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MEN MEN MEN……Alg Rally 2006 story by Rens..

 Usually around Sinterklaas it starts happens again, we mention if somebody has heard anything yet, or if the invitation for the Älg-rally has been received yet. Yes, the butterflies in our stomachs intensify again and we please and enjoy ourselves at the thoughts of another beautiful adventure about the Scandinavian sceneries. Since this is the third time, we’re pretty well known in the Swedish region in which the Älg-rally took place the past years. This time around we already had the idea to go to Norway because the previous editions we only travelled Sweden. So, we left a week early in the Norwegian direction prior to the Älg-rally. We usually meet at (sort of) Bennies clubhouse in Retie (B). Sunday evening and so also this time at the beginning of January, to contemplate and finalize our plans. It’s the three of us (Willy, Bennie and Rens). Tom, who travelled with us these past 2 years, will make a different trip trough Finland-Lapland-Norway and back over to Sweden, we think we’ll meet him during the Älg-rally. We’ll start travelling the 1st weekend of February and drive (on Sunday) the 5th of February the German autobahn to Kiel for the crossing to Swedish Götenborg. We chose to travel Sunday since the incredible terrible dull connection is not so bad to drive and moreover there’s no burden of all the trucks. 

Sunday 5-2-2006

We meet each other at around 7 a.m. near the highway between Retie and Arendonk and start the 600 km connection to Kiel. It turns out to be a sunny day and we totally have no wintry feeling driving in these temperatures in our warm clothes. On our way, we regularly pass returning skiers mostly from Denmark. Around 4 p.m. or so we arrive in Kiel and have plenty of time since the boat leaves round 7.30 p.m.. We ‘check in’ and take a walk through the city looking for a hotdog seller whom provided us last year with his delicacy. It was probably his day off and we ended up in a cafe overlooking the Stena Line…….  There are only a few people and us on the boat, thus particularly calm. Later on in the evening we’ll enjoy a private act from the live band since the rest of the guests are already sleeping. The band finds this very funny too and plays music we like especially for us. 

Monday 6-2-‘06: Götenborg-Kongsberg 350 km (E6-o-E18-32-40)

From Götenborg we take the E6, direction to the Norwegian border. The female customs agent wishes us a great stay in her country and greets us kindly and there’s no control at all. But we didn’t expect otherwise with the warm appearance we had as tough motorcyclists.

We took the ferry from Mosses to Horten to get around the hustle of Oslo. Great Norwegian law is that motorcyclists do not have to pay toll and quite a few times we didn’t have to pay anything at all. Continuing over secondary roads we were pointed out to Kongsberg to find a vandrerhjem. It’s late and dark and we’re pretty tired the first day, after travelling 350 km in not so great weather. Only unfortunately for us, Kongsberg appears to be a workers- and ski area, totally packed and therefore no room available anywhere for us. The clerks tells us she’s sorry there’s no room, but informs us about a place some 100 km further on, supposedly there’s room over there. We’ve experienced this before so we let her know we’re very cold and create yet more compassion. With result! Since she realises there’s a room in the attic they sometimes use for conferences. We went up to have a look, but knew already this would be good enough for us. We shower and fill the evening with a delicious dinner and a zjuupke (Jupiler beer).

 Tuesday 7-2-06  Kongsberg-Geilo 150 km (40)

After a sturdy breakfast at the Inn we move on. Each day this is a time consuming ritual, because of the cold temperatures we must move everything inside which could break by freezing.

In the mornings we repeat this again in reverse order. You can see people once in a while think: what in the world did they bring along! Winter travellers know better….

Meanwhile we make reservations at the place we’ll sleep in that coming evening, we hope to attain in Geilo, also a ski area. We take yet some photographs of the wild streaming river through Kongsberg. 

Okay, time to start working, at leaving the town we had to make a stop at the local tire store because Rens has no good grip with its present winter ties. A good moment to ask for why this could be and to see if they had different tires to replace them with. The problem turns out to be the hardness of the rubber compound which grinds harder in Europe rather then in the Scandinavian countries, because of the higher permitted speed limits.  There’re two spares in an Oslo store, the branch of Vianor Screamed -this lies more or less on our way- doesn’t mind putting them aside so I can have ‘m changed the next day. All is well.  Moving on to Geilo, it has been snowing the past weekend so many Norwegians are busy clearing everything. But on such days as these we’re reminded about why we travel Scandinavia.  It is brightly sunny and with a temperature of about minus 5°C, one beautiful day.  

The drive over the 40 is dazzlingly beautiful mostly because of the sun that appears on the fresh snow. About 60 km before Geilo we experience very steep curves on the roads of the Skur Valley and their slopes. So far they remain under 10 percent, no direct problems. Of the three of us Bennie is the only one driving with spikes, Willy and Rens slide a little more on top of the sometimes icy slopes. At the top of the mountain -1100 meters- we make a stop for some coffee and soup.  There’s a mean wind blowing which lowers the temperature extremely.  We chat a little with a Norwegian couple and their child whom are enjoying some cross country skiing. They find it most fascinating that we come and enjoy their country on a motorcycle in this kind of weather.  Usually we get the point across of why we do and have done this before, for this is top enjoyment with a capital E. Once we cross over the last pass, we get to see the wonderful and beautiful view of Skurdalen over Geilo and all of its ski slopes, already lit since the sun sets early today. After the last curve in our descent we arrive downtown about 30 minutes later, find a camp ground and fill the evening with a sauna visit on the premises.

 Wednesday our 3rd day in Norway Geilo-Gol 50 km (7)

During the night we had some 20 cm snow fall, thus a beautiful fresh layer on the motorcycles and surroundings.  The roads have been cleaned again, so we can reasonable drive, although we have to pay good attention for our cycles to slide away underneath us on the icy layer.  It’s only some 50 km toward Gol and  the whole drive we see nothing but frozen river beside us, everywhere. Left and right of us we see beautiful high mountaintops and we feel incredibly small driving in the Halling valley. Once arrived in Gol, we inform at a local glass store about the of Vianor branch. The design glass industry, still experiences quite some popularity here in Norway we find out trough talking to the owner. The tire has been changed and Bennie puts his spiked tire on his bike. While in Oslo, they had ordered only 1 tire and now they mention the other one can come as soon as tomorrow, so we decide to stay over in Gol that night and the clerk (also a motorcyclist, only in the summer though!) recommends us a nice camp ground where we find a nice 6-persons cottage including sauna. Our menu says French fries -Bennie ultimately brought his deep fry pan- and a great peace of ostrich steak in o.j. sauce with fresh cauliflower. 

 Thursday the 9th Gol-Hemsedal-Gol 250 km (52-E16-51)

Breakfast is as usual, sturdy bacon and eggs. We think it’s good for you to eat well when surrounded by these cold temperatures, starting the day wit a good breakfast. We don’t eat again until dinner, these are the two meals for us but the only thing we take on the road is a can of soup and coffee for the day. We had some 15 cm of snow during the night and the temperature has gone down to about -10 to -15°, we’re being treated very well…considering the weather.

First picking up the tire at Vianor’s store and further on via the 52, direction Hemsedal. First part of today’s tour begins with a steep climb and some beautiful views, we go reasonably fast upwards and  drive between and on top of the Hemsedal, at about 1000 meters altitude. Downtown Hemsedal which is also a ski area, we take a stop at the local gas station. The wind is very cold and blows hard, so just outside the gas station we find a place to warm ourselves and run in to 3 other motorcyclists. They’re Germans, who are also known with the Älg-rally, but travelling their own route this time. Driving further down the Hemsedal, the wind remains blowing hard, sometimes so tempestuous that we really need to decrease our speed, it almost seems we’re being blown off of the road. It’s a fascinating view how the wind blows the fresh snow around on top of the road, almost spooky. You can’t see a thing in front of you but we keep driving through about a meter high of powdery snow and the only thing we can do is to concentrate on the taillights of the person in front of us, so not to get lost. On the last piece of the route 52, we make another climb and see that the warning signs for snow chains us, are put up for a reason. A truck with trailer has stranded on one of the slopes, moments later we pass a tow truck and we seem to know instantly where he’s going to. Meanwhile, arriving on maximum altitude, we drive   on the vast plains of Morkedalen. We make regular stops to take some photographs of these wonderful views who are accompanied by great silences. So peaceful up here, since there’s close to none traffic around. At the end we make a right turn and start driving on the route towards Oslo that runs in to Bergen. It takes us along frozen lakes -often as slippery as a billiards sheet but only then white- and see the many small ski slopes of Filefjell. At Leira again we take a right turn and so we complete the circle to Gol. Immediately after Leira we find robust (hair pin) curves and climb again pretty steep. We drive in to the sunset and have a wonderful view across the high fir trees and which look beautiful from all the colours created by the sun. Just before Gol, we have to make the descent in the dark and slide the hills upon trusting our guts. Back on the camp ground, we had a beautiful day and take yet another sauna in the evening. 

 Friday 10 feb.  Gol-Krystall-Gol 50 km

Today has a cold start, temperatures between –15 and –20° cell. Willy’s bike has problems starting up. The engine doesn’t run. First we try a couple of times with Bennies bike and some jump cables, but without result. We start to tow it, after a couple of laps over the camp site, we have to suspend after some acrobatic moves (almost death experience). It appears to be frozen and realise it won’t come back to a normal temperature under these conditions.

The camp ground owner offers to let it thaw out in a shed, not to far from where we are. We thought everything would be alright again in a few hours, wishful thinking. So after a few coffees we tried once more, but still nothing. We let it stand overnight and decide to come back tomorrow. So we’ll be spending one more night on the Gol camp ground, only we don’t regret it too much since it’s a nice cabin we stay in, we had packed up everything already. We knew from some German guys, to whom we had spoken to on the boat, that the Norwegian Krystall-Rally was being held here in the neighbourhood. Supposedly in Oset, the route 51 which we travelled yesterday. Willy and Rens travelling together and were off, after a half hour drive we stop at a hotel where indeed we see about ten motorcycles on the parking lot. It is a tame intention. The Krystall riders look at our bikes and we look at theirs, which mostly happens on a motor-rally. The solo-motorcycles owned by the Norwegians get the most attention because of the robust nail tires. We talk a little and decide to take off at the 35th Krystall-Rally. Hopefully more cycles will come over the weekend for the guests. Despite the fact that it is not spectacular, we do really have respect for the ones who turn op here -some already for the 35th time- for the remaining wintry and sometimes miserable (beautiful) circumstances to get there.

But we are well of opinion that the Älg-rally has much more to offer with the intension of travelling from site to site. Back on the camp ground, Willy treats us to a delicious rabbit meal, which he had laid out to thaw already this morning and despite the wintry temperatures, consume a cremké afterwards.

 Saturday, it’s weekend, Gol-Tynset 400 km

(51-E16-33-250-Lillehammer-E6-27-29-3)

First all attentions to only Willy’s bike, he’s doing well, because even before the start button has been touched, the BMW starts its engine! We feel positive; the weather is just perfect with a beautiful sun. Driving along at about an altitude of some 1000 meters we really just feel the cold for the very first time by a temperature of about –15°. We take the shortcut to Lillehammer and on the way we chat a little with a father of some local cross-country ski girls, for the Norwegians have this Saturday off too of course! In Lillehammer we want to go watch (car) Rally of Norway that is held by chance yesterday and today. Unfortunately for us, it appeared to be a training to which we decide not to wait for and instead we drive on till Tynset, the first stop on the way to the Älg rally.

Continuing over the E6, we continue our trip trough a rough region in the Rondane nasjonalpark, populated with large bold mountains of about 2000 meters height. The undergoing sun which is setting leaves beautiful colours behind on the snow-covered white mountaintops. Once in a while, we drive between snow banks of about a half a meter high and where the wind has had an open space, cleaning the roads completely. Last year we were travelling in the same region only this part was closed due to high wind speeds and fresh snow on the roads, so this year we’re very lucky to have been aloud to travel these beautiful parts. And what bigger coincidence this could be since the winter overalls we’re travelling with -of a certain Hein G.- also bear the name Rondane. It’s already dark but we’re still driving and take a and stop at the Tynset Camp og Motell. We get a new 8 person cabin because tomorrow the Älg-rally will start here and we do expect some trashy people.

 Sunday 12-2-2006 Tynset, a day off

We reside in a very cold region, this morning the thermometer reads –25°.  We take a day off and will not drive anywhere today, since we had such a long day yesterday. The camp ground lies just outside town and today we decide to take a walk there.

Even for the Norwegian people this is considered a cold day, we can tell because the streets are close to be deserted. Or would it have been the tension of the Olympic Games, for the Norwegians were up for the Biathlon.

We take some pictures at the camp ground and also on top of the frozen river with its nostalgic wooden bridge. Unfortunately we’re unable to drive on top of the river because of too steep river beds; otherwise we would have certainly done this. With the strong fierce sun –who definitely compensates the cold very cold temperatures- the photographs will be beautiful, walking back over the bridge we notice a robust wooden pole in the river bed with marks and year numbers engraved. Probably of extreme high water positions and we realise the in the mid 90’s the water must have been this high and the neighbouring camp ground must have been flooded almost entirely.

We go back inside, for it remains around under -20° and we try to warm ourselves. Around sunset the first 5 Älg-riders arrive. They had a pretty tough ride so far and when they left Oslo this morning they started the drive off with some heavy dens fog and a –15° temperature. It was definitely a tiring day for them to come so far in one day. After a welcome drink -something with strong salty water- and a frozen beer we all enjoyed our evening meal.  Good filled pea soup, a powerful plate of spaghetti and a coffee liqueur after.  That evening, the first stories are being told and the one thing we still remember and has been a conversation topic throughout the whole trip was definitely the flamed tattoo of a certain M, a vague friend of M., and definitely one with a divine, ja ja…

Drinking just a couple of beers, this was a very calm but pleasant evening. We didn’t go to sleep too late, for tomorrow the rally continues to the Swedish Idre. 

 Monday 2nd day of the Älg-rally Tynset-Idre 200 km (30-28-221)

The first couple of hours there we find many big ice blocks on the road surface. The main road has been damaged immensely by travellers and therefore there’re many holes in the top ice layer we drive on. Again we are lucky to have a very nice sunny day and because of that, the road beneath us seems like a mirror we’re driving on. After a stop on this slippery surface -with our winter tires without spikes- it’s necessary to regulate our speed every so often. We drive trough the valley of the Hammalfjell and follow further on to Lake Femunden. Near Femundsenden, we decide to take the small back roads. Here we find again snow-covered roads instead of the icy (by now) common slopes, it is a lovely drive with an incredible view over the Lake which we’re still following, only now in a northerly direction. Via the Femundsmarka nasjonalpark, we approach the Swedish border. Here we take a quick stop to warm ourselves a little trough warm drinks and pose by the border pole. The routes at the Swedish side we still remember from previous rally's and by evening we arrive in Idre, just a quick stop at the local bank for some Swedish crowns and a good peace of bread for tomorrow morning. At the Soralvens Fiske camp Ground of Peter and Silvia, we meet all 13 participants of the Älg-rally. After the sauna we’re invited by Peter and Silvia for their winter-BBQ, all around the fire, we spend the evening well. The temperature is probably around –15 °. 

Nice small cabins on the Soralvens Fiske camp – Idre – Sweden.

Tuesday it’s Valentines Day.

The rally remains on the camp ground one more day. Everyone can spend their day as they please.  Some will spend it working on their motor gear, the German men fix a broken bike and others go off and visit some stores in town. 

I take off for a day of skiing in Idrefjall, it’s only 10 km far from the camp ground and it’s the 2nd largest ski area of Sweden. The descents are not comparable with the once in the south of Europe, but you will spend a great day wit plenty of alternation. Back on the camp ground we get a surprise visit by Tom who came to Sweden by travelling trough Finland via the Pole Circle. It turns out to be a Belgian ‘thing’ especially between Willy -his fixed travelling buddy- and Tom. After our evening meal, we amuse ourselves again round a campfire at the river bedding on our camp site. 

 Wednesday 15 feb 2006 Idre-Lillärdal-Salixbyn 200 km (70)

A reasonably short and easy stage today. We take the route to Särna and go on searching for a pet (dog) store. Bennie seeks information about the little socks the sleigh dogs are wearing here. We are sent around at first and finally find what we are looking for, a sleigh dog farm. Our arrival is loudly being announced by the approximately 60 huskies and drive actual a little too far and too close near the dogs run.

We meet the owner, a woman who, together with her daughter, takes multiple day tours with tourists trough the stretched out lands here in the neighbourhood.

Bennie receives the required information and comes up with the idea to have his sister make the little socks, once home. Driving back to the main road –meanwhile we were far along in the woods- we make a stop close to the ski slopes of Särna. We realize that the Swedish people are raised jumping these slopes, since there are 4 different heights to jump off from.

On the last part of this journey we pass a profitable slaughterhouse along the way only unfortunately they had already finished all up for this season. Blood tracks in the snow and some birds flying around, was the only evidence of what had happened before. In Lillärdal we stop at the only local restaurant and hear of the other Älg-riders who had stopped there for lunch. Jointly we drive towards Salixbyn just outside Lillärdal where we planned our stay at the Harjulfs Resor. It is truly an exotic spot alongside a frozen stream in the middle of the woods, far from the inhabited world. We sleep in small wooden cabins which are kept warm only by us burning small wood on some stove.  There is one small oil lamp hanging above the table and this will have to provide us with small amount of lighting and our dinner is being served in an old renovated stable. Though, the most beautiful thing about this place is the sauna with hot tub, all made of wood and with wood burned heat of course. For the skinny dip, there has been made a opening in the river and automatically gets named THE BLACK HOLE. We turn out to be lucky because with just –8°, this is a nice soft evening. Ultimately it is not the water being so cold, it’s running out there that provides you with a couple of frozen feet! Once in the hot tub, it all starts coming back to life again…..

 Thursday the 16th Harjulfs Resort

Today we decide to stay in the Resort one more day. We want to be adventurous with the snow mobile and on our drive we planned an attempt to go ice fishing. We take a drive with some old Volvo’s to town where the snowmobiles are waiting for us. Moments later we take a wild drive through the woods. We have some good times ahead of us, since there are about 600 km of snowmobile tracks here. After a one hour drive, we take a stop at a large lake which is perfect for our ice fishing adventure. But as playful as we are, we first explore the lake, for now we can really speed on the ice. Most of us disappear very quickly out of site, in the direction of the other side of the lake. The scooters go about 100 km on top of the fresh snow and if you only drive such mobiles once per year, you can really feel the result! Only, turns out one of the scooters has a 120 horsepower engine and of course everyone is immensely eager to experience the robust feeling between their legs, if you know what I mean. Man man man what a fast vehicle it is, in no time the speedometer points out to 140 km p/h and it will almost give you a.…

After fishing –Ruud, the lucky one who did caught a fish- proceeds further and drives sturdy in between trees and open spaces for a beautiful journey through this wonderful wilderness. We often create new tracks and notice a herd of reindeer from a distance. For us, this can not last long enough, but when  we’re starting to get a shortage on our gas levels, our guide starts taking us back towards town. Just one more stop at the gas station and yet one more short drive trough the tracks back to the parking lot at the rental place. The scooters are really great and over here it is very common to stall them along side the road, like we are used doing with our bikes. It’s nice to see that this is still possible here. At the end of the afternoon we arrive back at the Resort and enjoy a beer which is well deserved. After all, it’s our holiday. In the evening, the saunas and hot tub are being well used again.

 Friday next to last day again Lillärdal-Tyngsjö 250 km (260-63-45) 

We start this morning with some light snowfall. We say goodbye to two wonderful Swedish hotel owners and thank them for their hospitality during our stay in the Harjulfs Resor. The way to Älvdalen definitely deserves in the top 3 rank of the most beautiful driving routes. We swing between the grand fir trees, of which the branches vigorously bend because of the snow.

The road is covered in a layer of fresh snow, which gives driving it an extra dimension. The advantage of a vast country as Sweden is that when you drive such beautiful routes, it’s usually for some ours at a time. And also here, this is called enjoying with a capital E. In Älvdalen, we take a fuel stop, and exchange thoughts of what we’ve seen so far and a chat with the other drivers- we usually drive in smaller groups. I make a stop at the local pharmacy because I burned myself at the sauna yesterday and get some sterile gauze. We remain driving on the country roads and stop right before Malung in Malungsfors for a visit at the Lissmans Skinn- & Viltprodukter fabrik.

It’s starting to become a tradition, for it is the third year that we visit this place. But the owner doesn’t realise that and starts his story all over, about how he saw a bear around here when he was still a little boy. Again fully with pride, he points out the footprint which hangs on his wall. We remain polite and listen as if we hear this story for the first time. They tell us there are still quite a lot of bears living in Sweden, between 2 and 3000. With a good feeling, the owner waves us goodbye and promises to recognize us a next time we come around.

Only, actually we really didn’t need any bear skins, what we needed were eggs, bacon and some sturdy bread for our breakfast for tomorrow morning.  In Malung a slightly bigger town, we stop at the local supermarket. Here is where something happens to Bennies bike. After the errands, we want to continue for the last 50 km, only his cycle makes no contact whatsoever.

Only after working for a few hours, we choose to think about transportation for the motorcycle to the campsite. A person we meet brings the solution; he knows the camp ground -because of some work he had done in the past, and knows that the local antique dealer just got a new truck. This guy behind the motor, we take off to help the antique dealer, who is willing to help us out for some change. We are very happy since it is Friday afternoon 5 o’clock and most of Sweden started its weekend already.   

At 6 o'clock he arrives at the store and we load the motor in the truck.  Bennie takes a seat in the truck together with the stranger, the antique dealer and his wife, so quite a pleasant drive. By Yttermalung, we leave the main roads directing towards Stockholm and must travel through the dark woods to Tyngsjö, for also this camp ground lies isolated. Despite the fact that it’s dark, the antique dealer – a person with a great look because of his beautiful large and grey beard –puts in a fast tempo. Around eight we arrive on the campsite.  It s starting to get late and don’t feel like doing the dishes so late at night. The other Älg-riders are having a pretty relaxed evening themselves too. Nicole and Andre are not spending the night with us, they already took of towards Göteborg. 

 Saturday 18 February Tyngsjö-Göteborg 350 km (240-63-45)

Bennie arranges his bike pickup by the automobile club, and drives along with Rens in the sidecar to the house. We divide the baggage and start driving just around noon, for we have a lot of time ahead of us and the boat leaves around 7.30 pm.. We take the last paths through the woods of Sweden for this year and take shortcuts via Hagfors -where we pass different old cars who’ll participate in the Swedish Classic Car Rally -  till Karlstad. After Karlstad, we only have to follow route 45 who will bring us to Göteborg. We realize we left the snow covered roads for what they are and continue further on the main roads, covered with asphalt. But it was not all that obvious, as for Willy, who is always in front, -otherwise driving problem-freely for the 2000 km that we drove during this tour here this year took just before Göteborg-harbour the route to the ferry of Öckero instead of that to the Stena Line. But on time, we arrived around 5 o'clock at the Chinese restaurant opposite the check-in counter of the harbour. Also, this ‘goodbye’ dinner at this restaurant, has become a tradition over the last tree years. The restaurant sits full with homeless people, at least we seem to think so and each year it’s weird sitting between drunken men and women. On the boat, the last evening we meet almost all the Älg-riders, the 3 German guys, came back via Oslo. We talk some about the experiences during this 7e Älg-rally. It turned out to be a very nice and good one. One with all the ingredients for experiencing a beautiful and adventurous winter tour. 

We close the evening off with a weird German guy who insists on treating us to tequila and some beers. We oblige go along, consider it a nightcap and go to sleep.  

 Sunday the 19e February Kiel-Belgium

We leave in foggy weather and with a little traffic before the Elb-tunnel in Hamburg we have a smooth drive. We make 3 turns of 200 km and are back in Belgium that evening.  In tradition off closing we drink one more beer at the local pub of Retie- on the good result, on a great holiday and a beautiful adventure. 

 But why now the title: men men men…

 Well let me tell you. Recently I was at the theatre for the performance of Man man man (by Walter jan sens & Bears Schollaert) (B) and those men explained what the title meant of men men men, …. At very special occasions or experiences people in Holland and Belgium say quit often: men men men, that was quite something, or men men men that was really good…….. 

 And also I have had this phrase played over in my head the past two weeks, perhaps as many as a hundred times. And for now, I want to close with: MEN MEN MEN what an enormous beautiful winter tour and particularly pleasant Älg-rally. 

 Photographs; Willy and Bennie

Text; Rens

Translation; Mirjam