By riding all the way to North Shields we had scored a rest day, and checked out of the hotel at around 11:30 to mosey on down 600m to the ferry terminal. You could see the ferry from the hotel foyer! We had to wait in the terminal building as check-in only commenced at 12:30. As we walked out to take our bikes over to the check-in kiosk a DFDS attendant came over to us and said, "Check in commences at 12:30 so that is in ONE MINUTE". What a precise guy! He made it seem that if we did not check in at 12:30 excaclty we would be barred from boarding. Anyway, we went over and waited between two groups of very macho motorbike tourists (is there another kind?) and once we had passed the check-in gate we waited again to board with 6 other cycle tourists and had a chat. There was a couple from Belgium who had come over to tour some of Scotland for the wife's 60th birthday. She was a master organiser as the husband carried all their gear in a BOB trailer and she just had a tiny gear bag on her rear rack and very elegantly painted finger nails. She was fluent in English, while the husband who was not grimaced, every now and then until she explained he had fallen off his bike trying to negotiate a u-turn too quickly and broken a rib. "The doctor said there is nothing we can do, but he is a strong man!" she said gaily. She was very outgoing and asked us all about our trip. Later on she told us that they had not encountered any midges and after that I hated her. The other stand out was young Maya and her Mum. They were from Moray which we had passed en route to Aberdeen and were on their first cycle tour to visit family in Dresden, Germany. She was only young, about 9 or 10 years old but so enthusiastic and confident. A real pleasure to meet her and her Mum, we have no doubt that they will get to Dresden in fine style.
After we had secured our bikes on deck we headed to our cabin. The rest of the trip passed uneventfully. The crossing was very smooth and the cabin was very warm; it did not seem that the airflow was operational, but we relaxed and got some sleep. We enjoyed the buffet breakfast next morning and then the trip was over and we disembarked in cloudy Amsterdam! We soon found out that this was just a hangover from the previous day's 30 degree heat and within an hour or so it disappeared and we had blue sky. We set off on our 40km ride to our hotel. As always, arriving in the Netherlands on a bicycle is a "Ah ha" moment, as in "Ah, this is what life should be like all the time!". As a cyclist you have a completely seperate road network with its own traffic lights that change automatically or at the push of a button. Cars stop for you when exiting roundabouts, just because you are there. Everyone is on bikes, groups of school kids chatting and laughing as they go, businessmen in suits, Mums wiith a kid on the front and a kid on the back, even a man with his wife, kid and dog in the front of his bakfiets! We took a longer route than we needed to getting to our hotel as we wanted to see Zaanse Schans, which is an area of windmills along a canal. It's pretty touristy but quaint. We caught two small ferries en route to Westerpoort and arrived around 14:00 at our hotel. We would highly recommend Hotel2Stay. It is at Sloterdijk station so tram, bus and metro are right there, very convenient. The hotel is small studios and it was great to have a kitchenette with fridge and oven, etc.
We bought 48 hour public transport passes and spent the afternoon and next day going to and from all sorts of places. We did some shopping for bits of gear to replace worn out stuff or upgrade! I went to the Van Gogh Museum which was wonderful. We walked about in the sunshine and that is best of all. Mike said it all as we cycled from the ferry port "it feels like comnig home".
We left the hotel at 10:00 and so we missed rush hour on the cycleways of Amsterdam. Our route was mainly coastal. At the start we travelled east through the Centraal Station precinct. The bicycle parking has to be seen to be believed. Even though the route was quiet we were still in the mix with other cyclists and it is amazing to ride like this. Everyone goes at the same pace, no one is overtaking or "going for the gap". It's just like being in traffic in a car and going at the speed limit. It was a sunny day and the cycle route was edged with wild flower meadows and grass. There are many benches scattered around and we stopped to have our flask coffees at one. Muizen with it's castle was a highlight as were the other villages we rode through. Many had marinas and all were pretty and neat.
Everywhere we rode we had brilliant cycle paths, lovely rural views (flat) and we saw so many people out on bikes. Some were on day trips or holiday outings, others just getting home from work or school. Much of the route had sea views and the beaches were in use. We cycled through many forests, mainly oak. We decided to try "paalkampering" which is approved wild camping at certain points that fall under Forestry control. When we reached the campsite though it seemed that there was a group who had more or less made this their permenant home. The idea of the "paakampering" is that you stay 2-3 nights only and there are only 3 tents allowed per place (similar to the requirements of the Scottish Outdoor Code, but at designated areas). Also you need to have walked or cycled to the camping spot. We just felt that the people camping there seemed not to have used either of these modes as their tents were too big. It was a nice spot in the forest, but in the end we went on to one of our favourite things about the Netherlands - mini-camping or farm camping. This campsite was brilliant with lovely facilities. As we remembered from previous trips to the Netherlands, the caravans are parked around the edges of the camping field and cars must be parked at the front of the property. As the weather was so nice and warm, everyone was lying back on deck chairs, faces to the sun. There was a bunch of cute young cows so curious to see us arrive. We had a friendly reception and were glad we had decided against the informal campsite. A great day on the cycleways of rural Netherlands!
It was a hot day today, 30 degrees was forecast and that was spot on (in the shade). We thought idly about an early start but didn't feel motivated to rush. We marvelled at how quickly the weather changes, in a matter of days you look upon thick woolen jumpers in disbelief that you would ever need such a thing and start mumbling about it "taking up space" in your pannier. The day was really too hot for cycle touring but perfect for everything else. Hardly any wind, sublime views of the lazy Dutch countryside with fields of wheat, corn and cows almost always seen whilst riding on a polder. Thre cycleways continued to take us wherever we wanted to go. First stop Amersfoort where we stopped at the glorious Saturday market. In over two months travel we have not come across one market and so we were pretty excited. The town of Amersfoort is almost too quaint to bear. The market was set up in the old town square. We navigated our way to it by following all the people on bicycles with empty panniers who were going there too! The flowers were beautiful, the baked goods delicious and the fruit perfect. We bought fresh juice in glass bottles, freshly roasted nuts, bread covered in pumpkin seeds, and peppered sausages. We rode about 2km and then stopped to eat some of it. The main cycle highway into Amersfoort is called the Jaagpad. We sat on a bench by the Jaagpad and watched many people come and go by bike. We stopped a little while later at a museum set up in an old German bunker which was interesting.
The route went through a National Park - Heumelrug and the area was very pretty. Many people seemed to be making use of the good weather to explore the area by bike. The day felt very lazy, we passed some swimming baths set up in the forest which were actually lakes and many families were making their way there for the day. It takes zero effort to cycle in the Netherlands, you just sort of go along without ever really having to stop at more or less a constant speed. This combined with the hot, still day made for sleepiness! We sat at another bench to drink our fruit juice and then continued on our way.
We stopped a few kilometers before the campsite to buy a few more things to eat. As it was so hot I bought the smallest box of icecream I could find, which still meant we had to eat our way through 6 caramel cornetto's. What a hardship! After passing a beautiful castle and a wedding party we arrived at our campsite on the river. It was busy and seemed full but we were allocated a site on the water's edge. It had no shade when we arrived so we went off and found some elsewhere and just relaxed for a few hours. We had a couple of river swims. Although the site was full, it was very quiet. We found the UK sites often noisy, particularly the kiddies (read "zero discipline"), whereas here no one seems to raise their voices and you don't hear the children at all. Also, no one has dogs, this is noticeable the minute you arrive in the Netherlands. In the UK it seems it's obligatory to have at least one, and there's always a barking dog in the campsite. The Netherlands gets bonus points for this!
We had a peaceful and warm night and it was still warm when we woke up. We wanted to get an early start but as we were camped so close to people we were conscious of disturbing them. We decided to pack up and have breakfast on the road as we were passing through Arnhem in a few kilometers. Many people were already up and about when we left at 07:30. We enjoyed breakfast in a shady park. It seemed the day would be another hot one.
The diversity of the landscape in the Netherlands is always surprising as we experienced on a previous trip. When you think of the Netherlands you automatically think of a flat country with picturesque villages, but just today we cycled uphill, through beautiful forest glades and passed very sandy (high) areas. An example of this is Rosendael Woods, after Rosendael Castle where almost all the roads are car free and the place was full of road cyclists in little packs, obviously due to the little climbs that you get there. It was such an experience to ride there. After this we were back into rural Netherlands with farms and little canals. We stopped to buy a bottle of Coke, yes, our first of this tour! Must be hot! We drank it in a little park and watched the locals cycle past. After this we caught a little ferry across a river and then spent some time cycling along a dyke. We passed through various woodlands again on little dirt tracks. All the while there were elderly couples, families with small children and family groups with grown-up children, all out on their bikes just enjoying the day. We would often pass a couple who had stopped at a bench for a bite to eat, clearly out for the day on their bikes. We even passed an old man who had stopped and sat on a bench in the shade and fallen asleep. We love the atmosphere here when cyclists are the majority.
We reached our little farm campsite at around 14:30. The reception was unmanned but there was a number to ring. The man who answered could not speak English and I struggled along with Afrikaans, but he hung up after saying " it's vol". Anyway, I gave it a few minutes and called again, he then asked how many nights we would stay and I said "een" and he said "Ein of twee?" and I said "Ein" and he said "go next place". And hung up. So we started looking online for other campsites when an old man drove up. He was happy to meet us and apologised but said he could not speak English. He was happy for us to camp and gave us a lovely shaded site for which he only charged EU10! The facilities are lovely and the other campers are all "seniors" in caravans who look as if they spend summers here. It is a great spot! Germany tomorrow!
The weather was perfect today, the morning was cool and the max temp only 25 degrees. It made such a difference as we took breaks wherever we wanted to, enjoyed our coffee on the road again and just soaked it all in. The ride was good too. We saw some windmills and the ever-present and pretty Dutch countryside. Quieter today as it was a Monday. Today we saw our second robotic lawnmower of the trip too! We passed through the large town of Enschede which was quite busy with cyclists. We saw three very interesting things in this town. The first only really interested Michael as it was a very long water pipe that was going to be installed in one piece. The other was a guy "walking" his dog, but the dog was actually swimming in the canal on a very long lead. The canal was in a modern area in the town and the water level was at the man's feet. The man walked along as usual holding the lead, but it trailed over the handrail into the water where it was attached to the dog. It was so funny to see that we laughed out loud! The other thing was two parks maintenance men would were out killing weeds by burning them with a blowtorch connected to a gas bottle! All these things are examples of Dutch efficiency!
We stopped for lunch at a picnic table (see pic) and then a few kilomteres later crossed the border to Germany. You wouldn't have known it had happened had you not expected it. The cycle route in Germany was a little rough and not quite up to the same standard as we have become accustomed to over the last few days! When it shot uphill on a cobbled road we abandoned it for a lovely cycle path runnig alongside a busy-ish road. As we were standing trying to decide a voice came out of the air "Which way to go?". At first I thought it might be God, but it was a friendly German cyclist helping us out! We continued along this path and stopped at Netto Mart which is the German equivalent of Albert Hijn (But Bertie is better, I guess I mean Netto is everywhere like AH is!). When I went to pay there was one till open and about 6 people in the queue. Things got ugly when they started demanding another check-out be opened but the lady working on the till didn't even blink an eye, just kept scanning and ringing up purchases. We passed through Bad Benthein with its castle. Here we were back on the cycle route which immediately took us up a steep cobble street again! What is wrong with cycle routes? Dutch cyclists would never put up with this nonsense? So once again we took to a busier road. The thing is that all the busy roads stiill have cycle paths alongside, so why not use those?
Our campsite is HUGE, German-style. We camped in a pine forest and the facilities were hotel standard; very impressive and german quality at its best. The weather was very pleasant this afternoon with a cool breeze. We felt a bit sad to leave the Netherlands and are sure to go back as it is one of our favourite countries. Coming from Cape Town, we can better understand the Dutch influence there after spending time here, especially in the stone pine forests, small woodland areas and thatched houses.
Another cooler night and a cooler day which was good as we were still recovering from those two hot days in the Netherlands! We had a slowish start, but once we got going the day went quickly. We spent some time riding along various canals and through farmland today, starting at Rheine, a town which straddles the Ems River/Canal. The riding was very pretty and also very easy! We were either on dedicated cycle routes or cycleways running alongside roads all day. We saw our third robotic lawnmower. We stopped for a coffee break at a lovely lake and saw a man going swimming across it (as in open water swimming, not just paddling to cool off!). We passed through many small villages and they were all eerily quiet. I went into two supermarkets at different times of the day and they were nearly empty, one having only one other customer! Not sure if it is just low population in rural areas, or if after busy Netherlands we need to adjust!
We have learnt something very interesting. We noticed leaving Amsterdam and entering farmland, whenever you passed an avenue of oak trees (of which Netherlands has many), each tree had warning tape around it's trunk that said "Passop! Eikenprocessierups!". We wondered what this could mean over the few days that we were there. We thought at first it was a warning to cyclists as acorns can be slippery and cause you to have an accident on your bike. Then we looked at the translation of "processierups" and it was "processional" and that did not help as we were then thinking, "What is an oak processional"? I thought it just meant, avenue of oaks, beware the falling acorns. Then Netherlands does not strike us as a country that would bother doing that though as acorns falling are common sense around oak trees and the Dutch are a commonsensicle lot. Now we are in Germany and the warning tape reads "Achtung! Eichen prozessionspinnen". There is a little picture next to it that looks like worms. Total befuddlement was ours. At last night's campsite though there was an information notice about this. The signs and warnings are to do with a moth and it's caterpillars called "oak processional", so-named as the hairy caterpillars move along end to end and often in large group in arrow formation. These are terrible pests as they cause massive damage to oak trees and allergic reactions in people! We notice today that the signs are even more formal, being actual road signs and often saying "Achtung: Alergie". It seems the hair from these things are shed and become airborne and people breath them in, causing asthma and even anaphylaxis! And we thought nothing could harm us here..... It also makes more sense now as in The Netherlands, we saw a man in a decontamination suit vacuuming oak trees!
We were soon at our campsite, without suffering any allergic reaction. It was, as expected, huge and German. On a lake, 450 pitches. All the bells and whistles, but grass bone dry and brown from the recent heat. We are paying EU 30 for the pleasure. No cyclist rate here, even in a country that is well-known as a cycle touring destination, or at least known for bicycles! We did find a shady spot though and took a walk later. It was interesting to see two water skiing devices with no motor boat required. There was a huge rotating cable pully device above and each person grabbed onto a rope by a handle and was whirled round and round. Sort of like a ski chair lift, but for water skiing. We were amazed! Tomorrow we are going to try to get all the way to Bremen. We are enjoying the weather now, it is cool but comfortable.
We were due to take two more days to reach Bremen, with the second day quite short. We do not like these huge campsites which are commonplace in Germany, we get it that they are there for summer family vacations by the water, but they are expensive and don't really suit us. We relooked at the route and saw that we could reach Bremen in 100km following a more direct route, so booked another night in the Radisson (where we had originally booked so that we could have new panniers delivered; see gear update below). It's crazy, but the large campsites cost more than a third of the price you pay at a good hotel like the Radisson Blu, and you have to put up with quite a few numpties. When Mike planned the German part of the trip, he utilised the demarcated cycle route network. As there is no Google Street View in Germany you cannot look at roads online to see what they look like. In fact, all the roads which are busy with car traffic have seperate cycle paths in this part of the country anyway. So you can cycle along on your own good quality road completely unworried by traffic which is fantastic. This is how we got to Bremen, you still pass through villages and towns along the way, but the route was shorter. We stopped every 25km for coffee, lunch and snacks and it was a good day's ride. There was a slight breeze (headwind in some cases) and it was warm, but not too warm.
We realised that the route we were following was actually a local cycle route called "Osnabreauk-Bremen" so that was good! The route into the city was perfect, on dedicated cycle paths all the way. As we drew near to the main streets, we slipped in behind two old fogeys on their bikes which is a good tip for navigating any European city by bike. You will have to crawl along, but they know all the best routes and where best to cross roads, etc. Also, no one is going to mow down the old lady on her bike, so you're safe! We arrived at our hotel in perfect time for check-in. It is well situated just at the Old Town. Bremen has many beautiful old buildings, clustered around market squares. We like it here very much.
GEAR UPDATE: This is unintentionally turning out to be a "gear replacement tour"! Just after arriving in Scotland, we had two significant gear problems. The biggest one was to our MSR Guardian Water Purifier which had its piston fail just after arriving on the Isle of Mull. We contacted Cascade Designs in Ireland and they provided great service and offered to send us a replacement free of charge. In fact, they sent us two at our request as we now regard it as a critical spare which is not available "off the shelf". The piston is a key component of the filter and takes much of the load while filtering, and just doesn't seem to be made robust enough for the job. It has been the topic of quite a few discussions on the Wide Wide World of Web where there have been reports of it breaking after very little use. So maybe we were lucky that our broke only after about 9 months of continuous use! MSR advised that it shouldn't break provided the assembly is lubricated often (but this is not stated in the operating/maintenance instructions; nor did they state how often). The part is plastic and should be more robust. Interestingly, we actually do carry a Guardian Maintenance Kit which includes a small tube of silicone lubricant, but this would never be enough if one used the filter continuously on a long trip. We have since purchased some additional generic tubes of silicone grease from Amazon (used for coffee machines) to allow us to maintain the filter as expected by MSR. At the time of the break we were quite worried that it could affect our camping arrangements as we were planning to wild camp often, and we use the filter daily. However, on the Outer Hebrides we had access to drinking water often at ferry crossings/shops so this turned out to not be as much of a problem as we thought it would be. We have always used MSR Water Filters and so it was disappointing when it happened.
The other gear issue has been that Mike's Thermarest Prolite Plus mattress developed a smallish "bubble" as the outer skin began to delaminate from the inner foam. We didn't think it was huge issue when we first spotted it, but ordered a new mattress anyway to arrive in Mallaig. Then while on South Uist a few days later, the bubble alarmingly grew until it became the size of a pillow and the mattress became unusable. As Cascade Designs is also the agent for Thermarest, and we already had a relationship with them in Ireland, we contacted them again to see if the problem was covered under the Limited Lifetime Warranty. It was funny to e-mail again and say: "Thanks for the replacement piston, but by the way, our mattress has packed it in too". Cascade Designs again provided great service and replaced the mattress free of charge. That's great service when the mattress was used extensively during the last four years. So thumbs up to Cascade Designs, and their MSR and Thermarest products.
At the start of the trip, Mike broke a strap on his Ortlieb panniers, but was able to repair it in the field. That did highlight the fact that the panniers are quite worn, having had a few holes, etc. repaired with tape over the years. In the end, we decided that they probably didn't need replacing right away. This was until we arrived in Germany, and when closing the one pannier in the morning, you could see sand on the ground being blown away as air was expelled through a seam failure! That was the final straw, and we have now decided to replace them, particularly since we are in Bremen and they are readily available in Germany. Also, Judith's Rack Pack that is about 16 years old has failed miserably in that the handle/clip fixture has now finally fallen off and can't really be closed. We've decided to replace this one with a heavy duty Ortlieb Dry Bag which seems to suit our purpose as the bear containers which we carry fit/slide in perfectly. This should make for a neater/lighter arrangement. We are going to be looking like real newbies when we leave Bremen tomorrow, but hopefully we get the same lives out of these Ortlieb products as we did from the last.
We felt a little lazy getting up this morning and took it easy. There were a few things to work out with the new panniers and dry bags but all went well. We rang reception as we had our old panniers, my old handlebar bag and rackpack and a HUGE box that it was all delivered in to dispose of, but they just said, leave it there. So we did! The hotel stay was great, with one strange incident yesterday. We had put the "do not disturb sign" on the door as we did not need the room serviced, or rather to service the room would mean the poor cleaner would have to step over boxes, panniers, the entire contents of a bike tour on the hotel room floor. Anyway, the housekeeping person knocked on the door and we said it was all good and just asked for new towels. She asked if we wanted the room serviced and we said no thanks. A bit later we went out and took the sign down as the servicing question was now in the past. When we returned and walked into the room there were two men in there, with ladders and buckets of water preparing to clean the windows. We said thanks but no thanks, please leave. They seemed a bit confused but left. It seemed a bit weird to have your wondows cleaned during a hotel stay. Wouldn't they schedule that for when you leave? So they left with ladder and bucket (as if we needed any more stuff in the room) and then we noticed that both windows were open, but one did not have a locking mechanism. It must have been unlocked by a key that they had. So I tried to find them and I did, but when I asked them to come back to lock the window, the man said, "I don't know". I don't think he spoke English. We left it but then the wind started blowing it open. I should just explain that these were large, double glazed, very tall windows. So I rang downstairts and asked for someone to come up to sort out this window which the cleaners had left open and which we could not lock. The receptionist said she would send someone. 30 min later no one had been so I rang again and spoke to the same lady. She sounded a bit confused and paraphrased, "So you would like someone to come to your room to close your window?". No, we aren't idiots! I explained again about the locking thingy as there was no handle. "OK, I send someone." A few minutes later a knock on the door. I opened the door to a housekeeper and explained the problem. She said, "Can't speak English" and left. About 10min later another knock on the door. I opened it to a bright, smiling German lady with a bunch of keys, at long last nothing further needed to be said. She came in and saw the window, said "Oh yes I see", locked it shut and left. Window saga over!
We set off in our bright, brandspanking panniers. The weather forecast was for heavy rain from about 13:00. The ride was easy-peasy. It took over 10km just to get out of Bremen, but the ride was all along the main cycle path and the traffic lights mainly turn green for cyclists as you ride along so you don't have to wait. We stopped at a bakery for buns. The bakeries in Germany are fabulous. The selection of breads and buns are wonderful and they are always fresh and warm, I asked for "Zwei" of one sort of bun and put up two fingers in the air. Baker lady then said something else and I agreed. This is my fault, when the person speaking the other language confirms something, I always just agree. In this case she thought I meant a dozen. When I stopped her when she was putting the third bun in the bag, she got quite irritated and said that "Zwei" is two and so on. Essentially she was quite critical of me for not being able to speak German.
We had a lovely ride through rural Germany, it was very, very quiet. We barely saw anyone. It did rain, quite heavily for the last 2 hours or so. We stopped for pizza about 15km from our end point. Once again, not many people around. It is almost eerily quiet in the little villages. We got to our little campsite as the rain stopped. It was lovely! Small with a lovely lounge area and even a "natural" swimming pool complete with inflatable lounger and decking. Gorgeous, a pity we couldn't swim as it was too cold! The manager, Rolf, came out to greet us and was so friendly. It has restored our faith in German campsites!
Another day's ride through peaceful rural Germany! As it was Sunday the shops don't trade, but the bakeries are open so we stopped early at one for delicious fresh buns. We stopped soon after for our morning flask coffee break. We were headed for the Elbe River which we would cross just west of Hamburg. We were not really interested in seeing Hamburg. It was a cool day and a bit breezy, although the headwind would really kick in towards the end of the day. We passed the Hamburg Airport on the way to the river. We caught the Teufelsbruck ferry which had space for bicycles. As the Elbe is busy with barge traffic and the ferry crosses this at 90 degrees, the ride was short and VERY bumpy. You could barely keep on your feet! Bicycles fell over if left unattended! The trip was about 5 min and then you emerged on the Hamburg side of the Elbe. The route ran along the river for some kilometers, very scenic.
We stopped to buy a pizza for lunch due to the supermarkets being closed on Sundays. Then we had only 22km to ride to our campsite. The ride was all along a polder scattered the whole way with sheep, who in turn had scattered their turds everywhere! We had a monstrous headwind along this section. Somewhere in the middle it got more manageable and then kicked up towards the end. All the way along the polder there are sturdy metal pedestrian gates which you have to push open and pass through. German sheep are like Dutch sheep - completely unworried by bicycles, for obvious reason. Unlike British and Irish sheep that run for the hills the minute they see you!
We still enjoyed the polder ride, even with the wind. Would have been even better without it though! We dropped off the polder straight into our campsite. The manager was charming and wanted to ask us all about Australia. Once we had paid he said, "Now you sit down there and let me ask you questions". Then he pulled out a box of labelled flags. We had noticed when we arrived that there was a Dutch and a Swedish flag flying. He decided that as the Swedish people were leaving tomorrow, he would put up the Australian flag in our honour! It was really fitting as when we came out of reception, there were two more Australian cycle tourists who had arrived! Once we had pitched our tents he came out and called us both over for a flag raising ceremony! We spent some time chatting to Dave and Adele, the other Australians. They were interesting to talk to. They started their tour in Prague and will end in Oslo.
The campsite was very quiet and we had a peaceful night. It was interesting that we had Adele and Dave, on their folding bikes, then us, then two young girls on their regular bikes with just a little tent and sleeping bags and not much else. It just goes to show that anyone can be a cycle tourist! I have been struggling with hayfever in the Netherlands and Germany and woke with a headache today feeling very conjested. There was quite heavy rain as we got ready and we had showers of rain all day, but they only required wearing a rain jacket for a while and then taking it off again. We chatted to Adele and Dave a bit just before we got going. We chose a route inland today which was a good thing as the headwind along the polder would have been a repeat of last night's challenge. We passed through many villages. We bought food along the way was usual. The ride was easy and the cycle paths were good. We are in a rhythm now of riding on the cycle paths between towns when they are usually good quality bitumen and riding on the road in the town when the cycle path is always a brick pavement. I stopped at an Apoteek for something for my congestion. I was sort of pointing to my cheeks and the pharmacist offered suncream. Anyway, we soon understood each other and I will hopefully be able to breath properly tonight!
The last 25km of the ride was along the Nord-Ostsee-Canal and we caught a ferry over this, the 25th ferry of the tour and then had a few kilometres to go to our campsite. We stopped briefly at the village butcher for some salami. The campsite is on the Eider River and is quite informal. There are some other tenters, two of which are cycle tourists. I forgot to say yesterday that we saw our fourth robotic lawnmower and clocked over 5,000 km for the trip so far. Also, Mike did some field maintenance on the bikes in replacing the Rohloff oil.
Another pair of cycle tourists arrived last night after writing, with a small baby that one of them pulled along in a trailer. We are starting to see more cycle tourists which is interesting. The baby was very vocal and seemed excited to be there. Probably just stir crazy from being bounced about all day! We got an early start at 07:30 as there was to be a head/cross-wind today which would grow in strength. We made good progress today, again a combination of quick cycleways along main routes and cycle routes which deviated on all sorts of terrain. It makes it interesting to decide at an intersection which way to go. It was quite cool on the bike today but the sun came out now and again. We have had cloudy weather for many days now, those first three hot and warm days cycling out of Amsterdam have been followed by pretty average weather. At least it's not UK grey though, the clouds tend to be big, white and fluffy. We stopped after 30km at a football field for raisin bread and continued making good time. Something that really stands out for us about this part of Germany is how very quiet it is. I know that I have remarked on this before, but it feels strange to cycle down main streets of villages and see no one at all. The villages are obviously lived in and most are very pretty with well-tended gardens full of summer blooms. Maybe they all leave early for work in nearby towns?
Today was not completely flat, as has been the norm since arriving in the Netherlands, but that was interesting too. No climbs or anything, just small uphills. We saw our 5th robotic lawnmower of the trip. We stopped with only 8km to go to buy food and to eat as we were hungry. Our campsite was only 1 km on other side of the German-Danish border. We are going to explore Denmark's network of dedicated primitive camping spots. There are hundreds of these throughout the country and they come with different facilities. Some are only a clearing in the forest, some have a shelter, some have a toilet or drinking water or firepit. So they are basic and that suits us perfectly. It does not cost anything to use them. It is Denmark's answer to the Right to Roam of other Scandinavian countries. Unlike those countries, Denmark is very built up and does not have large natural areas. These campsites will be perfect if they work out which we are sure they will as if you don't like one, well the next one is not far away. For this one tonight we knew there was no drinking water so made sure we were full of water when we left. Then in the town where we shopped we noticed that Edeka supermaket had a toilet so we could fill up our shower bag in the basin there. With only a short ride to the campsite, this was not difficult for Mike to carry on the back of his bike. We arrived at the campsite and are the only one's here, which we would expect. It has benches and even a shelter and is in the forest. It is a beautiful spot. The only other person we have seen was one dog walker. We have had a very relaxing afternoon.
Beautiful blue skies today and sunny all day, but still that pesky north-westerly wind. Didn't hamper us though. We had a terrific day's riding in Denmark. First stop was in the forest at the next primitive campsite where there was drinking water to fill up for the day. That was easy to do at the tap! We saw quite a few cycle tourists today, the most of the trip. The roads are so quiet and surfaces are brilliant and smooth. The cycleways can also be on rough gravel roads and we encountered quite a few today with very coarse, loose stone that made for tricky riding, but only in short sections. We deviated back onto main roads where we could. We are following National Route 3 in Denmark at the moment. We have included many pics of the various roads. We stopped to shop a few times and passed through many villages. The Danes were without exception really friendly and happy to shout out hello from across the road. The shop assistants were very friendly too. It's left us wondering how the Germans sandwiched between two of the happiest nations (the Netherlands and Denmark) can be so miserable in the majority? We do not know.
We planned to camp at another primitive camp spot after Jels and cycled around the lake looking at a few options. There were a few shelters to choose from. We ended up going back to the first one we had looked at, isn't that the way? We are going to take a while to get used to this Danish style bushcamping as it is still a bit prescriptive in that the informal site is provided and you need to find it.
We had pitched our tent beside a large shleter that could accomodate about 10 people on wide wooden shelves around a firepit. We went to bed around 21:00 and at 22:30 a group of school childen arrived noisily with an adult supervising, and lit a fire. Only in Scandinavia! We were disturbed but they soon settled down to sleep. It started raining overnight and under the woodland forest canopy there were loud dripping noises throughout. In the morning there was no sound from the kiddies and we wondered if they were still there. The fire started up again so we knew they were. It rained quite hard and was due to lessen late afternoon. We decided to stay put until then. We had a relaxing day in the tent and left around 14:30. We planned to go about 36km to another primitive camp, but at 16km passed the beautiful Frihedsbroen (Freedom Bridge) Overnight camp. We included a pic below of this wonderful spot. It had two shelters, a BBQ pit with wood, a WC, two sets of benches and drinking water. There was also a colour digital monitor which showed views of the walk on which the spot is situated and this drew our attention to the most amazing feature, free WiFi! All this laid on for anyone to use. Fantastic. We chatted to a friendly young farmer whho filled us in on the history of the area which fell to Germany from 1864-1920. There was a photo of the old wooden bridge over the river which his family built and the Germans destroyed to prevent Danes crossing back into Denmark. His father-in-law went and bought a farm over the river at the time as he would not live in Germany! He also explained how the Danish hunt deer, from the high wooden huts on stilts that we see everywhere; they hide out in these and shoot from above the animal as it passes. Later on an older man came to collect water and gave us some hints about other campsites in the area, especially Bindebella, which we passed the next day but it was too soon to stop. He also explained that this Cycle Route 3 that we are following to Frederekshavn, called Hærvejen is actually the ancient cattle trading route that the farmers followed hundreds of years ago, herding their cattle to Germany for sale and letting them get fattened up along the way. It was topical as there was a lovely herd of cows across the fence that kept us entertained. The area is rural and very beautiful.
We pitched our tent inside one of the shelters at about 19:00 and were in bed around 21:00 due to more rain, when of course two other cycle tourists arrived and proceeded to talk very loudly about all sorts of rubbish (one was particularly loud). They were British and seemed opinionated, particularly about a weather app they were using which had disappointed them apparently. Eventually Mike asked him to pipe down. Then two Danish cycle tourists arrived at 22:00 and all four men slept in the shelter next door to ours. We did have a peaceful night eventually.
We woke to a misty morning and took our time getting ready as a result. We chatted to the Danish guys who were following a cycle route to Schleswig, Germany to see the old Danish Wall. They were nice guys. We have so enjoyed all the Danish people who have taken the trouble to speak to us. Even when we tell them we speak English, they will try to speak English (many do fluently) and seem genuinely happy to see you. The opinionated British cycle rourists still had not taken their heads out of their sleeping bags by the time we left. We stopped for morning tea snacks and I looked for a Grilli (disposable BBQ) but could not find one. An old lady in Lidl went to so much troouble to help me, even going to fetch one and bringing it to me! She could not speak English but that did not stop her from understanding and helping me out. We enjoyed our tea break at another shelter stop in Baeck (like the one we stayed at last night). We are so impressed with this style of camping and the facilities just laid on and subtley signposted with tiny signs. We have even decided that Denmark trumps the Netherlands for us now as a cycle touring destination as result!
Our main stop was Jelling, UNESCO World Heritage Town due to the remains of Viking civilisation located there. It is a lovely spot, very low key, with a great info centre/museum. It is a cool place to visit. The weather today was quite humid and clammy and thunderstorms threatened this afternoon. The terrain is getting a little hillier now, which is a good thing as the legs need to get back into that! We are camped in the middle of an old pine forest which was very peaceful. We filled up with water at nearby river.
Wow, very quiet night on the forest floor last night. Today promised to be sunny which was a relief as we needed to wash our cycle clothes and SOCKS especially! It was an interesting ride today, through a variety of landscapes from rural to forest to moorland. We even had a few steepish climbs (up to 9%)! Could not believe it was Denmark! Nice riding. We were pretty excited about our decision to have a BBQ tonight! Most of the primitive camps have fire pits and so we had bought a disposable BBQ yesterday. Our experience in Finland has been that often there was wood provided to use, but it is always good to have one of these babies as a back up. We decided to use the same philosophy in Denmark. We stopped to buy meat (some sort of neck chops, turned out to be pork, very nice) as well as toasted sarmie makings to road test our new Light My Fire closed grids. We got some Aromat salt to drown everything in and of course marshmallows for desert!
Our camp is in the coolest spot, on the edge of an oak forest along a wheat field. With a sunny afternoon on the cards we chose a grassy bank overlooking the wheat. Mike had a walk to fill two water bags at the nearby stream and then I went after to do the "washing" of the cycle clothes. I use the term loosely as dousing socks, gloves etc. that have been used for a week in 5 L of river water once or twice does not a laundry-woman make, but better than nothing! After this is was 17:00 and of course it had clouded over so we can only hope everything dries by tomorrow. Of course we have more than one pair of cycling clothes, but carrying wet gear on the back of the bike looks unprofessional!
We sat down to use our "grilli" and after a nervous start it out-performed it's benchmarks. We toasted sarmies, chops, marshmallows and then more toast (because we could!). It was all delicious. We will be having BBQ's whenever we can from now on.
The weather forecast promised sunshine all day today, but it only appeared in the afternoon. The day was grey and quite cool. Our washing did not dry overnight so I loaded my cycle outfit onto the back of my bike. Mike wore his as damp clothes don't bother him and he reckons that they can dry on the body! We rode/pushed our bikes up the little walking track we had ridden down last night and hit the road. Another beautiful route today. We cannot recommend the Hærvejen enough and it is popular with cycle tourists too. We entered Viborg on a rail trail and then continued along the lake edge. It is a big town, we did not go into it. We stopped to buy bread rolls for a morning snack and ate them at the little bench and table set out at the village entrance. The next stop on our route was Fyrkat, which was an ancient Viking fort. From here we passed through some forest and in and out of villages. Jutland (this rural part of Denmark we are cycling through) is very beautiful and peaceful and has a lovely feel to it.
We decided to camp at a primitive campspot in Nysum and the last village was Vebbestrup. Our maps did not yield any evidence of a supermarket which seemed strange in quite a large village with schools, sportsgrounds, etc. We spotted two young girls on their bikes and I asked them if there was a supermarkek. The elder one said there was and you could buy ice cream there, but she looked a little dubious about the "Supermarket" tag. We followed them on the bikes as they seemed keen to take us there. They left us at the corner. Up to now the only signs of life we had seen in the place were the two girls, suddenly there was a crowd of people all sitting on wooden benches outside this shop and all eating ENORMOUS soft serve ice creams. We couldn't believe it! There was a carpark on the other corner and even a customer toilet! It looked like the thing to do on a Sunday afternoon and there were families and couples, etc. There were three attendants inside serving the ice cream from machines and the queue was 6 deep at all times.We went in and bought ourselves each a medium waffle cone and it was the best ice cream ever. They also stocked some other foods like frozen vegetables, biscuits and sweets and they had a large selection of cheeses and salami's. We wanted the latter so when we had finished our ice creams we went back inside and there was an older lady behind the counter. We asked to buy some cheese,, but she said, "We don't sell cheese today, only ice cream!". Strange but true. Anyhow, we had already bought some peas and a packet of chips so coupled with a big tin of peaches and a bag of banana chips, supper was produced. Anyway, Vebbestrup will still go down in our memories as the best kept secret in Denmark!
It was only a few kilometers to Nysum and we turned off at the start of the village to the recreation area where we would camp. We had got the explanation off a geocache (after spotting camping on our map). There is a lake in an old quarry with a shelter and benches and a playground, but the toilet is no longer operational and the tenting spots are not obvious at first, but we managed. It was a great spot to spend the sunny afternoon and the good news is that everything is dry now and the solar panels have recharged all our batteries!
We started our ride through the beautiful Rold Skov woods near Arden and checked out the amazing shelter place they had there. There are little wooden shelters for sleeping in, with lovely forest views and toilet and drinking water, as well as the lake close by. All free camping. There was a lady sitting at the opening of her shelter, knitting in the morning sun! The route through this section was very pretty and we stopped quite early in the day for coffee and buns in a meadow with our first Danish sheep! After this our beloved Hærvejen took a turn for the worse, going to very rough gravel walking track and finally deeply-rutted single track, where I fell off my bike, no serious damage done fortunately. After this we went through various stages of hating Hærvejen throughout the day. The route just really changed today, the scenery was still lovely, but the route was mainly on very bad off road surfaces. Aarborg, a big town en route today, had a bad entry into it on these rough little roads for cyclists, and once we were in there it was not cycle-friendly to navigate. There were a lot of roadworks which didn't help. We were happy to leave.
We only had about 15km to ride after the town to our shelter spot in the woods. Here we actually abandoned Route 3 as it went to rutted single track once again. The road into the the forest was still fairly rough, but with good sections. We arrived at the shelter place and it was really well-equipped with a few shelters, drinking water and pit toilet. The campfire was well-used. When we arrived there was a family there and the grandpa came over to chat to us. He said that the Danish government was investing a lot of money in these shelter and primitive camp spots to get people out into nature. Refreshing to hear! He also warned us about the ticks which spread disease. This was a little disturbing as we have had many ticks this trip in Germany and Denmark. After this family had left there were three more groups that came along and used the campfire spot. They just cook their food, eat and move on. There was also a lady with 2 kids who came to pitch their tent. It seems that people use these places a lot! We have only 80 km left to ride in Denmark before catching the ferry from Frederikshavn to Sweden, but will do it over two days. So will hopefully have a sleep in tomorrow.
We thought we would have a bit of a sleep in as we planned a 40 km ride today to our next shelter, and this would allow us to have a short ride tomorrow to the ferry. Last night around midnight would you believe, some campers arrived and installed themselves in one of the shelters in the camp area. Who knows who these numpties are that pitch up at midnight, but there is always one. They came by car which is not in the spirit of these places, you are supposed to get to them under your own steam. That said, the lady and her two little girls had come by car, but she was teaching them about camping, how to pitch the tent, etc. and they were real little campers, so you would not begrudge her her mode of transport. Anyway, this morning we slept until 07:00 and when we noticed that the new arrivals had THREE dogs in their shelter, one of which barked at us, we decided not to hang around. This was a good thing as we found out later.
We stopped quite soon to shop as we noted on our route that this was the only village we would pass through. We were headed for a shelter area where there was a group camp in the forest and then also a single shelter a bit further away. We really wanted to get the single one, but of course would have to be early to do so. We would BBQ again tonight, so we decided to get briquettes instead of a onetime grilli. We bought a 2.5kg bag which was the same price as the grilli and will need to be inventive with how to carry them. They are a bit of a luxury, but the BBQ's are so good! We stocked up on all the BBQ needs, Coke, chops to cook, toasted sarmies ingredients and marshmalllows! Then Mike altered the route to avoid the crazy forest tracks, and so doing cut off 10km! The rest of the day's ride passed in a whirl and we arrived at the shelter spot which hallelujah, no one had taken yet. It was only 11:00 so this did not suprise us! Water and toilets are a few 100m away at the nature school. Before we knew it the fire was lit and we were salivating at the thought of our lunch. The shelter is in a beautiful spot, open grasslands in front of us and forest behind and on the sides. It has a little BBQ place and even a fence around it with a gate. The shelter itself has a sliding door that can partially close the doorway. When we arrived it was shady but by the afternoon was in full sun. Great memory of Denmark for our final night here! Sweden tomorrow.
We had a great sleep in our little shelter last night, deciding not to use the tent. It was wonderful! We woke at 06:00 to a perfect day and were on the road before 07:00. We stopped at a nearby bakery for delicious, calorie-laden Danish baked goods and before we knew it we were in Frederikshavn. It was so quiet, there was almost no one on the roads. We checked in early for the ferry and spent the time waiting to board chatting to a retired Finnish couple who had motorcycled around Denmark over the past couple of weeks. They live in Helsinki; it was great to meet them. The ferry trip itself was mayhem. There was insufficient seating (we've come across this before on a ferry somewhere in Europe) and we struggled to find a spot to sit. The best seats were only for people with dogs (?). Then there was a kiddies dancing session underway where the children were entertained by someone on a public address system. Outside was good until it got cold. In the end we sat near the Border Shop which sold almost only beer and were entertained by Swedes coming out with boxes of beer on their personnal trolleys (i.e. they came prepared) which they then went to put in their cars. After 3 hours we were in Göteborg and passed through the border check quickly. We had a 20 km ride to our hotel just outside the city, in Jonsereds. The cycleway was perfect all the way, well-sign-posted and quick, and in the city the cycle lanes with dedicated traffic lights were perfect. We stopped at an ICA for some munchies and it is wonderful to be back in Sweden! The hotel is great, on the site of an old industrial works. We were able to store the bikes in our HUGE room, slight inconvenience was to carrry them up two flights of stairs as they wouldn't fit in the lift. Mike did this with both as light-weight tourers they are not! Sunlight streamed into our rooom for hours. We look forward to our time in Sweden.