Upcoming Europe 2017 Cycle Tour

We have just a month to go until we leave on our third big Europe cycle tour. This time we are starting in Rome and ending in Hamburg. The 2017 map on the site is just a stub at the moment, I will be entering our locations as we go.

I found this post that Kris wrote on our last tour when cleaning up my cycle computer files and thought I would re-post it. It goes some way to answering the question “why are we doing this??”

Things balance out. When it is hot, the breeze from the front will help to keep you cooler. When it rains the heat your body creates from the exercise will warm you up.

You inevitably develop sore spots. Some of these may be a sore wrist, sore aching muscles and saddle sores. Your body also adapts an become more effective each day.

Cyclists need to rinse or wash their clothes every night and always look at how the accommodation can be used to wash and dry clothes (washbasin, plug, hangers). Most accommodation provides a washbasin and you hang your wet stuff in the shower or in various other spots (we have been forced to hang them on the bicycles).

When you cycle tour every day you start dreaming regularly at night. I discussed this phenomenon with a fellow cycling psychiatrist. He reckoned it is because the brain has received many inputs during the day which it has not had a chance to process, There are decisions about routes, passing glimpses of interesting surroundings. Cyclists think about their bicycle, bodies, and contemplative thoughts on a straight stretches. Your mind tries to catch up with the processing by staging varied dreams

Food tastes better when your body really needs it. Beer provides carbohydrates and alcohol and liquid. Beer is a triple whammy that makes your body purr after you have done a days cycling. Many cyclists drink beer.

You need fewer belongings and simple stuff become more valuable, like rope and tape. You depend on your bicycle, so the state of your bicycle becomes important. This is common to all cyclists, so it is very normal for inn-keepers to initiate the first interaction by saying they have a place where you can lock your bicycle. Conversely it is reassuring that you can replace your whole bike for a few hundred dollars if you need to (the cost of renting a car for a week or two).

It seems like the hotel community is keen on cyclists. Cyclists leave early and they drink a lot of beer. They will also eat almost any food after a ride.

You become adaptable. If you travel by bicycle and you are finding your own way and accommodation, days can be a little chaotic at times. Random things happen that are particular to the fact that you are cycling. A kid in a very small village threw stones at us. We used water bottles to store left-over red wine. A sip can be useful to improve the mood when you a close to your destination but you are struggling. Bicycles and equipment break. The towns where you planned to stay may not have suitable accommodation. The people you stay at may behave in an unexpected manner. Your main source of locomotion is your body, may have an injury or feel off. Some days you will get lost while you are trying to find accommodation. You learn that life is not on rails. Your stable job and the next five years of your planned life is a chimera.

 

Saturday 1 August – the last day

We started our day with a traditional English breakfast at the Oakland Hotel – insipid eggs, bacon and baked beans. Still, we were glad for the protein.

The last day of our tour was an 81 km ride to Gretel’s house in Orpington.

We worked our way across to the Hanningfield Reservoir, then to Ramsdon Heath, Little Burstead, then along minor roads to the outskirts of Stanford le Hope. Here we turned and made our way to West Tilbury and then Tilbury where we caught a ferry across the Thames. Our research was that it is not possible to cross the Thames on a bridge with a bicycle.

thamesferry

The ferry goes from Tilbury to Gravesend. A British couple were also on the ferry with their bicycles – they had just been on a day outing. They offered to guide us onto a “country road” – so we rode with them for a bit to Stonewood. In contrast to the routes Kris had carefully chosen, they seemed quite happy to travel along the bigger roads. We began to wonder if this isn’t safer/better – as you are at least more visible without the obscuring hedges of the country roads.

cycling

From Stonewood we made our way cross country to Hextable, Swanlea and then Orpington – where we were greeted by Elsbeth (Kris’s mother).  

journeyend       withElsbeth

Friday 31 July – getting to grips with the English roads

Today we did 85km from Harwich to Woodham Ferrers. The contrast between the Dutch cycle roads and the lack of cycling infrastructure in England is stark. Cycling in England is similar to New Zealand, though there is more traffic. There is often no shoulder or space for cyclists on the roads. We tried to find quiet country roads, but even these have a lot of traffic. The countryside is different to the rest of Europe, in that there are hedges alongside all the roads, so you cannot see fields. A few of the fields we saw were wheat.

typicalroad

We started with a short ride along the beach from Harwich, it looked like there was a cycle path but this soon disappeared.

nocycling

We went through Little Oakley and Great Oakley – and had some nice country roads for a while before we worked our way to Colchester. There was an unpleasant busy highway just before Colchester.

After Colchester we were on busy roads for a while. Finally we were able to take a short cut out through country roads to work our down to Fingringhoe. Then we followed a route between lakes and inlets to Peldon, then Little Wigborough and Great Wigborough, to Maldon. Here we paused and had salad and ice cream from the supermarket for lunch. It looks like a nice town with some pubs and houses along the river front.

church      harbour

Then we rode past Purleigh and worked our way along small roads to Woodham Ferrers and the Oakland Hotel, where we had a booking for the night.

Purleigh church is typical of churches in the area

Purleigh

The accommodation at the Oakland hotel was a little old fashioned but seemed fine.

Oakland

The hotel has a bar downstairs, the party centre of the town by all appearances. We had some British Ale before retiring for the night. We had just climbed into bed at about 10pm, when the live entertainment started downstairs – “songs of the eighties”. This was so loud that a teaspoon left in a saucer began to rattle with the vibrations and I got out of bed to move it. Kris considered going down in his underpants to complain, but in the end we just put in earplugs and dozed fitfully until it ended in the early hours.

Thursday 30 – Hook van Holland to Harwich

Today we took the Stena line ferry from Hook van Holland to Harwich in England.

Our day started with the 20km ride to Hook van Holland, along cycle paths the whole way. The Hook van Holland is a small town and we had about an hour there before we had to check in to the ferry. We bought some food for the trip and had a coffee at a local pub. The pub was recommended by the receptionist at the Student Hotel in the Hague, so we had a friendly chat with the barmaid there.

The ferry is large, and similar to the NZ Interislander ferries inside. It was also full, probably because of the issues with trucks getting through the channel tunnel at Calais. There were lots of cars and also a few other bicycles.

The ferry ride was very long. We sat in the harbour for a couple of hours after getting on board and the trip itself was about six hours. There was not much to see once we were out of the harbour. We were lucky to get a seat next to a porthole, with a power plug for the laptops. The internet worked while we were in port, but not reliably once we were out at sea. We had a chat with a couple of young German girls, also on bicycles, who were going to volunteer on organic farms in Ireland. They were just out of school and keen to improve their English by spending a few months in Britain.

ferry1

 ferry2 ferry3

It took ages to get through customs on the other side, it seems that they don’t get New Zealand passports through there very often. We felt sorry for the camper-van in the queue behind us.

Our accommodation was in the Captain Fryatt Guesthouse in Harwich, which is above a pub. We had some British ale in the pub in the evening and a chat with some of the locals and a truck driver who had also been on the ferry.

Wednesday 29 July – The Hague

The ride from Amsterdam to The Hague was around 60 km and fairly straight forward. We had good bicycle paths (2 lane and separate from the traffic) all the way.

Our route took us past the Schipol airport, then followed the Aalsmeerderdijk, passed the Westeinderplas lake, to Leiden and then Den Haag. We had a bit of headwind and it threatened to rain, but happily we stayed dry.

At one stage we were travelling along a canal that went over a four land highway!

The whole route is fairly built up, but there were still patches of farmland alongside the canals with grazing cows. Also a few windmills.

ride

ride2

We got into Den Haag early and rode around a bit looking at the town, and also looking for a map of South East England (which we eventually found).

Hague5

Hague1 Hague2 palace Hague4

Our accommodation is in “The Student Hotel The Hague” and is very modern and clean, with good shared lounge spaces. Also a cafe and bar, with a special on hamburgers. Best of all there are washing machines!

In the evening we had another ride around to look at the palaces, and an early night.

Monday and Tuesday 27/28 July – rest days in Amsterdam

Esther left in the rain on Monday morning, Kris accompanied her to the station.

We had bad weather for our two rest days in Amsterdam, with showers coming and going. We treated ourselves to a four star hotel (special price) for two nights and enjoyed sleeping in while it rained outside. When we went out, we inevitably got wet.

I searched for and bought a new camera, similar to my last one (a Canon Ixus).

However we did get to explore a bit of the city, which is huge and bustling with tourists. There are canals everywhere and many of the distinctive Amsterdam canal houses. We spent an evening walking around the red light district and enjoying beer in a couple of nearby bars. The district is much larger than we expected and has the oldest buildings. There are lots of ladies sitting in windows in their underwear, sex shops and “coffee” shops. Also people sitting smoking dope alongside the canals.

Amsterdam1      Amsterdam2        Amsterdam01        Amsterdam02

There are bicycles everywhere.

Amsterdam03

This warning is in most of the shop windows, issued by Tourist Information Amsterdam.

warning