Day 17 and 18: Into Hollland through the dunes

I’m in the back of the rickshaw situated right next to the North Sea. I bore witness to a fairly stunning sunset whose warm colours gently faded into a chilly night. I’m typing on the laptop, my food supply is depleted, excluding a stock of biscuits, and I’m covered head to toe in many layers of clothing embalmbed with a blanket to keep warm. The prospect of the evening is camping on a park bench. Yet, that doesn’t matter. I’ve had a great day in the sun cycling in my rickshaw through one of the best countries to cycle through.

Yesterday was largely uneventful, I woke outside the ferry terminal and quickly went to check-in and get aboard. The border police had many questions – nothing serious, and wished me well on my way around the world and hoped to see me in a years time.

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The ferry was pleasant and I arrived into the Hook of Holland around 5:30PM (Local Time). Taking the first steps onto the continent was quite a thrill, and I even recorded the very moment on camera. I met an old scottish hitch-hiker who was on his way to move to Sweden, after considering the prospect in the UK to be terrible. He noted that it took two days to hitch-hike from Sweden to the UK, conversely, one day to get from Grimsby to Harwich. He wished me well and was going in the opposite direction, so unfortunatly my invitation for a lift was unmet.

Taking the first pedals onto a cycle path was exciting and was refreshingly easy although getting used to the opposite side of the road needed work, having annoyed a frustrated bus driver when I cycled out of the terminal the wrong way.

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I accidentally visited the Hook of Holland beach, after taking a wrong turn. I planned to meet a Warmshowers Hosts – Robin and Els who would let me stay at theirs that night on short notice. I would attempt to get to Den Haag, by 7PM. It was easy going, but the wind was tormenting me.

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Shortly after I bumped into two young german cycle tourists who had toured around the UK. It was great to chat with them and have some company for my first footsteps into Holland. Eventually, they decided I was going to slow and sped off into the distance – I couldn’t blame them travelling at 7 mp/h (11 km/h).

I eventually fond my way towawrds the centre. It seemed difficult to find the cycle maps but the signs were good enough to get me to the center. Once arriving outside the central station, I made a quick call to find my hosts home. I was quite fortunate to find it after taking a wrong turn.

It was great to stay with my hosts that evening, and was both nice and interesting company. A couple of weeks ago they had set off on a 5 week cycle tour to Rome on their quite nice tandem bike. We made comparisons between our methods of cycling which was fun. Eventually it started getting late and I had a shower which was comforting after many days of living rough. Shortly later I went to be around 11pm, alot later than planned and I knew I had an early start to get used to the timezone difference.

The next day I sat with Robin, who was free that day and kept talking about various topics in Holland. One topic that was suprising was Immigration. There are many Moroccan and Turkish communities in Holland, who are quite segregated from the rest, having been encouraged to come over the past few decades. The older generation cannot speak little or any dutch generally, and the Turkish in particular are seen to be quite Nationalistic and often promote Turkish as their child’s first language over Dutch. Interestingly the first or only islamic school in Holland closed down a few weeks ago – some teachers couldn’t speak dutch.

I cannot comment on this, other than what I heard but it’s interesting to hear that migration and the establishment of communties is a global issue.

After sorting things out, I said my farewells and headed to the center for a brief stop and then through some pristeen parkland, brimming with trees leaving no voids unoccupied. The cycle paths were easy, but I was feeling groggy in general and felt quite tired without any known reason. I kept going with the ever increasing intensity of the sun on my side.

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I reached Leiden, a small historic town interlaced with canals throughout the heart of the town. It was essentially a minute incarnaton of Amsterdam. Canals lined with barges filled with restaurants, broken up by occasional foot bridges, bursting with people and bicycles thoroughly enjoying their afternoon. Contemplating my next actions in Mc Donalds using Skype, I decided to take the long route to Amsterdam along the dunes next to the North Sea coastline.

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I had done this before and was remarkably pleasant to cycle on. It was nice that I vaguely remember the same views that I had passed through three years ago. I took time to make many videos and pictures which slowed me down to appreciate the rather alien looking landscape. In the distance, there were rabbits and even a few deer that kept their distance.

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I trundled along till around 7:30PM and got fantastic sunset as it encroached on the horizon. My only disappointment was that there is no easy place to camp. Camping on the dunes / beach isn’t allowed, and though that wouldn’t matter, is never a great or practical idea. Sand ingresses everywhere, and most notably in Electronics and only two weeks in I don’t want to take chances. In the end, I found a bench that would make a fairly comfortable bed using a foam mat, pillows and the very warm sleeping bag. Note: I tried sleeping in the rickshaw, but my legs are simply too long for it to be comfortable!

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