It’s been a grand night. Slightly hungover we packed our stuff and made our way out of last night’s party’s venue. Luckily we were not planning to go too far today. We were now heading into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It was less than an hour’s drive away and we found a place to park the car.
Immediately after venturing into the centre of Tallinn we had a litte breakfast and could see why it is a famous tourist destination. Old buildings, small streets, like a maze, a wall surrounding the city, an assembly of buildings built since the middle ages and the glorious days of the Hanse (Hanseatic League). But the most obvious sign of its fame were clearly the hordes of cruise ship passengers clogging up the narrow streets. When we had entered Tallinn we had seen a few of cruise ships mooring next to the city but we were not expecting such a mass of questionably clad people oblivious to the effect they were creating, standing in each other’s way and photo opportunities, guides in many languages trying to make themselves heard against each other. The cruiseship industry appears to have developed itself into the plague of the 21st century, ignoring air quality and swamping historic surroundings with a flood of passengers who bring only little to the places they visit for they have their all-inclusive stuff on board.
Still, we liked Tallinn a lot and are sure if you’re there after the hordes have left it must be a fabulous place to stay, absorb and learn about it’s history, culture and architecture.
Leaving the capital Tallinn behind we were intending to find out more about the task of the day, which was to look for a former Soviet forced labour prison, where its ruins are now flodded and the whole thing had become a famous inland beach. It wasn’t very easy as everything was locked or blocked once we had found the spot. But obviously the bearer of the key had realised that we all were there, trying to get in and smelled the opportunity to make some money on the side and that very easily. Entrance fee was now 4€ per person and she must have made a nice 4-figure sum that day.
The place had indeed quite an eery atmosphere. During the Soviet era, until the 90s excavation of limestone and marble was executed by Estonian prisoners from the water-drained quarry. once the camp was closed this quickly then filled with groundwater when the drainage had ceased and formed the lake. Quite a few or the other teams were there too, swimming, laying in the sun, playing with their drones, which at times can be a bit annoying, taking pictures.
Jörg went into the chilly waters to fulfill the task.
From there we pointed the Fat One’s hood South as we wanted to reach the Latvian capital Riga that day. Estonia has a lot of nature and is indeed quite beautiful. It also has a long coastline along the Gulf of Riga. We made a stop at the quite lovely seaside town of Pärnu. We had a snack, took a blanket, went to the beach and lay in the sun for an hour or so, slowly dozing away.
We also then did some shopping for the dinner ahead, fueled the car and ploughed on towards Riga.
We crossed the Estonian-Latvian border and some time later came into Riga. Riga is quite different to Tallinn as it is bigger and creates also that feeling of a big, urban city. The residential pre-war buildings were creating an atmosphere a little bit like Berlin or the likes.
As it was getting late we decided to get to Riga City Camping on the other side of the river Daugava and explore the city the next day. The camping was a patch of land, or rather a patch of concrete and tarmac, right behind Riga’s exhibition centre. Funnily there were already some of the other teams there and we had a barbecue with them. And some drinks. Franz and I had a pulpo salad with olives and peppers for starters, followed by steaks from the grill and jacket potatoes with sour cream. It was a lovely and warm evening and we sat outside until past midnight and chatted away.
And again, no mosquitos.
We did about 415 km that day and spent more than 10h for the trip.
The agreement with Maxim was to pick up the Fat One at 10:00 so we had a bit of a lie-in. After packing and checking out we had a little bite for breakfast and then got into a taxi that should take us to our car. We were of course quite anxious whether Maxim and his guys would have been able to fix the problem and everything would be OK now.
On our way there our taxi driver provided a special service by honking his car’s horn whenever we were passing a car that was driven by a young woman so that she would turn around and we could have a look at her. How very thoughtful…
When we arrived we could see the car already in the yard. Jörg went directly into Maxim’s office and received confirmation that the car was indeed fine and ready to go. They had replaced the inner fan and re-filled the anti-freeze. The bill was for 15.000RUB. Including the pre-payment Jörg gave him 220EUR and Maxim was happy with it and wished us a good further journey.
The happy campers that we were now, we put our bags into the car and made our way out of this great city in the North. While leaving we made a bit of a detour passing the stadium and the Lakhta Tower, now Europe’s tallest building and the future headquarter of Gazprom.
We were on the road crossing also the island of Kronshtadt when we heard a noise coming from the floor of the car. We immediately stopped on the shoulder and checked. Obviously one of the plastic panels had become a bit loose. We professionally fixed this with duct tape and lo-and-behold the noise was gone. We felt quite heroic…
Then we tried to get to the Russian-Estonian border between the towns of Ivangorod and Narva to get back into the European Union as quickly as possible.
And hit a wall or to be more precise a queue in front of a wall.
There was a long line of cars probably nearly a kilometre long, of course with quite a few of our colleagues also there. We got to the end of it and expertly started doing nothing but waiting and occasionally moving some metres forward.
Franz then went into the supermarket right before the border to fill up our dangerously thinned stock of super-healthy sweets, cookies, chocolate and wine gums. We now had some cookies but after a quick taste had to get rid of the jelly cubes that tasted just too artificial so Franz’s was only a sort of semi-successful mission.
We the got to the border and the lady that was responsible for checking us had only very few words for us: Open! Passport! Auto-Passport! and had a torchlight as a pointing tool.
First we had to get the car’s export in order, after that we could get our passports stamped. Oh the sound. What a relief when you hear the sound of the stamp. Then we had to Open! all doors, boot and also the tent and in broad daylight she was very casually checking our stuff. It was in the end a fairly short one might even say skimpy process and after 2:45 h we were through and could proceed to the Estonian border post.
Next to the river was an old castle protecting the border.
We were greeted with a smile by an Estonian lady in sitting in the booth and after only a few minutes we were back in the EU.
Other teams that arrived after us at the border told us that the queue was at that time up to 2km long and they had to wait up to six hours.
From here it was less than 2 hours to the party location in the middle of the Estonian woods. We passed by a nice sea side location, the village of Vösu where we did some shopping and headed on towards Raudsilla in the Lahemaa rahvuspark.
We arrived at the site in the forest, picked a nice spot to park the car and put up the roof tent and got to the centre of activities, a huge teepee, where there was beer and soup and people were watching football. Later there was a buffet with meat, quite spicy vegetables and mashed potatoes and more beer. It was a great evening with banter and laughs and maybe a tad too much to drink.
We made it through the night quite well, unmolested by neither bloodsucking pests nor rampant villagers, packed up camp and were looking forward to our day in St. Petersburg, the former capital of imperial Russia. And also the place where the October Revolution started and it’s effects are still visible all over the country and in the end made Russia to what it is today.
The day was sunny and warm and as we were getting closer the traffic got heavier. We crossed the river Neva and decided to drive along its banks towards the centre of the city where all the main attractions are as well as our hotel.
It was getting warmer and the traffic turned a bit to a stop-and-go the closer we got to the centre. Finding a spot to park the car proved a bit tricky but we’ve eventually found something not too far away from the hotel, where we wanted to check-in, hoping we could get in early and have a much-desired shower.
While we were unpacking Jörg saw some liquid flowing on the road coming from the front of the car. His first thought was that someone must have relieved himself right next to the car but then quickly realised it was the Fat One himself relieving himself of some liquid. Checking it made clear it must be coming from the cooling system. We opened the hood to check and saw that there was apparently a lot of pressure in the system indicating an overheating problem.
Quite concerned we left the car to get to the hotel, check in, drop of our luggage and most importantly organise help to get the car checked and hopefully fixed.
Our hopes of an early check-in were, not too surprisingly, crushed but as we had other pressing matters to deal with body odour was the least of our problems. We talked to the hotel’s concièrge and she was able to find an independent car repair shop on Vasilyevski Island, Voltage Remont. With a printed map and route we got back to the car and made our way to find them. Once we had arrived at the address we had to get through one backyard into another backyard, around another corner and behind a trafo station (thus the name of the shop we assume) we found an open door and a guy in an oily overall and tried then to explain the problem to this young mechanic. He immediately took the cooling system apart and started using Russia’s reply to Google: Yandex for translation purposes. He then also send Jörg into the office so that a proper order could be raised for the work. There was a young lady in there lazily guarded by a chihuahua-sized chinchilla named George. When Jörg tried to explain what we were doing in terms of rally the boss came in and said: “Finish: St. Petersburg!”
They weren’t quite sure what the problem was but said the cooling system itself was ok and wasn’t leaking. Obviously the various cooling fans wouldn’t start when the engine became too hot. They said it could be either the sensor or something different like a broken ventilator and that they couldn’t fix this as it wasn’t their area of expertise. They recommended to get to another repair shop, MaxBox, which was 2km away. In order not to have to explain how to get there they were so nice to get into their car and ride in front of us to the other shop’s location. Once there they explained the problem to the repair shop’s boss and when leaving wouldn’t want to take any money from us. Franz was able to at least hand them a pair colourful Burlington socks. We are still wondering who will wear them in the end as Russian men are not really known for their predisposition to wear flashy, fancy or stylish clothes…
Maxim, the owner of MaxBox was a very nice and helpful guy. He looked more like a teacher, musician or librarian than a mechanic. They plugged in the ODB and found out that obviously something was broken with the main fan, a bearing of some sort. They could order the part within 2-3 hours and fix the car. We then agreed to leave it over night, thus also fixing our parking problem, paid an advance and got a taxi back to the hotel where we finally could check-in, have a shower and put on fresh clothes, in this case shorts as it really had become quite warm.
We had a quick bite at the bar and then merged with the flood of tourists and drifted through St. Petersburg. St. Isaacs cathedral, Admirality, Eremitage, Marble Palace and so on. The impression we got was one of grandeur and former splendour, the pastel colours in the mid summer light creating a fantastic magic and awe.
As this is a car rally we thought that we had walked enough after a while and boarded one of the very many boats that were roaming the canals. The information during the trip was in Russian but we didn’t care, had a seat in the front, took pictures and enjoyed the scenery and the architecture of St. Petersburg.
After the tour we walked back to the hotel, changed, went out again and met with Torsten and Peter and their NDR sidekick Martin and had a very nice dinner on the side of the street with a good view on St.Isaacs. It was a very nice, calm and warm evening, with people strolling by enjoying themselves with good conversation and lots of laughs. A nightcap at our hotel’s bar concluded this rather eventful day.
We had decided to get as close as possible to St. Petersburg with our drive today in order to get into town as early as possible the day after to have more time to explore it so we knew it was going to be a long day and presumably also the longest drive during the rally as the distance between Murmansk and St. Petersburg is 1340 km. No motorways.
We left shortly after 08:00, fueled the Fat One, stacked up on healthy petrol station snacks on our way out of Murmansk and headed towards the South.
We were driving through Russia’s part of the Lapland Region and the landscape was different to what we’ve seen before as were driving through the tundra, with the vegetation being small and not very dense, vast spaces and views of snowy mountains in the distance slowly coming closer. It created a feeling of being really and properly in the North, or better in the Arctic.
We passed the mining towns of Olenegorsk (iron ore) and Monchegorsk (copper, cobalt and nickel) and headed into the region of Karelia. We made good progress until we got into quite a few construction areas, some of them annoyingly long, up to 50 km, and rough.
The further south we got the taller and denser the vegetation got, we were basically driving on roads like swaths where there were forests on the right and woods on the left occasionally sprinkled with trees on both sides. Sometimes there were some openings and as highlights there were rivers or even lakes to intercept the monotony of the journey.
We were breaking for fuel and driver changes every 300 km.
Yet, in the end we still were making good progress and decided to look for a spot to put up our tent somewhere around the town of Lodeynoye Pole, about 220 km away from St. Petersburg.
After driving around a bit we found a patch of lawn next to a river on the edge of the town. We didn’t know whether this was allowed but then nobody seemed to bother. We set everything up and started the cooking. We had grilled chicken breast with pasta and a sauce of chili, onions, tomatoes and olives. And we had guests. Thousands of guests. Mosquitos and sand flies were swarming around us, crawling on top of us. The generous appliance of repellant, long clothing, hats and hoods were helping quite well to avoid being eaten alive. After dinner we had a smoke to drive them even further away with mixed results, However, we are still quite proud that we made it into our tent without any uninvited guest for an unmolested night.
We did 1120 km that day and needed 12.5 hours for the trip, which considering the distance and the type of roads we had to endure, we consider this a job quite well done.
As usual we did our morning ritual of car trunk tetris after having had a shower and then left Kirkenes for the border to Russia. To avoid any potential problems and potentially slow down our immigration process we didn’t take any pictures at the border. First we were leaving Norway and drove through no-man’s-land to the Russian side of things. Our car was pointed to a spot by a rather grim looking lady and we were left standing there with no further instruction.
There were quite a few other cars from colleagues, most of them deserted. We eventually found one colleague who informed us where to enter what building, which we then did.
Passport control in Russia, always an event for itself.
It is of utmost importance to stay calm and earnest and not to make jokes, smile profusely or anything like that. The border police take their jobs very seriously and are not be messed with. Either they refuse your entry or they provide entry to a place where you will be very hard to find. We saw one of our colleagues being refused entry because he had tried to mend his slightly worn passport with some cell tape.
Keep your calm no matter how long it takes. The moment of relief always is the sound of your documents being stamped.
And it worked. Eventually we heard the sound and we got our stamps.
Then again, we were left with no further instructions.
After a while we found out that passengers, in our case Franz, can just move on whereas drivers, in our case Jörg, have to manage the process to temporarily import the car into Russia. Three forms needed to be filled. Jörg was assisted by a very friendly and smiling(!) lady explaining what to put where. The forms then were handed over to another lady who then entered the information into a system. After a while a printer spat out a sticker which was put on the document, we got our necessary papers and then walked back to the car.
Guess what, when we there no further instructions.
But we could see from our colleagues what would be coming next – the search!
Another lady came to us after a bit of waiting and instructed us to open the car and get all bags and boxes out of the car. She asked for drugs and we showed her our pharmaceutical repertoire, which seemingly was ok.
Then on to the food and booze.
She counted all beer cans in our cooler box and then found the box in the floor compartment of the trunk and re-counted everything and said that it was too much. We asked her what we were supposed to do now. With a hard to define gesture she said it was ok. Then she didn’t like the potatoes, the chicken and the eggs and again said we couldn’t take that with us. We asked the same question and got the same answer.
Then she found the two bottles of whisky, pulled one up and worryingly asked: “Why, why, why?” and then she send us on our way. Was it leniency due to the World Cup, laziness or flexibility that let her to let us go? We’ll never know…and we didn’t dare to ask.
Another passport and visa control and then we were in Russia. The whole process took about an hour and 15 minutes and considering what we had heard about the experiences from previous years were quite happy with it.
Initially we had planned to try to get to the Kola Superdeep Borehole, the deepest hole in the world with more than 12 km depth. The story around the stopping of the drilling because allegedly there were voices coming out of the hole and people had feared that they might have drilled a hole directly into hell are of course only a myth. But still a good story.
We drove by the mining town of Nickel to get there. An area and a landscape which has been transformed by man that it looked being on the moon or more like: how many different ways are there to leave scorched earth behind.
On our quest to find the hole we seemed to have missed an exit and were getting back on the main road. In another mining town, Sapolyarnyi, we’ve tried again but turned around in front of a closed check point and police.
Ok, let’s go on to Murmansk then.
On the way we’ve passed a couple of check-points where we had to show our passports. They tended to look at my passport and Franz’ face and vice versa and were happy with it. Well…
If a picture says more than a thousand words, how many words does a sculpture or monument say. As warning signs the Russian authorities often put up crashed cars on poles or buildings. But then Russia has the one of the highest number of deaths in traffic in relation to their population so this might actually be a good thing.
Speaking of monuments, when driving through Russia you will inadvertently come across many monuments, be it for places, achievements or most of the time places of remembrance, especially in areas where a lot of fighting has taken place during WW2. They are always signposted if they are not directly next to the road like the one for the front line between the Sowjets and the Germans, where we made a stop.
It seems that this remembrance process is different to how we do it in Germany. It’s not that we don’t remember things it’s just that we do it less with monuments, which considering our latest history over the last 100+ years may be a good thing. We have to find a way how to make this remembrance part of our culture in order to never have to experience those atrocities and that suffering again, which still affects us all. This of course doesn’t mean that Russia’s way of doing things is better. There have also been quite a few atrocities done by them but they are completely ignored. You’ll have to try to look at the full history and truth and not omit certain unpleasant and uncomfortable facts in order to remember correctly and learn from the past.
The rest of the drive to Murmansk was rather uneventful, the usual forests and lakes but when we came to the river-turning-into-a-fjord where Murmansk is located the first impression we got is that of innumerable residential buildings from the 30s to the 50s. And getting closer also that of a general state of disrepair, working obsolescence and run-down infrastructure. The only modern thing that struck us at first were the LED traffic lights, all equipped with countdown functions in all directions, cars and pedestrians alike; really quite useful and you ask yourself why we don’t have these in Germany.
We then made our way to the hotel that we had booked in advance. The Azimut hotel appears to be the tallest building in Murmansk and as we’ve learned later it’s actually the tallest building north of the Arctic Circle, We got a nice room on the 15th floor, which coincidentally cost the the same like our rancid cabin in Norway from the day before.
We unpacked and went out to walk the streets of Murmansk, which was very interesting. We were also aiming to fulfill the task of the day, which was to find Lenin.
Not any picture or statue of Lenin but the Lenin, the first nuclear powered ice breaker. As opposed to our expectations Murmansk appeared to be quite ok; nice would be too big of a word though. We made it down to the port, found the Lenin, which is a museum now but by the time we got there was unfortunately already closed. We took the obligatory pictures and of course and as usual when it comes to the task of the day we met some of the other teams there, and also Peter and Torsten of Team MNK47, who were still being followed by the camera team of the NDR. Strolling back to the hotel through different streets we saw a lot activities happening that day for kids. We then took the car and made our way to other Murmanskian attractions, in particular an old orthodox church and the Alyosha Monument. Both were quite impressive in their own right and from the monument’s location we had a very nice view on Murmansk and its surroundings. We also witnessed a weeding party who had just arrived with their stretch limos to take some pictures.
Having returned to the hotel we went to the bar on the 17th floor and had a Gin and Tonic. In this actual case what we got was a glas of pure gin, a bottle of tonic water and a small bucket with ice. Nothing more, nothing less. And you bloody well mix that for yourself.
We then planned for our dinner and picked a restaurant called Tundra, which was well rated and reviewed. It was a bit more than 15mins of walking time to the venue and we walked through the backyards of Murmansk to get there. And when we got close we were not quite sure that it was a good choice just looking from the outside. We entered the premises nonetheless and were pleasantly surprised. Nicely decorated and young people as staff and guests. The food was really extraordinary, local produce prepared with a twist and very delicious. So far the best food we had on the trip.
We then strolled back to the hotel, had another drink at the bar and again we were able to enjoy the midnight sun, the eternal sunset and the light was really very special. Eternal sunset again. We also witnessed some professional ladies trying to do some business. And called it a day.
We only did 252km that day and spent less than 6 hours for the trip.
Rain, so much rain. And wind. And cold. That’s what waited for us when we got up that morning in the Cape region. By the time we had packed the Fat One we were cold and wet.
Time to hit the road to make some distance and warm up again. Our target for today was Kirkenes, the last outpost right before the Russian border. We intended to take the route through Finland and then back into Norway.
In Lakselv at the petrol station we fueled up our star glider and met some other teams. They all had some issues: one 3 series BMW had a broken generator and an old Merc a broken distributor finger. Not easy to find help on a weekend, let alone on the Midsommar i.e. summer solstice weekend where allover the Nordics the people party.
From there we headed towards the Finish border, which we crossed at Kargasniemi without any incidents. The landscape was beautful with a river with sandbanks meandering next to the road. When we got to Kaamanen we made a stop at the Sami centre, where you can learn more about the lifestyle of the Sami, the indigenous people of Lapland that covers most of the North of Europe, across country borders.
From there we took the road in direction north-east along the Inarijärvi, the largest lake in Lapland and the third-largest in Finland. Feeling a bit peckish after some hours of driving we stopped at the lake and had some lunch from the alimentary section of our car. And, who would have thought, there were indeed also some mosquitos here with us also looking for some lunch but after the appliance of proper repellant they left us in peace and in one piece.
Crossing the border back to Norway, where true to Norwegian fashion it was raining again, we were nicely interrogated by the border control as to whether there are more from our rally behind us and of course about alcohol quantities on board. Responding in an evenly nice way we slightly bent the truth (about the booze not the teams) and were sent on our way with a smile. On all faces.
We then arrived in Kirkenes where for whatever reason we didn’t take any proper pictures but hey, if that’s not a reason for you to go there and check it out for yourself then we don’t know what…
We were looking for a place where could make camp and as it was raining, which I might have mentioned before, we were looking for someplace a bit more sheltered. This proved impossible to find. So we made an executive decision and checked into the local camping and rented a cabin for what we thought were a reasonable 550,-NOK. Once we entered the cabin, reason very quickly left through the tiny, filthy windows. In came rancidness and despair. But we didn’t despair and had a beer and some snacks. To stock up our food for the next days we went to one of the local supermarkets and then made ourselves dinner in our glamorous quarters. Jörg whipped up a very tender reindeer filet with potato salad and a sauce made from stuff we had on board. Yummy.
When we had checked-in at the camping we’d asked the landlord if the big TV in his lounge was working for we were looking for a way to watch the Sweden-Germany game but it wasn’t and he pointed us to a place in central Kirkenes where allegedly they were showing the match. So after dinner we ventured back into town only to find out that the place was a restaurant with no intention to show any football. However they guys there informed us that in another place, Ritz, which also was a restaurant they would show the game on their second floor’s disco. And indeed there was a big screen and a projector and very comfy seats in the lounge area of their disco and only the two us. The luxuriousness of the venue was only slightly tinted by the price for the beers. After a while some Norwegians also showed up and when Sweden had scored their goal they were cheering and immediately after apologised for having done so.
The match itself was really quite entertaining and will of course always be remembered for Toni Kroos’ galactic free-kick goal in the last minute of extra time.
Returning to the glamping centre of the North we had a beer and a smoke in front of our cabin and then joined some other teams who were also staying there for the completion of the task of the day to jointly burn the little logs of wood we all had to bring with us from the start in Hamburg. We then chatted away with them and after a while realised that this was the night. THE Night. The night where we would have a chance to actually SEE the midnight sun as the rain had subsided and the evening had become quite pleasant. Where we wouldn’t have to endure a dimming greyness but enjoy open and clear skies and see the star in our system at midnight.
And so it was.
We climbed some rocks next to the camping site and experienced a time of beauty, serenity and transcendence. The light was really special, throwing horizontal shadows and we were not quite sure whether we’ve seen something like this before. It was a bit like an everlasting sunset, which is nice. This moment made our trip so much more worth and special.
We did 427 km that day and spend 7.5h for the trip.
Leaving our place at the shores of the Lyngenfjord we set the bow of the Fat One to direction 0 degrees and were trying to reach the Nordkapp some hours later. We had to cross the first proper pass on our trip with serpentines and what have you. On our way down we met again our guests from last night, Peter and Torsten and found an opportunity to make a group picture. We also managed to fulfill one of the photo challenges, the Fritjof Nansen challenge: stand on a glacier (we thought a patch of snow should suffice) with a Norwegian flag.
A few clicks before Alta, where we wanted to do some shopping, we were driving along the Kåfjord and about to cross the bridge when we saw signs for the Tirpitz-Museum and of course made that little detour. One might actually learn something…
In WW2 the Germans used the Norwegian fjords to keep their battleships and submarines well guarded on their missions to intercept the Allied’s supply runs of weapons to Russia, one of them being Tirpitz. To this day Tirpitz is still the largest ever built battleship in Europe. Tirpitz acted as a fleet in being, forcing the British Royal Navy to retain significant naval forces in the area to contain the battleship or whenever Tirpitz left on a mission to quickly dissolve their convoys. Many different attempts to bomb and destroy Tirpitz failed until Tirpitz was finally sunk in November 1944 near Tromsø.
We found a nice shopping center in Alta where we did our shopping that should bring us through the next couple of days. Leaving Alta behind we climbed onto a high plateau, part of the Finnmarksvidda, where the sun was eventually coming out for the first time in a few days. The scenery was breathtaking and we made a stop to take in the views and a light snack.
The Nordkapp was coming closer but we still had some driving to do. Once we came down from the plateau we where at the shores of the Porsangen Fjord that leads directly into the Barents Sea. The weather seemed to be improving and we were hoping for some nice views once we would have reached the cape.
The cape itself is not on continental Europe but on the island of Magerøya. To get there you’ll have to go through a tunnel that’s nearly 7km long and goes down to 212m below sea level. Close to the cape it then got foggy. Bugger.
Fortunately the organisers had made sure that we were allowed to get by car to the famous globe on the tip of the cape, on the edge of the cliff, which is about 300 metres high above the sea. Waiting in line with the other teams we were having chats, taking pictures of other teams and then finally got to the northernmost point of our trip.
The Fat One, Franz and Jörg had made it to the Nordkapp without any major mishaps and we were feeling a little bit proud at this moment. We wouldn’t say we’ve made it to the top of the world but at least to the top of the map. In a 21-year old car.
There was an exhibition at the cape center, which we visited and we learned that the actual road to the cape had only been built in the 50s. Before that you had to approach the cape by boat and then climb up some very steep paths.
We then made it back down through much more fog than there had been on our way up. We wanted to get close to Honningsvåg, the town that’s closest to the cape where also all the cruise ships get to moore, whose passengers then clog up the way to the cape with their bus convoys.
We had booked a room at the local camping and while unpacking the car we met some colleagues with who we then did our barbecue. They were doing the rally in a 72 Chevy Cheyenne, a great looking car with tons of space but with a surprisingly crammed and uncomfortable driving position.
Speaking of unpacking, camping consumes an unbelievably enormous amount of time with packing, unpacking, setting up, taking down, looking for stuff, putting things away, often in the wrong place and then searching for it.
It’s a constant battle.
It maybe down to the fact that we are highly un-experienced campers and the car has not been built as a camping vehicle. However, I think we’re doing quite well considering all of the above. The tetris in the boot of the car with all boxes and bags and chairs and all the other stuff and clutter is working perfectly. Only if we put an item from one box into another where it wasn’t in in the first place, or throw something into the back of the car while looking for something else we might end up in a situation where we have to call a search party: …where’s the salt, I thought we had more water, where’s my phone case, ah, found it, and lost it again 5 minutes later and there’s still no sign, I had 2 special lighters that work also well when it’s windy, gone, MIA…this kind of thing…
Camping – we haven’t finished our trip yet but at present it’s 70/30 overrated/underrated we’d say.
We did only 427km that day and spent about 9 hours for the trip.
The further North we came, and we’ve come already about 1900km as the crow flies and nearly 3200km by actual driving distance, so the further North we came the longer the days have become and by now, having crossed the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set at all and the days don’t end. But with the miserable weather we’ve had so far in Norway we actually have not seen the sun, especially we have not seen the sun not setting. This of course begs the question how one can actually see something that’s not happening? Does the perceived absence of something automatically prove that it didn’t happen in reality? Or did it?
Anyway, the effect that we experience is that it’s light.
It’s light all the time.
24 hours of no darkness outside.
But what we really see is grey. A grey, all surrounding greyness, We see grey water, grey clouds and predominantly a grey sky. We see a grey that’s constantly and often only gradually changing in it’s greyness. Sometimes it’s a very light, whiteish grey, an almost light emitting grey that gives hope that the sun might come out any moment, sometimes it’s an all encompassing grey that seems to erase all colours from your surroundings, sometimes it’s a very dark grey, a pessimistic and depressing grey, that seems to want to eat your soul, sometimes it’s a grey that is hanging so low above you that you want to pull in your head for the fear of being suffocated.
This universe of grey is there all the time, 24 hours, around the clock twice, and then it just continues
What happens now is that lose your sense of time.
You don’t know whether the grey becoming darker is because the clouds have become thicker, filled with rain or because the sun actually has come down a bit. It’s confusing, it’s mindboggling, it’s playing nasty tricks with your mind. You’re sitting in a car for hours on end, the scenery changes, the light changes slightly, the grey doesn’t.
It’s just there and it doesn’t go away.
And you’re in it like in an experiment, a big hamster wheel.
And then you look on your wrist or your phone to check the time, you think you know more but you just don’t feel it at all.
You don’t know where you are and when you are.
As you might have been able to gather from the previous lines the weather on our next leg up North was rather dismal. It was raining all day with only the slightest of breaks in between. It was a firework of grey.
We got up not too late and not too hungover after the party, had a shower (one of us with hot water, the other with cold water due to some usability issues), had a coffee, packed our stuff and made our way across the remaining islands of Lofoten where we could only guess how beautiful it must be here.
On our way we came across some sites where the French and Norwegians have been viciously fighting against the Germans in WW2, especially around Narvik. In this case we thought the grey was a rather befitting colour. We would see more of that on the day after; war and grey that is.
Eventually we made it to Tromsø, a city with the world’s northernmost university, strolled around, took some pictures, had a hot brew in a nice cafe and did some grocery shopping (reindeer!). From the cities we’ve seen so far Tromsø is for sure one of the nicer ones. Why cities in general in the Nordics, at least the ones we’ve seen so far are not that attractive we don’t know. Maybe it’s the rain or maybe they say the nature around us is so beautiful there’s no bloody point in competing with architecture against it. At least when the sun shines.
We just don’t know.
Leaving Tromsø we where hoping to drive for another 3 hours and find a camping spot, preferably with a cabin to rent so that we didn’t have to put up our roof tent. When it’s raining it’s not necessarily the most relaxing resting place. We took two commuter ferries across two fjords, the Ullsfjord and the Lyngenfjord, which was a nice break from the driving and made it to Sandnes Camping near Storslett.
We found a camping with cabins from the very early 60s, charming but basic. The terrain was quite muddy as they are in the process of modernizing the place, which after more than 50 years might be not such a bad idea. The view was great but might have been fantastic if wasn’t for the low hanging duvet of wet greyness. We had another team visiting us for dinner, Peter and Torsten from Mobiles Nachbarschaftskommando 47 and we had juicy and tender reindeer medaillons from the barbecue with jacket potatoes and spicy vegetables. In the end some chocolate and whisky as dessert to round it all off.
This was one of the longer days, both in terms of time and distance, because we did 780 km and the journey took about 12 hours including the breaks.
Waking up early after yet another noisy and wet night we left camp and got to Bodø’s ferry port sufficiently early to catch the boat we had booked. Departure was at 07:00 and the crossing should take 3.5h. While waiting Franz in the rain was able to plug in the kettle somewhere to make us a much-needed coffee. We could have even caught the 06:00 ferry but as we hadn’t been able to print our online reservation this was not possible. In a country where almost everything is digital this came a bit as a surprise. We were able to board the ferry first and then made our way to the seating area where we got one of the few tables with a power outlet. Once we had left the bay and sailed in open waters the swell was getting quite impressive, rocking the boat significantly but the rest of the journey was rather uneventful apart from the price we had to pay for a small sandwich, a waffle and a bottle of water: 22€…daylight robbery! Welcome to Norway.
The crossing then took actually about 4h and we arrived in Moskenes on Lofoten where we were greeted by low hangingf clouds and a smell of fish. A rather remarkable smell of fish.
And not the fresh kind.
Lofoten is well known for it’s tradition of Stockfish and you can see the wooden racks basically on every corner. At the moment there are mainly the heads on only which according to some research will be sent to Italy to produce fishmeal. Lovely job for the guy who’s got to load and unload the truck.
The other thing that we remarked was that it had stopped raining.
The scenery on Lofoten is spectacular and breathtaking. We could see that even with the weather not being in our favour. Again.
We made our way to the campsite and beach near Gimsøya where the first party during this rally would take place and was about to start.
When we arrived at the party location there were already some teams there but the majority apparently was still in transit. We took the time and strolled the lot to check out the other teams. Did we mention that it had stopped raining?
Jörg then took the opportunity that there was a golf course just a few hundred meters away and disappeared for 9 holes. Lofoten Links is one of the northermost golf courses in the world on a fantastic location with outstanding beauty. But see for yourself:
And the score wasn’t too shabby either.
Then the proceedings started for the party. All teams had obtained a crate of Ratsherrn beer from Hamburg per person at the start in Hamburg and had to bring them to the party. There was a big pile of it at the beach and everyone helped themselves. The organizers had set up a lot of barbecues, tables and benches. There were sausages for free and you could grill our own stuff. Some teams went fishing that day and put their prey on the grill. We had some lovely and thick entrecotes and potatoes with creme fraiche.
There were also some viking games where all teams were to participate but we were kicked out of the competition already in the first round.
We talked to many of the other teams, made some new friends and had a lot of fun around the fire.
Later at night quite a few of the participants went swimming for a Midsommar swim in the North Polar Sea, which was around 6 degrees. We missed out on it due to some wrong information we had received concerning the time for the swim. Sort of…
It was quite chilly anyway with a vicious wind going through our clothes right into our bones.
We went to bed after midnight with the mosquitos still or already at home and the sun still up, which unfortunately we couldn’t see for the cloudy sky that night.
This was our shortest stint during the rally both in distance and time with about 130 km and 3 h in the car plus 4 h on the ferry.
This day would turn into our longest stint yet. We left Östersund after a somewhat relaxing night and headed, you probably guessed it right, North. The weather was dreadful again and it was constantly raining and quite cold. We came through the towns of Dorotea and Vilhelmina and at some point crossed the border into the Swedish part of Lappland. A task that has been done also 64 years ago by Jörg’s father who made a trip through Scandinavia together with his best friend in a Volkswagen Käfer.
The task of Day 4 was to get a can of Surströmming, fermented herring, a Swedish delicacy with one of the most putrid and revolting smells you can imagine. Maybe they have come up with this because they were looking for something that’s even worse than a rainy and cold summer’s day, who knows. The task was to put the open can into the car, drive 200km (!!!) with it and hopefully at the end live to tell the tale. We were debating whether we would skip this task or not but then decided to buy a can in a supermarket in the town of Storuman where we were turning north-west towards the Norway. As luck had it they were sold out on Surströmming. So we drove on and on the road to the Norwegian border we spotted some colleagues from Team Maschseepiloten next to a beautiful lake. We decided to stop and have a chat also around today’s task. As it turned out they had bought two(!) cans of what next to Dynamite probably is the most dangerous Swedish weapon there is, in this case biological as opposed to explosives.
And they offered it to us.
We discussed on how to proceed best and from hearsay we knew that the cans are under quite some pressure due to the gas coming from the fermentation process thus when opening it there would an unforeseeable jet of lethal liquid which one should like to avoid at all cost.
Opening the cans in a bucket of water seemed to be the best option. Jörg got the water from the lake, Franz took off his sweater and put on gloves, Sven from Team Maschseepiloten was very eager to do the same and he gave us his can opener.
And indeed, once the cans were open the stench was like nothing we’ve ever smelled before in our lives – old, rotten fish and putrefaction like the calling from the grave. Sven even ate some of it and you could see and feel his struggle.
As requested by the roadbook we put it into our car and proceeded on our journey. It wasn’t nice. In the end we did more than 200 km with it and eventually deposited the can in a bin right next to the Arctic Circle.
Speaking of the Arctic Circle – that was one of the highlights of the day of course as neither of us had been so far up North. The Arctic Circle Center is high up in the mountains in a moon like landscape. There was snow, cold, wind and quite a few people. We took it as a photo opportunity of course because so did Jörg’s father in 1954.
From there it all went downhill towards Mo i Rana where we took a right turn to go towards Skjerstadsfjord and our final target for the day, Bodø. From there we intended to take the ferry to Lofoten the next morning. The first 22km were a quite rough construction site, which was a bit annoying but once we hit Rognan we were at the fjord and rewarded with spectacular views.
When we arrived in Bodø we made a tour through it and the port to greet our colleagues who were waiting for the ferry. After that we looked for a spot to set-up camp. Bodø’s camping ground had been closed due to bankruptcy. We couldn’t care less and didn’t stop us to get onto it and hide the Fat One behind a building so that he couldn’t be seen from the entrance.
We then unpacked everything to do some cooking and after a while another team came in. Shortly after that a somewhat official came to us and asked us to leave the premises. Explaining to him that we would just park our cars, not put up any tents and leave early in the morning we were able to persuade him to let us stay. We then agreed that we all hadn’t seen each other…
For dinner we grilled a couple of burgers together with spicy vegetables. After that we shared some beers with Team M&M On Tour and eventually mounted the car and crept into our sleeping bags for another night of wind and rain.
It was indeed a long drive as we did nearly 800 km that day, with a lot of rain, literally no visible sun and sat in the car for 11 hours.
Jumping ahead, we are now on the ferry to the islands of Lofoten, so time to catch up on the blog.
The night in Nora was calm and comfortable. The rain hadn’t returned and some blue sky was to be seen. We left the camp at around 8 and took some beautiful minor roads as a start on our trip towards the North. In this case Östersund was the target for the day, again a good 500 km away because we had booked a hotel there in advance. Or so we thought. Shortly into the trip we had our first proper encounter with the local fauna when a rather large badger tried to cross the road right in front of us. He barely made it, which was good for all of us.
Of course we were looking out for other larger animals like moose, reindeer and bears but so far our zoological encounters were minimal and limited to one mosquito, which was also good for all of us.
Or first stop and break was in Mora where we had a cappucino, which proved to be the best coffee we’ve had so far on our trip. We also had some meatballs and hardboiled eggs (of which had 26 when we had started the trip, lovingly boiled and decorated by Anne, Jörg’s wife) to bring us through the day. Mora, btw, is also known as the finish line of the annual Vasaloppet, a 90 kilometre cross-country skiing competition and event. The competition sees more than 48000 participants at the beginning of March.
We then soldiered on. The weather had really turned for the good, there was a lot of sun and towards the end of the day we had 19.5 degrees. We made some stops to stretch our legs and take a few pictures.
The task of the day was: “Car Pool Sweden”, which meant picking up and switching your copilot with another team’s copilot for about 50km. We thought we had passed the pick-up point already as nobody was there. Quite a few kilometres later we saw one team on a parking spot waving at us. 4 guys in a Volvo 850 were barbecuing on the side of the road and looking for other teams to switch copilots. We joined them and then waved to some more teams that were passing by and in the end we were 4 teams and started the swinger party. Jörg had Fedor from Team Tide on board and Franz sat in the back of Team Tide’s Volvo with guys from 2 other teams sitting in the car as well. It was good fun and a great task to continue to connect to the other teams.
When we eventually got to into the vicinity of Östersund we saw something interesting swooshing by our window. A u-turn later we entered the Teknikland, which is some kind of military museum and they had some cool stuff standing around.
After this unexpected and nice break in our driving routine we then got to our hotel in Östersund only to find out that our booking was not for today but for the following day and of course it was non-refundable booking. Jörg must obviously have mixed up the dates, which came as a bit of a surprise…
Fortunately the lady in the hotel was so nice to have a chat with her manager and in the end they refunded the room and on top of that got us a reservation in another hotel as the original one was was fully booked for the night.
After checking into the replacement hotel we made a stroll down to the lake where we had a well deserved beer at the local marina in the sun. It was just perfect. And when it’s sunny Sweden is even more beautiful, which we were finally able to witness on that day.
On day 3 we made 576 km and it took us 9.5h to get to our target.
The first night in the roof tent was really a bit of a strain. As romantic as our spot right on the sea shore was, with the wind picking up during the night the waves were really making quite the racket. This was lovingly assisted by the rain, of which there was a lot coming down, playing its own tune on the roof of the tent. Speaking of the tent. When we took it over from Franz’ friend Christoph the left side entrance’s zippers became loose. This means we can’t close it properly. We tried to fix it into place with duct tape but wind and rain made that loose too. So Jörg was sleeping right next to a gaping hole only minimally protected by the mosquito net.
To sum it up, when we were having a delicious dinner on the beach we thought camping is really underrated, when we couldn’t get a proper night’s sleep we thought it’s definitely overrated. Let’s see how we can improve this…
Leaving very early on day 2 we then headed North towards Nora in the Örebro region.
The Task of the Day was to find a car graveyard in the woods near Ryd and once there to look for what might have been ABBA’s first tour bus. Not having read the roadbook too carefully in our nonchalant and non-ambitious spirit that we are in, we thought this spot to be much further North, near Jönköping. Gliding through the village of Tingsryd we saw a road sign swooshing by that was pointing to Ryd. Ryd! We then made the necessary u-turn and followed the sign to Ryd. It wasn’t easy but in the end we found the spot and as it was still quite early nobody was there, the light was still a bit dimmed and it was raining, so the atmosphere was rather spooky and made it really special.
It continued to rain and our next stop was in Växjö, where we treated ourselves with a sumptuous smörrebröd in a hotel where Jörg tried to transfer the images from his camera to his iPad, which didn’t work. The iPad could connect to the camera’s WiFi but the app said it wasn’t connected and after many failed attempts he eventually gave up, feeling quite frustrated. We then put some fuel in the car, got some sweets and continued the drive further North. Still some kilometres to go. Through the relentless Swedish rain.
Our next planned stop was Jönköping on the southern shore of the Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake.
As it was still raining we didn’t spend too much time there and pointed the Fat One’s hood towards our final destination for the day, the little town of Nora, somewhere north of Örebro. After the previous night’s dreadful experience in the roof tent we had decided to rent a cabin on a camping site and enjoy proper beds and our own bathroom. At the Northern end of the Vättern we came into the vicinity of Örebro and had to avoid some motorways. We found a great, winding road for the next 50 km or so, then up into some mountains on dirt roads. We were followed by another team and had a lot of fun. We were definitely not going too slow…
We got to the camping and decided to pamper ourselves with the full monty i.e. a cabin with own bathroom and toilet. Then the rain finally subsided and the evening became quite nice, if only a bit on the chilly side. We were watching the Germany match and the wonderful performance by our team while Jörg was preparing dinner, a tomato salad and pan-fried salmon.
Later some more teams came onto the camping site and two of them joined us on our cabin’s porch for drinks and chocolate.
Two of the guys cam from Hamburg and it turned out that they live in the very same house Jörg’s grandmother lived in for more than 60 years and his mother, aunt and uncle grew up in – the world’s an olive!
We did 565km on day 2 and spent about 11 hours for the trip.
With a slight delay now the story from the first day of our rally. The start was in in the port of Hamburg where there were spots marked for every participant. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stroll the grid and see what kind of cars, teams, decors were there as we had to check in, talk to friends and family and attend the kick-off with final information and instructions. Here are some pictures.
Our first task of the was to get out of Hamburg and then to the island of Fehmarn from which we were to take the ferry to Denmark. Other teams were going up through the North of Germany and then into Denmark thus avoiding the ferry.
Leaving Hamburg was a breeze and we were first of the pack to arrive at Puttgarden. As we hadn’t booked the ticket in advance we had to wait for way more than an hour to get on board. The crossing took only about 40 minutes and then we were in Denmark, our first border crossing and second country for the day. Before we boarded we had to fulfill the first task in the roadbook, which starts with a paper clip which we have to trade up in each country where we get through. While waiting for the ferry we talked to a truck driver who then took the paper clip and gave us a paper roll that’s used in the trucks trip recording system.
As we were just driving through and not stopping in Denmark we skipped already the Denmark trade. This signifies quite well our team’s spirit and idea of the trip: having fun while not being too ambitious. And ambitions were again immediately thrashed out of the window when it came to the “Task of the Day”. As we didn’t do it I’ll spare you the details.
It was also a day of bridges, in Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
Once we hit Sweden, second border crossing and third country on our rally and for the day we were aiming east-north-east towards Kristianstad and beyond. We did some shopping in a very well assorted and nearly empty supermarket in Sweden. What we needed most was charcoal for the grill and we got a 5 kg bag – let’s hope that this enough.
We then found a lovely spot in Nogersund at the harbour right next to the Baltic Sea where we made camp and had a beer. It was a camp for motorhomes and we just squeezed into a gap we thought was big enough. As we learned later, etiquette is to leave at least 4 metres between cars. But nobody was really complaining. For dinner we had T-Bone steak, pepper and mushrooms with a nice bottle of red.
The night was the first night we spent in the roof tent. As easy it was to get to sleep as hard was it to stay asleep. The wind was increasing and it started to rain so it became quite noisy in the tent. The waves were crashing against the rocks, the tent was rattling and one of the tent’s entries couldn’t get zipped up completely and it was raining a little bit into the tent right on Jörg’s face. We both had the impression that we woke up every bloody hour and eventually got up at 5, packed everything up and left at 6.
The day of the start was coming closer and closer. We’ve been in constant contact with each other to make sure we didn’t forget anything, which I’m sure we will have. But then we’re not embarking on a trip through the Sahara but will be driving through, in places maybe rather scarcely populated regions, but still not more than (wild guess ->) 50km away from the next village, shop, petrol station, supermarket or pub so whatever might be missing we will have the opportunity to get it somewhere.
Also the organizers were making sure we got in contact with the other teams as they had established a WhatsApp group for all the participants of the BSC 2018. This group proved to be rather popular with funny messages coming in at a staggering frequency. We had to mute it to prevent our phone’s lock screen being inundated with messages.
While reading the all the messages we came across the story of Toni. Toni is going on this trip with his Vespa PX200! What an undertaking! When we’ve also learned that Toni’s starting number is 260, i.e. the last, Jörg’s wife Anne thought this to be rather sad, him being alone and having to watch all other teams leave before him, so we started the petition on WhatsApp to have Toni start as number 1, which was then vividly supported by the other teams.
Here’s Tony with his Vespa.
The organizers also activated the live tracking app and web page. So if you want to follow us you can do so here: Tracking
You may have to occasionally refresh the page to see the latest movements and fyi the data will be published with a 15 minutes delay. And it works.
As you may remember from a previous post we had some trouble with the heating and air condition of the Fat One. This has now been resolved and it works swimmingly well. A big thanks to the Garagist, Stephan, for only charging the material and not the work which in this case was quite a lot and rather cumbersome as they had to remove the whole dash board. So (switching ad mode one) if you need a car to be fixed and well taken care of get in contact with him, you and your gear will be in good hands (switching ad mode off).
The day before we did the packing and this also went rather well. There’s still some room in the car. The car was cleaned, fueled and the air pressure of the tires was upped a wee bit to cope with the weight and the presumably sometimes not so good roads.
We’ve also added some important items like an electric mosquito swatter and a sun umbrella, which hopefully will also protect us from the rain.
Lastly we installed a GoPro as a dash cam and had to drill a hole into the case in order to have constant power supply for the cam.
After that we went to the pre-rally get together at Altes Mädchen and then a goodbye dinner with our girls.
It was a hot day, which didn’t help our ongoing preparations. We were attaching the remaining stickers and decals and the results do not look very professional but we had fun. We maybe should have researched before how to apply these without having to many bubbles and creases but then maybe we can sell this as some kind automotive Sprezzatura. We have to admit though that at the same time we were testing some ales in cans to decide which ones to take on our trip and the jury’s still out on this one. Some might say that there could be a correlation with the results of our efforts but I’m not so sure…
After that we did some loading rehearsal. At first when we saw what needs to get into the Fat One we were sightly doubtful but then he lived up to his name and swallowed everything with quite some room to spare. Which will be filled up with water, food, beer and bog rolls.
We’ve also got the tracking activated and you can follow our journey here: Tracking
We’ve also added that link to the menu bar on top of the page.
We are team 23 Scuderia Nordica. Sometimes you’d need to refresh the site to see the actual positions, which btw allegedly have a delay of 15 minutes.
After that we started planning the route for the first 3 days so assuming the roadbook doesn’t want us to go somewhere completely different we should be fine till Östersund. This made us realize that Sweden is vast and long. Very long. It’ll take us 3 days to get up to somewhere south of the middle of the country.
Today the car was brought back to the Garagist as the HVAC needs still some TLC as mentioned in the previous post. Apparently one of the actuators on the passenger side needs to be replaced for which the whole dashboard needs to be removed – ouch.
We hope to get him back by Wednesday night, Thursday lunch time latest in order to do our final prep.
It took a while.
And in the end it wasn’t quite what had been promised by others and expected from us but it’s OK.
Especially the colours are great. Day glow yellow on dark blue is always a winning combination. The other sponsor’s decals are in production right now and should be delivered this week and then we’ll do a bit of a puzzle and search and find spots where to put them on the car next weekend.
So, we’ve picked the Fat One up yesterday in Schmallenberg, attached our team’s number on the doors and then drove to Dortmund to visit Christoph, Franz’ friend who’s been so lovely to borrow us the roof tent plus some other camping gear like chairs, a table, two gas cookers, etc.
Thank you very much, Christoph!
While driving from Dortmund to Hamburg we realised that the heating/air con still requires some TLC. On the driver’s side it is OK, albeit it could definitely be a bit cooler, but the passenger side has established itself as some kind of hot air grill. The idea of one sitting in the car with a fleeced hoodie and the other in briefs and t-shirt is not necessarily the way how we imagine the trip and could potentially lead to some conflict. The Garagist has already been informed and the Fat One will be dropped of later this week to get this sorted out.
Stay tuned for the final decoration session this coming weekend.
Btw, if you’re reading this and haven’t had the chance yet to donate to one of our charities just click here. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.