Day 32: The day that rained. And then rained some more.

The day started wet and concluded wet. It came more of a shock since the previous evening was completly clear. I had spent today’s budget on coffees just to be able to find relief from the rain and cold. Apologies for the lack of photos, but it was that wet I didn’t want to break my camera :(

Waking up, I found that camping in a recently ploughed field was not the most intelligble idea. Everything soon became muddy once trodden on. It’s times like these when I hate camping. I often find displeasure in camping atleast by myself, even with the convenience it can offer.

It took around one and a half hours to get going. It involved sponging the tent down to remove the excess water and to avoid getting caked in mud further slowed the day down and I felt entrenched in the mud – not in the sense it made everything dirty, but it makes progress slow. I attempted to dry these later in they day next to a radiator, keeping the inner and outer seperate as already there are tell-tale signs of mould on the inside.

I also failed to mention how dirty my poor rickshaw was getting. I suppose atleast it could be cleaned later with the amount of rain that fell.

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The first part of my journey was up hill. Hills became lost in mist and the blanket of low-lying cloud. It was dreary and it felt like the day showed little attempt of revealing any of the landscape. Much of the morning was up-hill and it was a fairly kind all the way. The noise of roaring trucks is never plesant when you have to concentrate going uphill and keeping your spirit up with the rain. I atleast appreciated that it wasn’t windy otherwise I would have become a frozen popcicle.

It was suprisingly cold and it was difficult to keep warm. Having layers is difficult; you soon start to sweat underneath which makes you cold if you don’t keep rickshawing. The route took me through Marienmünster, passing a small monastery and with a small uphill section took me down to Höxter. Going downhill was nice but the draft wasn’t. Much of the way was fairly demoralising and I plainly admit it. Weather like this is miserable and it makes the demons come out to play and torment you with negative thoughts. I knew it was one of those bad days, but you have to keep pushing; thinking too big you soon dishearten.

I reached Höxter, a small historic town. I pulled into a bakery cum cafe, situated in a very old town house and slowly I regained warmth and charged up the assortment of gadgets I possess. Shortly after leaving and situating myself outside the center eating my lunch, two young women came over. I’d noticed them looking earlier but never thought much of it as a glance.

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They intiated the conversation saying they were journalists for a local newspaper and had seen me in Steinheim, the previous town before. After looking at my website they wanted to hear more about my journey. They asked several questions about why I was doing this and how I came to visit the area. As of always, it’s interesting to get questions about it all from a different point of view. They got a few pictures in front of an old town house dated I think from the 16th century.

In short, I think I emphasised that my journey was about the meeting of people – and being able to share my story along the way. I continued shortly afterwards along a small valley which was comfortable ride along the river.

Arriving in Holzminden, I was eager to get two more hours of riding in before it became too dark. Soon after leaving the town, and taking off my dry clothes, the skies open with all their glory and ferocity. I had to quickly cover everything over, pull down the rain cover and get dressed again. Having rang my parents, it seemed appropraite to stop for the day. That was a good decision; soon the rain intesified that it became loud it could be heard over the phone. At the town center, the tourist information had just shut. None of the cafe’s had wifi and after dashing around in the rain, I found that the Youth Hostel was completly closed. If you could condense a day’s problem into the matter of an hour then I guess that was it. At this stage, I’m not sure what to do. There are few options, and there were such things as a miracle, then now would be a good time to see one.

It will make an eventful evening whatever the outcome is tonight – all the more interesting for you to read.

Day 31: Entering the Hills

Having a good night sleep always helped and I woke to a prepared breakfast featuring all sorts of toppings for the brotchen, not to mention coffee at the ready. I was plesant to see Alexander’s girlfriend there, but the more company the better. It was interesting to talk and reflect on time spent at University. Enjoying the breakfast, it was time to pack everything and get moving for the day towards Paderborn.

Before we set off we were greeted by his grand parents who wanted to see a rickshaw and were excited to take many photos. They even provided me with some apples and plums for the journey fresh from their garden. Soon enough, everything was ready and me and Alexander set off with his girlfriend as a passenger. It was a short journey for her as we dropped her off at the end of the street. It was good to have a companion towards Paderborn – 14km away. It was nice to talk over cycle touring matters – for example why he ventured to Africa.

Arriving near Paderborn, we found two power cables (too charge my gadgets) in a small electric shop on the outskirts, we both remarked it look like some shop that could be found in Morocco. It was interesting to hear that the town’s name originates from the birth of the River Pader – and is the smallest/shortest river in Europe. Shortly after we made our farewells. It was great to have all his family around and made my stay much more enjoyable and especially comfortable. He gave me a farewell present of a Scho-Ka-Kola – this is a caffeine infused chocolate that was used by the German Aircrew – or so he told me. He joked that I’d need many pieces of it later in the day! Upon shaking hands again we finally commited to depart.

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The journey afterwards was fairly ordinary, until I got onto a bike path and couldn’t get through, so had to u-turn. The route was slightly up-hill, but mostly during the morning I felt slightly weak, without a reason. Hills loomed in front of me – these are hills with peaks at 400m.

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In anticipation, I gulped down sugar to shock my system into action, it took a while but eventually it kicked in around 30 minutes. By then I was entering a valley that would take me over the range of hills.

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I was very surprised to find how scenic this valley was. It escorted me along a stream and through forest – made more spectacular with Autumn. The path was gravel and muddy in places, but three wheels helped retain grip. It wasn’t too difficult thankfully in most parts, but some small sections were tremendously steep – I reckon 11% by the strenous pace in the bottom gear. I clenched my teeth and braced my arms on these sections and it was satisfying working my way up. There comes a point where you go that slow, that you don’t care how long it takes, and it was a moment where I could thoroughly enjoy it surrounded by nature.

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I reached what appeared to be the top – marked by a very quick downhill section which soon made me very cold. Rays of sunlight squeezed through the gaps between the trees at the side of me.

Then I saw a sign for Externsteine: three huge stoney monoliths potruding randomly from the ground. It’s something worth seeing and you can climb to the top, but I wasn’t feeling up to it (especially with a 3.50 euros admission) and the evening fast approaching.

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Around me were rolling hills of greens and browns and proved plesant in the remaining evening sun. Following a small river, made the final segment of the day easy.

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Steinheim was the final town of the day. Someone recognised me from a small village I earlier passed. They saw me and thought it was a project that used many rickshaws but after checking my website on his phone, soon realised that he didn’t want to miss his chance to see me. So they caught up with me in the town center of Steinheim and asked a few questions and took a photo. I took him for a brief tour around the Market Place. I was grateful they got me a few small items to help me on trip and if I had been closer had offered for me to stay at their house, but was too far away by then.

It’s great to have nice moments like that aswell as having such a fantastic time with Alexander and his family made my day feel that more special. Most importantly it makes me look forward to the many other encouters with people I meet along the way.

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Tonight marks another period of camping; although I am relucatant to be in this position. The sky is extremely clear with the moon hazely glowing in front of me as I type on the rickshaw. It’s going to be a cold night; already I can see my breath.

Day 30: Straight as it goes – towards Paderborn

I considered today to be a day of transit – covering a vast distance in good conditions to make up for lost mileage. The route continued on from yesterday, along along a halfweg or former pilgrims route (Route 1 towards Paderborn). The road was considerably straight for the long distance, but aided by the wind it made very easy work for once.

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On two occasions, two cars pulled over and asked for photos – marvelled by a rickshaw in the middle of the countryside. It brightened up quite a boring day. The road simply intersected through rolling farmland and I got to the point where I started reading my e-book reader again.

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I stopped in a nearby town and got a few interesting looks and in broken Deutsch explained what I was attempted and they wished me well. I was in a bit of a rush to meet another warmshowers host that evening – and had to make up the extra distance by travelling 40 mile (60km) that day.

Eventually, I could confirm that I’d reach my host in a small town of Salzkotten – ‘Salt Cottage’. I was waining under the distance even though the conditions were in my favour but I was progressing towards my destination at a leisurely speed of 9-10 mph (14-16km/h). I was close and finally I met up with Alexander who was a Mechical Engineering Student still studying at the University of Aachen.

Arriving at his home, I was greeted by his whole family, who were very pleased to see such an unusual sight in their garage. I was quite tired but soon awoke up after a coffee. It was interesting to talk abit about his recent trip to Morocco also his epic trip from Egypt to South Africa two years ago, something that I wish I could do. Later on, we went out with the rickshaw and took it for a quick ride around Salzkotten with his young brother being a passenger. It was quite late when we took it out but that didn’t stop us.

Salzkotten has alot of fresh springs that contain alot of salt – originally the water was evaporated in small cottages to produce salt making the town rich once upon a time. They also have tower which they drop the spring water down to improve the air quality which gives a sensation of being by the sea apparently.

It was a good bit of fun, although after we came back the rear brakes were squeaking, yet another small problem, but I hoped that it would disppear in the morning. We conclude the evening over a game of table football – unfortunatly my skills were no match for theirs…

My luck or stupidity never ceases to amaze me, later I found out that I forgot my travel adaptor which would mean I wouldn’t be able to charge anything. Aswell, my head torch seems to have failed. Fortunately they had a cable I could borrow but would mean I’d have to find something tomorrow. Another difficulty to add with the hills that are looming on the horizon.

Day 29: Dortmund and beyond

We woke quite early and Ehsan prepared a nice breakfast of Brotchen with an assortment of toppings – cheese, tomato, cucumber and honey. A more varied breakfast than usual. We went over a few things about travelling in the UK and I helped suggest how he can travel around and ideas of places to visit by bike.

Around midday, we decided to visit his University – around 15 minutes by walking, unfortunatly too hilly to take the rickshaw. The University was quite modern, and the architecture and layout of the sixteen principle department buildings was supposed to represent a ship – although I coudln’t see this. We enjoyed a lunch of white sausage and potato salad against a fairly stunning view on a balcony overlooking the surrounding valley towards the River.

We returned back and I packed up my stuff once again. He decided that he wanted to ride me on a short journey and try out the rickshaw – I thought I would make most of an opportunity like that. He rode the rickshaw whilst, I enjoyed the comfort of the back seat giving me a chance to play around with the camera to get some video.

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Eventually we reached our departing point. We took a few farewells photos and we had a ‘Persian hug’ as a lasting gesture. Although it was a short visit, he made my stay welcoming and hospitable even as a University student.

Having stayed longer, I left around 2PM – extraordinarily late, by world rickshaw taxi standards. I knew I could cover a fair distance, and being relatively flat in places made it easy riding. Having working maps on my tablet made navigation far easier and soon I had reached the center of Dortmund.

The city was more pleasant that I thought it would be, but at a glance appeared to be very little of interest to extend my stay for more than thirty minutes. I kept on going. The tram lines were both a blessing and curse as it acted as a bike lane, but you had to keep checking a tram wasn’t going to run you over.

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Stopping near a tram stop, someone wanted to pay me to take them home, however, even after some broken english/german they wanted to go in the over direction. I had to make up some lost time and wanted to keep going, so I had to decline that opportunity as I could get another two hours of rickshawing (is that a verb?) that evening.

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I continued but it was becoming noticeably darker caused by the overcast sky. I decided to pick up some shopping for a comfortable camping experience in the evening and morning. By the time I left it had become dark and the lights in the town center of Unna were illuminating.

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Trying to navigate in the dark even with a map on a bike is ten times difficult. Street signs are barely visible and after heading towards a town center I managed to go literally round in a circle.

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Frustrated, I kept going on and got on the right road guided by my front light. Travelling along the way to find somewhere to camp with a tent took a while – atleast thirty minutes I guess. It’s quite plesant cycling in the dark with just your lights as you only need to focus on the small light ahead. I came across an open field around 5km away from the center. It was frustrating it took so long, but I was glad to have finished for the night!

Day 28 – Dusseldorf to Bochum. Surprisingly greener than expected

The previous evening, I had to say a farewell to Michael as he started work at a very early our in the morning the next day.

I’d like to thank him once again for being a fantastic friend, who’s made my stay very comfortable, entertaining at times and being a ‘sponsor’ paying for dinner, and ofcourse the many beers (altbier, alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties) which got consumed over the weekend. He’s helped finding me a German SIM, and arranged to pick up a replacement solarpanel package from the United States. If I hadn’t mentioned, we met unexpectantly two years ago on my way to Istanbul and have remained friends via the power of the internet. I hope to visit sometime in the future – if he’s reading this.

I lugged all my luggage down the few flights of stairs and loaded everything. I was on my way or nearly after picking up a few supplies for the day from Aldi – a minimal expenditure of 2 euros – not too shabby. I was on my way towards Bochum (near Essen).

The day started of fantastic with blue skies and most importantly no wind at all. The rickshaw was cutting through the road like warm butter and it was dream like; at times I was travelling at 10mph (16km/h). The roads went through residential areas but was surrounded by forest making it a plesant ride.

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I arrived in Rattingen, a small town. I went up a street to find a crowd of people huddled around a camera – getting closer I started to see it was a film set. I passed through the crowd, everyone staring, smiling or laughing. It felt nice being odd for once, and I replied with a smile. The town was plesant but had very little to see and wanted to make most the easy cycling.

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I conintued through dense forest of pine trees, with the surrounding carpeted with fernsand other greenery that contrasted against the autumn colours of some trees.

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The road was noticeably hillier in places, but wasn’t too difficult or tiring. I eventually came to steep slope (8%) downwards and marvelled at an easy ride for once. It had hair-pin turns and was a delight to steer a 100kg laden rickshaw around those tight corners, more satisfying than a bike is.

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I eventually came to a nice river – the Ruhr and had a brief dinner of bread and Quark – a fatty dairy product with a consistency between cottage cheese and cream.

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It was fairly nice in the sun. I kept moving to later find a fairly long ascent back up the valley towards Essen. Gladly it wasn’t too steep but with the temperature soon became sweaty work and I was drinking alot of water to compensate. I had to laugh at other cyclists who were struggling with that hill. The great merit of a rickshaw is that on hills like that I can say I never got off. I sat on the saddle and took advantage of three wheels.

I reached the top drenched, but satisfied. Towards Bochum was fairly straightfoward with a few gentle slopes. Along the way I cycled along the river over some industrial looking bridges.

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I arrived in Bochum. I walked around for a bit, some people (mostly children) gleamed with interest at the unusual sight of a rickshaw.

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I went for a quick coffee and later met up with another Warmshowers host Ehsan who lived near the University. Unfortunatly he was in a rush so he had to take the car and was going to escort me to his home. Following a car for 6km in a rickshaw was quite funny. There were many points where he had to wait for me to catchup, especially hilly bits nearer the University. Soon we got to his home. He had taken his landlady who remarked I was very brave, and wished me a gute reise. We took everything up stairs and I took the oppportunity for a shower.

Ehsan is an Iranian student, and has been living in Germany for 14 months. It was fantastic to learn abit more about his country as their is a slight shroud of mystery covering Iran.

After having our tea we went into town to try some Persian cuisine – something I have never tried. The cafe-owners Cafe Safran had specially prepared a meal for our arrival – Chicken in a slightly sweet spicy sauce made using pomegranite. The cafe-owners showed a warm welcome that is observed in Iran.

The meal was delicious and it was pleasant an made a very nice change. We talked abit more about our studies at University – he was working with lasers in Hannover as part of is Engineering masters an just asked abit about what I planned to do after my world rickshaw trip – this I couldn’t answer.

Finishing our meal, we departed with some kind words from the cafe owner – Mahmoud.

That evening we looked over a map of Iran and he helped instruct a route on Iran and pointed out things to be careful – in particular exchanging money, narrow roads and the many mountains in Iran that would make my journey even more difficult. It was useful knowledge to have as I admit my knowledge or Iran was patchy. In generalm that evening, we talked about the development of the country and the hope he has for progress with the new President Rouhani, who was elected around two months ago. Similarily he explained the behaviour and customs of people including their generosity and what to expect as a cyclist visiting small towns or villages and being invited as a guest into their homes.

The day finished relatively early as we took a good chance to recover some sleep!

Day 27: Final day in Dusseldorf

So once again I’m blogging in a field – I have no idea where because I was cycling in the dark for around an hour – yes I do have bike lights and they work quite well. Please bare with me, as I have had a few days to catchup on and typing on the back of a rickshaw makes things slightly slower.f

I spent Sunday with my friend Michael. Being a day of rest – the day was pretty easy. I made most of the lie-in opportunity, just as luxuirous as a shower nowadays. Later at 1pm we were later scheduled to meet someone at a cafe, who after referall was interesting in hearing more of my bizarre but interesting story.

We took the rickshaw out once again and went to a small cafe just over the nearby railway-line. I was most surpised how easy it was with just one passengers – I don’t think I emphasised that enough previously. We got to the cafe and I met Eva-Melina. She’s a online journalist professionally, but keeps her own blog as a form of exhibition of her work.

The most interesting thing about her blog – ingloriousplastics.wordpress.com was how she attempted to avoid using bought plastic for Lent – what originally transpired as a tradition, she made the effort to try this and suceeded. It as interesting to get questions from all angles which is always pleasant now to share as I become further confident with what I’m doing. We shared our points on journalism in general and it was interesting how things came together. Later she promised to write an article in German, and shared her homemade business cards.

We finally finished our coffees and I took her the very short journey home down the road – she seemed quite thrilled with the experience; I was because of the fact it was downhill for once! We took a photo and said our farewells!

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The afternoon was easy going. Later in the evening we went to a language meetup where individuals can practice talking in another (or own) language. It’s something I’d never been to, but nothing ventured is nothing gained. Taking the rickshaw 1km in the dark was quite fun especially having a professional navigator – Michael.

The meeting was quite slow in the beginning as we arrived late, but eventually we started talking to a group towards the end. We made the announcement of what I was doing and then a french woman, exclaimed ‘are you serious, I don’t believe you!’. I replied – “go and check the window”. She went to have a look and came back with quite a shock at the truth of this. In the end we talked about many things, and they all wished me well and good luck on my epic journey.

On our journey home, we took one of the people we met (Klaus I believe) to his car down the road – he enjoyed the experience or atleast the fact it saved his legs.

That was the evening over, it was pleasant experience although I commented how difficult it might be for a new individual.

Day 25-26: Staying in Dusseldorf

During the night, it rained heavily – It was around 4:30AM and it was unexpected – I quickly had to cover a few things in the rickshaw from getting wet.

It was a slow morning and with little to eat, and I was not keen to move. I felt recovered from feeling exhausted the previous evening. I started reading the Lord of the Rings, so I spent a fair amount of time waking up to that. The rain was intermittent and made putting the tent a snappy affair when it briefly subsided.

Fortunately being an easy day, I could relish a slower pace. I found a small supermarket and bought dairy and bread. It seemed expensive but there was little I could do other than buy scrupiously and consisted of sour cream, garlic dip, baguette, cola and milk for the muesli. Suprisingly 3 euros doesn’t go far, atleast in this supermarket. I typcally allocate a budget of around £5 per day – in Europe, but with the fairly poor exchange rate and the apparent inflation it seemed expensive.

As I set off the rain spitted half-heartedly and from that I put on the rain cape with darker sky looming overhead. The ride was fairly straightforward and relaxing into the centre of Dusseldorf but the light rain didn’t help.

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I reached the centre or the Alte Stadt and finally I could relax. I won’t address what Dussledorf has to offer, but it’s a historic city that is a worthwhile visit if you are visiting this area of Germany.

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I toured around for a bit and found a place for a coffee to write up the blog entries. An old guy, with a coarse white beard, interrupted my thought and asked “What’s better coffee or the computer?” – obviously first in German. I answered “Coffee, without that, i’d proably cease to function and that makes a computer unusable.” A better quote from another friend – Yorik is “courage and coffee”. He had recently visited the Faroe Islands and expressed his frustration that many people are glued to electronic devices – tablets, phones, and even five year old children fail to interact with each other, consuming themselves on these appliances. I shut my laptop, as a resolution to that.

He was good to talk to and he often sat outside this particular Chibo coffee house, between the metro and tram station near Königsallee – a boulevard of wealth and made a point to observe the traffic of pedestrians flooding by, pulsating with the timetable of the trains.

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It was interesting to hear about the history of Dussledorf and the sprawl surrounding Essen, Dortmund. These were formally coal mining areas, and Dussledorf had been the administration town. I also found out that here holds the largest residence of Japanese inside Europe, with the migration created by Japanese businesses setting up during the 80s. The established Japanese here are a magnet for other Japanses and so have increased in size over the past decades.

It was interesting to hear also how each province is set to control their own education or schools – it was devised by the Allies after the second world war, to prevent the rise of one government behaving as Hitler did – brainwashing the youth. It’s interesting to hear this stuff and it’s something that I’d never think of asking.

Eventually I left and just roamed around the centre. I was asked a few times in German for a tour, but wanting to write my blogs, I didn’t really want to get interrupted. I have been pleased so far that I’ve had a more positive reaction that despite being infrequent at times has welcoming to receive.

I later met up with my friend Michael along the side of the Rhine. It was good to see him after two and a half years. We first met when I cycled along the river Rhine just by chance, when I was cycling towards Istanbul.

We decided to hang around and had a few of one of the Brauhaus – to mark my arrival or to sample the Altbeer. We tried Kürzer, who are young compared to the older Brauhauses here. Having parked up the rickshaw, we was welcomed by one of the barmmen, who took great interest in what I was doing. Later in the year he would be going to Burma, and invited me to come along if I managed to get there.

We decided to hang around to meet Andy, one of Micheal’s friends, who runs an English Language School in Dusseldorf. He had a lesson on, so we had to wait till 6pm. Andy, who is actually British retaining his stoke accent, has done many cycle tours in the past – his biggest is cycling through Mongolia, Russia to get to China way back, which was quite impressive.

Andy took great interest in my journey and had several questions and even a proposition for a route through Europe, this was further discussed over more Altbier including company from his King Charles Spaniel who likened the beer but soon became drowsy.

We eventually had to part, but it was good to see him actually in person than through the phone. We took the rickshaw back to Michael’s place and headed back out later. Riding a normal bike into town was like cutting through butter – remarkably easy. I couldn’t believe how busy it was that evening and the streets were filled with crowds, the bars overflowing with people from its doors, incredible in contrast to back home.

The next day we went for a sight seeeing tour and photoshoot around Dusseldorf and I would be the chauffeur. We headed around the ‘Medienhafen’ – Media Harbour with it’s modern architecture.

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Afterwards we went tow see a popular fleamarket that sold many wears – it seemed like a carboot on steroids. Amongst the enless aisles of stalls, they provided variety of German food to eat, drinks and in the central tent – filled with antiques, was a live jazz band. In our pursuit for a cheap second hand Brooks saddle, we came out empty handed.

We headed back towards the centre, passing a permanently stations Donor Kebap Van – “My Doner Gemüse”. I completly missed it since it was tooked well away but aparrently it was the best in town. They knew Michael and they couldn’t believe they saw a rickshaw.

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The Kebap was very filling and pretty tasty and was good fuel to get us home. The speedometer clocked in 12 Miles (nearly 20km). The experience was strange mainly because it didn’t feel too difficult, probably because there was no wind for a change.

Later we met Michael’s parents who had baked an Apple torte, which was very nice and although they didn’t speak much English they were very friendly and often we laughed at things.

The evening was quite different as we went to an old bread factory on the outskirts of Dusseldorf – called Weltkunstzimmer – they play a tactful wordplay on ‘Zimmer’ or room. It’s an indepentan organisation/charity that promotes artistic interest in music, art and photography. I didn’t really know what to expect but went along with it.

The rennovated bread factory was a surreal atmosphere and would provide an appropriate setting for something contemporary. In the end, the expectation was high but the music performed was disappointing – I try to be open to new things, but it fell way out of my musical scope. Not everything goes as planned, just like the world rickshaw taxi.

Later in the evening we decide to go back to the Altstadt and have a few beers. The city was even more busier than Friday and made moving around especially difficult. In the end I won’t say much more – it was an interesting night out.

Day 24: An industrious day along the Rhine

It was another lazy start. It was becoming a habit; questionable if good or bad. I headed off into town to use the toilets, but cost 50 cents – a joke. I decided to have a coffee in a small cafe to write up the blog entry a bit further. Afterwards I got talking to a nice couple from Koln (Cologne) – pardon the umlaut. Although they associated me with the rickshaw – initiating the conversation or breaking the ice took a while.

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They asked me where I was going, “Dusseldorf”, I replied. Jokingly he said there was a bit of rivalry between these cities; he laughed to say that the folk from dusseldorf were shrewd businessman, and held their nose high, whilst those from Koln are “down to earth”. I could tell that there was a bit of friendly rivalry between these cities, and it even went down to preference of beer. I also learnt that particular day was a Bank Holiday. Its significanc was for the -re-unification for East and West Germany with the fall of the Berlin wall. Little was celebrated, except in Berlin and it only made my day harder, leaving me with a finite supply of food.

After charging my battery, I paid my dues, filled up on five litres of water and headed off – unbeknownst that was the wisest decision of the day having no water going to bed.

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The start of the day began uphill. Sheltered by the trees, the climb was particularly enjoyable – for once having shelter from the wind. I got some friendly acknolwedgements from the early walkers. The landscape after the crest of the hill was open farmland.

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Already, I felt the presence of the strong easterly wind. I kept going and pushed throughout the day against the wind. I decided to go for the most direct route, trying to avoid the open embankments which would be troublesome in the wind.

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The day was tough. It was difficult to keep concentration and the choice of food was dwindling away quickly. My left leg was feeling an ache progressing; nothing serious but it had taken some strain and later in the afternoon made each pedal stroke difficult especially in the wind.

I kept following the ‘Via Romana’ route towards the Rhine towards Rheinburg. The remaining afternoon was a blur of getting lost in the sprawl surrounding Duisburg. I wanted to avoid the area east of the rhine, as I knew heavy industry lie here. So industrious, that there is even signage for a route that elevates such monstrosities as landmarks to those inclined of interest.

Having followed the Rhine, I got lost and battery life on my tablet was around 8%. This tablet contained all my maps and having lost the adaptor, I’ve been rationing this power tediously, at moments of getting completly and utterly lost.

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Having gone in the wrong direction I headed back towards Duisburg. Eventually I got on track and went over a weathered rail bridge.

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The skyline grew with greater contrast as the sun descended around 4PM. The silhoutte of high rising towers, pipes, containers give an omnious uncomfortable feel having been surrounded by nature for the large part of my trip.

By then I realised there was a possibility of reaching Dusseldorf, where I intended to stay that evening. It was around 15 Miles (25km) away and it was 5PM. Unsure whether I’d make it, I tried to get hold of my friend whom I’d be staying with this weekend. Unfortunatly, no luck. The decision was to continue and get to Kaiserswerth – a small charming town adjacent to the river – around 10km from Dussledorf and stragise my plan that evening. I knew there was good camping there for before. I was torn between a warm comfortable place but having the security of knowing that I’d have predictable camping – compounded with a rickshaw is significant peace of mind.

Following the signs for the Rhein Radweg, I was misleadingly led or ‘diverted’ onto on the many ‘bends’ in the river. Here there was open farmland and consquently exposed to the wind. I sat down on my back seat, fed up and just wanted to call it. Having looked at my tablet – 6% now, I could get to Kaisersworth around 5km away. I kept going and my left leg was not happy, but it kept going to my surprise.

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The signs for Kaiserswerth appeared. I was pleased and from there the little distance left whizzed by. I retired by then, satisfying myself with a fairly detestable concoction of sugar (fructose, maltodextrose) mixed with pea protein powder and salt – if I had a raw egg that would have gone. My stomach readily took it this time without gips. It’s disgusting, but it’s the only guaranteed way for a swifter recovery with no food available.

I have to remind people, this isn’t necessarily a big holiday. I can’t go straight into the nearest restaurant and order a meal – the food was 10 euros minimum and looked neither appetising or subsantial.

I set up the tent near the rhine, and ate the remaining pieces of food and the last trickle of water. It had been a hard day, atleast tomorrow was going to be easy. The wind was a nuisance, and often was cursed throughout the day with overwhelming frustration of travelling 6mph on average.

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Day 22-23: Hallo Deutschland! Arnhem to Xanten

It was great to spend another day in Arnhem with the Diedrik and Bo – my Warmshowers hosts. It was pretty chilled out and I only walked around the town and along the Rhine, just to excercise my legs so I retained the ability to walk. The day concluded with a pleasant evening looking through their photos of their pretty stunning nine month trip around New Zealand, which made me slightly envious that I wouldn’t be visiting there.

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The next day we had to say farewells. They were great company and when you travel for a week all day by yourself you soon appreciate having company. I’d like to thank them once again for making my stay very comfortable and making me feel like it was a second home in Holland.

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After they left, I packed the contents of my life into the rickshaw and moved on towards Germany.

To be honest, there is little to talk about; the scenery was fair, but is nothing worthwhile to talk about. There was still a strong easterly headwind that made life difficult when road become fully exposed. I decided to keep to the shorter more direct route that would take me through villages and was fortunatly lined with tress half of the way. It was splendid so seem fields filled with flowers and even some wind mills.

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Reaching Germany was another milestone turned. Despite the relatively small size of Holland, another country is a powerful feeling of accomplishment. The past three weeks have been tough going and I’d never before appreciate how making small steps in the grande scheme of things had become important.

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Already, people seemed more interested and I got a few smiles and even a couple of ‘Hallos’ and some German that I couldn’t exactly make out – but it spurred me on with an increasing enthusiasm.

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The wind was still evident and having stopped it became noticeably chilly, even with the sun out. I reached Emmerich, where there is a bridge crossing over the rhine – there are ferrys but with the season ended; very few still continue to regularly run. I decided to cross onto the west side of the Rhine to later avoid the very Industrial Duisburg near Dusseldorf – after venturing through three years ago.

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I continued on – my speedometer, kept resetting itself, so I was unsure what mileage I currently stood out. Since there was little much to do, I decided to continue pedalling on.

Much of the evening, was travelling through endless fields of maize. Accordingly by this time, my legs were beginning to feel weak, and my head felt numb with tiredness. Each pedal stroke felt attenuated and pronounced as I struggled with the remainder of my travel today – the spires of the Cathedral in the distance becoming prominent the closer I got. The small section of route followed the pilgrims route – “via Romana” indicated by the signs with a shell, which usually finds its end at Santiago de Compostella.

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I reached a small historic town called Xanten. Here they have a gothic catherdal and a few old buildings that give it a characterstic charm. The town is 2000 years old and is the former important Roman settlement that served the Rhine region with a few reminants of its past set as a reminder.

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Having arrived late, nothing much was open. I had a quick glance inside the Catherdral, but otherwise it has been an evening gorging on food trying to get a decent recovery in for tomorrow. The meal consisted of tomato soup, with bacon and smoked sausage. It began plesant but became a chore to finish as it got cold – no grease was spared.

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I was disappointed to find no cafe or restaurant had WIFI. Nevertheless, it was plesant to get asked a few times what I was doing and certainly got some looks from the Cafe with the Al Fresco dining. I was asked later for a Stadtrunfahrt – or a Tour around town by two guys. I was midway through dinner and was shattered so I decided to not bother, and they didn’t seem as if they were going to be inquisative.

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In short, a fairly average day of pedalling the rickshaw. I can definitely say tonights sleep will be well earnt.