Greetings from Belgium! As is often, if not always the case, my blog is a few days behind. You can usually catch up with where I actually am via my Twitter feed, which feeds into my blog site on the right hand side anyway. I could probably keep my blog more up-to-date by pedalling less, but I enjoy the pedalling bit and get frustrated if I don’t cover what I equate to a good distance each day; 60 miles on average, so nothing in comparison to the likes of Mark Beaumont on his Cairo to Capetown epic, but sufficient for me, and besides, my bike and gear is a lot heavier ;o)
I also get asked about rest days quite a bit. I sometimes have one, if I feel like it and it’s a nice spot, but I don’t generally yearn for them and can find myself getting twitchy and wanting to cover some more distance. I think for me at least half of this cycle touring malarkey is the journey not the destination, although I do have a few definite breaks planned for later on. Same with cities; some, like Hamburg, I click with and want to have a look around, others I can happily leave. I think I prefer the countryside and wilderness more, however a break in a cafe or roadside bar is always welcome!
Here are my routes and stats for the last couple of days, leaving Germany and cycling down into Holland:
10 June 2015: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/800978508
11 June 2015: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/799947473
The 10 June saw me cover 117km in about 6 hours and 20 minutes, enjoying some good riding through the last bit of Germany and into Holland.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be back in Germany later this year on my way back from Istanbul, probably via the Danube and Vienna, but I’ve yet to firm up those plans. Depending on time available before I have to go back to work I might have to get a train for some bits, but not if I keep up my current mileage. Lots of time for exploring yet!
It was a great ride through the countryside on my way past Meppen and on to Emlichheim, with a bit of a tail wind and loads of sunshine. I took a few cycle routes which went generally in the right direction, with a few interesting results.
The route turned into a forest path after this, but was still perfectly passable, just a bit bumpy.
After passing through Meppen and waving at an enormous group of cycle tourers going in the opposite direction, I headed West through Twist and on to Emlichheim, deftly avoiding a couple of close calls with water sprayers, much to Lobster’s disappointment.
After Emlichheim my maps got a bit vague as to how to get over the border, as they don’t show the really small roads, however I pointed my Garmin at Hardenberg and it did a superb job of directing me there (for once). I pedalled down small roads and tarmac’d tracks, and was suddenly in Holland almost without realising it. The only traffic came in the form of a few mopeds that generally use the cycle paths too.
I had to go down another ‘closed’ road at one point, however after navigating the last two successfully I took a risk, figuring the cycle path would probably still be open. Again the whole road was closed due to resurfacing, however the cycle path was mostly open, and I only had to duck under one JCB; I waved at the driver who waved back, so figured it was all okay.
Passed lots of cows and wind farms, as well as several nodding donkey oil wells in the last bit of Germany. Oh, and I’ve figured out why Lobster likes cows, apart from them making funny noises; they make milk which makes chocolate, which is his favourite thing.
In general cycling in Germany is good, with well signposted routes and maintained cycle paths, however Holland has proven to be a step up, with even better signage and wider, smoother, cycle paths; an absolute delight to pedal down.
There are even more people on bikes, which I wasn’t sure was possible after some parts of Scandinavia and Germany, and all, for the most part, riding sensibly. There’s a saying that Dutch people are born on a bike, albeit with stabilizers initially, which sounds a bit painful if you ask me.
The other thing I noticed today, both in Germany but more-so in Holland, was the number of ponies, mainly Shetland ponies (at least I assumed they were), and also horses; loads of them in paddocks, and thankfully little in the way of sheep.
So it was a great pedal down to Ommen, where I’d spotted the Recreatiecentrum Besthmenerburg campsite on my ACSI app. It turned out to be splendid site, and was cheapish at €11, with a perfect camping spot for people just staying one night.
I was just in time to catch the campsite snack bar before it closed, and quickly made my way there for a cold beer and some junk food to fuel tomorrow’s endeavours; had already had some salad etc in case you’re wondering! The restaurant also has free wifi, which was handy for planning and blogging purposes.
The campsite itself was very tranquil, with different camping and caravan/tourer areas dotted about in the forest, along with small lodges you can rent. It reminded me a bit of a Centre Parcs, but without the hordes of screaming children. The only downside was the midges and mosquitos, so it was time to break out the insect repellent which had mixed results. Still slept well though, and awoke refreshed to the sound of birds giving it there all.
There was a cockerel crowing too, from the small zoo area; it was an enormous bird which Lobster suggested he could use as an alternative steed.
The 11 June turned out to be mostly about cycling, covering 123km in about 6 hours and 40 minutes. It was just nice to pedal in good weather, along smooth and quiet cycle routes as I made my way down to Devanter, then on to Arnhem and Nijmegen. I didn’t stop in any town or city for a long time; they were busy and so much more hassle than the quiet countryside. It was just a joy to be riding, although my water consumption rocketed in the heat.
Before Arnhem I decided on a quick detour over the River IJssen to Bronkhorst, via a small €1 car ferry that was very popular, then down alongside the river on a dedicated cycle path and back over via another ferry. It was a great detour and I flew down the raised cycle path, which wasn’t on any of my maps or Garmin; the latter got a bit confused. There were lots of other cyclists out to say hello to.
Note on cycle routes in Holland; it’s all done my numbers or ‘nodes’. The number represents a destination you can find on the map, and you just follow the numbers on signposts until you get there. Pretty efficient, unless you don’t know the number you want, or get it mixed up, or forget it; I prefer place names. Thankfully there are also red signs with the place names on, most of the time.
I walked through a bit of Arnhem, which looked pretty much like the centre of most biggish cities, with the same shops (H&M, Mango, McDonalds, C&A, etc). I’m not sure what I’d been expecting really; I know I’ve watched a film involving Arnhem and a battle for the bridge, and there was no doubt a lot of fighting in the area in WW2, but I didn’t spot anything relating to it on my brief wander through. It was nice to cool down though, and pedalling over the bridge gave a good view.
I didn’t know anything about Nijgemen, but it was certainly bigger than I’d anticipated, and with a great bike parking area next to the station. Despite its size it was easy to cycle through and out of, although with the volume of cyclists on the cycle paths I had to take care not to bump into anyone, or be bumped into; lots of people going at different speeds, and saw several close calls.
There was one casualty; the rear reflector fell off my bike on a crossing, then got run over. Oops; I tightened it the other day but it must have worked loose again.
Via a bit of a roundabout route I made it to Alverna and another campsite I’d found on the ACSI app. Reception was closed but the staff at the bar next to it telephoned the owner who just said to pitch up and he’d be over at some point; the shower and toilet blocks were all open anyway.
There were no other campers around, but quite a few people in the lodges/caravans; don’t know if they live there all the time or if there just holiday homes – some of the ‘lodges’ were very done up. On a walk-about to fill up my water bottles I passed one Dad giving his young (under 8 I reckon) son pretty vigorous kickboxing lessons; rather him than me.
Unfortunately I’d forgotten to shop, so dinner was slightly limited involving radishes, a bit of bread and chocolate, then toasties and beer from the same bar. I’d have had something more substantial from the menu but toasties was all they did, and honestly, that was fine, especially accompanied by a couple of cold ones.
I stayed at the bar for a bit, chatting to the locals; it was very much a ‘local’ bar, and lots of people were smoking inside which is still legal Holland, but was a bit odd after it’s been banned in the UK for so long. One patron was preparing to leave for India a bit later this year, via the Himalayas; India and Nepal would be great for a cycle trip. I retreated after the music got just a bit too Europop; there’s only so much Vengaboys, Ace of Base, mixed in with Shakira, that one can take.
Back at the tent it was all quiet, aside from a few largish bats flitting about after insects. I’ve still got Vengaboys going round my head now!
Apologies for any typos or randomness; I’m in my tent after a very hot day (it’s still boiling now), besieged by insects of many varieties. Most of them seem to want a piece of me. What we need now is a big thunderstorm to clear the air.