Dutch Courage…

My brother-in-law and his wife, R&N. took part in the Dakar rally in January. Two weeks in the gruelling Saudi dessert.

When the rally was over the car it was shipped to the Netherlands and Richard asked me if I would help retrieve it. This required us to drive over to the Netherlands and for me to drive it back. It would mean me driving a rally prepped car I had never driven before in a foreign country, on the “wrong” side of the road. I approached the task with some trepidation.

Like all travel out of Market Rasen it required a train journey to King’s Cross. Never simple because I had to get a train to Lincoln, change for Newark Northgate and then get on the LNER train to London.

After recent storms this was never going to be easy and the East Coast Mainline had problems with overhead powerlines, which meant I arrived in London an hour behind schedule.

We left London after a filling fish & chip supper just after 18:30 and arrived in Harwich with plenty of time to spare. Once through customs we drove onto the ferry and headed straight for our allocated cabins.

I have never undertaken an overnight ferry crossing – this was a first. In fact I haven’t been on a cross channel ferry for over 30 years.

The cabin was surprisingly spacious with TV and ensuite bathroom.

After the high winds of recent days I expected a rough crossing however I was rocked to sleep by the gently rolling rhythm.

With disembarkation at 6.30 and a change in time zone I was living on caffeine and adrenaline.

We undertook a 3 hour drive in the Ford Cmax across the Netherlands. We arrived at the collection point then I started to “earn” my keep. As a rally car there are not many comforts and the interior was covered in a fine layer of sand. Getting into the driving seat and pulling on the full harness was quite torturous. There were several times when we stopped for a break then Richard was driving away and I was still strapping in.

My brain soon switched from left-hand driving to right hand and all I had to do was follow Richard in the Ford. We had decided to kill some time by driving to the Louwman motor museum in the Hague.

The Louwman museum was a real find. The café was set in a mock street setting which was superb. We had bowls of soup with chunky bread before exploring the museum, we had plenty of time to kill because the ferry didn’t leave until 22:00.

We wandered through all of the spaces and managed to stay for 3 hours, we would have stayed longer however the museum closed at 17:00.

As we exited the museum the heavens opened and I was faced with the prospect of driving through the rain, in rush hour traffic, in a city that I didn’t know, on the wrong side of the road and following Richard ahead of me. I didn’t have a satnav.

Amazingly I didn’t get lost and we arrived at the ferry terminal with several hours to kill before boarding at 19:30.

I had a good night’s sleep and was awake at 05:30. We were through customs and border control just as the sun was rising. We then set off for London down the A12, patiently weaving a path around rush hour traffic. Surprisingly I managed to keep on Richard’s tail all the way to his home.

To celebrate our successful venture R&N took me out for dinner at Frederick’s. It was a great night – good company and good food.

Thursday lunchtime found me on another LNER train to Newark Northgate where I had 75 minutes to kill. I walked into the town, visited Starbucks then walked down to Newark Castle station in a minor blizzard. I was home by 16:00 feeling very happy that I agreed to take part in this adventure.

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