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Sweden 2006 via Bornholme


I warn you now, this might be long.  17 days, 4 Indians, a Harley and 1700 miles.


It started last year.  We knew we were riding the bikes but which way and over what timescale was undecided.  The offer made by the Nordic Indian clubs to attend their rally the week before the Swedish international only added to the indecision.  How many miles can you do on an Indian in one day?  Depends on the number of bikes you are travelling with.  Cut it too fine and you leave yourself open for major problems if something breaks down etc, etc.  After looking at about 10 different routes, various comrades dropping out, it ended up with just me and Pete and two bikes until we spoke with the Dutch contingents, Tony & Hennie Leenes and Sipke.  They were leaving on Wednesday 19th July and going to the island of Bornholme, expecting to be back at their museum around Thursday 3rd August.


There was much discussion about how much holiday we had left and could we join them.  So back to work to book 13 days holiday with only 12 days left.  No one noticed, I had exceeded my quota and was taking unpaid leave.  It was only July and this would mean problems ahead for the rest of the year.  Sod it, we were going.


Rather than lose a days holiday riding from Calais to Lemmer, we loaded the bikes in the van Monday, went to work Tuesday and left (earlier than we should have) at 3.30pm for the Eurotunnel and the train to France.  No problems so far.  We hit France & Belgium around rush hour but no problems.  The problem came just as we hit the A10 at Bruges, with major traffic jams.  2 hours later (and only 5km) and one of the hottest days of the summer, we exited the A10 and found an alternative route.  What should have been a 4 hour journey, 300 miles, took 7.5 hours and 325 miles. 


We arrived at Tony & Henny's museum at 1am.  No niceties, we went straight to bed in one of the caravans on the site.  There being no house, just a hole in the ground, but that is another story.  Tony’s final words that night were, we are leaving at 7am.  Christ, we had not even unloaded the van.


6am the next morning, the big Dutchman was making a noise on the caravan door.  From then it was a rush to get up, dressed, unload the bikes and then load them ready for the trip.  Anyone who knows me will be impressed, it is normally two major caffeine injections before speak and other bodily functions start working.  Sipke arrived promptly at 7am, a few final last minute packing requirements and we all set off, Henny leading us on her 741 rat bike, Sipke on his very nice Chief, me on the newly rebuilt Chief, Pete on his Harley WLA and tail ended by Tony in his unmistakable Mercedes box van.


Hennie led us at a good pace on nice quiet roads, out of Holland and through Germany.  We were heading for Sassnitz, on the North East coast of Germany to catch the ferry for the island of Bornholme.  We were booked on the boat for Thursday midday.  We had two choices, made the 500 mile trip in one day (some going required) or get as close as possible and complete the rest early the next day.  We ended up covering the whole distance in one day, it took 13 hours and we all arrived in Sassinitz with sore bums and zingy fingers around 8pm.  All in all a good trip, the bikes performed well with no major problems.  Pete’s Harley decided to shed a few excess items along the way, his toolbox and later his tax disc holder.


A hasty decision to book a hotel instead of camp was agreed upon and we ended up traipsing through a very nice 9th story hotel to be told the restaurant was about to close.  Needless to say, dinner came before anything else, which caused many a curious look from the other guests as 5 sweaty, travel stained bikers sat down to eat.  A problem was discovered at the start of our meal, the Germans had no idea what Cider was.  Trying to explain that it was beer made from apples resulted in a larger with apple juice added.  As the lady who supplied this was watching avidly for my praises, I had to hold the surprised expression and pretend it was perfect.  A very curious drink indeed, but an opening on the continent is there for any Cider producers!


After dinner, further curious glances ensued when said bikers unloaded their overnight baggage.  Not a suitcase insight, bin liners, top boxes and rucksacks!  The bikes were all chained up together in one corner of the car park and Tony’s van was inconspicuously parked outside the reception.  We all headed off to our respective rooms for a much needed shower and crashed out for the night.


The next day was the total opposite, no rushing required.  A lazy breakfast on the 9th floor with spectacular views over the sea and some of the town.  The normal buffet style, eat all you want affair.  A slow packing up of our overnight kit and we exited to the hotel car park.  Tony had booked his van onto the boat to Bornholme at 11.30am.  It was agreed that to save costs we could load all the bikes into the van and share the costs.  So four bikes were loaded into the van at the hotel, a very nerve racking job to watch as your bike is manhandled over an antique ramp, held together with a lorry strap, and squeezed into the van.  All saddlebags had to be removed in order for the bikes to fit.  All bikes loaded, we set off for the harbour, 1km down the road.  Having only three seats in the van, Sipke and Pete were elected to find a space in the back of the van.  Sipke related to Pete, whilst in the dark of the box van, that he used to have spy holes but Tony had stuck stickers over them.


We boarded the ferry to Bornholme with no problems, instead of all jumping back into the van, we were strutting down the entrance ramp, five abreast, followed by The Indian Support Van.  The cowboys had arrived; the crew just waved us all through.


We arrived on the island of Bornholme at 3pm, a 3.5 hour crossing of approximately 100kms, unloaded the bikes in the fuel station outside the harbour and rode the 26km to the rally site.  Talk about chalk & cheese, one day a record mileage, the next a trip to the shops.  Pete and me followed Sipke, who selected a lovely shady area to camp, at the top end of the field, under the trees.  It was another stinking hot day, with the next three days being forecast the same.  Tony & Hennie were at the opposite end of the field, being part of the attractions in the traders section.


The island of Bornholme is very small but with lovely open roads, not much traffic and passing through farmland and woodland most of the time.  You can travel around the island in one day easily, which we did on the ride out on Saturday.  Being an island, fishing is a big industry, which is reflected in the local cuisine.


We all booked into the rally, which was organised by Ole Kohlert.  His wife, Helge,  and daughter were his chief helpers and responsible for all the food over the weekend.  They deserve a big thank you; it was excellent quality and plenty of it.  His daughter, being heavily pregnant, was probably very glad when we all went home.  As each individual registered, their nations flag was raised on the field.  There were a surprising number of nationalities present.  The rally site was situated on the site of a special needs school, with a large playing field and the school buildings facilities, toilets, showers, kitchen and halls.  We were all presented with a large white canvas bag containing our rally sticker, plaque and various tourist brochures for the island.  Lastly, we were given a number and a large rally sticker for the bikes, this would become clear later and was for the main ride out on Saturday.  Being an early arrival, we all went out for a walk to the harbour town and sampled the nearest eating house.


Friday on the island was for setting up Tony’s stall, meeting new and old friends as they arrived and then exploring the island a bit on the bikes, picking up provisions etc.  Friday evening was a “cook it yourself” BBQ pack, massive in content along with salad and bread etc.  A good start to a great weekend, with people chilling out and drinking into the wee hours.  We were especially waiting to meet Henri again, he said he would be coming from Denmark after meeting him for the first time in Horsham earlier in the year.  He must win the hard-luck award – having started out on his Chief with his daughter on her Honda.  The chief broke down in Sweden, he had to get it recovered.  His daughter gave him a lift back to Denmark to pick up the reserve bike, Triumph Bonneville, then back again into Sweden where it was tipping it down with rain.  They both finally arrived at around 12.30am, still soaking wet, to be offered the use of the communal Tepee for the night.  We were all amazed as it had been another gloriously hot day on the island.


Saturday breakfast was offered in the main hall of the school.  A very civilised affair with proper tables and chairs.  The ride out organised was to be a point to point affair with each person leaving the site separately, timed as they left, the large sticker for the bike had a number on it and was to be logged at each check point and a set of instructions as to where to go.  Hennie was staying behind to finish the stall, so Tony got the chance to take her bike out.  The big man on a small bike is an amusing sight, but Hennie had given him instructions to treat her gently, she was an old lady and needed tender care (the bike I mean).  The remaining four decided we would do our own ride around the island and meet the others for the lunch time stop, much easier (or so we thought).  We had a pleasant trip round the island, visiting little harbour towns for a refreshing drink here and there.  Nearing the time to meet the others at the lunch time stop, we realised we had got the wrong place, we proceeded to go up and down side lanes off the main road, each one proving to be the wrong one.  Much asking of directions and we finally spotted some other Indians, we were heading in the right direction.  A few more u-turns and we found them, we were the last to arrive.  The ride back was less stressful, cutting through the centre of the island and the forest, although we were in danger of having to drag Tony up the hills on Henny’s bike, a lot to ask of the “Ol Lady”.


Saturday evening was a grand affair, we were eating in the main hall again but this time we had proper tablecloths, table decorations, a proper bar and a singer (Indian rallies will never be the same again).  The food again was delicious.  The trophies were given out after the meal and most people were milling about outside to smoke and get some cooler air.  Due to the warm conditions, the band was relocated outside and the party continued again into the small hours.

Hard luck Henri was a bit delayed for dinner.  The local constabulary had spotted him wearing an illegal Davida crash helmet.  As he was also unable to produce his driving licence (having left it at the camp site) they confiscated his bike and helmet and made him walk the 6km back to the site.  He arrived hot, sweaty and with blisters on his feet only to have to borrow a legal helmet and beg a lift back to pick up his bike.  As another rider had also been fined earlier in the day for wearing the same helmet, I did my best to swap my Vespa helmet with his, being the same size that argument did not hold.  Needless to say, the deal did not happen (Henri the offer still stands).


Sunday again was a full day, none of this, “have breakfast and be gone by midday”.  There was a ride out organised to a local aqua park & zoo.  The ride out was led by a couple of vintage cars, these were no slouches in the speed department and the ride there, going by a very circuitous route was great.  Arriving at the recreational park, we were all allowed to ride through the packed park where a display of American cars was being held.  The Indians were allowed to join in the display.  Several hours later we were all escorted back to the rally site, shepherded by the vintage cars.  A great day, good weather and great company. 

Back at the site, people were starting to pack up, some leaving later, some on Monday and a few were staying over for a few more days.  We had various friends that were also going onto the Swedish rally at some point and we made plans to meet at places along the way.


Monday saw us packing up our tents and loading the bikes again to make our leisurely way to the Swedish rally site in Hultsfred.  We had originally been booked on the 6am ferry, but Ole had negotiated a change of ticket and we had a much more civilised ferry, 3.30pm.  We said our goodbyes and headed off round the island to visit one of the motor museums and to get ice cream.  If you ever travel with Tony, this is a required daily intake.  We arrived at the harbour in Ronne in good time, we performed the precarious task of loading the bikes back into the van and boarded the ferry to Ystad in Sweden.  A 2.5 hour crossing on the slow ferry.


It was 6pm when we arrived in Ystad, Sweden.  The job of unloading resulted in me thinking “I don’t want to watch that again”.  Hennie knew of a campsite about 75km and an hour away, one they had used before so we all fuelled up and set off.  The campsite in question was full but luckily there was another one 3km down the road which wasn’t.  The owner was a very nice man who had spent 12 years living in St Mary’s Bay in Kent, he was so surprised, he ended up ringing his friend who came over with his vintage bike.  It was getting late and we were pitching our tents for the night, not much time to enjoy all the facilities of the site.


The next day, Tuesday, we were heading towards a friends summerhouse in Sweden.  This was situated in the middle of the pine forests in a small village called Skruv.  The journey there was excellent, the roads were getting quieter the further north we went and ran straight through pine forests with brilliant blue lakes glimpsed through the trees.  When we were nearing the town, some 85 miles from our previous camp, we were almost getting bored of the scenery.  As we neared the village, we were parked looking at the map when an Indian flew past.  There were a few more making for the same overnight stop.  We found the house, down a single lane grassed track, parked the bikes in the garden and pitched tents wherever there was a space.  The house, owned by Couza and family from Denmark, is a wood built building, having no running water, very little electricity and an outside toilet consisting of a dual (communal) holed platform in a shed at one end of the garden.   The area also sports some of the most vicious mosquitoes I have known.  Lunch was served al fresco, where you were given your food in one hand and a fly swot in the other.  The thwacks that accompanied lunch were ignored by most but as a first timer, it was amazing.  There were around 15 Indian people gathered and the evening saw a BBQ, which Bof (pronounced Beef) from Denmark oversaw.  The mozzy repellent came out in force and was shared around.  TIP:  don’t just spray exposed skin.  Thinking I was safe, I got two stings through my jeans, which proceeded to swell daily until even the jeans were too tight.


Wednesday we left our friends and made our journey to Hultsfred, a 90 mile ride, again through great tree lined roads.  Up to this point the weather had been so hot, when we were about 15 miles from the rally site the heavens opened.  It was a torrential downpour, which soaked us all.  As we were already wet, we did not stop to don the waterproofs, trying to deny the change of weather.  10 minutes later, out of the downpour to brilliant sunshine again.  By the time we arrived in Hultsfred, we were mostly steam dried.


The rally site at Hultsfred was a rock festival site, situated by the side of a massive lake.  We were one of the first few to arrive and had the choice of where to pitch our tents.  After the recent downpour, Sipke could be heard to say “find the high ground Pete”.  As it happened, Tony & Hennie were in the separate traders sections, which had a wire fencing around it.  We pitched our tents the other side and were often seen passing things back and forth through the fence like convicts. 


We were too early for any amenities and the local town of Hultfred was a 15 minute walk away, along the lake (watch out for mozzies!).  Two of the Swedish helpers kindly offered to show us the local restaurant, a Chinese, gave us a lift there and explained the way back.  It appeared that most other early rally goers were also either in the restaurant when we arrived, or turned up during our meal.  Hultsfred is a small town but large in comparison to its neighbours.  Come evening time you wonder where everyone goes, there was no nightlife we ever found.


Thursday saw more arrivals and the erection of Tony’s stall.  A trip out on the bikes to find the local supermarket and stock up on provisions again and get acquainted with the town.  On our travels we were passing other Indians doing the same thing but in a different order.  As we were staying for several days, we made our camp homely and did some much needed washing of clothes.  We also found a semi private shower situated in the open stage.  Actually these were the dressing rooms for the stage acts, there were two of them located either side of the stage and became our private suite during the weekend.  Two other English guys, Tony & his son, found our camp and were our neighbours.  They also made good use of the fridge in the dressing rooms, we had cold beer all weekend!!


We signed into the site and received our weekend agenda and rally pin.  A nice idea was the nametags given to everyone, which had your name on in and your countries flag on.  These name tags, worn on a strap around your neck, allowed you to enter the site again and made talking to people much easier, no need to go through two or three languages before you found the right one.  Also avoids the embarrassing situation where you know the person but cannot for the life of you remember their name.  Around 4pm a rumble of thunder was heard, signifying bad news.  Alo and behold up turns the other English troop, John Wright and his gang.  Then the storm arrived proper, it lasted about an hour and the rain washed out the site. The Dutch were out showing everyone how to dig dykes and helped drain some of the more flooded areas.  Again, once stopped, the sun came back out and everything was drying out nicely.


Friday was another glorious hot day.  Lots of bikes arrived, many we did not normally see.  Being a bit further north, the number of attendees was around the same, just a different group of people.  Wonder what it would be like if everyone turned up to one major International?  Probably give the organisers a major headache.


Saturday started with breakfast, nothing to write home about, then preparing for the ride out at 10am.  The ride out left quite promptly, and was a tour of the local area on good roads, albeit a bit bumpy in places.  The final stopping place was at Lonneberga to witness the official unveiling of the monument in honour of Oscar Hedstrom.  Oscar was born in a house called Grindsbo and a plaque marks the foundations of the house (which is sadly no longer standing).  I think somehow the foundations of the house may be somewhat diminished by the time the Indian enthusiasts left the site, people wanting to take a bit of a souvenir with them (I mention no names).  The monument is situated just beside the house.  When the Indians arrived, we were parked in a huge line, there were refreshments on sale in the marquee erected for the occasion followed by speeches in Swedish, translated into English and German by willing delegates.  The unveiling of the monument prompted a queue of people, all wanting to have their pictures taken beside the statue.  Towards the end of the photos, it started to rain gently.  People in the know where scurrying to get their waterproofs on and get on their bikes.  Me and Pete were strolling back to the bikes wondering if we should chance not putting the waterproofs on when it started to rain in earnest.  We were now one of only a few Indians left, so we quickly donned the one-piece sex item, jumped on the bikes and headed back to camp.


Back at the site, the bikes were lined up in the centre of the camp ground, surrounded by puddles of water.  It had stopped raining but I realised I had not taken any photos of the bikes and site.  This I quickly accomplished, so you know why most of the photos look wet when it was good weather most of the time.  The evening affair was an al fresco dinner, not much choice, you either had it or you didn’t followed by a live band in one of the half open stadium buildings.  The band started quite late and played until 3.30am, when the last dancer crashed out and went to bed.  We were camped quite close so you were not sleeping until they had finished, it was very loud, even outside the building.


Sunday people were packing up and leaving.  The Swedish helpers, and their were quite a lot of them, were clearing the site and leaving themselves.  By mid afternoon there was just our party left and one other inside the venue, along with a couple of camper vans outside the venue.  It was a quiet dinner and bed.


Monday morning the Dutch decided to play a joke.  We had introduced them to the word “ish” somewhere along the route.  9ish being somewhere between 9am and 10am.  As Tony announces we will be leaving at 9ish on Monday, Pete and me were rushing to pack up the debris of 4 days on site.  For once we were ready for 9.  So we waited and waited and then finally around 9.55am the Dutch arrive, on time according to them, to lead us back on to the road south.  The whole time I am thinking, “do I dare unpack the coffee for one last injection?”.


We depart around 10am, stopping for fuel in Hultsfred.  Here Hennie sees a picture of her bike on an advertisement board outside the station.  It appears the Indian rally has made the local papers.  We proceeded to purchase the last three copies of the newspaper, along with the advertising poster outside and set off.  We are heading for the Oresund Bridge, which joins Malmo in Sweden with Copenhagan in Denmark, some 250 miles.


The journey proves to be somewhat damp along the way, we hit frequent weather conditions, mainly torrential rain.  The waterproofs are donned again for most of the day and we arrive at the Oresund Bridge in sunshine.  Tony motors ahead, where he pays for all the bikes so we do not have to sit and wait and get too hot.  As we approach the tolls, the Chief feels a bit weird on the front end.  Sure enough, the front tyre is looking a bit soft.  A quick signal to Pete and we decide to get over the bridge and stop at the next garage.  The tolls open and everyone is off, like the starting grid at a racetrack.  As I move off the Chief is doing a good impression of trying to throw me off and I coast to a stop just past the slip road to see the other three bikes and Tony’s van disappear into the distance.  Suddenly it is very quiet and I push the bike up on the curb, out of the way.  The tyre is totally flat.  We have breakdown cover but this could take hours, we have a spare inner tube but not the easiest thing to change on the side of a road, and no air to pump it up.  As I think about ringing recovery, along comes Pete (the wrong way on the hard shoulder).  He sees the problem and races off after Tony & Co who had stopped on the bridge.  Then along comes Tony in his box van, inconspicuous as ever, in sight of the tollbooths, reversing the van down the hard shoulder.  We quickly get the Chief in the back of the van, not an easy job without Sipke’s height, and away we go.  I was annoyed not to able to ride over the bridge, especially after just paying the £26 fee to cross it, although it did give me a chance to photograph the others riding their bikes and to give Tony directions through the centre of Copenhagen, via Sandra our very polite sat nav.


Copenhagen was interesting.  Lot of very stylish buildings.  We were meeting up with Morten, a member of a bike club, Killer Bobbers, who had offered us the use of his floor for the night.  As it happened, he also offered us the garage facilities shared by the club and everyone made light work of changing the inner tube on the Chief.  TIP:  check the inside of your tyres for any stickers, this was the cause of the puncture.  Pete was in his element in the garage, it was full of classic Harley bobbers.  For once he was in the majority.  Morten’s apartment was a short walk from the garage and we bumped into many of his biking friends on the way there.  We managed to obtain a bed for the night (courtesy of his flat mate) after a celebratory drink or three and left the following morning after a breakfast of fresh croissants.  Thanks Morten, we owe you one.


Tuesday saw us travelling down through Denmark to the Rodby – Puttgarden ferry and into Germany.  The plan was to travel as far as possible, camp for the night somewhere.  We managed around 200 miles this day and ended up on the A1, just outside Hamburg.  We decided to find a campsite, we would have to come off the main road to do this so we tried Sandra again, there was only one campsite within 26 miles, so off we went into the sunset following verbal directions (I had forgotten the handlebar holder and had Sandra stuffed down the front of my waterproofs.  She led us a merry dance, off the motorway, through single lane farm tracks and quiet country roads.  During this time the rain came again in earnest and it was getting dark, my glasses where waterlogged and every time we came to a junction the heat from the engine just steamed them up.  We missed the turning for the campsite, so another u-turn and we were there, diving for shelter under the porch outside the toilets.  It was situated in a little town and once we had pitched the tents and put on dry clothes we hit the first restaurant we could find.  Very nice meal, and much appreciated.


Wednesday, the last days riding.  We left the site to travel through Germany and into Holland, back to Lemmer.  It was approximately 250 miles.  We started off with our waterproofs on and we encountered the worst rain I have every experienced (that includes the washout in Lincolnshire a few years back).  It was one rainstorm after another, the roads were flooded, you just tried to follow a tyre track from the car in front.  It was raining so hard it was hurting my face, I spent most of Thursday with one hand on the throttle and one hand over my face to protect as much as possible.  It was a very welcome sign to see “Lemmer 4km” and a surprise to realise it was so close.  Upon arriving back at Tony & Henny's, Sipke had peeled off for home and was meeting us back at Tony’s later, we all took turns in the shower, put on dry clothes and headed out to the local Chinese for a last meal together.


Thursday we packed the bikes back in the van, had a tour around the museum, then left after a quick visit to the town of Lemmer for provisions.  As we had all day to get back to the Eurotunnel, we had made arrangements to stop into Michel Clements shop, this was only a slight detour of 80 miles.  We arrived at the tunnel three hours early for our train, it was heaving with traffic and no chance of getting an earlier train so we hung around and finally arrived back in the UK at 10pm.


Friday was unloading time again and then off to see friends to show them we were back.  Much to Pete’s disgust, I would not let him wash the Chief until the next day.  She was road grimed all over and, as we found out later that day, in need of a new drive chain.


We had a great time, all the bikes performed well, and we want to do it again next year.

Anita Dray   

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