Dallying in Denmark and Frollicking in Friesland

10-12//8/16. Over the last three days we have been heading south from Ribe in Denmark reaching Husum in the Friesland area of Germany.

The weather has not been very summerlike, or rather, it has been like the archetypical north European summer weather with added wind. The old poster advertising Skegness would be a very apt way of describing it – “bracing”!

The direction of the wind has been varying somewhat. On Wednesday it continued its helpful phase moving to a north westerly direction as we turned south but on Thursday it went back to the south west which was most definitely not what the doctor ordered! Today, Friday, it started out hardly blowing at all, which was OK, but strengthened as the day progressed and was from the south west which was our general direction of travel.

In addition, there have been quite a few showers, some heavy, which have not helped with our enjoyment. On the plus side though has been the profile of the countryside – in a word “flat”. At the end of each day the Garmin has showed less than a metre of ascent for every km travelled.

The campsites have been good – good facilities, reasonable prices (at least compared to some on the Baltic coast), sheltered from the wind. The only problem with them has been the spacing – they seem to be located in groups of 2 or 3 about 40 km apart. This has meant that we have been stopping in the early afternoon when we would have preferred to have done another 20 km but were unsure about doing another 40 km comfortably because of the strength of the wind which seems to increase in the afternoon. First world problems eh?

Friday saw the first puncture since May last year! We had spent a couple of hours riding on a path next to the sea that went through fields of sheep so the bikes got splattered with ovine ordure. We reached a road and, after Christine had removed the worst of the mess from between her tyres and mudguards (this was the cause of the crash that resulted in her broken arm last year), we set off. Or so Stephen thought! 4 km later he reached a junction and stopped to wait for her. When she didn’t appear he started cycling back slowly, wondering if he had missed a turn. Christine was sat with a flat tyre 100 yards on from where she had been cleaning the bike.

Because she had not gone very far on the “clean” road the tyres were still filthy so The Mechanic’s hands were immediately covered in sheep shit! And the rain started just to make things really pleasant!

This was only the second puncture in almost 20,000 km of cycling and it was in the tyre which we fitted to replace the one that burst in Japan so it wasn’t one of those with weapons-grade puncture resistance. That’s pretty good going, we think.

The Windy Wadden Sea

9/8/16. After another lovely evening with Heike and Volker, they joined us for most of our ride to the station the next morning. We were headed for the island of Sylt, in the North Sea by the border with Denmark.

At the station we were surprised to find that a motor rail train had just arrived from Zürich since you never hear or see of this back home and we were even more impressed by the variety of car nationalities disembarking – we saw 8 including Spanish and Italian! We were early for the train but the platform soon filled up with hoards of schoolchildren. Apprehensive about getting on with the bikes because of the numbers we moved down the platform just before the train arrived (the station was a terminus so there was nobody aboard) and managed to secure both bike space and seats before the kids moved in. There were so many of them, and most with enormous suitcases, that every bit of floorspace was occupied and the air was full of excited chatter.

The trip took three hours and I don’t think we saw a hill the whole way. The landscape opened up as we approached the coast and we could see the grass and crops bending in the gusty wind (Heike had warned us that the forecast was for strong westerly winds).

Sylt is joined to the mainland by a causeway which carries only the railway and a footpath so cars either have to piggyback on a train (we saw one full going the other way and two empty ones in a shunting yard) or 1½ hour ferry trip from the southern tip or a 40 minute ferry north to a Danish island which also has causeway but which takes motor traffic.

When we arrived in Westerland, the main town on the island, it was heaving. And now it had several hundred more schoolchildren as well! It is clearly a very popular resort with the Germans. After trying, and failing, to buy some gas so that we could cook dinner, we headed off north out of town towards two campsites. We received grumpy “welcomes” at both, were told that they were full and that there was absolutely no way they could fit even a small tent in.

We were not exactly impressed by our reception so, as it was still only mid afternoon, we decided to head for the ferry to Denmark to try our luck in a different country. The ride was lovely, along an old railway track with an excellent surface through the dunes. The wind was blowing strongly but as it was from the south west it was generally very helpful, although as the path occasionally veered to the north west it was then a crosswind and gusts sometimes caught the panniers making us wobble. The temperature was also markedly cooler than before our trip to the UK so we both added another layer of clothing durung the ride, Christine going from 3 to 4 and Steohen from 2 to 3. It’s August for goodness’ sake.

The ferry was interesting in that it offered duty free sales of alcohol while in German waters. We are a little dubious that they were really “duty free” as our understanding was that this was not possible on travel between two EU countries.

Arriving in Havneby on the island of Rømø, it was only a short ride to the campsite where there was both a friendly welcome and space for us. Denmark 1, Germany 0!!

When we woke on Tuesday morning the sky threatened rain but we managed to get everything packed in the dry. A shower fell while we were sat in reception of the adjacent hotel catching a brief dose of free Wifi but luckily it was as short as it was heavy so we were soon under way.

During the night the wind had moved to pretty much due west so we were buffeted by a sidewind for the first few km as we headed north on Rømø but then we reached the turning to the mainland and suddenly cycling was dead easy!  The causeway was an impressive and unusual sight being the best part of 10 km long and dead flat – by the time we had covered 18 km the Garmin showed we had ascended the grand total of 2 metres and descended 4 metres! There were many seabirds feeding on the mudflats, all in a line just at the water’s edge as the tide went out.

When we reached the mainland we had to go up from the shoreline to the dizzy heights of 10 metres but were blown up this Alp-like climb by the tailwind. Eat you heart out Chris Froome!

At the summit we turned north towards our destination, the ancient town of Ribe, and again were buffeted by the wind. Indeed, when the road turned slightly to the left we felt the force of it in our faces and were incredibly grateful not to be back on the Baltic Coast where we were a week and a half ago or further down the North Sea Coast where we are headed in a week or so’s time. That would be a really hard slog in this wind.

As it was we covered the 40 km to Ribe in little more than 3 hours and ate lunch after setting up camp just outside the town. The campsite is expensive at about £27 but the facilities are excellent with three kitchens with gas hobs, ovens and microwaves as well as two sitting areas/lounges with TV and several power points (useful  for recharging phones and iPads) and very clean and well-fitted toilets and showers.

In the afternoon we followed a walk round Ribe using a leaflet from the tourist information and were mighty impressed by the loveliness of Denmark’s oldest town. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. We came with the children when we cycled part of the Danish coast about 15 years ago.