Tag Archives: Holland

12 & 13 June 2015 – to Belgium and good beer

Routes and stats for the last two days below, although my Garmin randomly turned itself off a couple of times, so there are two entries for each day:

12 June:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/801825032
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/801825063

13 June:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/802836559
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/802836588

The 12 June saw me cycle 117km in 6hrs and 45 mins. It was already hot when I was packing up, so I knew I was in for a scorcher. The temperature has rocketed over the last few days, got to 22 degrees Celsius by 10.30, and over 30 degrees Celsius shortly afterwards. You don’t notice it on a bike so much as you have a constant draft, but it’s hot when you stop, and you have to remember to drink a lot of water even if you don’t feel like it.

Ready for a hot day; time for the pirate look

Ready for a hot day; time for the pirate look

I attempted to pay at reception on my way out of the campsite, however the owner just waved me through with a smile; very nice of him and a bonus night’s free camping! I’ll put the money into the beer kitty. From Alverna and Nijgemen I made my way South West following cycle paths and ‘Nodes’, with a little help from my map. There were a couple of confusing bits when I mixed up numbers, however all-in-all the cycle network in Holland works really well, and the paths and roads are lovely and smooth.

Windmill - I'm in Holland after all

Windmill – I’m in Holland after all

I don’t have any complaints about the drivers either, mostly because I wasn’t on the road so didn’t encounter many, however the few times I did they gave me priority and were courteous.

Bridge over the La Meuse

Bridge over the La Meuse

In Holland they have strangely shaped objects by the side of the road that I was initially unsure as to the purpose of; they’re bins, and perfectly positioned and angled to throw stuff in as you’re cycling along, an excellent invention. Some are metal and some just have nets; here’s one of the latter.

Holland - an example of a most excellent roadside bin

Holland – an example of a most excellent roadside bin

I stopped for a refuel at a convenient McDonalds about 11.30, feeling hungry after a meagre breakfast, but also because they have air conditioning and free wi-fi. I hadn’t realised quite how hot it had got until I went back outside. Shortly afterwards I was pedalling into Eindhoven, an old city but one that appeared very modern. I walked through the centre, which was bustling with activity, but as mentioned in my post yesterday akin to most big metropolis; same shops etc.

After Eindhoven it was on to Reusel, and across the border into Belgium. It was a slightly longer ride than anticipated due to the cycle route going a different way to my planned route, however still got me to the right place. As I rode along I contemplated what would/will happen if/when the sea level rises. I’ve been pedalling across a lot of flat land, over bridges, rivers and canals, and a lot of it is only just above, or even below sea level. I believe Holland has some major sea defences however I fear they’ll need them in years to come.

Into Belgium

Into Belgium

They speak Flemish in this part of Belgium, so I’m still resorting to English, however I can switch to French a bit further South; probably once I reach Brussels.

De province Antwerpen

De province Antwerpen

Once I’d crossed the border I unfortunately noticed an immediate deterioration in cycle paths, and road surfaces in general. I think I’ve grown used to the luxuries of Holland, and to only a slightly lesser extent Germany, and will need to toughen up again.

Cycle paths not so good in Belgium

Cycle paths not so good in Belgium

Passed a great horse-drawn bus just inside Belgium, being steered with much enthusiasm by a slightly crazed looking and sounding driver; could have been something out of Harry Potter.

I passed through Arendonk, and on to Oud-Turnhout where I stopped to buy supplies at Lidyl. They had tonic water going cheap, which was really refreshing and helped lessen the irritation from hay fever; I think the pollen count is really high at the moment and I’ll have to visit a pharmacie to get some anti-histamines.

When I get to a pharmacie I’ll also pick up some anti-chafing unguent, having discovered I left my chamois cream in Stockholm. Now the weather has gotten hotter I’m likely to need it more, having felt the first signs of rubbing today; something to avoid at all costs.

I made it through Turnhout, passing lots of people sitting out in bars in the main square enjoying Friday afternoon and no doubt the evening to come. I noticed a French look to the town, despite this still being a Flemish area, but it might just be my imagination.

Central square and church in Turnhout

Central square and church in Turnhout

Then it was on to the campsite North of the town, near Ravels; Baalse Hei which I found via ACSI. I used my Garmin to navigate to it, and ended up going a slightly strange route, involving some sandy paths which were impossible to cycle on. It reminded me of one of the initial days of my Bike around Britain tour in 2013, when I tried to cycle down a sandy path on the Norfolk coast and promptly did a stunt (=fell off my bike).

Interesting choice of route from my Garmin to Baasle Hei campsite

Interesting choice of route from my Garmin to Baasle Hei campsite

The campsite was a good one, and slightly more populated than the previous. I pitched up as a thunderstorm hit, which didn’t come as a complete surprise after the hot day, and was quite refreshing; my top needed a wash anyway.

Pitched at Baalse Hei - bit steamy post storm

Pitched at Baalse Hei – bit steamy post storm

After the au-naturel shower I thought I’d better have a soap based shower, then nipped to the campsite cafe for a lasagna, salad and chips before it closed. They have free campsite wide wi-fi so I was able to retreat to my tent once the cafe closed, to update my blog and plan tomorrow’s route; also caught up on the news as I’m completely out-of-touch – not a bad thing probably, however the Greek situation is worrying, as is MERS.

Interesting moth - nice wing pattern

Interesting moth – nice wing pattern

The moth was one of the friendly insects, most of the others were a pain; midges and mosquitos, which was the main reason I hid in my tent. Before shutting out the insects I had a quick chat with a German cycle tourist on a short break, reliving a tour from about 20 years ago; he was describing how things had changed, and some of the language difficulties.

Lake and fountain at Baalse Hei

Lake and fountain at Baalse Hei

My route planning culminated in a decision not to head to the coast and work my way around to Spain, but to head down to Eurovelo 3 at Charleroi, the Pilgrim’s route, and work my way through central France via Paris. So it’s on to Grimbergen, close to Brussels, tomorrow. I’ll need to buy a new map.

–>

I pedalled a meagre 82km on 13 June, in just over 5 hours, but it was all I’d planned on doing in any case. I’m also suffering slightly from BRF (Belgium Road Fatigue); they’re a lot more bumpy than the ones in Holland and Germany. The cycle tourer I just met, from Taiwan, totally agrees, and has the same problem with slightly painful hands and wrists after riding for a while, because of all the jarring.

Packed and ready for another day in Belgium

Packed and ready for another day in Belgium

After a dry night it decided to rain as I packed up, typical, however I just got on with it and was on the road by 10.00, leaving Baalse Hei campsite and heading back to Turnhout, taking a more direct route back into the town than last night’s slightly adventurous trail.

On the road to Turnhout - Copper Beach provides contrast

On the road to Turnhout – Copper Beach provides contrast

As I rode South West the rain stopped, but it remained overcast for a bit, which was pleasant after yesterday’s heat.

Albertkanaal in Belgium

Albertkanaal in Belgium

I crossed several canals as I pedalled through the countryside to Mechelen, a moderately sized town/city, not sure which. I’ve had to cycle on the road more in Belgium, and have noticed the drivers are becoming more like I’m used to in the UK; faster, less patient and more aggressive. This is no doubt a sign of things to come for the rest of the tour, as it’ll only get more frenetic as I head South.

Convenient place for a break - sign had info on Neolithic activity in the area

Convenient place for a break – sign had info on Neolithic activity in the area

Riding through the trees, sun's out

Riding through the trees, sun’s out

I passed through Putte, where the main street was closed for a fête of some description. There weren’t many people about despite all the stands. I stopped for a break and was the only one listening to a band playing ‘Blue Moon’, very well as it turned out; had it in my head for a few hours after that. They appreciated my solitary applause in any case, but it all felt a bit odd without even the semblance of a crowd.

Street fair in Putte - bit deserted

Street fair in Putte – bit deserted

Band playing 'Blue Moon'

Band playing ‘Blue Moon’

Anyway, where was I? Skipped back and forward a bit there, however here are some photos of Mechelen; some nice buildings, lots of flags, and lots of people sitting out in cafes.

Both Lobster and I were a bit confused by the fish head and lobster claw fountains, there was an octopus type one too. We both suspect a Cthulhu influence may be at work, which may explain the slightly deserted town fete in Putte…

I cycled on towards Grimbergen, my destination for the night, over a few more canals, and passing some donkeys just taking it easy in the good weather.

I was overtaken by yet another cycle club out for a Saturday ride, this time a large peloton; they didn’t bother using the bumpy cycle paths which would no doubt break their carbon road bikes quite quickly. I’ve mentioned the roads and cycle paths being bumpy already, and this continued to be the case, making me a bit tired and grumpy; the headwind and hay fever wasn’t helping either. A lot of the roads are made out of large concrete slabs, with joins every few metres which give you a regular jolt; annoying after a while.

Grimbergen proved to be a lovely small town, and very convenient for Brussels the following day. The campsite was the only one I could find in the area, is cheap, and had everything I needed including wi-fi near reception.

Gimbergen Church

Gimbergen Church

Almost immediately I met River, from Korea, who has been travelling the world for a few months visiting China, South America, the USA, and now Europe. He’d flown from Miami to Brussels last night, and is due to fly to Barcelona tomorrow; a bit random but the flight worked out cheaper that way. River works in restaurant in Seoul, but has decided like me to have some time off to explore and have an adventure; his restaurant sounds excellent, and he makes his own beer, so I’ll be sure to visit if I make it there some day. We walked into Grimbergen to explore and pick up a few supplies from the supermarket, and enjoyed a cold beer in he sunshine.

Grimbergen is famous for brewing beer, and I picked up a couple of local ones to enjoy back at the campsite. The weakest I could find was 6.7%, and they went up to well over that (10% +), alongside some Trappist brews. There’s a beer museum too, but we thought we’d enjoy drinking it rather than reading about it.

Lobster guarding a couple of 6.7% local brews

Lobster guarding a couple of 6.7% local brews

River told me a bit about his time in South America, which reinforced my desire to visit there one day, preferably on a bike. It sounds friendly, cheap, full of life and things to visit. He found the USA quite different; expensive, and unfortunately the people were colder, unless you paid them. He also mentioned the MERS virus which has hit Korea, and I’d read about last night; hope it peters out soon and no-one else dies.

Back at the campsite we met Eugene, a fellow cycle tourer, from Taiwan. He’s been pedalling around Europe for the last 6 months since finishing his PhD, starting off in the UK, and going all over the place since then. He’s only got a couple of weeks left before going back to Taiwan, then on the America to work.

River and Eugene - fellow travellers

River and Eugene – fellow travellers

A great evening was had, where I think we convinced River cycle touring is the way forward. Tomorrow I’m off to Brussels, then South towards Charleroi and Eurovelo 3, whereas Eugene is pedalling North towards Amsterdam. River of course is flying to Barcelona, and after that who knows, however it’s possible he’ll walk some of the Camino de Santiago so I might bump into him again; he might have to get a new tent before then, as his one from Wal-Mart, which he was extolling the virtues of, was apparently a bit drafty and chilly overnight!

10 & 11 June 2015 – to Holland and a heatwave

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.

Sunny day in Werlte

Sunny day in Werlte

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.

River crossing near Meppen

River crossing near Meppen

River crossing near Meppen - narrow but serviceable bridge

River crossing near Meppen – narrow but serviceable bridge

The route turned into a forest path after this, but was still perfectly passable, just a bit bumpy.

Forest path on way to Meppen - keeping an eye out for tree root ambushes (and Orcs)

Forest path on way to Meppen – keeping an eye out for tree root ambushes (and Orcs)

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.

Stuck in traffic on the way to Holland

Stuck in traffic on the way to Holland

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.

One of my first Dutch cycle paths

One of my first Dutch cycle paths

Which made me pretty happy

Which made me pretty happy

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.

Abundance of ponies - in Germany and Holland

Abundance of ponies – in Germany and Holland

Arriving in Ommen

Arriving in Ommen

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.

Campsite near Ommen, nice spot in the woods

Campsite near Ommen, nice spot in the woods

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.

A Mexicana and chips; different from the Hamburg version of a Mexicana

A Mexicana and chips; different from the Hamburg version of a Mexicana

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.

Ready for another day on the road, in Ommen

Ready for another day on the road, in Ommen

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 Besthmenerburg Cockerel

The Besthmenerburg Cockerel

Pretty sure it was  bigger than the resident goats

Pretty sure it was bigger than the resident goats

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.

Rear reflector falls off and is run over

Rear reflector falls off and is run over

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.

Solitary camper at site near Alverna

Solitary camper at site near Alverna

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.

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

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.

Good cheese and ham toasties though

Good cheese and ham toasties though

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.

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

Set for another night under canvas in Alverna

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.