Driving to China (ish) - Day 2

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May 2nd 2015
Published: May 3rd 2015
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Day 2 - Dover to Dresden

This was always going to be a tough day, calling for about 9 hours on the road after a 2 hour ferry crossing..... and so it proved. Fun, though.

We were up and out of the b&b by 5am, and on the ferry by 6. Whilst other passengers slept on any flat surface they could find, we spent the time drinking 143 espressos, taking sneaky photos of the maps in the shop, and totally failing to work out how to split the cost of the petrol we'd used so far (surprising, considering that one of our party is an accounts analyst). We also spent a mere 21 minutes working out how to stick on those weird little european headlight deflectors. "But you've still stuck them on upside down", you might say. I say it depends how you look at it :-)

Once we'd landed at Dunkirk, we did indeed turn left, and headed up the coast towards Belgium. Incidentally, we chose to arrive at Dunkirk rather than Calais deliberately, in rememberance of those who died trying to bring us the kind of freedom that makes such journeys as ours possible. I mentioned in my first post that I think it's important to make the most of that gift.

So, knowing that we had very little time in France before reaching the border, we found some sand dunes by the coast as the location for hole 2 of The Longest Course Ever Played. Basically playing as an 80 yard stretch from tee to target rock in the middle of a 40km long bunker, John scored 1 point for winning the hole, Dave F 2 points for 2nd place, with 3 points awarded to me for coming last. The scores after 2 holes were all square on 4 points each.

There are no border checks at all within Europe itself it seems, and we hit the highway at noon knowing that we had 550 miles to cover and Belgium and Holland to cross before to Dresden, Germany and our first night in a hostel.

Being men on a mission, we had no plans to hang around in Belgium, and zoomed straight through stopping only to play hole 3 of T.L.C.E.P. The "Couldn't-we-find-something-better-than-this-layby" hole 3 actually utilised a hole at the foot of a tree. I won. Overal scores afterwards: Dave P = 5, Dave F = 6, John = 7.

Holland passed in a similar fashion...... no point in delaying to see places that can be seen at the drop of a hat some other time. But before we reached Germany, Dave F woke up from his back-seat nap on the meercat to find that I had stopped next to a skate-park. It was my turn to choose the location for the next hole of the round, so we spent an entertaining half an hour trying to get our balls to hit the target situated at the top of a skate ramp half-pipe. I won, being naturally skillful and cunning in these matters, and could repeat my shot anytime I like, thank you very much. Scores on the doors, DP 6, DF 9, JR 9.

So yes, the meercat. I was collecting a few last minute bits and pieces at a carboot sale near Stratford a fortnight a go when I spotted a 1.5 meter tall, 1 meter wide, stuffed meercat wearing a red smoking jacket for sale. It was huge, absoutely huge, but I knew straight away we had our 4th passenger and trip mascot. The kind couple selling him seemed to appreciate my reasons for buying, and are hopefully following along on this blog too.

The meercat was totally crammed with tiny polystyrene balls, and barely fit in the rear seat to be taken home. There was no way however that a scrupulous border official was going to let it through without being cut open and searched, so to avoid having to clean up billions of white balls in front of pissed off Russian border guards, I knew he had to be emptied.

Once at home, I cut a big hole in his bottom, and held him by his nose to drain the filling into a wheely bin. The balls filled the whole thing, there were that many. I then took the almost-empty meercat pelt to mum for her to get rid of the last sticky balls, and to put a big zip into it's back.

My mum did an absolutely fantasic job, made 100 times harder by the way the remaining balls get charged with static electricity, and stick to EVERYTHING. Mum even googled for some solutions to this problem, and was amused to find suggestions like wrapping yourself in masking tape, sticky side outwards, then rolling all over the balls. Mum also named the meercat 'Sputnik', which roughly means 'fellow traveller' or 'companion' in Russian. Good name

My plan for Sputnik was two-fold: We can now stuff him with cushions and sleeping bags, and use him as a big back seat cushion to sleep on en route (we've all had a nap on him now, and he is very comfortable). He is also our comedy mascot, and a useful tool for diffusing potentially difficult road-side situations; we expect to be stopped on various occasions by corrupt cops trying to extort a bribe. Its happened to me before in other countries, and is known to happen on our route. The best way to deal with these issues is to play ignorant, be polite, and try to get the cop to smile rather than keep pretending to be forboding and cross. If I'm right, the prospect of a group photo with some crazy brits and a giant meercat will put off any cop with ease. If the opposite happens, at least we'll have the story :-)

And so to Germany. The scenery finally started to improve, as we moved past Dortmund and into rolling hills and fields. I was given some more grief by the guys for taking up more valuable boot space with a pack of 100 tealights. What can I say...... I like my campfires to be romantic too.

The roads were well signposted and smooth, and we arrived in Dresden at about 10pm. We then headed into the part of town with all the nightlife, all absolutely dog-tired but very satisfied. We found a cool bar themed around the cult classic The Big Lebowski, and set the world to rights with a few black russian cocktails before bed.



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