Failed!

6/9/16. We failed to make France today. But only just! We are about 5 km short. It was gone 5 as we approached the border and we came across a good looking campsite so decided to stop, hunger pangs getting the better of Stephen in particular!

We had made slower progress than expected because (a) we made a later start than usual through a combination of later opening supermarkets (for breakfast rolls) compounded by messing about rying to downliad podcasts on a ropey wifi connection and (b) we went on a wild goose chase following cycle route signs that depended on a ferry that now only runs at weekends! Grrrrr!

Apart from these hiccups we had a lovely day. Occasionally the route was alongside the major coastal road, but there were long stretches along the promenade looking out over lovely golden sands (which were quite empty – it is September after all!) or on quiet roads running parallel to the main road. And, of course, it was still pan flat. It was 20 km before we had even climbed a single metre!

Forgot to Mention

5/9/16. On what we thought was to be our one night in Belgium we indulged in some of the local street food when we walked into the nearby town of De Haan – chips with mayonnaise followed by a waffle with either chocolate sauce and ice cream (if you were a glutton!) or whipped cream (if you were restrained and figure conscious!!! Wink.).

Not the most healthy of evening meals but a delicious indulgence.

Crossing the Rhine Delta

1-5/9/16. Leaving Katwijk it was a short day (only 33 km) through the dunes, around The Hague to The Hook of Holland. The last part was familiar to Stephen as he has ridden that way several times when waiting for the ferry after visiting Intertek’s operation in Rotterdam.

We found a small campsite that was very reasonable (€14) a couple of km from the town and harbour. After doing the laundry in a facility attached to the supermarket across the road for a less reasonable €5 (or €6 if you use their powder) we walked into town. The signs to “Engeland” (that’s how it is spelt in Dutch) made us feel quite homesick and it was tempting to just jump on the next ferry to Harwich! (We found out later when talking to a cyclist who had arrived a couple of days early for his boat that the sailing that evening was fully booked and he was not sure he would find a space before his scheduled trip).

To cross the first of many arms of the Rhine we had to cycle about 15 km inland which was rather depressing as it felt as though we were going in completely the wrong direction. Crossing by ferry (only €2.10 each, including bike), we managed to get ourselves a little lost in a housing estate when the knooppunkt (a system of numbered points used for guiding along cycle routes) dried up temporarily.

We spent the night just outside Ouddorp on a site that was clearly very much a sideline for a farm. This is something we had not seen before, perhaps because we had been sticking to the coast where commercial sites prevail and appears to be called “minicamping”. The €10 fee disappeared into a pile of notes in the farmer’s overall pocket (never to be seen by the Dutch taxman, we suspect!).

Saturday saw the wind blowing strongly from the south west – and guess which direction we were headed! It was tough going at times, particularly when crossing the three bridges on our route to Middelburg. We had left the dunes behind us and the countryside was similar to that in Friesland – pastural – but more densely populated, and, of course, pan flat!

Middelburg was a busy, pretty place that clearly attracts a lot of visitors and was a convenient place to have excellent ice creams in the town square. The campsite, another minicamping affair, was just outside town and, although 50% more expensive than the previoys one, had excellent facilities up to Aussie or Kiwi standards including a gas hob, microwave, cutlery, plates, and a large sitting room. Also showers and excellent wifi were included in the price. Again, excellent value!

On Sunday we went our separate ways as usual – Christine walked into town for a church service while Stephen had his constitutional bike ride (a ride of two halves, Brian – easy first half with the wind followed by a real slogfest to get back “home”). The afternoon was given over to pratting about on the internet, catching up on things that have slipped since we returned to Europe.

In the morning, Stephen took us by the “scenic” route (i.e. we went 13 km rather than the 8 km it should have taken us!) to the ferry in Vlissingen. This ferry was an impressive operation – a bike deck but no space for cars and cyclists outnumbering pedestrians by about 5 to 1.

The last 20 km in The Netherlands were similar to the previous 750 – not particularly remarkable but extremely pleasant – and, to repeat ourselves, dead flat. As we approached the border there was a diversion in the cycle path for building works with a map explaining that it would take an extra 8 minutes and involve the expenditure of an extra 59 calories!

We would have crossed the border without knowing it if it wasn’t for a road sign with a .be website address. Entering Blankerberge, the coastline became much more “developed” with a large promenade and a clear orientation towards holidaymakers. We also saw the De Lijn trams which run all the way to De Panne (close to the French border) more than 70 km away. When looking at the map we have found it surprising how short the Belgian coast is in comparison to the Dutch. We expect to be in France tomorrow evening!