Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

Signing off

22 September 2010

We have completed our trip and are now closing Bikelele – no more posts we promise! Thanks to our readers for encouraging us and for the comments, which we were always glad to receive. This blog will, of course, remain online as a record of our travels and we hope it may also be useful to other cyclists who are considering or undertaking a similar endeavour.

Leaving Driebergen, Netherlands

Statistics

Distance cycled
4122 km
Longest day
159 km
Cycling stages
52
Total ascent (and descent)
31,896 m (3.6 Mount Everests – sea to summit)
Countries
11
Cycling days lost (or delayed) to sickness
0
Cervical discs partially healed
1
Mechanical failures
2 (broken rear wheel and broken pannier bolt – both fixed without delay within 3 hours at the first bicycle shops encountered)
Flat tyres
2 (1 split tube valve and 1 puncture)
Tyres replaced
1
Number of items of clothing lost
3 ( 1 pair of cycling shorts; 1 cycling shirt and 1 high-tech sports towel – we hope you found it, Raul, and find a use for it.)
Number of items stolen
0
Number of items seriously damaged by wild or feral animals
1 (cycling shoe but remained serviceable to end of trip)
Blog posts
104
Photos uploaded to flickr
2666

Arriving in Istanbul, Turkey

Return to The Netherlands

22 September 2010

Our early morning trip to the Sabiah Gökçen Airport ( on the Asian side) was through thick fog that concealed the Bosphorus as we crossed the bridge. It is about 50km to the airport so we had a chance to see the vast expanse of housing in this area that extends much further than we went. There is a lot of high rise here, and generally newer buildings as this area has had more recent growth than the European side.

It is hard to imagine how people can move around the city with such inadequate public transport and with the Bosphorus forming a major transport barrier. Our flight to Amsterdam took us over the Black Sea to the north, then we think over the Ukraine, Poland and Germany.

We made it through customs and on to the Driebergen train with bike boxes and panniers with a minute to spare, and then didn’t have to change trains. This impressive record was then blotted by taking the wrong bus from Driebergen station -a faux pas soon corrected.

It’s good to be back here with a few days to rest and recover before the trip home.

Dutch klomper boys off to see the Queen

Yesterday (Tues) we went to Den Haag to see the Queen and today we have visited Hoge Veluwe, one of The Netherlands’ National Parks.

Queen Beatrix's golden coach

Helmond to Hasselt

12 July 2010

We departed Helmond at about 8am with a cool start to the day after the rain… but it didn’t last long. We skirted Eindhoven and stopped for breakfast in Valkenswaard. First international frontier came soon afterwards: Belgium! In Achel vvv we found a nice map of the Limburg bike ways and followed a rail trail most of the way to Hasselt. It was hot riding but lots of forest and shady stretches along the way.

In Hasselt we phoned a WarmShowers contact and asked if we could have a bed for the night and received a ‘yes’! That was great. So we met Sara and her partner Joris, their enormous dog Babar and their friends Geert and Heidi. First activity was a drive to a disused gravel quarry that’s a little known swimming spot – a perfect cool down. Then a nice dinner with Belgian beer and special dishes (I’ll put the names in later!).

None of our companions were interested inn the World Cup, despite that fact that the final was on, so we went to bed without knowing the result. A disappointment to check BBC news in the morning to find that Holland had lost.

Sara is a beekeeper in her spare time and she works for an NGO teaching sustainability principles to primary school children. And she’s having a baby in December. She provided a tent at the back of the house – very comfortable! And a lovely experience to meet new people, much younger than us, and to feel that we had much in common and enjoyed each other’s company.

View from Sara's garden

Cycle route:Helmond to Hasselt

At Lavinia’s

12 July 2010

Dutch breakfast –  bread (several varieties), cheese (about 8 varieties), coffee made by Vincent. This is a good start to the day. Lavinia and Vincent showed us around Annatheater and we were impressed with the enormous amount of work  they have done and their success in this endeavour. It was also great to see Vincent’s atelier although he has now established a new one in Deurne where he will have fewer interruptions. He is doing oil paintings now. I hope he will return to printmaking sometime.

We visited Margaret’s friend Mien in Mierlo – she is 85 years old, well and happy with family and friends and her many interests.

Sonia, Lavinia and Vincent’s daughter, turned 14 so there was a big family gathering with lots of cake (3 varieties), a huge pot of spaghetti, lots of uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. It was great to meet Raoul, Constanza, Isis’ husband and children and all the others. We had singing, eating, drinking, dancing, a thunderstorm, a downpour and then we watched the soccer (Germany vs Uruguay).

Lavinia's house

Driebergen to Helmond

9 July 2010

Wieteke and Kees capped off a wonderful week by riding with us as far as Echteld. We started early anticipating a hot day. It finally got to 37C – too damn hot!

After a happy/sad parting Rosalie & I headed off on the first autonomous leg of our European odyssey. We swam at a swimming beach on the Maas near Megen but then the day really started hotting up.

MapMyRides had routed us onto N329 which, south of Megen was forbidden to cyclists (with no alternatives immediately available). We rode N329 for a while oblivious of the meaning of the signs until a motorist stopped and explained. So, we abandoned our MapMyRides route and let the Garmin plot a course to Lavinia’s house in Helmond – a task it did flawlessly. It saves a lot of time and tedium navigating large towns like Oss. This town was in the news yesterday as a large company there has just retrenched over 2000 workers. We passed the factory on our way.

It was great to meet Vincent and Sonya and see Lavinia again after so many years. The toast at dinner was to reunions (and healthy backs).

Cycle route:

Driebergen to Helmond

Rosalie on the road

Dutch bikes

8 July 2010

Here is my collection of photos of Dutch bikes

Amsterdam

8 July 2010

Amsterdam!

Breakfast by a canal

Van Gogh Museum (if you go there get an audio tour – it saves a lot of reading)

Guided tour of untourist places by Amsterdam resident and upcoming writer and internet personality, Arne Mosselman! This included lunch of herring in a street market; visits to different sections of the city with sociological commentary; Theo van Gogh memorial; new polders to cater for expansion of the city; Durgerdam, a charming little village on the IJsselmere where we stopped for a cold drink and an unscheduled swim.

Arne showed us the place where he lives – a block of student apartments built by stacking up shipping containers. It looked pretty cool. Amsterdam is fantastic – beautiful buildings, hollyhocks, roses and lavender in flower everywhere, bikes by the thousand, canals, boats, bridges… Utility bikes are very common for carrying children and goods. We saw a bright orange utility bike with a large wooden container at the front in which a young girl sat blowing a bright orange vuvuzela. Her father was pedalling and mother was sitting side-saddle on the back! We also saw a man cycling with a double bass strapped to his back.

Cycle route: Arne’s Amsterdam Tour

Arne leads the way

Driebergen – Amerongen – Wijk bij Duurstede – Driebergen

8 July 2010

After a day in the car it was necessary to revert to the bikes. So a lovely ride through the local countryside was undertaken. Here’s an unusual thing we saw: several kilometres out of Driebergen we passed a vehicle that had 4 wheels, 2 adults pedalling, 3 children in the front seat and 3 or 4 in the back. The adults were child care workers from the Driebergen child care centre and they were taking the children on an outing. You can’t imagine that happening in Australia! Our ride included 2 ferry crossings of the Lek, a stop for ice tea at Amerongen and another visit to the lovely town of Wijk bij Duurstede.

Child care on the path

Ian and Kees then went to a bike shop to explore customisation of Ian’s bike to enable him to cycle in a more upright position. I went on a trip to Utrecht and while walking around the town saw several babies being transported on bikes in capsules attached to the rear carrier. It’s quite a surprise to see a pair of chubby baby legs waving in the air and a string of toys suspended above for it to play with while being conveyed on a bike!

As it grew dark, Wieteke and I had a session of gypsy music in the garden, she on the violin and me  on ukulele. Watch out gypsies! Not that there are any around here. The people of Driebergen were unmoved.

Cycle route:
Driebergen – Amerongen – Wijk bij Duurstede – Driebergen

Sea defences in Zeeland

8 July 2010

We drove (very fast) on a big freeway through Rotterdam and the industrial areas with endless refineries, fuel tanks, container ships, windmills and power stations. Traffic jams were holding up cars travelling in the opposite direction. We were going to Zeeland to see the sea defences (Oosterschelde). We have heard about the floods of 1953 in which the dikes broke because of a severe storm. Hundreds of people in villages in Zeeland drowned as these areas were inundated. The engineering works that were done subsequently took several decades and were finished in 1988. Barriers can now be lowered to completely block high tides that would otherwise cause flooding. OK, that’s the educational part.

We went to Neeltje Jans which is like a Defences Against the Sea theme park. We had a boat ride and watched an educational film about the engineering. I went to sleep during most of it but saw the bit where Queen Beatrix officially opened it. By the way, Kees met the queen about a year ago when she visited his office and this caused him to transform from a republican into a monarchist, much to Arne’s disgust.

Next we went to Middelburg, a beautiful town that was flattened by the Luftwaffe in 1940 and has subsequently been rebuilt. It has a magnificent church, a fine square and hundreds of bikes. Wieteke and I both bought a hat.

After some wandering around we had to speed home in time for the soccer match Holland v Uruguay. Holland won and Wieteke and I put on orange scarves and went hooning down to the centre of Driebergen on the bike, me side saddle on the back. There were about 20 people gathered outside the pub dressed in orange and a couple of vuvuzelas. We did a few hoots and cheers but lacked critical mass to get the place hopping so we went home again.

Hup Holland Hup! The orange flags and bunting stay up for a few more days!

Orange hopes remain high in Middleburg

Dutch panniers

6 July 2010

Panniers were the theme of my photography in Utrecht.

Dutch bicycle panniers

Slowly by the IJssel

6 July 2010

Kees and Wieteke drove us via Austerlitz to Deventer on the IJssel River (anabranch of the Rhine). We took two bikes with us. Rosalie and Wieteke hired two excellent utility bikes from the railway station – a standard service available at major stations across Holland.

The IJssel is a beautiful, brim-full river navigated by barges, tourist boats and pleasure craft through lush green pastures and patches of woodland.

Deventer and Zutphen are old trading cities that now hide the historic centres behind a ring of modern suburbs.

Our route took us from Deventer to Zutphen on the true right bank of the IJssel and back on the true left bank (including a detour on Huzarenlaan – all very Napoleonic!). We saw storks nesting on poles. Storks disappeared from Holland for several decades and have now begun to return. Their food sources diminished due to agricultural practices, but now apparently they can find enough frogs and rats to eat.

Rosalie’s skill at riding side-saddle on a bicycle carrier in the classic Dutch tradition is awesome. (By the way, Dutch stairs are very steep – take care!)

Cycle Route:
Deventer/Zutphen loop

(I forgot to press Start for a while but you’ll get the general idea.)

Orange spirits are high!

Culturele zondag Utrecht

5 July 2010

Ian has taken up cycling again, Dutch style. He can ride Kees’ Sparta, a one speed upright with chain guard. He glides around without a helmet looking like a Dutch man.

A beautiful sunny day. After an outdoor breakfast we set off on the bikes to go to Utrecht, the nearest city to Driebergen, about 15 km away. Kees predicted that it would be very quiet on a Sunday but Wieteke said it was such a beautiful city and we should go anyway. On the way we passed the very place where Graham’s wheel rims failed in 2000! We visited the Remonstrant Church and received a spontaneous guided tour. In the middle of town there are canals, cafes, shops, people and bicycles everywhere. The Dom of Utrecht is a famous landmark, many centuries old. We climbed to the top (465 steps) with a guided party – great views in all directions. Rather than being quiet, it was a cultural Sunday in Utrecht, with a series of outdoor performances along the main canal during the afternoon. We heard a fine orchestra playing in a boat on the canal, then a choir and youth ensemble. The afternoon culminated with a performance of Handel’s Water Music on a canal-side platform with hundreds of people on all sides, in boats and kayaks.

Cycle Route:

Driebergen to Utrecht and return

Tour de France prologue in Rotterdam

4 July 2010

A warm overcast day. We took the Sprinter from Driebergen to Utrecht, then another train to Rotterdam. This trip takes you through an area that is more than 7 metres below sea level. Everyone was going to Rotterdam. According to Kees, Rotterdam is where they make money and Amsterdam is where they spend it. We walked along the main street called Coolsingel and found quite a few cool things. One was a shop called Studio Hergebruik or Re-use Studio, in which all the merchandise was groovy stuff made from recycled materials.

The constant passing parade of people on bikes of all shapes and sizes was interesting too. As we came closer to the Erasmus Bridge we joined the massive crowd that had arrived to watch the Tour de France prologue. It began to rain and all TdF merchandise vans were immediately swamped by people buying yellow umbrellas and plastic ponchos. Thanks to Ian’s foresight we were equipped with raincoats. We found a reasonable vantage point where the riders passed in both directions. When Stuart O’Grady was on his way we appealed to the people in front to allow us to squeeze in so that Ian could yell and I could film. This done we walked around the course, across the Willem’s bridge where we could see the famous cube house. We also heard the results of the World Cup game – Germany 4, Argentina 0. The Dutch do not want to play against Germany in the finals! But maybe they will have to.

There are less than 6 hours of darkness here at the moment – from about 11pm to 4.30am – so it’s easy to stay up late without realising. We have heard that the Dutch Parliament is trying to form a coalition between 4 or so parties because the major parties are not major any more.

Tour de France Prologue

We’re here! in The Netherlands, that is

4 July 2010

Flying to Europe takes a long time! A highlight along the way was a roti canai and teh tarik in KLIA. The downside was a very uncomfortable Ian who suffered from sitting too long and was feeling pretty sore. However, things were soon looking up after a joyful reunion with Wieteke and Kees. On the drive to Driebergen I was convinced I was really in Holland after seeing cows, canals, a windmill and hundreds of people riding cool black bikes everywhere. This is really astonishing to see just how normal and ubiquitous bicycle riding is in Holland.

We decided on a trip to Wijk bij Duurstede, a small town about 10km away, where Ian was to consult a physiotherapist in the hope of getting some relief from pain. Wieteke and I set off on bikes through the beautiful countryside. Everything is green and lush, big farmhouses, thatch rooves, castles here and there, cows, cow smells, white swans, herons, tractors, orchards, neat vegetable gardens, narrow roads. It was an unusually hot day – well over 30 degrees. Ian’s physio had bony fingers and sadly didn’t help much so we had lunch, saw a wedding party, watched the people riding by on bikes and saw lots of orange bunting and decorations that were marking the World Cup game between Holland and Brazil to be held that afternoon. Then we set off for home, riding along the dike  by a branch of the Rhine, called Lek. Holland won the game 2-0. Kees became a human vuvuzela – everyone in the country was very happy!

Wieteke & Kees's house in Driebergen