Take me to Hull and back

Humber, variable 3-4 becoming northerly or northeasterly 4-5 occasionally, mainly fair, good occasionally poor.

I’m driving through the Lincolnshire wolds, hawthorn trees writhing in blossom are like a series of paintings by David  Hockney, big white worms writhing around. It’s a flat landscape and you can see for miles. The roads have funny feeling that they were built for bigger traffic. I realise when I look at the map later that I’ve almost traced the route of Ermine street, taking the A1 north from London then the A15 from Lincoln. A dead giveaway at it runs almost due North up to the Humber estuary.  It’s a hot May day and the blue sky is peppered with altocumulus. Cow parsley wafts around by side of road in the light breeze. There’s no air con in my car and my phone sat nav keeps passing out as it’s black screen overheats in the sun. The traffic is light and largely distribution, double hitched straw transport lorries wobble past in the light breeze and string of roundabouts. Horseshoe distribution, Knights of old Europe, and one marked with the slogan ‘ferry, very good’ fly past and seeing the logo of Viking longship on one, I am reminded how closely tied this part of England is to Nordic country.  A compass symbol on the North East Lincolnshire signs nods to its maritime heritage.

I’m driving my kayak up to Immingham on the Humber estuary ahead of it being Shipped to Iceland for the start of the trip. Following the directions, I drive into the port, past silos, what looks like a blast furnace, a chemical works and an oil refinery. Tall towers spike out of the landscape and are guyed down suggesting it gets windy here. I pass a massive Knauf plasterboard factory made up of stacked boxes all different sizes. I keep driving and get to the port office, an ornate building now surrounded by fences. Next door is the Immingham sea farers and a sign noting it’s connection to ‘The apostleship of the sea’ I’m a bit lot and take directions to the Nordic terminal. I pass stacks and stacks of timber, tightly  wrapped in plastic. Inside Nordic house a non pluses receptionist with a headset is chatting to people in orange clothing. I Feel pleased that I’m wearing a T shirt from the London kayakathon, an orangier thing you will not see. A model of ship in a case has containers marked ‘Lurpak’ which look like tiny pats of butter. I’m directed down to the gatehouse where I’m let through the barrier and suddenly on the quayside as huge trailers thunder in. Before I know it, I’m right next to the wrong boat and have instructions to turn round. 

I find the actual directions in a long string of emails, drive to the correct warehouse and Dave from the shipping company, Eimskip, helps me wrap up the kayak. He tells me not to rush as he’s enjoying being outside in the sun. It’s frenetically busy as they offload pallets from trucks, forklifts whizz around and a crane swings above us stacking filled containers. Towers of cellophane wrapped goods threaten to fall out of the open sides of the lorry. My little car seems out of place amongst all this and suddenly the kayak seems very small and vulnerable. Dave’s excited questioning of ‘what happens if you fall in?’ and ‘How do you get out?’ Veers from ‘I’d like to give it a go’ and ‘you wouldn’t catch me doing that’ 

It’s a brown brick boxy building with a steady stream of traffic arriving outside. The slogan reads ‘cool choice in logistics’ inside there is an aerial photo of a snow covered volcano. Watercolour paintings of cargo ships hang on the walls, one side in Immingham and the other side in Reykjavík. They show a sense of pride in this form of transport and a reminder of the safety of the harbour after big seas. 

Dave and I carry the kayak into the warehouse and leave it amongst small motorbikes, toilet tissue, nappies and other odds and ends that with any luck will arrive the following week in Iceland. It’s exciting to leave the kayak and a sudden rush of the reality of the trip ahead hit me. I ponder this on the long drive back to London, but find it almost impossible to get the lyrics of ‘Freedom’ by Wham out of my head. Not a particular favourite of mine but having almost driven to Hull and back, it seems fitting.