This is coming to you from Hoek van Holland which marks the end of the Rhine cycle ride. The Rhine actually finished a little while back because this river starts to split into different streams as it enters the North Sea in a delta. So in fact I have been following the Lek River for the last couple of days. I have covered close to 1300km which is not in a straight line by any means and definitely includes some extra kilometres which were not in the guide as the Rhine wound its way to the North Sea. I have seen lots as I have descended from Davos in the Swiss Alps dropping from 1500 metres and snow covered peaks down to the wind swept North Sea and actually cycling some areas below sea level here in The Netherlands, this extraordinary country that keeps back the sea which would otherwise flood them and reclaims lands. Although the weather has been chillier than I would have liked in some places it has also been incredibly kind in that I have only had the very ocassional shower.
From the Alps, the land of Heidi and Lindt chocolate, cows and beautiful villages to the small country of Lichenstein. Then winding my way through mainly Germany but a quick little dip into France and Austria to arrive in The Netherlands. All different countries but all in such a small geographic area compared to Australia. The river too has changed from one with some white water to a broader river taking a lot of river traffic. I have enjoyed seeing the different water craft and especially all the different kinds of barges that go upstream and downstream non stop. I have had a couple of lovely nights right on the river and find it quite mesmerising watching these large majestic vessels. There have also been some tourist craft but the busy season of floating hotels has not really started. Here at Hoek van Holland/Rotterdam one of the largest if not the largest port in the world (makes Fremantle look like a toy sized port), there are now giant ocean ships. The tourist officer was proud to tell me the largest ship carries 1800 containers!! Yesterday I took the fast ferry around the port for a look. This is really a commuter ferry for the workers on the port areas across from Hoek v. Holland. For any ex-Guides I have revisited that old campfire song Barges which did not mean so much back then. Found the words on the internet "Out of my window looking at the night I can see the barges flickering lights . . "
I have enjoyed basically all of the riding and did not miss having to challenge myself with any large mountains. Given the load I am carrying flat is just fine. Although I was reminded yesterday as I battled gale force head winds on the last 15 km that sometimes hills are preferable to wind because at least those finish. I have also encountered more and more cycle tourists as I have got closer to the end. The morning from Duisburg was an example. I headed off and crossed the inner harbour bridge of this river port city only to feel a bit lost. Along came two women also cycling the Rhine but with a better guide than me so I tagged along with them for a few kilometres till we were again foxed. Along came a couple following a GPS so then five of us all tagged along for a few more kilometres together before we were all firmly on the right track.
My best riding was when I was close to the river and through the associated wetlands. I also loved some great forest areas which was a surprise as I did not think in these highly populated countries there would be so much green space. Cities could be hard work with a fully loaded bike and I feel like I only skimmed the surface of some of these great cities so there will be more to see next time.
I have enjoyed meeting people along the way and being able to spend two days with Perth friends, Evie and Elke, at Engers near Bonn - thanks for such a relaxing stay and the two chocolate Easter bunnies now duly consumed. I had a lovely Warm Showers host out of Arnhem and with them attended a lovely farewell party for some cyclists heading to Turkmenistan and Nepal for 7 months. Through them I met some inspriing cyclists. I am heading today to Gouda, of cheese fame, to stay with two of them for a couple of days. I will also finalise a short cycle adventure for the next week probably following a national cycle route that will get me to Amsterdam in time to catch my ferry for the UK on the 19 May. Then the UK part of my trip starts. I am also toying with the idea of finding an idyllic little cottage somewhere and holing up for a week as I have been on the move really since Malta. So while one cycle trip ends another starts.
It is also fun to be in these countries where cycling is so much a way of life - it really does contribute to the uniqueness of this country in particular. I do not think it is just about it being flat here - it is about living in a highly densely populated country where like Australia so many journeys are short - shopping, to work, to visit friends etc so cycling is very possible. There is no way the streets would handle the car ownership levels we have in Australia. But the infrastructure is here and it all works!!!! Amsterdam brings this to another whole level and I am looking forward to that as well. Plus no lycra and no helmets.
So after a very unusually good breakfast (croissant with fresh strawberries, juice, fruit, bread, rolls, cheese, spreads, coffee, egg - is this trying to get me in training for those large British breakfasts?) time to get on the bike. I will head southish for the first time for a long time. I am eternally grateful that my body has loved the challenge of the cycling and feeling good physically and mentally. My trusty bike also doing really well, no problems till literally the last 50 metres when I was surprised to find a soft flat tyre!! Really - anyway all sorted now and glass on the track was the culprit.
So till next blog, all the best,