Our maximum speed is a snail-like 84km/h, and we have less than an hour of driving time on the tachograph. ‘We should make it,’ says Namibian.
Ooh, I assume everybody knows what a tachograph is? Very briefly, it is a system that records distance and speed in trucks of 7.5 tonnes and upwards.
This paper chart – although now that we have entered the digital age, modern trucks use a credit card type tachograph – also records how long the driver has parked for rest periods. Infringements are not looked upon lightly; driving for an extra hour on a whim, for example, is regarded as a serious offence.
Over a pork schnitzel last night, Namibian tells me he loses weight all the time. ‘Remember that Lou Reed tour when I got fat?’ he asks rhetorically. I wipe my eyes and get back up from the floor, my sides still painful from laughing.
‘Am I to infer, Namibian, that you were svelte before we started?’ On a serious note, he’s lost five stone, and is only making small inroads into large chocolate bars nowadays. So you needn’t worry, Namibian’s mum, if you are reading.
Uh oh.. We have “smokies” on our tail.. so seatbelts fastened, crosswords away, and hide everything, just in case. There could be shoot-outs and roadblocks coming up. Yeehah! Oh, this is not so much a chase by the German police as them just sitting fifty yards off Namibian’s trailer doors, electronically checking whether we’ve paid the German road tax.
We’re always running legally so they peel off, leaving us to board the ferry from Puttgarden to Denmark, surrounded by giant windmills.
A Danish pastry seems apt on this forty-five minute crossing, though I wince at the price, even after the fifty per cent freight discount. I steal a pen from the waitress to feel better, then feel rotten when she borrows my own pen, apologising profusely, to take another order.
Namibian films us arriving in “Norway”. Now when he says ‘Norway’, he means Denmark, but he’s now calling every country ‘Scandinavia’ to be on the safe side. Mountainless Denmark, barely keeping her neck above sea level, passes in scarcely three hours, and is spent waving to colleagues that effortlessly pass me, the slowest truck on the fleet.
Unfortunately, there is no time to stop in Copenhagen, and anyway it’s the wrong time of year for the secretaries sunning their breasts in the summer lunch hours.
With headlights permanently on, regardless of daylight or visibility – it’s the law, you know – we take the fifteen minute boat ride into Sweden, the only country in Europe where you can still use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. But nobody calls me, and I’m too frugal to dial an outgoing call.
As we pull in at Munkedal rest stop, the snow begins to fall. Jotting down a few notes, I feel racked with guilt; the pen I am using is the waitress’s pilfered biro..