Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Long Road Home

It would have been easy to hang around a while as I was really enjoying this place but, alas I really had to move on and catch the ferry back to mainland Italy for the long ride to Holland. It was hard to believe that the next ferry I would be on would take me and HB from Hook of Holland to Harwich and to the end of my journey.

The next few days were really a bit of a blur, stopping briefely at Levanto, Italy then over the beautiful Alps to Chur in Switzerland (where bizzarely, sightings of the baseball capped 'Ned' or 'Chav' made a sudden and unwelcome reappearance for the first time). I then sped on up through Germany, originally planning to stay with a friend in Mannheim but due to prior arrangements and bad timing, I just kept on going till I hit the Rheine.

More dodgy parking

The Alps- good roads!

I found quite possibly the bussiest caravan campsite I'd ever seen, not realising that there was a wine festival going on. At night, the Rheine was taken over by about 30 pleasure boats going up the river as part of the festival. While getting packed up the following morning, I got talking to the Brits next to me who were Scots living in Kent and ended up being given a huge cooked breakfast!

The Rheine

A healthy Scots fry up!

From there, I stopped briefely in Koln to see the Dom and then cracked on to Holland. I rode into in Nimwegan but still having a few hours of daylight left and nothing really catching my eye as far as campsites go, I plodded on until the bizzarely named s-Hertogenbosch. There I tried a few hotels but they were all too expensive and a bit noisy. I was told there might be a campsite at Vught,, to the south but there wasn't. I did eventually get directions to a campsite a few miles away, and on arrival, I found there was no one at the reception desk so I made my way between the vehicle barriers and started looking for a pitch. This was no ordinary campsite though as it was populated entirely by static caravans and it took me a heck of a time finding a spot to pitch. I found a group of drunken Russians outside one caravan, who pointed me to a small patch of grass nearby. One of them asked me, in all seriousness if I was indeed Hunting Terrorists thanks to an Alaska sticker on my pannier. It didn't look great but it would do.


It was funny, tonight was the last night of my journey as tomorrow, I would be back in the UK and I dunno, but I was expecting something maybe a bit nicer to mark the end of what has been to me anyways, quite a big thing. But it was not to be, I sat alone on a bench in the dark outside the site's snack bar eating sausage and chips out a bag and had a couple of cans of Heinikan to mark my last night in Europe and of the last 10 1/2 months through the Americas. I thought of Michelle, the beautiful places I had seen and the truly wonderful people we'd met on the road.

I awoke later at night in my tent to noises that wouldn't have been out of place in the Blair Witch movie. Every few seconds, I kept hearing loud bangs and snaps coming from all around and it took a while to realise that it was actually acorns falling from the trees on to the roofs of the caravans below. I wasn't too happy with this place as I'd been back to the reception, tried the door of their house and all to no avail. There were toilet and shower blocks nearby but they were locked and I could only get a key from reception. I thankfully found an unlocked toilet door near the site entrance otherwise the Russians might have had something to say.

When I had packed up the bike the next morning, I was determined not to pay and having noticed that the outward automatic vehicle barrier opened spontaniously the previous night as I was manoevering my way in, I quickly rode past the guy who was actually now in the reception window and straight to the barrier which thankfully opened immediately.

The town called Hook of Holland has to be one of the most depressing looking places I'd see, not lest beacuse of the incessant rain and the fact that it really looked just like Britain. Once I had my ferry ticket, I had a few hours to kill in this hell hole which I did by drinking lots of coffee and looking for an internet cafe in the rain but failed on the latter. The old dears in the tourist office eventually cracked and I was allowed to use their pc though I wondered who actually wanted tourist information other than the route out of town. I was then able to make contact with my friend Mark, who would meet me off the ferry in Harwich that night.

The ferry, though much like any other, pretty much signified the end of the journey for me. Once on board, I quickly found the bar to start drowning my sorrows. Thanfully there was a movie theatre (not free I might add) so the latest Bourne saga filled a couple of hours out of the 8 hour sailing.

After 37,000 amazing miles, the end of the road!!!!!

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