I wake to a blanket of overnight snow. All would be serene if it wasn’t for the idling truck engines, neon, garages, and the rumble of the A3. Namibian, ever predictable, is smoking a cigarette and staring into space. And will have been for the last hour.
The dissolution of the Deutschmark was bad enough. But with the current exchange rate from sterling to euros, buying a coffee in Germany is now daylight robbery. Admittedly, it’s nice not to rummage through a biscuit tin full of Austrian schillings and Dutch guilders when simply wanting a cuppa here, but at least it was cheap then.
Ah, rose tinted glasses, the old days.. Today, however, I pay through the nose for an extra coffee at breakfast. Then, after filling up with diesel, I’m given two vouchers…for coffee.
The hundred yard drive to the fuel pumps, in weather this bleak, seems quite far enough for the day. Alas, still 560km to go.
The weather worsens as we pass Nuremberg and Frankfurt, culminating in a near white-out around Cologne. How am I supposed to finish my crossword whilst driving in these conditions?
Earlier, a particularly violent gust of wind had rendered my answer to 11 Across an illegible smudge. Instead, Michael Palin’s audio book, Pole to Pole, keeps me company.
As Namibian and I skid past Wurzburg – actually, most of the wheels are gripping the road – Palin crosses the equator into Tanzania via a gate, informing me that the highly intelligent hippopotamus has one hundred separate sounds in its vocabulary.
More water-logged, snow-choked cities pass the window, until a streak of lightning illuminates a Shell garage in The Netherlands. By the time we reach Belgium (the land of Tintin, waffles and nonsensical laws), we’re in our third country since breakfast.
And as Palin lands on the world’s slipperiest continent of Antarctica, at 10,000 feet and minus fifty centigrade, we roll into Antwerp’s Sportpaleis. Backstage, the pub across the road, which has loomed all-consumedly at the fore of our minds for hours, looks darker than it ought to. It is closed..