Tag Archives: warmshowers

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.

DSC_0092

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.

paderborn-hill-panoram

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.

DSC_0098

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.

DSC_0111

DSC_0094

DSC_0115

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.

DSC_0122

DSC_0125

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.

DSC_0154

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.

DSC06680

DSC06687

DSC06688

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 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.

DSC_1071

DSC_1079

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.

DSC_1044

DSC_1046

DSC_1048

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.

DSC_1096

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.

DSC_1080

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.

DSC_1081

DSC_1108

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.

DSC_1098

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

DSC_0012

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 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.

DSC_0607

DSC_0627

DSC_0618

DSC_0616

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.

DSC_0634

DSC_0642

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.

DSC_0639

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.

DSC_0654

DSC_0646

DSC_0643

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.

DSC_0669

DSC_0671

DSC_0677

DSC_0680

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.

DSC_0681

DSC_0707

DSC_0712

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!

DSC_0746

DSC_0744

DSC_0748