Ferry to the Faroes

Everyone seems to arrive very early for the ferry and it feels like a well oiled mechanism – we’re give a yellow sticker with lane 18 marked.  Yellow stickers are for Faroe passengers, and these get onto the ferry after the Iceland bound vehicles.

Exciting to see the Faroes sign

Our ferry to the Faroes

I can see the attraction that our loyal followers have for the couch. I have spent most of the afternoon ensconced in one in the Naust café & lounge on the M/F Norrona as we head to the Faroes. I have eaten, slept and spent time starting the redrafting the three pages on motorcycle equipment camping equipment etc to better reflect the passage of time since they were first written back in 2014. It is a lot more comfortable than being in the saddle all day. Any one want to swap?

Danish Danish

We sailed out of Hirtshals on a bright sunny day onto a calm sea with Streak and Storm lashed to the deck down below after a little struggle with the securing ropes. It took me a while to realise that the locking mechanisms did not work for many of the straps and old fashioned knots were the go. We have 36 hours before we reach the Faroe Islands so time to relax and enjoy the many restaurants and bars. Our travelling companions include a fleet of RV’s from Italy, about 40 motorcycles including a couple of Nimbus motorcycles, a 1936 and 1955, and I thought that a Nimbus was a magic flying broom used in Quiditch games from a Harry Potter movie.

A Nimbus. Famous Danish motorcycle. You guess the type.

All aboard.

They have got themselves a good spot on the ferry

Looking at my phone, which was using global roaming via the extra AU$5 per day Vodaphone package I see I am still connected to the phone and 3G out to sea. Maritime Roaming? Eeek! I switch off the Global Roaming and phone to flight mode. I see a message from Vodaphone advising me that I will be charged AU$5 per minute for calls, AU0.75 for text and AU$5 per 1MB for data. It was just a seamless transition, lucky I am not a heavy mobile app user. A trap for the unwary, such as me.

Due to our late booking we were only able to secure a “couchette” for the first leg of this journey. Anne’s view of the couchette experience:  Our 6 birth ‘cabin’ is on deck 2, burried in the bowels of the ship, below both car decks that is 2 levels below the cars.  If that wasn‘t bad enough, the saloon type swing doors from the couchette room open inwards, that means that in an emergency, you would have to remember to pull into the room rather than push out.  Being claustrophic, that is a double whammy that I don’t know I’ll be able to cope with.  I tried sleeping on the top deck, but being the kids’ area, and with mostly citizens of a culture where kids rule, kids can play all night and make as much noise as they want even after midnight (while their parents sleep peacefully in their own room), so in the end, I relented and joined Anthony in our illustrious couchette room.  It wasn’t all bad, because we had the whole room to ourselves.  And I did sleep.

Our couchette doors

Apart from the couchette room doors opening inwardly, we are very impressed with the ferry.  It has several comfortable seating areas, 2 eating areas, one ‘cheap’ cafetatia type and one with more luxury dining.  We even had live ‘pub music’ in the bar last night.  Breakfast in the Diner/cafetaria was ‘free’ for couchette passengers and quite adequate.  Different brochures on the Faroes and Iceland kept being resupplied.  There is an information desk where you can buy various tours, if they not already fully booked 😦 as I found out yesterday.  Oh well… there might still be a cancellation for us to get to Mykines.

If you have forgotten anything, fret not, the duty free shop has it all, from butterfly/packable ladies shoes, to the all important motorcycle stickers, wollen and hiking clothing, underwear, jewellery, wool and knitting needles, architecture Lego, electronic spares, alcohol and chocolates.

Someone likes Toblerone

On the way back, we’ll try and remember to take our swimmers out so that we can enjoy the scenery from the top deck, from the comfort and warmth of the hot spas!

We spend the first day at sea skirting the Norwegian coast with the possibility of a glimpse of the Orkneys promised at five am tomorrow. I think I will give that a miss and just buy the postcard. The sea is so calm barely a white cap in sight all day. We are so lucky as neither of us are great seafarers and we have avoided shipborne travel wherever possible. I am surprised to see water running down the windows on the opposite side of the ship given the calm seas, no big waves but regular window washing to keep the view clear for all us passengers. Great Service.

Beautiful sunset just before midnight

The next day, we arrive at Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. This is the weather we are expecting for the next week.

The weather as we approach the Faroes

One of the first off the ferry, we head straight to our hotel – thought a night in a hotel would be good after the overnight ferry. We get a very odd greeting, with the owner/manager telling us he has booked us into another hotel – no explanation, no apology, just “this is a very nice hotel”. Back into town we go, and this new hotel definitely has a fabulous location!

Torshavn cathedral and harbour from our hotel window

We could just fall into bed and sleep but we have a shower and decide to explore the capital before treating ourselves to a rather delicious dinner at Aarstova restaurant.

Torshavn harbour

Torshavn harbour

Tinganes houses, Torshavn

Tinganes houses, Torshavn

Aarstova restaurant, Torshavn

Despite the dreary weather, we are both looking forward to the coming week on the Faroes although Anne is more excited than Anthony at the idea of camping in those conditions. Anne & Anthony

To the top of Denmark in three days

Phew, that was some week!  Filled with highs and lows and not at all what we were expecting or had planned on. As I sit writing this in our motel in Hirtshals in Denmark, so much seems to have happened in such a short space of time, probably best to start where I left off in the last blog.

Finally ready to go!
It feels great to be on the road again.

With the bikes packed, spares acquired en route to Rochester, we are all set, well at least we think we are. I have to check and recheck just to ensure I have packed everything while Anne waits patiently for me to be “really sure” I have everything. We spend the last evening having dinner with our niece Camilla followed by an early start. 

Anne and Camilla in Rochester
Innovative re-purposing in small villages!

Given we have to cover 1,400 km / 875 miles in three days making as much distance in the early days is important.  We have chosen the Eurotunnel as it is quicker than the ferry and the same transport we used back in June 2013 to set off on our first RTW adventure.  On a bright not too chilly, for us, day, we quickly ride onto the M20 to be greeted by the overhead message board stating “M20 closed between J9 & J11”. (J=Junctions) Great, a detour at the start. However another roadside sign states that this is between the hours of midnight and six am.  Seems like the overhead signs came with an early version of Twitter with less than 140 characters.

We roll into the Eurotunnel terminal ahead of schedule and are offered an earlier train at no extra cost.  We meet our fellow motorcycle travellers, all heading to compass points between south east and south. None seem keen to head in our direction and all are travelling much lighter than we are even though we have left the kitchen sink behind.

Customs officers come in all shapes and sizes

When we boarded the train six years ago, the carriages and ridge space seemed so narrow, now it is a breeze, our skills must have improved somewhat.  The 35 minute crossing is taken up chatting to other riders about destinations and adventures. Out into the French sunlight, and I am taken how high the fences are around the Eurotunnel terminal – I wonder what the current refugee situation refugee is, as once it disappears from the everyday news, it tends to fade from the consciousness, well mine anyway.

Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais is easy and quick.

Entering Belgium by lunchtime makes it three countries today, will we make four or even five, probably not the latter. As we are travelling on a Saturday the heavy vehicle traffic is lighter and makes the journey more enjoyable. We head towards Antwerp which we recall from the first trip was hard going with long slow traffic tailbacks that really worked the clutch hand. Today it is a breeze. 

We are making good progress through Holland with Utrecht as our final destination today when Anne says “Watch for the woman waving madly in the motorhome” As the motorhome pulls along side, I see an animated face at the window, kidnapped? deranged driver? These thoughts pass through my mind, but I recognise that face and it is confirmed as the vehicle passes and I swear that under the cover on the back is a tatty old couch.  Warning lights come on and we pull over behind them. The driver gets out and my suspicions are confirmed.  Phillip and Judith, our friends and loyal blog followers who we first met in India back in 2009 as we took an organised motorcycle trip through India and Bhutan.  What are the odds of meeting like that?

Bumping into friends on a motorway in Holland!

No they were not coming to see what had happened to the latest blog entry or follow us to Iceland, but were heading for a concert in Amsterdam, well that was their story.  They were running late so 60 seconds at the side of the road and we went our separate ways.  Life and coincidences.  What an amazing world we live in.  Anne remarks that her brother, who left this earth 20 years ago today, would have enjoyed this synchronicity of meeting in the middle of nowhere – or maybe it was his doing?…

After a well deserved rest outside Utrecht, Sunday will be our longest day with some 600 kilometres.  Streak and Storm are performing well and the new tyres have encountered their first rainstorm and passed with flying colours. German drivers are faster and I find that my limit is 75 mph or 120 kph which means keeping an eye out for the cars that come up so quickly if you are not paying attention. I do admire those “Iron Butt” riders that have our three day mileage, 1000 miles, in 24 hours as an entry level event no less!  Not for us, we really are the 2 slow speeds.

At least the strong buffeting wind is put to good use, Denmark

As we approach the Danish border we see a roadblock and what look like military personnel, vehicles are being stopped and checked even though Denmark is part of the Schengen Area. Not sure of this is just a temporary measure or something more permanent.  We find that the drivers in Denmark seem more courteous than some of their counterparts as they will slow in the fast line to allow both of us to overtake slow moving vehicles.  We enjoy the green rolling countryside which is dotted with wind turbines making use of the buffeting we are getting as we ride. Hirtshals comes into view, we have arrived for the ferry tomorrow which a week ago seemed a forlorn hope.   Dinner overlooking the harbour, time to write this blog and then we are off.

Hirtshals port, Denmark – 1936 Johs Hejlesen boat in the foreground
Hirtshals port – where we had dinner below and where we leave for the Faroe Islands tomorrow
Making the most of the blue skies – the weather forecast for the coming weeks is not so good, but we knew that.

– Anthony 

Normal Service has been Resumed.

After the frenetic activity of the last couple of days, Thursday morning sees me basking in the sunlight waiting for Barry, a BMW specialist who has offered to come and look at Storm and take Storm back to his workshop if he thinks it can be fixed in a day. He was winding down ahead of a planned holiday, but has stepped in to help us.

I have been reading the Haynes manual on the cooling system and have at least understood the different functions of the temperature sensor and the thermostat. Still does not help me make a diagnosis.

Barry quickly sets to work, he feels there is an airlock in the system and manages to coax air out of the system with the application of more anti freeze and some pipe squeezing.  The radiator is now warm all over and the temperature warning lights remain silent.  I take Storm on a longer ride through the New Forest and all seems well.  A big thank you to Barry for taking the time to help us out. We are back to packing for the rest of the afternoon and will be ready to depart on Friday.

Barry working his magic on Storm

Thanks for all the out of the box suggestions and the generous offer from Anne’s mother of her car as a replacement.  Luckily they were not needed, including my plan to weld a shopping trolley, a sidecar substitute, to Streak. 

A leisurely drive, by car, brings us to Beaulieu, an area we used to hike and camp in, some 40 years ago. We relax over dinner at a local pub with everything back on track and our departure only one day behind the original schedule.  We will start out tomorrow, Friday, with a visit to the BMW dealership at Alton to pick up a replacement ABS sensor. 

Beaulieu and a bike of course
All those who came out to greet us as we arrived at our hotel on hearing Storm was fixed, or not!

So those of you who were dragging their tatty old armchairs back to the shed, to the relief of their partners, bring them back, settle down with your favourite beverage and snack and prepare for another 2slowspeeds saga.

– Anthony

We are so lucky…

I draw back the curtain a smidgin and I am struck by the light streaming through the tiny gap, blinded I stagger back, falling on the bed.  The Abu Dhabi sun strikes again, no, hang on, we are in London and have a gorgeous summer’s day.  From Heathrow where we spent the first night, we head to Canterbury in Kent for a sumptuous lunch prepared by Anne’s mother, who, at 89+ still amazingly does everything herself, and then onwards to be reunited with Streak and Storm and start the preparation for our journey to Iceland. We are struck by the variety of textures and greens as we circumnavigate the M25 and M26. The countryside is so beautiful.

We arrive at the storage facility and find that Alan has Streak and Storm out along with all our travelling possessions. We now have to transform five suitcases into four panniers.  

Streak & Storm awaiting their next adventure

Just a little repacking to do

As usual Anne attacks the task at hand with gusto, must be the recent project management experience kicking in, or has Anne always been more organised? I spend time shifting though all the tools and spares to reduce our RTW supplies for a more slimline spares for the Iceland trip. Out go the 50 cable ties, spare fuel pump, rusty tools (note to self: leave tools pannier open even if it seems dry), multiple types of gasket sealant.  A much more compact package emerges to join Anne’s sterling work with the other panniers.  A good morning’s work has been done and my rumbling stomach indicates that lunch beckons.  Anne suggests that even though Streak and Storm have been serviced and re-shod, we should still do a test ride today rather than wait till tomorrow. Sensible as usual.

Both bikes start first time and are purring away in the lunchtime sun. We are ready to ride and get fresh fuel to dilute the stale petrol and stabiliser that currently sloshes around in the tank. A line of warning lights from ABS to LAMP illuminate my console. Hopefully most will disappear as we start riding. Our main beam lamps last about three months and usually both go within 24 hours of each other as we run the bikes for almost the same amount of time.  The BMW lamp failure is very consistent.  

Within a few hundred meters of leaving my radiator fan kicks in, unusual since it is not a hot day. Refuelled just down the road and we are off to lunch at a local pub.  It is great to be out in the New Forest, although one has to keep a wary eye for the ponies that graze at the roadside ignoring the passing vehicles, but masters of their domain and they will wonder out into the road from time to time.

My Christmas tree of warning lights stubbornly fails to go out, twice around the world without a glitch and there appears to be a problem(s)? My temperature gauge is rising and suddenly after only 2 miles / 3 kilometres the orange warning light goes red, never seen that before and the temperature gauge starts flashing, time to pull over, “Houston we have a problem”.  My radiator is warm on one side and cool on the other. We, well I,  do have a problem.  

Call for help

I know this does something

Waiting patiently

Should have considered the breakdown option in the insurance policy, oh well, too late for that. A couple of calls and Alan from the storage facility very kindly offers to bring a trailer out to collect me in the midst of a busy schedule.  Three hours later we are back in storage facility, what next?

Back to storage

Riding not allowed today

We quickly learn that at this time of the year, summer holidays looming, all the BMW dealerships service departments are booked up for 1-2 weeks ahead and cannot help us immediately.  It is reminder of the outstanding support that the various BMW Motorrad service departments we visited around the world went out of their way to help an overseas visitor in need in some cases when we had just turned up to enquire about availability.  

It also dawns on us that our ferry trip to Iceland is only a week away and there is no capacity for at least 2 weeks after our planned departure date. Only one ferry a week goes to Iceland so if we cannot get Streak fixed by Friday our planned visit Iceland with Streak and Storm is over.  

There are no practical motorcycle alternatives we can think of: buy another similar bike, hire one for the trip, over two months with our August break do not make financial sense.  As we are considering the various alternatives I realise this type of decision making is what Anne faced everyday as a project manager, juggling issues and priorities.  We also realise that it is unlikely that we can recover any of our Iceland expenses from our Insurance policy due to the multiple exclusions including “any vehicle breakdown”.

The rest of the afternoon is taken up with phone calls to various motorcycle mechanics, gaining advice and information from helpful individuals. They say the problem could be caused by a blocked radiator, failed temperature sensor, gasket leak, water pump failure, thermostat failure, air bubble in the radiator, the list is not endless but extensive. 

While holidays have driven up demand for servicing, we find one mechanic who works on BMWs who is going on holidays next week so he has run his workload down and has offered to help this week. He will come to Storm on Thursday morning to see if it can be fixed before the weekend, problematic is spares’ availability.  There is no spare radiator is in the UK and it takes a up to one week to deliver from Germany.  The centralising of spares by BMW causes problems when you are time constrained as we are.

So what is next? We do not know.  From posting month old blogs recently, I am now giving you all a realtime view of our dilemma as it unfolds. If you have any suggestions or out of the box ideas we are listening. While this has been disappointing, frustrating and even a little stressful as we try to make the ferry next week, we remind ourselves that we were successfully able to travel twice around the world with Streak and Storm and we have this problem now rather than in a week’s time while on the road.  

As we walked to have a drink and dinner and console ourselves after a tumultuous couple of days I see a mother walking towards us pushing her severely disabled adult son in a wheelchair – we are so lucky!

– Anthony

Welcome to Abu Dhabi

Welcome to Abu Dhabi where the time is 04:55 and the temperature is currently 34 degrees, forecast to go up to 44 later in the day!  We haven’t experienced this temperature in a while.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could store the heat that we were experiencing for slow release while we’re in Iceland in a couple of weeks’ time, I thought to myself a few times…

We stopped in Abu Dhabi to see my sister Diane and her husband Jeremy who arw living there at the moment.  I first visited Abu Dhabi in 2005, and visited the region several times over the following couple of years, holding a number of Australian Aboriginal art exhibitions there, so I was doubly excited to be visiting this city again and show Anthony where I had held my Abu Dhabi exhibition.  I hadn’t been to Abu Dhabi in about 10 years and it was a strange feeling to be taking what was once a familiar route from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and not recognising where I was.  I expected Dubai to have changed lots even since Anthony and I rode there in Sept 2014 as part of our first round the world trip, although we did spot the BMW dealer we used to service Streak and Storm and prepare them for shipment to Dehli.  The changes and growth of Abu Dhabi however took me by surprise.  I saw the Grand Mosque being built back in 2005-6, it was located a long way out of Abu Dhabi and stood out majestically.  No more.  It is surrounded by roads, ramps, buildings in the middle of Abu Dhabi suburbs.  

The Grand Mosque is certainly impressive.  I booked a tour online for 5pm when the sun and lighting are a little gentler.  First stop is the cloakroom where I am handed a dusty rose pink thick polyester abaya with built in hood to don – my 3/4 length sleeve top and head shawl were obviously not acceptable.   The architecture, which is a mixture of Persian, Mughal, Indo-Islamic and Moorish,  immediately reminds me of the Taj Mahal in many ways but it feels very masculine whereas the Taj Mahal felt much more gentle, feminine (am I allowed to say this in today’s gender neutral world ?!  I do not want to offend and hope you get what I mean).  The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque was the late leader Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayan’s dream to build the largest mosque in the U.A.E.   It was built to impress and it certainly does that.  It took 10 years to build, features 4 minarets, 82 domes, the world’s largest (5700 square metres) hand-knotted wool and cotton carpet weighing 37 tones, crafted by 1200 Iranian artisans (after being flown in 2 planes, it took another 8 months for the carpet sections to be woven into a single carpet),  massive chandeliers from Germany, the largest of which weighs 12 tons, white marble from Macedonia, semi-precious inlays crafted by Chinese stonemasons.  The main hall can take up to 50,000 men.  We learned how the lines of praying muslins are always so straight – When shaving the carpet (the final stage of rugmaking), its weavers marked subtle raised lines into its surface to guide worshippers into neat rows during prayer.

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque – from the taxi

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque – largest chandelier weighs 12 tons

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque – largest carpet in the world

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

After an hour and a half, I couldn’t wait to return the polyester abaya!  This heat is stiffling enough as it is without the sweaty material.

Back in 2005, I had seen models of one of Abu Dhabi’s great visions: to develop Saadiyat island into an area dedicated to the arts including a new National Museum, performing arts centre, Guggenheim, Louvre.  The world’s greatest architects created fantastic visions of futuristic buildings.  Zaha Hadid’s never materialised sadly, but Jean Nouvel’s Louvre did.  What a marvel of a building!  The centrepiece of the museum is its massive, seemingly floating dome.  It is held by 4 pillars only yet weighs a staggering 7,500 tonnes – the same as the Eiffel Tower.  The roof is made up of eight layers of geometric stars of different sizes and shapes, reminiscent of then arabic masharabia.  As the sun passes above, its light filters through the perforations, creating a slowly moving and changing rain of light. The layout of the museum is interesting too as it has been designed as a micro-city reminiscent of arabian medinas:  it consists of 55 detached buildings, 23 of which are devoted to galleries.  Whereas I find the Louvre in Paris overwhelming with its long endless walls covered in paintings, I found this museum a lot more relaxing and enjoyable.  You feel like you are meandering the streets of an arabian village.  It is nearly playful at times.  What a treat it was on many levels, not forgetting the great lunch we had there.

Abu Dhabi Louvre

Abu Dhabi Louvre

Abu Dhabi Louvre – the domed roof is held by 4 pillars only

Abu Dhabi Louvre – Oxus civilisation, Bactria, 2300-1700 BCE

Abu Dhabi Louvre

Abu Dhabi Louvre – Whistler’s Mother and Anthony

Abu Dhabi Louvre

Returning to the Cultural Foundation and showing Anthony and my sister where I had held my exhibition 13 years ago was special.  Abu Dhabi is proud of its young history and have spent the last 10 years renovating Qasr al Hosn fort – Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi, holding the city’s first permanent structure; the watchtower. Built around the 1790’s, the commanding structure overlooked the costal trade routes and protected the growing settlement established on the island.

Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation on the left and Qasr Al Hosn old fort

Qasr Al Hosn fort

The sisters at Qasr Al Hosn

Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Hosn fort

Learning how to make arabic coffee

Every family has one!

The sightseeing in the searing heat was regularly interspersed with cold drinks, lunch and dinner and much chatting.  It was really special spending time with my sister and seeing her new home.  Thank you D&J for your hospitality. We need to get back on the road on the bikes and give our stomachs a rest now!  I have had so many last meals with friends since towards the end of my time in Cairns and before leaving home again.  

The sisters after an amazing fish meal in Abu Dhabi

I have to say that it was an interesting time to be in the region – loud construction or unusual plane noises were noticed with some trepidation.  2 years ago, on our way by ferry from South Korea to Vladivostok, we hoped Kim Jong-un wasn’t going to fire any more test nuclear missiles over our heads, now we were hoping no more oil tankers were going to get bombed by Iran or any other country as was claimed last week.  It was an uneventful stay in that respect luckily.

Next stop, Heathrow and a visit to see my mum in Canterbury.