Distance: 28km riding
In the morning thousands of people gathered on the shores of Ijmuiden to farewell us from The Netherlands.
They even organised a parade of boats through the harbour, music blaring, people dancing... it was quite the nautical celebration. We wondered if it all spontaneously erupted simply because the sun came out...
We enjoyed the party and headed off to the terminal of our departure. It was exciting to be going to Newcastle, and to be staying overnight in a cabin! Almost a hotel... with beds... and hot showers...
The voyage across the north sea was quite rough, it was sometimes difficult to walk through the ship. And the pile of courtesy seasick bags on the table indicated this was normal.
We arrived in Newcastle to 17 degrees, winds and a forecast of heavy rain... But I felt so excited to be there! I wanted to talk to all the border workers as we made our way to the passport check, just because they spoke English...
But getting into England was more difficult than expected. They wanted to know where we were staying that night, what was our route through England, when were we leaving... turns out many Australians overstay their visas and they wanted to check me out... especially since Sam has a UK passport so technically he can stay... It was harder than entering China!
Once I got the stamp and we were in the country we rode to the suburb of North Shields, where we found a fantastic bike shop. We spent a couple of hours looking at all the things we needed (and didn't need) and chatting to the store workers. One of the mechanics, Jesse from Arizona, invited us to stay with him and wis wife for the night. We gratefully accepted and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the seaside of Newcastle.
I felt quite nostalgic being in the place my hometown was named after. Suburbs like Wallsend and Gateshead.. signs pointing to Morpeth. And it looked like Newcastle, the working harbour, beaches... I loved it! As we waited for Jesse to finish work and take us back to his home, we sat on a bench watching the surfers, joggers and energetic dogs... we could have been sitting on the beach on the other side of the world.
But we weren't. We were in England. And it felt good.
Thursday 19 August 2011
Yesterday was a windy day, so windy I’m convinced that if we had of been going in the opposite direction I could have pulled out the tarp and used it as a sail… So I start imagining that I’m flying along with a huge tarp tied to my bicycle, no pedaling needed, swerving through the traffic…
And then bang and I’m jerked back to reality, the wind almost blowing me of the path, a foot-path of course because you’re not allowed to ride on the road in the Netherlands. The Dutch love this system and wouldn’t have it any other way, but that’s probably because none of them are trying to cross the country…
This morning it poured with rain, we both got saturated. But now the rain has gone, and its been replaced by the wind. My legs are killing me, hurting more than usual. Sometimes the pain is manageable, even mildly enjoyable, and other times it feels insupportable. Of course it takes a fair bit to get me to this point, because if I go too fast Shanny can’t stay behind me and our system stops working. So because it is so windy today the system is working well. Man, I’m going to sleep well tonight...!
Sometimes riding along there is nothing to do but push the pedals around and think. And today I got to thinking about how great it has been to be able to get to this point. Sure we haven’t achieved everything we set out to do (unrealistic expectations), and I haven’t enjoyed every day of it, actually there’s probably been more days that I didn’t particularly enjoy, or that I found challenging, but I have to admit that I think its been worth it.
So although I am extremely critical on myself I am content to sit here and smile about the past seven months. This might seem strange to some who know me, particularly considering that for the past five years I’ve wanted to mostly do nothing else but gain weight (and ride up Mt Dandenong every now and again), in the gym of course, not the doughnut shop. And now, after having lost 15 kilos of muscle I’m wondering why I’m not distraught… I definitely don’t feel tough anymore, not that I probably ever did, but acting the part can be nice sometimes, and it’s a good cover or shell to hide under on occasion.
Anyway, I’ve bored you enough with this already. We got to Ijmuiden (past Amsterdam on the coast) at 8pm. We found a caravan park, and for a whopping 17 Euro payed for a tiny spot to put our tent and a hot (but not hot enough) shower. Hot showers are underrated people!!
Tomorrow we leave the Netherlands. We’re both excited and sleeping in this little tent isn’t as easy tonight as my tired body thought it might have been… mind racing, thinking of new countries and new adventures…
Another night of rain... another morning spent trying to dry out the tent and ground sheet. But as the morning rain grew heavier they just kept getting wetter. And so did we.
The rain and wind was constant. We crossed three rivers - two by ferry and the third via a huge bridge. The roads were quiet - you would have to be crazy to be out on a day like this!
We tried to stick to bike paths alongside the road. It's much easier for us to navigate when we follow a road. A few times the path stopped... unsure where to go we followed the road until a new path appeared. The drivers didn't like this...
A beautiful dog brightened our day, standing up against his fence, tail wagging feverishly. We stopped to scratch him and talk to him, but it made me a little sad as we said goodbye.
After a cold, wet day we decided to stop at a campsite listed on the GPS. As it was getting dark we arrived at the location, but it wasn't a caravan park. Just a strange village of kit homes.
We backtracked a little and decided to find somewhere to free camp. We found the perfect forest location outside Den Dolder. It was just off the road, but was so quiet and secluded I made up a story in my head about a serial killer leaving his property open for weary travellers. I could almost feel his eyes watching me through the trees. Then I realised Sam was too far ahead of me and I couldn't see him... Unsettled, I hurried to catch up.
Note to self- If the national icon of a country is a windmill, there's a good chance it's going to be windy!!
Woke to the sounds of rain pouring down... But the tent and all our gear (except for my stinky socks) had dried overnight! Guess that's the benefit of sleeping under a bridge.
I put my stinky socks back on, still wet and we start heading towards Germany... past Veghel... but we spent more time looking at GPS, maps, signs than riding... the bicycle paths stop... were not allowed on road, but have no choice... drivers lean on horns... we give up and head towards Oss.
Around lunch time the rain stops, and although it looks threatening, never starts again, woohoo!
Sometimes the bicycles paths are great, sometimes they are horrible, so far it's been a fairly even mix. But I've got to give it to the Dutch, they really do love cycling rain, hail or shine!!
We'd been told you can't free camp in the Netherlands (or is it Holland, I still have no idea), but last night went well, and when we find the perfect spot beside a beautiful lake with ducks flying everywhere (reminds me of the Mighty Ducks, 'Ducks fly together,'). There's swans gracefully gliding across the surface of the water whilst frogs jump across palm fronds and lilly pads..
This will do great. We cook some spaghetti bolognese and set up the tent amongst a grove of trees.
During the night it begins to rain... and I dream that it keeps on raining and that the tent is floating on a sea of water... Maybe I can make a sail and set off to England...
We awoke in the caravan park (near Weebosch) to the sound of horses munching on grass. It was a clear, sunny morning. Perfect for having a rest day - washing clothes and cleaning the bikes.
The weather was perfect all day, warm in the sun but not too hot, a light wind to dry the clothes... and the evening cool enough to fall asleep in our tent. We had a pleasant time with the oldies, telling the story of our trip many times to the curious locals (everyone we spoke to was from Holland).
The next morning was grey and cold. We took our time packing up and showering for the fourth time during our short stay... as if hoping we could put away the showers as storage to use over the coming showerless days...
Our first mission of the day was find a McDonalds to use the wifi... we had a few things that needed to be sorted out and we'd just made the discovery that there are no ferries from Norway to England... so our itinerary was completely changing. We rode to Eindhoven but the wifi at the McDonalds wasn't working... We decided to just ride, we didn't know what else to do...
After getting directions from three different Dutch people on how to use the cycle path network and which way we should go, we stumbled upon a retro McDonalds in Best, and the wifi was working. It was a strange shrine to dead Rock 'n Roll legends - Elvis, Marilyn Munroe and Michael Jackson (check out the massive statue). The strangest and most eclectic McDonalds we've ever seen...
For hours we waited while the rain poured down outside. We wanted to wait for it to ease before heading out, but at 7.30pm time ran out. We had to find somewhere to camp. So into the downpour we went. Luckily, Sam found the perfect spot not to far away, under a bridge.
This was going to be our blog for today;
A Car stopped twice- told us to go on the path
On path - Another car on it! Beeped at us to move
Then path blocked. Big detour. Cars Allowed, bicycles not.
...but then I got off my lazy butt and wrote something.
We got up and everything was wet, we hung it up, and waited for it to dry.
It didn’t. So we packed it anyway.
Then, we cycled into the Netherlands, mostly via the cycle paths beside the roads.
We got lost several times, being forced to ride these paths, and I admit I thought this idea, cycle paths, would be fantastic before we came here, but it has been a real challenge. Not only is the surface bad, finding which way to go is also constantly challenging.
Maybe it’s just me and I need to adjust to another country’s way of doing things…
But, the Netherlands has incredibly well manicured lawns, actually the general appearance of cleanliness and strict order is pervasive, everything exudes regulation, classification, law, civility and rule, I haven’t seen anywhere like this before ever, every line is marked, every one seems to know the rules (and be happy to tell you them, although in a friendly way) and everyone rides a bicycle. Amazingly there are even a lot of road bicycles sporting carbon wheels, they must have to true them every day, unbelievable!
We find a campsite at 7:30pm, and feeling our dream of having a shower is about to be realized begin to become excited in anticipation… but it’s crazy here, dogs are barking, kids are screaming and it sounds like there is a party with an MC!
‘Wow, this is strange,’ I say to Shanna, ‘hundreds of people making a lot of noise in the middle of the countryside, not what I expected.’
All too much for these two tired old timers we leave, and shortly get lost again (we do have a GPS and a map, but there always seems to be more roads in real life).
An hour later, hope fading, we stumble upon a caravan park in the woods that is part of a farm. It’s quiet, ‘lots of old people, that’s great,’ we both say at the same time.
Walking through the park is a fascinating experience. Everyone is arranged perfectly into a circle around the edges of a huge field. It reminds me of church youth dances where everyone sits or stands around the outside of the room, looking across at each other, wondering who’ll make a move, looking at who’s with who, ‘hey they’ve got jeans on,’ you might say to the person sitting next to you, ‘are they even, like, you know allowed,’ they reply…
An hour later and we’ve set up the tent, we turn around to admire the horses standing next to us, curious and friendly amidst a darkening sunset, pinky reds glancing across the sky, and thunder strikes from somewhere behind us.
It begins to rain.
Jackets on we stumble to the shower block. Already wet, about to get more wet, but in a good way, no pun/ double entendre intended…
Half an hour later I stand there, thinking to myself that this is the best shower of my life, the air frigid and cold, the water hot washes away what might have been six days of accumulated dirt and grime.
‘Totally, fully rad and awesome, I’ve never felt so clean in my life, what a feeling…’ I say, smiling, grinning stupidly, to nobody in particular, or maybe it was just part of the constant running monologue in my head.
Crazy? Yeah probably, but admit it, I’m not the only one that talks to myself…
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia