Monday, 29 May 2017

aweigh we go

Arriving in Hirtshals on Saturday morning gives us a little time for a raid on Lidl, Netto, and the other supermarkets in the town.  We are not alone.  The town is full of passengers for the ferry to Norway and ours to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.  Everyone is stocking up.  Down at the docks it's barren and windy but the sun is out and everyone is in a holiday mood.  We get to queue with the motorbikers and other cyclists, apart from the cars and camper vans that clog the lanes at the departure gate. 

befriending some German bikers

Five German bikers draw up and get off their BMWs.  They look at our loaded bikes, nod in acknowledgement and talk amongst themselves, laughing.  I say to the one nearest to me "You know in England we say 'Real men ride bicycles'"  He doesn't know if I'm serious or not but he's game.  He wants to know how we can travel for three years with only what is on our bike.  What about money? Insurance? Pension? He's not really fulfilling my stereotypical biker image by now.  Gayle is sorting through her panniers for the ferry journey and suddenly unleashes a pile of newspaper clippings into the wind.  Papers billow about our heads and fly off across the carpark.  The bikers gamely hurry to gather up as many clippings as they can, whilst Gayle apologises and explains that they are only her sudoku puzzles.

We meet three cyclists and chat with Nadine from Germany and Sun from Hong Kong.  They are loaded and heading for Iceland.  We chat a while and then are joined by another cyclist who is from Munster.  He's got only a backpack and two bursting carrier bags full of beer.  Well, he explains, I have three days on a boat before I reach Iceland.
with Nadine and Sun
It turns out the journey is a booze cruise for some.  We are in cabins below the car deck - a strange hot place that might just be under the surface of the water.  I foolishly mention this to Gayle who visibly blanches.  We are in separate sex  cabins (I mean gender-specific cabins - just in case you get the wrong idea), sharing with five others.  So we spend most of our journey up in the bar where there are comfy seats and a socket to charge our pc.  We also have to do our laundry and surreptitiously hang it around the place to dry out.  Nadine and Sun stop by to chat.  Nadine has three weeks in Iceland and has researched her trip well.  Sun is coming to the end of a long ride that began in South Korea.  He looks mellow and ready to end the ride - he's met someone from Taiwan and will be heading there soon.

We have a couple of nights on the ferry and a long day in between when there is nothing to do but run my smalls through the hand-dryer like some perverted weirdo or peruse the chocolate selection in the duty-free shop like some perverted weirdo.  The ferry is from the Faroe Islands and in the lounge they show a promotional video to the mostly retired people who make up the passengers.  Later on there's Bingo.  The place fills up and the tension is palpable as the MC turns on the automated Bingo caller.  He's a model of professional cheer and charm when someone gets a 'House' otherwise he looks bored rigid.  This is his livelihood, after all.
we pass Mucklefugger - the UK's most northerly point

In the evening we are lulled to our sleep by the soft guitar melodies and crooning of a 'cabaret' performer.  Neil Young.  Neil Diamond.  The Beatles.  He knows his audience.  We fall asleep humming Crackling Rose.  I'm feeling slightly nauseous in my airless bunk bed......