So we thought the cycle facilities in Belgium were impressive and then you get to the Netherlands. This country is remarkable. I could not help but think what on earth the Dutch cyclists must think when they come to the UK. At home, our experience of the British cycle paths is pathetic. Where convenient, you get a white line on the side of the road, usually this is obstructed by parked cars and bus stops and then just at the point where you need it most, like roundabouts and busy junctions; sorry folk, no more cycle lane. Here in the Netherlands, the picture couldn’t be more different. If the UK could take just one slice of this cake, we would have a big improvement in road safety for cyclists and it would encourage a lot more people onto bicycles.
The North Sea cycle route passes over miles and miles of sandy dunes and nature reserves, occasionally cutting inland through woodland or villages, it also takes you over the network of bridges, dykes and ferry crossings. In the dunes we found this cool climbing frame and picnic table to take a rest bite at.
The bicycle ferry dropped us off in the lovely town of Vlissingen. The cafés and restaurants rolled out onto the pavements over looking the internal marina and the dipping sun cast a gorgeous warm hue over the scene. We went out round the headland and as we stopped to get a photo of this windmill we met Paula and Julius sitting on a bench soaking up the last rays of sunshine and generally loving life! We may or may not ever meet Julius and Paula again but it is these encounters that make the biggest impression on you. Their positive and content outlook on life was infectious and we cycled away feeling tops. Julius is an artist and sells his work in Amsterdam, this is his website; www.beeldendgesproken.nl
Later that morning, somewhere along the Dammenweg, we spot another tourer pitched up on a picnic bench eating sausage and swigging a beer, this was Roderick. Usually you exchange the same set of questions of where you’re from, where you’re going etc. but with Roderick, our first question was ‘would we like a beer, sausage and bread?’ There was nothing not to like about this guy and it was almost a shame we were heading in opposite directions, it would have been a lot of fun to ride together for a few days. He seemed keen to come and join us for a jaunt further down the line, maybe somewhere in Asia, so we are hoping that will not be the last we see of Roderick, superb character!
The largest dyke we crossed was the Afsluitdigk at 32km long! We were on our way to visit our great friends Gitte and Kees and their beautiful dogs Hamish and Duncan who live in the city of Leewarden, approximately 30km north east of the dyke. Determined we were going to roll into Leewarden by the end of that day, ready for a non-pedaling weekend, we went hell for leather and covered up to 200km in one day to get there. As we approached the start of the dyke, the unthinkable happened, we had a tale wind! Exchanging a wink and a bee in our bonnets, we gunned it! Unfortunately we are not carrying a cycle computer to log our speeds and distances but looking at the tracker online, there were certainly some larger gaps between waypoints and we over-took the fully clad Dutch road cyclists too! The thrill soon diminished however as the gigantic mass of fresh water also hosted swarms and swarms of insects and we were smashing into them by the 100’s. Mouths closed and heads bowed, I hadn’t accounted for the gap in my cleavage, I looked down to see a pink vest now black with road kill!
We did the mandatory photo next to the bronze man laying the last rock on the dyke and then fled as quick as we could. With heavy legs but proud as punch, we rolled into the city of Leewarden feeling we had achieved our first milestone. It was lovely to see Gitte and Kees again.
Saturday evening and we were treated to dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Humphrey’s. Outside of the restaurant on the canal we had an awesome one- man band playing music on a tiny wooden boat. The boat had been rigged up with a wind-up organ on the bow and he played the trumpet at the same time, brilliant! The best weekends without fail are those that involve lovely food (lots of it!) and great company and this weekend excelled in all the above! Thank you so much Gitte and Kees for an awesome weekend, can’t wait to see you down under! P.s. We tried the Minus 12 ice cream in Dokkum after we left you guys, it was good but didn’t beat the Puur! (Anyone going to the Netherlands, you have to Friesian ice cream!).
Goodbye Netherlands, we look forward to getting back!!