Going North 2018 – day 7 and 8. Luleå to Kirkenes, cruising and midnight sun?

I kind of overslept this morning, but this was not a problem. I had found out that a rain front would pass by so the later I would leave, the less rain I would see. This guess turned out to be correct. I had a spectacular breakfast (no picture) and left only at 9:15. I was prepared and had put on the inner liners. Temperature was 20 degrees as I continued my ride on the E4. One hour later I crossed the border to Finland and got aware that the sat nav switched one hour forward. I though that the people along the border must have a ball on new year’s eve: they welcome the new year in Finland, walk over to Sweden and repeat this one hour later. I took the E75 to the north and rolled through Finnish landscape.

Cute, isn’t it?

Soon I had to fill up and continued. I reached the city of Rovaniemi that appeared much bigger since the last time I passed by (25 years ago). Then I found the place where Santa resides (at least as claimed by the locals):

I have discovered Santa’s stash! It’s well hidden in a mountain.


Soon after I reached the Arctic Circle. I remembered a memorial there, together with some houses. I think it was also one of the few places on that seven week trip where I afforded a hot meal. I had my first reindeer goulash, how can I forget that. Well, I was a poor student then. You can imagine my surprise when I found no polar circle memorial, but an enormous complex with dozens of shops, restaurants, entertainment, etc…

Horrified, I fled from this place. I continued my ride through rural Finland. Soon after, I had to stop as a big reindeer was quietly walking in the middle of the road. Big antlers! In Sodankylä I wanted to stop for lunch, but the restaurants did not look very appealing and due to the Eastern time it was already quite late. In the end I had a shabby kebab in a shabby restaurant in a shabby petrol station. You could also buy repair sets for car exhausts there. Or fish hooks. Authentic.

I went on and after two hours, I decided to stop for a last petrol fill in Ivalo at the south shore of the Lake Inari. I decided to put on some extra T-shirts for the temperature had dropped to some 14 degrees. Soon after, the best part of the ride began on that day began: the road had bends and suddenly the sun appeared! Instead a dull ride under cloudy skies, this was really impressive now.

Inari Lake. I was immediately surrounded by blood-thirsty mosquitos.

The large Inari Lake to the right, the sun to the left and thousands of little lakes or ponds everywhere. This was spectacular.

I still had 200 km to go and when I turned from the E75 to the direction of Kirkenes. I hadn’t seen a policeman the whole trip, so why would there be any on this last stretch to the Norwegian border? I switch the suspension to „Dynamic“ and let the horses free. This was fun! Of course, you had to scan the horizon for reindeers.

This guy just walked over the road as if he would own the place!….well, I guess he does…

I arrived at the border and from now on, I slowed down considerably. Norwegian speed controls are notorious. I was riding down to the coast and when I hit the E6, I passed the Neiden waterfalls.

Neiden waterfalls. 12.5 degrees Celsius air temperature. Water temperature unknown.

The last 44 km to Kirkenes where bathed in sunlight again and quite beautiful. After a certain point, many boards announced that taking pictures was forbidden for military reasons. Actually, this region used to be the only place apart from Turkey where NATO and the Soviet Union shared a common border.

At 18:30, I met MJ in the hotel in Kirkenes. The 770 km went faster than expected. I looked for an ATM to get some Norwegian money and gave the BMW a good wash. After a quick shower we went to the hotel restaurant and were whacked in the face by reality. You know that Norway is expensive, but when you’re sitting in an ordinary hotel restaurant and looking at the menu, staring, sweating and hyperventilating, you know you have finally arrived there. However we decided that we live only once and that the numbers on the menu are not real. We chatted with the Spanish waiter and enjoyed our dinner, grilled salmon. We had not chosen for the local speciality: king crab. The next time after I have successfully robbed a bank, I will order one.

Fresh king crabs. 200 a piece. A true bargain.

We chatted with a Bavarian couple at the bike outside for a while and did a little walk through the town. This was very quick as the town is….not so big.

Sun set in Kirkenes.

Time for a night rest!

The next morning we left the hotel and rode 1 km to the pier where the MS Midnatsol was already waiting for us. We checked in immediately and after one hour of waiting time, I could finally ride the BMW on board. We investigated the ship for a while. It is the usual postal ship that runs the same route for decades, every day.

It’s also a cruise ship, albeit not a luxury one. Easy going. We soon enjoyed the buffet lunch and had a relaxed afternoon. Soon we visited the first stopover on the boat trip, Vardø, the most Eastern town of Norway. We only had 30 minutes on land which meant we could not visit the witch hunt memorial. It is an impressive memorial for all the women that were burnt as „witches“ in the 16th and 17th century. Compared to other places in Norway, the death toll was highest here: Out of 3000 inhabitants by that time, 91 were burnt at the stake. We visited the old fortress instead where two guys dressed as soldiers ripped off tourists by selling them entrance tickets. Funny.

The fortress on Vardø island.

Vardø, sea gull paradise.

What? Tourists again?

The moment the ship horn sounded…panic!!!

When we returned on the ship, we noticed a sign „upgrade your cabin to a suite“ with a big number (representing Norwegian crowns) next to it. They haven’t filled them, so they offered the upgrade for a fraction of the normal price. Naaah, too much money. But MJ had asked already if we could look at them. Yeah, what can I say. When we stood in the room, I knew that the decision was taken. What did we say? You only live once? Absolutely.

Our new „cabin“. Holy moly.

So know I’m sitting next to our enormous window in our enormous room watching the coastline drifting by. This is gorgeous.

The oncoming sister ship

I had planned to take pictures of the midnight sun, but just like 25 years ago, some clouds on the horizon seem to foil this plan.

No more words needed.


Going North 2018 – day 6

This morning I got up early and had the bike ready to go when I went to the breakfast at 7 a.m.

Breakfast at the Stallmastaregården.

The good selection reconciled me a bit with the dinner experience yesterday. I sat on the terrace and started to sweat already – 25 degrees and high humidity by the shore.

Felt like breakfast at a shore in Italy.

I only had half an hour for I needed to leave for my appointment: after a 20 min ride, I stopped at the BMW dealer in Upplands Väsby, where I had agreed a tyre change for my bike. They had a separate waiting area with a airco device – very much appreciated! I chatted with another customer, asked for advice on regional speeding enforcement habits and studied the current selection of Ducati bikes on sale (it’s also a Duc dealer). Very nice bikes, but the crucial question is: would you take an Italian bike and immediately set off for a round-the-world trip? See?

Is my bike treated well?

At 10 a.m. the bike was ready and by wallet was (virtually) a lot lighter. 30 degrees now. But I still had to fill up and what now followed was the most bizarre petrol station workflow ever.

The pump wouldn’t work so I asked inside if I had to do a prepayment. The answer was yes. So I grabbed a bottle of refreshment. However, I had to pay it separate. In cash. Then I had to provide a payment card AND my identity card. These stayed inside while I filled up the bike. Then I was returned the card and the ID and I could make the payment. Very strange.

I entered the E4 again and went north. Little to report there. Occasionally, I passed little lakes with falun red houses, but there was never a possibility to take a shot. That was pretty much the sightseeing of today. I hoped for fresher air, but the temperature climbed up to 32 degrees. While moving, this was bearable, with all openings open at the max.

Well, I did ONE shot. That’s the result. ….don’t complain.

I stopped in Sundsvall after three hours to fill up again and decided to visit the next-door Pizza Hut. With airco. All you can eat including drinks for only 10 Euros, that’s quite a bargain for Sweden. Don’t expect a pizza a la napolitana though. But fair enough.

I continued my ride, and slowly the temperatures went down a bit. Another three hours later, I had to put petrol again. I had texted a mate from the floorball team in Belgium to meet in Luleå as he was on home leave in the area. However, he told me he had just started to drink Belgian trappist beer and was waiting to meet Thor with his hammer. So this was a non-starter, LOL.

When I arrived in Luleå at 8 p.m., I had barely escaped a thunderstorm on the way. 25 degrees and humidity. Tropical feeling. I had a shower in my windowless room and had a very good dinner in the rooftop restaurant, overlooking the Luleå bay. Enjoying the sunset.


Road kill of the day. This winter, Santa will have extra work to do, as his furry, but very tasty companion went missing….

Tomorrow is the last stretch to Kirkenes. I expect a drastic weather change. 15 degrees cooler and occasional rain. The rest of Europe is drenched in sweat.

Luleå Bay at sunset.

Going North 2018 – day 5

This morning I got up before the wake-up call and had breakfast with a view. The announcement to go to the vehicles surprised me a bit so I was the last to exit the ship from my deck (everybody else seemed to know). It was before 8 a.m. and 24 degrees with high humidity welcomed me. I started to sweat immediately. I took a while before I had passed the control and I turned north. I know the motorway E4 well from past Scandinavian rallies. Lots of forest. I switched on the radio so the ride got less unexciting. Before Jönköping, I remembered a bonus location I had visited at moonlight: Taberg. As it is close to the motorway, I decided to do a little detour. It is a small mountain overlooking the forest. It is particular as it stands out of the plain for it is a rock that contains a lot of magnetite, together with titanium and vanadium. The high concentrations of the latter lead to its discovery in the ore.

View from the Taberg

After a few minutes I arrived in Jönköping at the hotel that I had booked. It will be the rally hotel of the European Tour and I had booked a night for today. However, I had to change my plans as I have an appointment for a tyre change the next morning north of Stockholm. The booking is non-refundable, but so be it. At least I can leave some luggage until the rally in two weeks: I dismounted the auxiliary fuel tank and put it in a large bag, together with some other stuff I don’t need until the rally.

Remove the fuel tank….

…and continue with only one bag.

It got really hot now and I decided to have some lunch snack inside a petrol station, they had an airco!

I opened all the openings in my gear to get some fresh air while riding. On my way to Stockholm, I had temperatures between 31 and 33 degrees. Along the Vättern Lake, many birch trees had brown leaves. In July! And the heat wave is only starting….

For the off-road lovers….

I saw an exit sign to Trosa and I remembered that I had passed by there during my first trip to Scandinavia in 1993. As I lacked the knowledge that I have now, a damaged valve rocker made me cancel my route through the Baltic States to St. Petersburg. I took the ferry from Gdansk to Sweden to have it repaired in Stockholm. Trosa is a cute little town with one channel with many boats. A kind of mini-mini-mini-Amsterdam , so to say.

Saab, indestructible.


It was only one more hour to Stockholm. I arrived at the elegant hotel I had booked with a huge reduction….just to find out that my reservation was for the day before (!)….


Well, this set a new record. Three hotel bookings for one night. Well done.

As it was still early, I visited the Gamla Stan (Old Town) and walked around a bit. Horrified by the masses of tourists, I looked for the quiet streets that have much more charm.


They told me I’m still not on the list…

If this reminds you of matutinal passing of water, you’re probably male and over sixty!

Very, very narrow.

Evening in Stockholm. Feels like Italy.

I returned to the hotel and finally had a shower, more than needed. I had dinner in the highly acclaimed hotel restaurant with a view on the like lake. Unfortunately, the food’s quality was rather disappointing. Any good quality Belgian restaurant makes this look like amateurs. But you don’t go to Scandinavia only for the food, do you? 😉

Tomorrow morning I have the tyre change and then a long ride to Luleå.

Going North 2018 – days 1 to 4

On Friday I went to the Eurotunnel train to meet Gerhard. Together we embarked on the train (without delay) and went northwards towards the Midlands.

With IBA Germany’s president and friend Gerhard on the Eurotunnel train.

On the way to Stoke-on-Trent we made a little detour to pick one of John Young’s Triumph Trident 50-50 Challenge. I took a picture to the Mallory race track entrance. We arrived in a relaxed mood at our hotel in Stoke where we joined other fellow riders for dinner. The next morning, we gathered at Rick the rally master’s house and received final instructions. As usual, the had a last-minute twist for us: the option to bring him back a bottle of selected beers was not optional, but compulsory! Luckily, I had this in my plan. My route was ambitious, but left me with enough options to shortcut in cases of problems. So I set off for Wales, picked some locations there; got furious about the Garmin sat nav that lead me over single track gravel farm roads instead telling me to turn around; got stuck in some massive road closure where I lost 30 min riding single track roads again trying to find a proper detour; and had a nice riding. Usual things, you could say.

The Dragon in Ebbw Vale, a really nice sculpture. (I took the picture from the internet as I don’t have my rally pictures at hand right now).

After having visited the last location in Wales, it was time for some motorway riding to London, interrupted by a visit to Whitchurch, good for some massive points. I visited the Pinewood film studios west of London and assured my compulsory bonus by buying a bottle of „Death and Glory“ ale at the Tring Brewery in….Tring. Just one kilometer away I visited the National History Museum where I had to find the greyhound „Mick the Miller“ and take a picture of him. A long walk to the right gallery, but I had asked a guard for the way so this could be done quickly. Now I only had to ride back to the finish. I managed to fit in some extra locations – the Santa Pod race track, a statue in Lichfield…to boost my points. close to the finish, I decided to make a little detour a pick another location. Everything went fine, I even could visit one more last point close to the finish. than I discovered that the bike should have been in the picture, turned around, visited the place again and got the complete picture. In Stoke I visited the Titanic brewery for another 150 points and arrived after 11 hours with three minutes to spare at the finish.

After the scoring (I hadn’t lost any points), I joined the other riders in garden for the usual exchange of anecdotes. After some food and drink, the ceremony was due:

Results of the Brit Butt Light Rally 2018

That clear result came a bit as a surprise for I had left out 1-2 planned locations. I received my certificate and a trophy and was a happy bunny. Thanks to rally master Rick and his last seven rallies, this one was also very nice! Great job!

I returned to the hotel and spent the evening with the other lads that stayed there. The next morning I went with Gerhard towards Folkestone, but not without visiting three locations of the 50-50 challenge: the old BSA factory, Triumph’s old development centre in Kitts Green and the National Motorcycle Museum. There I took a picture of „Slippery Sam“, the Triumph racing bike that keeps the record of five consecutive wins at the Isle of Man TT in the seventies.

Slippery Sam

We took the Eurotunnel train and 2.5 hours I was back home, not without some detour due to all the Belgians returning from the coast. I still had to pack most of my luggage for the big trip, but this was quickly arranged.

The trip to England and Wales (Brit Butt Light 2018).

The next day, I started after lunch. I have mounted the rear crash bars last-minute. They look ugly, but the bike is so heavy with all the luggage, one little slip and a dropping bike would result in a heavy blow to the vacation budget.

Cpt. Hutzlmandl and his „Flying Fortress“ (>500 kg).

I hit the road at 32 degrees which accompanied me the whole day. Luckily I was listening to the radio in my helmet so I was aware that there was a massive road blockage on the planned itinerary on the A1 to Bremen. In the end, the Autobahn was completely closed and the retention mounted up to 20 km! But I had chosen to go via the A2 and apart from smaller traffic jams, I arrived quickly in Travemünde where I embarked on the „Peter Pan“ to Sweden.

Hello? Anybody here?

After a quick shower, I was ready to hit the dinner buffet (first in line, LOL) where I am waiting for the take-off of the boat.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading for Stockholm.


Going north 2018

Tomorrow it will be time for some real, relaxing summer vacations. I think it’ll be some 12.000 km on the BMW and some 3.000 km by boat.

Wait a minute – did you say „boat“???

Yes, it will be relaxing motorbiking and a relaxing boat cruise.

As an appetizer, I will first do the 12 hour Brit Butt Light Rally starting in Stoke-on-Trent in England. I haven’t done it in three years and the BBL2015 was the last rally I haven’t won (in Europe). Sooo, it’s a kind of „unfinished business“ although I had won the rally in 2014 on the little XBR500.

As the rally book was handed out one week before the start, I have already prepared my route and printed and laminated my own rally logbook. Sorry, my route is still confidential, but these are all the possible bonus point locations:

All bonus point locations of the Brit Butt Light Rally 2018.

After the rally, I will return home for one night and leave for Sweden the next day. Three days later, I’ll arrive in Kirkenes at the Norwegian – Russian border. I’ll meet up with MJ and on the next day, we’ll embark on the postal ship of the Hurtigruten line, carrying the BMW in the ship.

The boat trip with the motorbike

After the arrival in Bergen, we’ll start the bike trip through Western Norway – fjords and fjells. In Oslo, I will continue on my own and ride to Jönköping where this year’s European Tour will start.

The logo of the European Tour 2018

This ET will be a three-day rally all over the Nordic countries. I had won the European Tour 2016, but this one will be different. I don’t have the local knowledge that the locals have.

After that, it’s a back to the barn ride. Three weeks in total. Sounds like a plan.

You can follow my GPS track here.


Norway – here we come!

This went well (1st place)

Just a quick message before I set off back home. My eighth Brit Butt Rally was tricky. I started it without enough data volume on my phone to send the pictures, but this was resolved after 2 hours, so that’s why you couldn’t see the progress in the spot track in the morning. I had planned an ambitious route through the North-West and North-East of England and the whole of Scotland. There was no room for larger problems or large delays. In the end I sticked to plan within 5 minutes for both days. The K1600 performed marvellously, what a great bike!

In the end I was rewarded with the 1st place, for the fourth consecutive year now. Now back to the Eurotunnel. More info later when I’m back home.

My Brit But Rally 2018. First two hours are missing on the spot. 1582 miles in 30 hours net. Cracking.

No Spot?

Some last words….if I can’t find a solution, I probably can’t activate the spot track today. I am short of data volume and need to save the data volume for the pictures I have to send. My provider had technical issues and I can’t extend the volume. Great, isn’t it?