German V-Strom Meeting
The chunnel train is great! Just ride into the side of the last carriage and along a bit, then angle park, in gear, sidestand down. then chatter to the other bikers for the 35 minutes it takes to get across to France. Only once did we have to grab at the bikes, when the train started rocking as it crossed tracks coming into the station in France.
Once in France, I headed due east, starting out on the freeways, then soon dropping down onto the minor roads, going through all the little villages and small towns, passing the market gardens and acres of strawberry plants along the way. I stopped in a tiny village, Renescure, for a quick coffee, enjoying the quiet ambience of the delightful little coffee shop while I checked my route to the Meet.
Onwards, eastwards, I went until the evening started to cool off, and the hunger pangs hit. I called it a day in the decent sized town of Eupen, where I spied a Maccas (with the help of my GPS, of course, which is great at finding Maccas everywhere!!) as I wanted to check my email. A halfway edible chicken something or other, which I'd never heard of before, and a cuppa tea soon disappeared as I checked the availability of camping grounds in the town. Choosing one, I set off, following the directions given by the GPS to the letter.
Which was all very well, until it told me to turn left into a certain street. Feeling dubious at the size of the "street" it was directing me into, I checked the spelling of the street name on both the GPS and the signpost. Yes, it was the right street, so down the hill I went on the single lane track, as I could see it turned to the right after a short distance, the straight ahead path being blocked by concrete stanchions. Damn, the right hand path was blocked with stanchions, too, immediately after it curved! Sheeeesh, how am I gonna get out of this one? I thought. Heading downhill on a single track on a fully loaded bike. Desperate people do desperate things! An agonisingly slow multi, multi-point turn was then labouriously transacted, inch by inch the front wheel came around, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, my legs aching with the effort of holding it up on the quite steep slope, not wanting my boots to slip in the loose gravel covering the bitumen.
Scrambled it up to the top again. Phew!! I HATE things happening like that!! It takes all the pleasure out of a day's ride, somehow. Using logic and gut instinct, I headed further afield, judging where I remembered the park being located on the map and found my way there within a couple of minutes. I later found out that the downhill path is actually a walking track!!! Good one, Garmin!
A delightful meadow was available for the campers, although it needed a good mowing as the lush grass was quite long, but nice and springy. The crashing and gurgling of a miniature waterfall were so peaceful and restful beside the tent. Once it was set up, I went for a wander, camera in hand, to check out the woods and the source of the rushing water. Across a small wooden bridge and into the dark woods beyond, to arrive at a manmade levee, over which the water was merrily tumbling at a great rate.
It was coolish overnight, so I slept well for a change. Packing the tent was a delayed process, as there'd been a very heavy dew and everything outside my cosy coccoon was dripping wet, but the rapidly warming sun rising above the surrounding treetops soon dried the tent and the bike cover and everything was soon stowed in its accustomed place, and it was back onto the road to Westerwald.
The village of Bad Munstereifel is a pretty little town catering to the many tourists, in a big way. I just happened to stop because I felt the need for a coffee at that time, and suddenly found myself in the middle of squillions of people, all partaking of refreshments at the many outdoor cafes along the pleasant cobbled streets. The photos below are of views within a short distance along the main street, where I played tourist, wandering along taking photos.
A short sojourn here, then it was back to more of the beautiful forests and swooping up hills and down into valleys, breathing in the sweet clean smell of freshcut timber, as there was logging along a lot of the route I'd chosen. Interestingly, it is selective logging, done so well that it is almost impossible to tell which areas have been logged and which have not, as the remaining forest is still dense. But for the piles of logs stacked neatly beside the narrow roads, you wouldn't know about the logging going on nearby. Such a vast difference from the decimation of swathes of clear fell areas in Tasmania, I must say.
There is a ferry across the Rhine, at Linz-au-Main, which was quite quick crossing the large river, then it was off towards Oberlahr.
The 9th International V-Strom Treffen (Meeting) was held near Oberlahr, at the Der Westerwald Treffen hotel complex, which has a camping ground next door also, for those who don't want to pay the rather exxy prices for a room. I quickly set up camp, after traversing the complex campground registration process, paying separate sums for:- me, the tent, the bike, water, facilities, garbage and a "general" fee! But it was only a total of €10.50 per night, which was pretty cheap, really. It's a little unusual, this hotel, as, although it's pretty classy, it seems to cater almost exclusively to bikers, permitting loud music and raucuous laughter and drunken singing (?) until 3.30am!
Once at the Meeting, I finally registered, as I'd not done it online. After parting with the paltry sum of €10 to register, I was handed a "gift" for attending, as were all the participants - a lovely boxed inscribed mug, which will be going home to Oz in my next "excess goods" package.
Spotting a guy in a rally tee-shirt on the Friday evening, I asked where I could buy one. Uh, oh! They were only for the Organising Team, namely Torsten and his wife Bibi. But Torsten, upon hearing my accent and realising who I was as he'd heard an Australian was there, graciously volunteered his own shirt for me to keep. He said he'd give it to me before the end of the rally. Little did I know ...
An airbrush artist usually attends all the rallies, and was in great demand, conjuring up marvels in a matter of minutes, depicting V-Stroms in all colours and positions on tee-shirts or on whatever else was forthcoming. Torsten came looking for me, and asked for some details, like the colour of my helmet and bike, and where I'd come from to the meet, and where I'd been travelling previously , then disappeared again.
Later in the evening, after much Germanic chatter of which I understood nil, I was called up to the table of raffle items, where Torsten introduced me to the gathering of more than 230 strommers, then presented me with this ------
How good is this?????!!!!!!! The silver helmet, on a black bike, the pony tail flying behind, the Aussie flag streaming out in the wind, on top of the world, with the US flag on the US continent to the left, and the Irish and German flags, together with the road from Ireland to Westerwald on the European continent on the right! This one will be treasured, for sure, as it's a very unique personal one-off . What a wonderful gesture on Torsten's part. The only suitable item I had available to offer was the metal badge from the Australian V-Strom Meet held at Urunga, just days before I departed Oz, so that soon proudly found a home in the place of honour on Torsten's other tee-shirt.
Donning the tee-shirt at everyone's request, over the Urunga one that I was wearing, I then got to be the " barrel girl", drawing all the winning tickets for the many, many raffle prizes available, some of quite significant value, too.
It was a great crowd of strommers, although unfortunate that I wasn't able to converse with all that many, due to the language barrier, and I'm glad I made the effort to make the rush trip over from Ireland.. Torsten found an English couple, Gary and Ruth, and brought them to me on the Friday evening so that I, and they, could at last talk to someone in fluent English, and so began a good friendship that will continue on.
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