Tag Archives: holland

Day 21: Towards Arnhem along the Nederrijn

I awoke in a clearing in some splended forest – although I didn’t think it was technically legal to camp there or anywhere in Holland… Anyway, it was a slow start and I took my time to sort things out and for once thoroughly clean out the pans which had been encrusted with a weeks worth of food stuck to it. I also decided to do some make shift laundry – I decided to wash the cycling jersey with some soap and water, to clean it or rather give the notion of cleanliness.

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This is a small national park – Utrechtse Heuvelrug. I set off admiring much of the forest with rays of light filtering through the few voids above. It was plesant and made cycling far easier not having the strong head winds of yesterday.

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After leaving the forested area, along stretches of the north rhine river(Nederrijn) the wind had become noticeable – I decided to roll up the canopy once again to make things easier. It’s a route that I had been along before and parts were vaguely memorable. Ontop of the dykes – or embankments the wind was strong but I ploughed through for along time.

The rickshaw has one practical advantage – it’s very easy to dry one’s laundry:

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I stopped and had some dinner; brie, lettuce, cucumber on rice crackers – a cheap meal but was fairly delicious. Shortly after, I met a detective – well that was his profession on his business card. He did a lot of street photography and was really interested in what I was doing and he had an aurora of wisdom around him – probably because of his age. He talked abit about Holland in general and reflected on my thoughts and impressions of meeting the people who didn’t seem that open to what I was doing. It became quite philosophical and gave he wished me that I discovered a fresh start on my world wide journey.

Towards Arnhem it started to become hilly, but having the shelter from the trees was brilliant and made those hills seem inoticeable in comparison. I got the groove pushing into a high cadence for once and I think there was a small inkiling of astonishment from some of the locals.

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I reached Arnhem, and made a quick visit to the Airbourne Museum in Oosterbeek. I had been before, but it was nice to pay some respects having watched Band of Brothers this year and reading the biographies of 101 Batallian – Easy Company or Screaming Eagles. Although they in particular didn’t reach Arnhem and it was the front for the RAF and Commonwealth in the failed operation Market Garden and there as many fatalities and casualties. Next year will be the 70th Anniversary.

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I headed towards the centre along the river and reached town. I set up camp and was interrupted by an Indian guy, who started a conversation with me. In fairness, it was interesting to have company, but I was hungry and wanted to tuck into some food.

Eventually I had a tour around Arnhem, but everything was closing. I walked around and mere coincidence I bumped into a Warmshowers host that I had asked to stay with – they recognised me – but who wouldn’t when I was walking around with a rickshaw. It was a great coincidence and great fortune and it made my day having somewhere comfortable to sleep that night. In the end I decided to spend another day here, as it was great to have some nice company and be able to chill out after a fairly exhaustive few days throughout Holland.

Having looked further at the route, and experience with Amsterdam, I’ve decided to change the route to not go through Berlin. It saves me a bit of time, but a large colourful city deserves much longer time to appreciate it which with a rickshaw is going to be difficult. It’s something I’m going to save for another time, so the route will head straight east from Dusseldorf to Leipzig, Dresden into Poland.

Route Change - Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Dresden, Wroclaw

Day 20: Along the Canals into the headwinds – Utrecht

Sorry if the last post was a bit underwhelming in terms of positivity. Today has been better, but has been mainly been fairly pleasant cycling.

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The day started off early – I am getting used to these early starts slowly. I packed up and was ready to go after getting into some Yorkshire Tea. I had become a bit dis-orientated with my location travelling during dusk, and finding signs towards Utrecht was difficult. Usually, cycle ways are well sign posted, but they have been difficult this time. Some signs fail to tell which way to go at a ‘T’ junction and I have barely seen any route maps. After going the wrong way a local pointed me in the right direction and gave me a pat on the back and ‘good luck’.

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Much of the way from Abcoude, was along a railway line and then onto a long stretch of canal that led directly towards Utrecht. Most of the way was quite exposed. The wind had become a ferocious one from the East – just my luck. Despite, this it was fairly easy going and was fairly enjoyable for most of the way towards Utrecht. Much of the canal is lined with an infinite number of trees leading into the distance. A barge beside me following me at the same pace; it reminded me of cat and mouse.

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The last bit into Utrecht was windy. I decided to roll up the canopy. Having checked today the winds were around 20mph. It had become that strong, that it nearly lifted the carpet I had stuck down. Fixed with some duct-tape. Leaving the rickshaw parked, the wind was that strong it was pushing it backwards.

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Nevertheless I kept pushing on, despite the many anglers who looked perplexed at the sight of a tired cyclist pushing a rickshaw down the side of them. It was a slow but consistent 6 mph (10kmh). It was slow but it was pleasing to get towards Utrecht.

I had been frustrated that many other cyclists failed to acknowledge me and just sped by; the only one that did, said it was “good training” but I’m not training for anything. The usual flail of the hand or discrete nod, would be appreciated, perhaps this is dutch cycling etiquette?

I arrived in Utrecht. I bought myself a baguette from a Turkish baker – multi-cultarilism. To be fair, it was a darn good crunchy baguette, and haven’t had one like that for ages. He even topped my water bottle up without a sigh.

In the center, it was as pleasant as I rememered it. A contorted mix of canals, bridges and cobbles, filled with bicycles and people basking with their drinks in the sun.

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There was a film fesitval but having asked one of their representatives what it was for. As soon as I said I was from the UK he fobbed me off and said enjoy your journey. I finished my dinner and moved to a Mc Donalds. A women hailed me over. She said she me earlier, and said it was a fantastic idea. It came as a big suprise although I will admit I felt rather dispondent and what I said had an essence of that. Nevertheless, I explained what I was doing and I said she could have a ride. I took her briefly around the centre. It was nice to have company.

It’s something that can pick up your spirit. I returned back and said my farewells. She was visiting Utrecht so I had to make up the directions as I went along.

In Mc Donalds, I used their wifi and power literally for free – I didn’t want to pay for a coffee for quite tempremental internet, which retrospectively was slow. I pushed some more updates and decided to get on my way towards Arnhem and find a nice place to camp. I decided to turn down an offer from a Warmshowers host, simply because it wasn’t practical.

The wind was strong but atleast the sun was shining. The further east I went the more trees encroached around the road and eventually the forest engulfed the road. It was fairly spectacular to ride through. I had been this way before, but during early spring when the trees were bare. It was a suprising change.

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I was fortunate to find a supermarket that remained open for another 30 minutes – a Sunday. I filled the basket as much of the food was especially cheaper compared to Lidls. Even after a substantial list of items it came to around 6 euros. It would nourish me for the next day.

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I carried on a bit longer and found a forested area to settle or the night. I cooked up a storm – tomato, bacon and pasta which suprisingly tasted well without seasoning.

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Having filled myself, I’m settling in a small clearing surrounded by many pine trees. For once it’s good to wild camp in fairly spectacular scenery like this!

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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