Week Eight: The Even-Slower-Than-Expected Race

22/05/18-28/05/18

Distance: 249.5 kilometres / 155 miles
Elevation: 2,664 metres / 8,740 feet

 

Before we left in April, we booked a return flight from Stockholm back to the UK for a family wedding, thinking we’d make it that far in roughly three months. According to our calculations, we won’t. That’s why we decided to catch a train through northern Germany, leaving us twenty eight days to cycle roughly 1,500 kilometres through Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Seems feasible.

We had a couple more days of cycling with Jacob through the Black Forest, before catching the train. Needless to say, we didn’t reach our end target with him either. Rather than waving goodbye to each other in Stuttgart, we did it in Forbach – 100 kilometres before.

Then it was the epic train journey.

As we’re obviously on a tight budget, we looked for the cheapest train ticket available, which was a Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (translate: cross country ticket). This ticket allows you to travel on any local and regional trains between 9am and 3am the following morning, for €44 for one person, plus €8 every additional passenger, totalling four people. We paid €52 for us both. It was roughly 870 kilometres from Forbach to Flensberg, near the border of Denmark. Challenge accepted.

 The long journey begins. 

The long journey begins. 

We’d met a German couple, Max and Nora, in Forbach who said German trains never run on time. This got us anxious for some of our more shorter transfer times. If we missed one, it could set the whole journey back – and we were already arriving at midnight! There wasn’t an awful lot of room for error. Thankfully, though, the 15-hour, 6-changes journey was a dream. There was one last-minute platform change, which saw us guide our 50kg+ loads down some stairs and push them back up some others (lifts weren’t working). But even with that, the German train system completely puts the UK’s to shame. All seven trains ran on time; there was plenty of proper bike storage, where you could keep an eye on your bike; and some trains even had charging sockets, so we could charge laptops and battery packs. 

 Our epic 15-hour, 6-changes itinerary.

Our epic 15-hour, 6-changes itinerary.

We made it it Flensberg at midnight, as expected, and pelted straight for the town’s campsite, threw up the tent and went to sleep. We had the following day off to recover from the journey, stock up on food before pricey Denmark, and to try put an end to the fuel saga!

If you’ve read any previous blog posts, you’ll know we’ve really struggled to find Coleman Fuel (white gas) outside the UK. Our stove – Primus Omni-Fuel I – takes gas canisters too, so we haven’t been stuck; it even takes unleaded petrol. But canisters are expensive and don’t last long and petrol… well, we’re leaving that as a last resort. We have Googled every fuel alternative, yet haven’t actually been able to find them in shops. We were getting desperate!

There was an OBI and Bauhaus (not to be confused with the old German art school) in Flensberg. Both DIY shops. Armed with a list of fuel names translated into German, we went on the hunt. A shop assistant in Bauhaus reckoned ‘reinigungsbenzin’ was exactly like the ‘spezial benzin’ they sold. We ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’, then bought four bottles. Excessive, we know, but that’s what a week without any fuel at all does to you.

 Deciding which explosive fuel is the right one. 

Deciding which explosive fuel is the right one. 

  “We’ll take four of your spezial-benzin, please!”

 “We’ll take four of your spezial-benzin, please!”

Now you know you’re dealing with dangerous stuff when you come to test it out and make a plan for if everything sets on fire, or worse, explodes. To our relief neither plan had to be used and we brewed a coffee instead.

 We also used a little to degrease and clean the chains and cassettes, which we read online you could.

We also used a little to degrease and clean the chains and cassettes, which we read online you could.

We left Germany the next day and crossed into Denmark, where we expect to be just as money conscious as we were in Switzerland, it being just as expensive and all. In our research, however, we did learn about free campsites throughout the whole country. The Danish Nature Agency have a website (open with Chrome to auto-translate) showing the locations of them all - there are over one thousand of them! We set ourselves a challenge – you know how we love a challenge – to get through the whole of Denmark using only these free campsites. That’s five nights of wild camping (we have a ferry booked to Norway on May 31st*).

 Surprisingly, not all European countries have border crossings like this. Often, you don’t even realise you’ve crossed the border.

Surprisingly, not all European countries have border crossings like this. Often, you don’t even realise you’ve crossed the border.

 Denmark has an excellent cycle highway system, which keeps you completely off the road. 

Denmark has an excellent cycle highway system, which keeps you completely off the road. 

We’re now two nights into the challenge, having successfully stayed at two of these free sites. And, we found such a great one on our cycle today, we decided to take our rest day a day early and wild camp here tonight. There’s even a toilet and water tap at this one; it’s also where I’m sat writing the blog…

Let’s see if we can complete the challenge next week. I guess it depends on how much we want a shower…

 Free Campsite Challenge: Night One. There were a few picnic benches and a locked hut.

Free Campsite Challenge: Night One. There were a few picnic benches and a locked hut.

 Free Campsite Challenge: Night Two. We were literally in the middle of the forest - there were midges and mosquitoes everywhere. 

Free Campsite Challenge: Night Two. We were literally in the middle of the forest - there were midges and mosquitoes everywhere. 

 Free Campsite Challenge: Night Three. This one had everything - water tap, toilet, fire pits, shelters, picnic benches, children’s play area. All free. 

Free Campsite Challenge: Night Three. This one had everything - water tap, toilet, fire pits, shelters, picnic benches, children’s play area. All free. 

*In case you’re interested, we booked our Hirtshals, Denmark to Bergen, Norway ferry a week before travel with Fjordline for €212. Passengers were €25 each, bikes €19 each and a standard 2-berth cabin was €124. You have to book accommodation, either a reclining chair for €50 each or cabins started at €124; it was a no-brainer.