 15 mins, while I wanted to go farther, and headed off passed the corn fields into the woods, making a good 40 min session by the time I got back. We made another brew, and then set about getting packed up again for the days drive. We were on the road around 10.30am, and it was a real pleasure to be on the small quieter roads around northern Germany. We weren’t familiar with this part of the country so as always nice to be driving somewhere new. The roads were good, and the bike running pretty well, though Stew thought it wasn’t as smooth as it had been – just getting a bit noisier. You kind of get used to the noise and feel of the running vibrations, and it was definitely not quite normal, but he couldn’t pin it down to anything, so we put it to the back of our minds and drove on.
We found the route pretty well, knowing we needed to be south of Hannover, and by mid-afternoon we were passing around Hamelin. I never knew the town was here, and one of the hotels had a statue of the Pied Piper outside. Out of Hamelin we spotted a Mac’s and were both ready for a brew and Stew was hungry too, so we pulled in. We took the laptop and iPad, as its always good to get some wifi when we can. I got us some coffee, and a burger for Stew, and then opened up a document I’d made to show Stew, with info on the visa application processes and camping places in Frankfurt and Bern. He pointed a finger to the map on screen and accidentally pushed over the full cup of coffee over the keyboard (Oh, Shit!) – I instantly lifted it up and turned it over, switched it off and set about dabbing with paper tissues. Stew felt so bad, but hey – shit happens, we’d just have to see how it goes when its had a good dry out?? So coffee finished we packed up and headed the last few kilometers to Voldagsen, a small hamlet just outside Coppenbrugge. We’d timed it pretty well, as Olaf had pretty much just got in from work – now driving a GS1200 (He’d sold the GS800 in Buenos Aires, and bought this one when he got to Spain). We drove into the small village road, and Olaf was just getting off his bike – AMAZING reunion. Who’d have ever imagined that when we first met about a year ago riding through Yellowstone National Park, that we’d actually be riding into his home town in Germany. There were big smiles and hugs as we greeted each other climbing off the bike.
Olaf had just completed his second day at work after his year long travels (and here we were arriving on his doorstep and still on the road! – so mixed feelings, but we were all so happy to be together again). Olaf actually completed the last leg of his journey buying the S/H GS1200 in Madrid, where he met up with his son, Max, who had ridden to meet him on Olaf’s old XT600. They rode back from Spain to Germany together – what a great way to complete and adventure.
We were welcomed inside, and unloaded the baggage to the upstairs flat. Olaf is renovating his house, and making it into two separate living areas, one upstairs and one down. Its a great place, out in the country and beyond the fields forests blanketing the hillsides.
First job was a celebratory good German beer. The last we’d had together was at Iguassu Falls. We had so much to natter about, as we exchanged stories of our travels and plans. We reckoned we’d stay a couple of days, as we still had to give some time to obtaining visa’s for Iran (hopefully in Frankfurt) and India (hopefully in Bern). We knew each would take up to a week to process, and we were still aiming to be at the eastern border of Turkey not later than the end of September, so time was already creeping up on us. No problems, Olaf was happy to have stay however long, and so with having to work we thought we’d just go out to get an evening meal, and he also rang and arranged for Jude (his ex-wife, but good friend) to ask if she wanted to join us.
So we got ready. Olaf has no car, so we just put back on our bike jackets and helmets and set off up the road. It was only a few kilometers away, driving through the lovely countryside. We’d not gone far really, and suddenly Fritz was making very bad metal grating noises, as Stew was changing the gears. If felt like something was locking up, and at first we thought it was the drive shaft. We pulled over, and Olaf too. MMM…definitely not good. Switching off the engine and taking a closer look, trying to push the bike forwards…it just was locking up the wheel. It was hard to tell what was happening, but feeling the various components, the gearbox was really hot – too hot for the 3 – 4 km we’d driven. So it was looking more and more like gearbox trouble. Olaf said we were only maybe 1 km round the corner, to the next village (where Jude lived) and where the restaurant was. So manually putting the bike into a gear that would roll, Stew nursed it slowly round to the restaurant carpark, while I climbed on the back of Olaf.
So two pieces of bad luck today – and now the restaurant was closed too! But the best and most incredibly lucky thing was that we’d made it all the way to Olaf’s and broken down here. Definitely the best place to break down with a BMW in Germany!! And even more ‘glucklich’ – Olaf knew people very locally who could help.
So instead of a short 2 night stop over, this turned into a wonderful week – getting the bike fixed up, and also the chance to visit some great places locally, meet some wonderful friends and family of Olaf, and just share some great times, meals and conversations together.
Oh, and we did get a meal. Jude came to meet us, had a car and so we left Fritz parked up for the night. We all climbed in the car, and went off to another nearby restaurant – and enjoyed our first meal sharing Italian pizza, and getting to know more of Olaf’s life.
The week was pretty full on, both with the bike and other activities. Olaf had to work the rest of the week of course, but had organised things so well for us. First his neighbour, Eugen, who just lives round the corner, had a big panel van and would be happy to pick us up and go collect the bike the next morning. And he very kindly allowed us to put the bike under cover by his huge wood shed (and even bigger garage), and do the work there. It was such an interesting place, with an old ‘fuerwher’ and Trabant in the garages too.
Eugen could not really speak any English, so I was doing my best at trying to speak and explain what I could in my pigeon German – and we did pretty well. We also learned quite a few new German words: gatreib, kerphlunk, ausspuff, lagar. Eugen was pretty impressed how quickley Stew was able to get the gearbox out, and he was happy to lend a had with his tools and workshop to get the gearbox open. Turning the gear shafts manually you could tell an inner bearing had gone. Eugen then assisted further by taking us and the gearbox to a local mekanicmeister, Uwe Paul (not 1 km from where we broke down!). He’d worked 36 years for BMW and now ran his own service and repairs from home. He inspected the gearbox, and agreed there were problems with an internal bearing. We managed to convey that we’d like all the bearings replaced and a new seal. Eugen talked more, and was able to ask when it might be ready to collect – Uwe, said he would try get it ready by Friday or Monday.
SO there was little more we could do than be tourists for a few days, and just make the most of the extra time we now had with Olaf. Eugen drove us back to Voldagen, and we thanked his ‘Villen danke’ for all his help, and said we’d come back when we had the gearbox back. So Fritz was left rather in pieces in good company in the woodshed for a few days.
Now back at Olaf’s I turned my mind to the damaged computer. I managed to switch it on an boot up, and carefully copied as many of the recent files I knew I didn’t have on my external drive. The keyboard wasn’t working, but maybe I could manage with an external keyboard. After that we wanted to go walk about, so I shut the power down again. We had told Olaf we’d make dinner tonight (Curry), so we headed off walking into the small village of Marienau (founded 1240!), and on towards Coppenbrugge, about 2.5 km to the nearest supermarket store. We managed to get everything we needed, and did get a bit wet in a rain shower on the way back.
And so we enjoyed some great evenings together when Olaf got in from work. First night we learned Voldagsen hamlet was a knights manor of Baron Von Munchausen (A big expanse of buildings and stables we could see across the road), as we headed up into the forest, walking the old byways to another friends place – Fykse and Heike. We were actually walking on 1000 year old cobbled mining roads (Coal was in the area). These friends lived in the ancient glassworkers house, and had been self-restoring the place for the past 10 years. It was an amazing building, with a huge great barn workshop, and even bee hives, where they collected honey.
We were invited in for a couple of beers and conversation. Olaf was only just catching up with friends since he’d arrived back from this travels too. We walked back to Voldagsen in the fading light, and it was great to see the forest walk ways, as I made good use of them for the next few days getting out for a morning 5 km jog.
And then sat down to enjoy the lovely curry Stew had prepared earlier. With Olaf at work, he was happy to go by bicycle (only about 4 km), and so happy to let us use his GS1200 to go exploring on, which was great. So another day we headed out on Olaf’s bike, to go and have a wander round Hamelin.
Its a beautiful old town, full of reminders of the story of the ‘Pied Piper’, and so many wonderful buildings around the old town square.
The next day we were out on Olaf’s GS1200 again. We dropped by the mechanic just to check how things were going (it looked like it was going to be Monday!), and then into Coppnebrugge. We checked out the local impressive fort, even with an intact moat – very pretty, and also did a bit more food shopping. And we found the local swimming pool (Olaf had given us directions). It was a wonderful outdoor place, set in lush gardens with a great view. There was hardly anyone there when we arrived early in the afternoon, and both managed a good decent swim.
Olaf wasn’t late back from work, and he’d been able to borrow a car from a colleague, Sabine, for the next few days. So now with a car and the weekend together, we set about making some plans of what to do. We had a brilliant time; we set off after dinner putting our sleeping bags in the car (just in case), and first headed down to a river side bar, to meet up with a few of Olaf’s friends. The river boat was just passing as we got there.
From there Olaf drove us 70 km north to his home town of Celle. There are a couple of Motorbike clubs (both established about 40 years), and one was having their celebrations over the weekend. Olaf was able to meet up with friends he hadn’t yet seen since returning from his travels, and was so happy to find one his best buddies, Gareth there. It was a great night, music and bonfire going, and such a friendly atmosphere. Olaf had also organised somewhere for us to stay over; with other friends Conrad and Nadine, so we eventually arrived there about 11.30pm with a pack of beer. They had an upstairs house in one of the really old buildings in the town, it was quite amazing. We were welcomed in and soon all sat out on the street side bench enjoying the night and conversation.
It was a busy, lively household, with Conrad having to take one of the girls off to a music concert in the morning. We spent most of the day in Celle with Olaf showing us around his old hometown, and amazing old town to visit. Its actually linked to the UK royal family, and so was not bombed in the war. And there were some really impressive buildings. Olaf also knew his dad would be around, and he was so surprised when he cycled in and saw Olaf walking with us. We ended up joining him, an Uncle and friend at their usual cafe bar.
We wandered round town, taking in the sights, and later met up with Olaf’s son Maxi, joining us for lunch before we were heading off back to Coppenbrugge. It was another lucky happenstance when we called in on a colleague of Olaf’s on the way back too. I’d been looking around for what I could find to replace the MacBook, and here with Olaf’s friend he had a small Samsung notebook, which I could have for 100 Eu, and he set it up with all the software I needed. Awesome – they only thing was that it was all in German, with a German keyboard too (but I’d manage !!). And it turned out to be good that we’d driven back on Saturday, as Sunday morning Paul Uwe called to say the gearbox was ready. He’d worked extra to get it finished, as tomorrow he was not working, as it was his 25th wedding anniversary. That was awesome, so we all went together to pick it up. It was amazing to see the state of the old bearings, as one of the internal ones had completely collapsed!! So with thanks we paid up, and headed back.
As it was Sunday and Olaf was off work, Stew said he’d start the work on the bike again tomorrow. So we spent the afternoon being tourists again. First the Ruttergut was open – an old Knights manor from Baron von Munchausen!!, right across the road from Olaf’s house.
Olaf showed us more of Hamelin on the Wesser river and we even heard some lovely live chamber music in the Munster.
And for the evening we went to Jude place for a lovely evening BBQ together. Olaf was off to work again on Monday, and we were up early too so Stew could start getting the repaired gearbox and everything back together on the bike. So we were round again at Eugen’s place. Stew worked pretty efficiently again, with only a bit of help form me and 2 hours later ready for a test ride.
We had coffee and cookies with Eugen and Icke, and also gave them some chocolates and a thankyou card, for all the help they had given us. We then got into our riding gear and set off for a small 50 km test run. It was a lovely drive through the countryside down to Polle where we too a very cute little ferry across the Wesser River.
We stopped at a shop to buy chocolates and some Australian wine to give Olaf as a thankyou later too. Home by 4pm and Olaf an hour later, we had a wonderful last evening together. It had been an incredible week, with such a special guy. How could we really thank him enough ? – not really, but we hoped we would see him again in Australia next year. We talked more travellers tales, and were both able to share photos from the iPad and Olaf’s phone, a wonderful place in Uruguay – a massive field full of old vehicles. And he also had amazing stories of him being held at gun point ! – camping in Uruguay and also in ‘La Boca’ Argentina, so lucky to be alive!! And so back on the road again. We were up early, with big hugs and goodbyes, waving Olaf off to work, and then packing ourselves. We were heading further south, Frankfurt and beyond……..(and more miss adventures to come!!)