Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Saturday 5th November - Off to foreign shores!

      Saturday Morning at 04.40 saw us departing Wickford and heading for the '23rd Nachtrit' (Night run) rally in Holland. Our ferry was booked at 08.15, but neither Amanda or I could sleep (Excited I guess) so we decided to leave earlier and try and get an earlier ferry. We arrived at Dover at around 6.15 and managed to get on the 07.00 crossing. (Although Sea France did extort an extra £5.00 off of us - funny that because our original booking was 08.30, but then they changed it to 08.15 for 'operational reasons' but didn't give me £5.00!!!)
(A very dark Dover at 06.15)

Anyway, the crossing was smooth but grey and our departure from Calais was very wet with more rainy weather that had drenched the south of England all day Friday. (and flooded my garage-again!)

 The rain continued past Dunkerque, Zeebrugge and Ostend, but once past 'The Corridor' and heading south towards Gent it brightened up. By the time were on the Brussels ring road it was quite bright. (Well as bright as Belgium can be anyway!)

 We travelled the 202 miles from Calais to Slenaken without a break and by early afternoon we were in Holland. Whilst on our travels we found a town called St Geertruid which was quite apt seeing we were in 'Gertie' which is short for Gertrude! We thought it was funny anyway!

By mid-afternoon we had arrived at our hotel which was also the start location at 'The Best Western Hotel, Slenaken'. I have to say it was very plush as well. We then decided to go and fill up with petrol before the event which took us 5 miles away to Gulpen where we found the high street closed off due a beer festival! With the night rally starting in a few hours I decided to keep away from the beer and return to the hotel for an hours nap before the 'signing on' time of 16.00 CET (Central European Time)  
In the signing on hall we were greeted with coffee and fruit pie and given our road book and instructions for the event. The first car would be leaving at 17.00 with one minute intervals between the other cars. We were entry no.42, which meant we would be leaving at 17.42.
We left at that time and gradually made our way through the villages and towns of Gemmenich, Eupen, Moresnet, Baelen, Membach, Champagne, and many others and took in  some fantastic roads through the wilds before crossing back into Bullingen in Belgium for the halfway stop. Amanda and I didn't fancy a big meal at the restaurant so we were typically British and went and found a Pizza and Kebab takeaway. Result!
With our food downed we left Bullingen and covered more villages and towns including Schonberg, Galhausen, Crombach, and Ramersdael. We were obviously zig zagging across borders because by the time we arrived at the finish I had had two texts on my phone saying welcome to Germany and three saying welcome to Belgium! (Didn't get any from Holland though?)
    At around Midnight we returned to the start/finish location and joined the other competitors in the bar. The only other British entrant had already left and retired to his Hotel, but luckily there were other CT members there that could speak good English. A few beers were consumed, but not many as by now, Amanda and I had been on the go for 21 hours and were feeling a bit jaded! So, we bid our farewells and retired to our room.
     After a good nights sleep we demolished our continental breakfast of cheese, meat and bread (My favourite breakfast!) and then set off to meet Amanda's friends who live in Holland. We met them at a lovely hotel not far from ours that had a real friendly and family feel to it. I might even consider booking it for next years event.
The day had started foggy and damp, so with that in mind we left at around 11am and started heading home. It had also turned quite cold but that didn't stop some brave soles playing in their boats on the water!

The drive back through Belgium was quiet and uneventful and erm.......very empty! the pic below was taken at 12pm on Sunday. I wish our bloody motorways were as empty as this!

Once through Belgium we ran back into France to find.....more bloody rain! Oh well, we had set out in the rain, we may as well finish in it too. 
  Despite the fog and the rain we hadn't been held up, so once again were in Calais earlier than our planned sailing. (Quite a bit earlier actually!) We didn't fancy sitting around for two and a half hours waiting for our ferry so Sea France kindly extorted another £5.00 off of us to put us on the 15.00 hrs crossing. the crossing was a bit more bumpier this time but still took the same time, so all was ok. We then drove out of Dover and straight into a traffic jam! We had covered about 700 miles by now and not encountered one hold up, but as soon as we hit British shores everything stops!

Anyway, we had a great time and the rally was really enjoyable. There's another one also in Holland next March which we've already booked and hopefully, we'll be back for this one next year. Gertie performed faultlessly and we didn't even need to open the bonnet let alone the tool box. She does stuggle a bit on the hills when loaded up with spares and tools though, and for this reason I'm preparing a 2.5pi engine for her. I have just one more rally to do this year and then I can start getting her ready for her transplant. I plan to do it over the Christmas break.

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