This year's FEMA festival was announced with plenty of warning so we had plenty of time to plan ahead and make arrangements. In fact, it took so long to come along that by the time it arrived I had forgotten that I had not actually booked any time off work was almost not allowed to go when I found out on my last day at work! Luckily my manager said OK (perhaps influenced by my mention of going AWOL).
One more technical hitch was the really unexpected problem with Cathy's XS650. Normally such a reliable bike, capable of going 50 miles without a hitch (depending on the weather), this time it didn't make it that far. So at the last minute four of us squashed onto two bikes and headed off to Portsmouth for our Dover to Calais ferry. Then I was told that it's probably better to head for Dover under these circumstances. My only excuse is that I'm used to going to the Portsmouth ferry port for a trip to France so I got confused. Again.
First we visited Amsterdam for a few days, treated ourselves to a B&B in Ghent and then headed off to a small coastal town called Koksijde which had kindly agreed to host the festival. We were very lucky to get guided in to the town by some people from Luxembourg who turned out to be the first band on that night. This was especially handy as our navigational skills on the continent had proven to be similar to those I demonstrated in the UK. The band headed off to the sea front to get their tickets while we headed straight for the campsite following the little white signs which we were lucky to spot. About four miles later we arrived at the air base where we were to spend the next two nights.
The rest of Windsor & District MAG were there along with our friends in Take a Chance RC. Some consolation to us was that they had not seen the signs and had been guided in from the sea front by some of the organisers. We also did slightly better than the band who turned up about half an hour later so there's hope for us yet. Wycombe & District MAG turned up in force just as we left the beer free zone of the rally site for Koksijde again. Well we couldn't be expected to wait around to 2.30pm for the beer tent to open. That was all of an hour away.
Koksijde itself is similar to what I imagine Eastbourne to be like in that the average age appeared to be around 60 to 70 with an unfeasably large number of small dogs around the place. Still, there were plenty of bars to choose from for a meal and a really good selection of Belgian beers. So we kept ourselves entertained quite easily for a few hours and headed back to the rally site for the evening entertainment.
The view of the rally area had been obscured by a large bunker type thing earlier so this was our first view of what was on site. There was one huge marquee where the bands and the bar was and one other tent where food was cooked. Other than that there was some showers and the usual porta loos. The reason for the lack of stalls was because all the stalls were located on the sea front where most of the events would take place the next day. Even so, it's a shame that there couldn't be more to do or look at on the site.
The recorded music played was fairly varied before the bands came on at 10pm. But once the bands started we were hurled into a series of seventies heavy metal thrashes. That may sound like heaven to the Belgians (and maybe a few older bikers) but I doubt that it would have pleased many of the other visitors there who have been listening to music created post 1975.
The next day we found a programme and asked one of the Belgian marshals to tell us what list was for today and where and we set off into the town again. We saw Wycombe MAG hiding behind menus in a bar as the time for a drunken challenge issued the night before was nearing. We'd agreed to race them on some six seater bike type things at 2pm but for some strange reason, it didn't sound like such a good idea the next day.
The programme wasn't exactly 100% accurate but we did manage to take in a lot of what was going on. There was some strange music on the small stage, line dancing and Dixie land Jazz. Not sure what that was about but the stunt show by "Jimmy Jump" was very scary. He was riding some sort of trials bike up a ramp doing some rather big jumps. Then he would swing his legs all over the place and virtually get off the bike in mid air before getting back on just in the nick of time!
A group of riders called "Extreme" certainly knew how to do wheelies. Wheelies with one person, wheelies with two people on the bike and, wait for it, wheelies with three people on the bike. There was a bit of a theme going which could get repetitive after a while but it was announced as a "Wheelie" show in all fairness. Also they did other stunts such rolling burn outs too or standing on the tank. I couldn't quite believe they were doing stoppies with three people on there! Very impressive.
Other attractions were various stalls, a demonstration by a Sea King helicopter, Young rider of the Year competition and some other stuff which we weren't quite sure of. A few of us went back to the site for a test ride on some new bikes. Oh and I must mention the loos in one place we went to. A cleaning arm came out and stayed still as the whole seat revolved. Spent ages watching that, definitely a high point. And I'm sure it's perfectly normal to take video clips of it despite what all my friends say.
We missed the "Speed trap" which was a stretch of road where you could have your speed measured by Police equipment without getting a ticket. So plenty going on in the town during the day and even back at the site (we hear). We were in no hurry to get back to the now dead rally site so we had another good meal in one of the restaurants before returning to the 1970's ... oops, I mean the campsite.
Luckily we'd missed the first band of the evening which we heard were the same as last night, followed by clone number four who had the radical idea of playing exactly the same music but with a bald lead singer. The fifth and final band was a good change and even though they played some stuff that might be considered heavy (The Ace of Spades) it was somehow better sounding and they even played one of my favorites - "She Sells Sancturay" by the Cult. So a bit more variety and some tunes we knew and could sing along too.
The same events were on again on the Sunday as we headed for the ferry port wondering why the rally hadn't worked out as well as it should have given the list of things going on and the huge effort put in by Belgium MAG (with a little help from Yorkshire MAG on the marshalling front). We concluded it was the distance of the events from the campsite, the lack of musical variety or any stalls or, well, anything else at all in the evening to do. We also wondered why some tossers have to nick stuff from tents and why violent arseholes from Norway write "Overbergs MC" on their jackets. Still, at the end of the day (as Frankie would say), we had a great holiday. Just a shame most of it was before we got to the FEMA festival!
Very windy while we were there. Took three to get this air
bed in before it blew away and at one point the beer tent was in
danger of falling over!
In the beer tent -
Some of the bikes and trikes -
On the sea front -
A picture from Siôn that finally shows that me and Paul don't look anything
like each other! -
Click here for video clips
Stuff from the programme.
Some more pictures at Wycombe MAG's site.