East Germany, Here We Come!
At the tender age of Forty, this was to be my 4th International Six Days Enduro. The first three events had been a massive learning curve, with the sand in Holland, the rocks and a bad back in Spain and the rain in Italy. So by now we sorta knew what to expect.
The road trip to Jelenia Gora was interesting in as much as we had a guest traveller by the name Drew Smith who was riding for the American trophy team but decided it would be more fun to travel overland with a bunch of Brits riding for a club team, namely the Welsh Trail Riders Association. It was Drew’s performance on the bored out Honda XR250 that prompted me to ride the same model in the 350cc four stroke class at the French ISDE the following year. The other point to mention here is that in all my 6 ISDE’s, I competed as a WTRA club member and was more than happy to do so.
Humour In Western Germany!
As usual, our ISDE trip started with a ferry boat to France, then on to what was then called West Germany, (the wall dividing the West from the communist held East Germany had yet to come down). Whilst bowling along the main road in Germany, the trailer, that held all of the bikes, bits and kit decided to throw a tyre, so by the time we got this swaying pendulum under control all we had left was the wheel and two side walls, the middle tread had disappeared completely. Did we have a spare? Err, umm, no! So we removed the wheel and went off in search for a replacement tyre. In a small commercial centre we found a tyre fitting service and asked the man in charge if he spoke English? (I’m still ashamed of us Brits who go abroad with no language other than English, although, I do now speak a little French) “Yes”, he said, “a little.” I had the two side walls of the exploded tyre behind my back and asked if he did a remould service exchange for the new tyre. “Yes of course, in Germany we call them retreads” I then produced the two side walls and, with a straight face, asked if he could please add a retread to these. Poor man, he was desperately trying to explain that it couldn’t be done when he suddenly realized we were pulling his leg and we all fell about laughing, including him. Who said the Germans have no sense of humour! Since we were on our way to the ISDE, we asked if he would sponsor us with a bit of discount? This resulted with another “Yes, of course, for your cheek”
We fitted the new tyre and pressed on for the border between East and West Germany. As we approached the border we realized that the division between east and west was huge, we drove into a vast area of concrete and barbed wire with raised sentry posts all around, I felt like we had driven into some sort of prison yard, like you see in the movies. Our passports were taken from us and the customs official disappeared into an office along with a 10p piece per person for a transit visa between West Germany and Poland. A problem arose when some of the coins were returned with the explanation, this is not proper currency. You see, back in 1987 we Brits still had some old florins/2 shilling coins in circulation from pre-decimalization days which were used as the new 10p coin, so we had to ferret around to find enough new coins to satisfy the customs and border guards, eventually we got our passes and were told we had 24 hours to get ‘along the corridor’ to the other checkpoint at the Polish border or they would come looking for us. Crikey those communist guys were really scary.
Finally, we all got under way, ISDE here we come. There were four vehicles in convoy, our 508 Mercedes camper van with trailer, My mate Neville, with Drew on board, had his Bedford Dormobile camper van, Deano, my out-rider along with good old Geoff Hand Snr were driving the Daihatsu 4 Track and the Faulkner family had their camper van. Some way along the motorway in East Germany, we decided to stop for a break and then get on our way again after we had eaten. Whilst we were all sat about chatting, Maureen Faulkner had rustled up beans on toast for Bill, Rob and herself when there was a call from my mate Ron “Grub up you lot.” We were presented with steak and kidney pie, boiled potatoes with greens and gravy, and yes, he did make the pie right there in a lay-by on an East German motorway! Drew Smith couldn’t believe his eyes; he said that in the States on a long haul to an event, they would just drive between burger joints. What were his comments? “Crikey (or words to that effect) you Brits are something else, I can’t believe it, you guys sure travel in style.”
After feeding we got under way and bounced along the motorway, those roads were rough! We passed towns and villages that looked dirty and neglected with a few Trabant and Moskavitch cars parked here and there. We drove on; into the night. At one point we saw headlights coming our way, on our side of the motorway; we hadn’t had any warning that there might be a contra-flow, just headlights on our side of the road, what the hell was going on? Then all was revealed; where the motorway crossed a ravine, a bridge had been built, but only half a bridge, the other carriageway didn’t exist, just a bit of reinforcing bar sticking out of the concrete, hanging in mid-air, hoping that one day the rest would get built. I don’t want to get too political, but communism! What’s that all about? Soon after, we decided to park up for the night and finish the trip to the Polish ISDE in the morning.
Morning arrived, so we pressed on to Poland. I clambered into the back of the Mercedes and made a cup of tea for me and my mate, at that point the Daihatsu pulled alongside and Dean mouthed the words “Where’s mine” so we wound down the window and passed the tea across to him, then Neville in the Dormobile drove alongside Dean, and asked the same question and in turn received the tea through his open window. So, you have 3 British vehicles, all driving side by side along a motorway in East Germany, with tea being passed from one to the other, in a foreign country that was renowned for the authorities, handing out reprisals for crimes a lot less serious.
The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful and we arrived at, and through the border and on to Jelenia Gora without further ado.