Denmark Pt 1 (07/08/11 - 22/08/11)

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Europe » Denmark
September 9th 2011
Published: October 8th 2011
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Please note, I can't work out how to create the extra Danish vowels on this EeePC so place names may not be quite correct.

May contain traces of weather

Nothing much changed as we crossed the border, no flags, no signs, not even a join in the tarmac. We were soon on a gritty rutted cycle path around the back street and car park of Rudbol then onwards to Mogeltonder and our first taste of Danish cobbles; gaps big enough to swallow a wheel meant I soon got off and pushed. We got blown to Tonder with a brisk tailwind and rolled into a lively town centre with stalls, bands, street entertainers and a lot of people enjoying a beer or two. The Danes are cheerful drunks and laughter filled the air as they enjoyed the first Sunday of the month festivities. We got a room at the Danhostel and wandered back to the centre to join in the fun just as everything was winding down. Ah well, we shopped for dinner and Trangia fuel instead.
We took a day to look around Tonder and in particular the museum which has a large display of Tonder lace and other textiles, thankfully for Vernon it is also an interesting old building and he got to wander about admiring the architecture while I was analysing all the lace and trying to spot the mistakes in the samplers. After I'd spent way too long chatting to the curator and the lace demonstrator and way too much on lace paraphernalia Vernon finally dragged me out the door and into a cafe for our first Danish eating out experience, I got a stern look when I used the “vegetarian” word but after some thought a beef-salad-sandwich-without-the-beef was produced along with coffee which was slightly less chewy than we had got used to in Germany (it still dissolved the spoon though).
On the 8th we set off up the west coast of Jutland, leaving Tonder in sunshine with slight cloud we got our first rain after 2km and were drenched by Hojer even with waterproofs. We couldn't find a cafe so continued in the rain alongside a dyke through sheep fields with regular gates to negotiate, getting more and more miserable as the rain got in everywhere. We reached Brons as the rain stopped and dripped our way into a cafe for lunch (chips and weapons grade coffee). The rain stayed away for the rest of the ride to Ribe where we piled into the Danhostel and spread dampness all around.
The evening's entertainment was provided by the night watchman who patrols the old town singing songs and telling tales about the town, the rain started shortly after we set off on the patrol route and didn't stop until the entertainment ended, we only had to drip back to the hostel in our fast drying travel clothes, the night watchman had another performance at 22:00 and was wearing a heavy wool coat which wouldn't dry for days, he looked rather resigned to it.
The ride to Esbjerg the next day was hideous, we had a vicious westerly and averaged 12kph, on the plus side there was no rain and all the wet gear we have tied to our panniers dried en-route. The west coast of Jutland isn't renowned for its hills but every incline we met had us grovelling along in the granny gears and wondering why we hadn't taken a day off in Ribe instead. The weather continued to be wet and flattening from a westerly direction for a couple more days and we holed up in Esbjerg to avoid the worst of it before heading north again passing the excellent Man Meets The Sea sculpture as we left the city. We didn't find a lot to do in Esbjerg but did visit the city art gallery which has a lot of interactive displays where visitors can make their own art, including a pantograph, a dressing-up area for budding fashion designers and an art lab where the technical side of things can be explored. There were a few families monopolising it a bit but we did get a go on the large pantograph.
When the weather finally cleared our route took us off road through heather covered dunes which were a blaze of purple and pink flowers, the local beekeeper had built beeopolis to reap the benefits and we rode through a stream of bees hurrying to and from the hives. We stopped after 56km, not a huge distance but we had found a good camp site and were in no hurry. The next morning we detoured up a 64 metre hill to take in the view from the local viewpoint, it would have been improved by cutting down a few trees, ah well never mind the ride back down the hill was fun and we rolled to our first coffee stop at Nymindegab in no time at all. After coffee we were on a mix of unpaved roads and gritty/sandy paths through the dunes for the rest of the day. It was a bit scary when we got short steep descents into sand pits and nasty little climbs back out again but we reached our destination of Hvinde Sande safely and found a room at the Danhostel minutes before one of my teeth decided then was a good time to fall apart, I managed to find all the bits and save them to help with the explaining that I would need to do. On the plus side a quick check of e-mails revealed a tax rebate which should pay for the required work.
So on the 14th we headed north to Ringkobing where the dentists live. The weather was terrible, rain and an horrendous side wind which we turned into as we headed inland to Ringkobing, got a restorative coffee and waffle at an ice-parlour then up to the hostel where the reception was shut for 4 hours. We waited a while but cold wet clothes and an unheated hall do not make for happy bedfellows; we headed to the nearest hotel, checked in, dripped to our room and once again spread drying kit everywhere. The next morning a very nice dentist told me a filling would cost 1000DK and he could do it at 13:30 that day.
So that was me sorted, we pedalled north again on the 16th following the cycle route out of town along the side of the fjord where we were entertained by kite surfers playing in the wind. Not wishing to be outdone by my teeth my bike had developed a whole timpani section of clicks, squeaks, clunks and grating noises,we put up with it for a while until we found a golf club with a coffee shop and stopped to investigate. A loose rear hub with no grease in one side and rusty water in the other, Vernon dismantled, cleaned, re-greased and re-built the hub while I got on with the important job of buying coffee and cake. The ride was much quieter once the work was done and we carried on along small back roads and unpaved tracks, stopping to eat our lunch at a picnic table in a field next to a farm track; judging by the fine collection of lichen on the table there wasn't much passing trade to rest there.
Our overnight stop was at Fjaltring where there were a few other cyclists, one, a Dane, tried to chat but we just didn't have the language. The next morning the same man beckoned me towards the bathroom as we were leaving, I think he was trying to ask if we'd left a toothbrush and toothpaste in there but his rather erratic pointing coupled with the smell made me think he was trying to get my view on his output!

We had a cracking tail wind blowing us along all day; just missing the 12:00 Thyboron ferry we mooched around town for a while and caught the 13:00 crossing instead. The pilot invited us up to the bridge and we chatted about our trip and the area we were about to ride through, Agger Tongue is part of Thy National Park and has a large breeding colony of seals, the pilot is also a fisherman and has strong views on seals, we told him about the Bruny Island males getting transported to their breeding site, he wasn't impressed!
As we rode up Agger Tongue we saw a lot of seabirds and waders, numerous cows a couple of sheep one jumping fish and no seals.
Just made it to Norre Vorupor and got the tent up before the rain started, the skies cleared overnight so we took our time packing up to let the tent dry out a bit before we rode off in sun and with a (mostly) tail wind. We had reached the holiday region of Jutland which is very popular with Germans, the dunes were littered with little clusters of holiday cottages but there were no huge developments due to strict planning laws controlling the size of properties, where they can be built and who can own them. A lot of the route was unpaved, even in villages most of the roads were gravel and we both got caught by a couple of sand traps on one of the forest sections. It was also a lot more rolling than we were used to including quite a climb out of Roehr but we had the gears and slowly made it to the top from where it was a short flattish ride to Hantstholm campsite.
Overnight we were disturbed by torrential rain which continued all the next morning, we used a clear window just after midday to dash to reception and book another night and returned to our rather damp tent. The sun gradually appeared so we took the bikes out for a quick tour around the harbour battling an onshore breeze strong enough that we had to pedal down a 10% descent and very nearly free-wheeled all the way back up the other side.
The skies stayed clear so we got on our way again with a mix of on and off road sections, we stopped for coffee at a road-side art gallery with artworks by three artists, the main one being Hans Mandoe, who had worked as a forester but on his retirement he told his wife he was going to paint one picture each day for the rest of his life. The gallery is run by his son who still has 1200 paintings to sell.
Suitably caffeinated we rode on to Bulbjerg and the only sea cliff in Jutland, it has a kittiwake colony and, being the only available cliff and in a strategically important spot near to Hantstholm harbour, a lot of WWII concrete. After a picnic lunch we were back on the route and on an off road section made up of badly laid concrete slabs (not sure what era they were from except possibly Before Spirit Level), leading to more forest tracks and unpaved roads. On one forest track we rode past a low wooden hut with a grass roof, it was raised a metre off the ground on log piers and had a fire pit outside - a camping hut; these are dotted around Jutland, usually in forest clearings, and are free to use, bring your own spade. Back on unpaved roads we passed a grader going in the opposite direction laying a thick layer of muddy shale on the perfectly good surface and got a move on to get back to tarmac before the driver got to the end of his route and came back after us, ruining our side of the road as well. It wasn't to happen, we soon reached a section he had already done and slewed around in the loose surface for a couple of km before finally reaching a paved road taking us to Blokhus where we found the Danhostel unmanned and no contact number posted so we went to the campsite instead, where we got a site, a couple of beers and put an order in for a breakfast bakery delivery.
Leisurely start in the morning with our plan for coffee, bread and cakes for breakfast being slightly delayed by our order turning from 2 cakes and 4 rolls to 1 cake and 5 rolls, Vernon was the loser as his custard spandauer failed to arrive but the site owner called the baker who delivered a replacement just as we started our second coffees.
The North Sea Cycle Route continues north along the beach from Blokhus; OK on a hybrid or mountain bike, not on a loaded tourer, not even with Schwalbe Marathon tyres, we took the back roads instead and rejoined the route near to Vendoyssel Historic Museum where we only stopped to use the toilets but then spent an hour or so wandering around fascinated by the story of the drifting sand dune, stable until the mini ice age (1450-1700 ish) when changing sea levels coupled with over harvesting of the stabilising marram grass caused the dune to start moving, cutting off and engulfing farmsteads, the local church was moved 3km as the parishioners found it difficult to get to and slowly the population moved away. In 1900 a lighthouse was built, it was abandoned about 20 years ago and is now half buried in the dune.
Right on cue as we set off again the rain started, we plodded on miserably taking the on road alternatives to the off road sections whenever we could. There was one section we couldn't avoid and it was highlighted in the route guide, our rather rusty German translated it as “Go around a corner, fall off a cliff, land in a sand pit, climb up the other side and you're back on the route. Check you still have working limbs.” It really wasn't that bad, I even managed to ride half way up the exit slope. The Danhostel at Hirtshals was a welcome sight as the rain turned into that nasty cold drizzle that just gets in everywhere.
We woke to strong westerlies, jumped on the bikes and got blown to Skagen in double-quick time over bleak heathland that gave an end of the world look to the landscape. Skagen was full, the hostel, the hotels we cycled past on the way to the info centre, even the pensions. At the info centre I found out why, Crown Prince Whatshisname and Princess The Tasmanian One were in town with their kids and the place was full of royal watchers. We stopped for a coffee at a bar overlooking the royal route and watched as the crowds built up, it was all very low key, we saw a couple of policeman and one bloke in hi-viz controlling the crowds who all stood behind one line of plastic tape, no crowd barriers needed. We rode off before the show arrived, ducking under the tape and riding down the royal route to cheers and applause from the spectators. Just out of town we found a campsite, pitched the tent, unloaded all the bags then rode to the northern-most point of Jutland where one of us was dumb enough to take their shoes off and wade into the very bracing North Sea for a photo-op. Once I'd got the feeling back in my feet we rode to the end of Route 1 to look at a load more concrete, most of it filled with sand and half buried. Then we turned into the wind and crawled back to the site in time to watch the royal fireworks from a safe distance.

Where next?

A random ride through Denmark to Copenhagen then over to Sweden and decide where next from there


a ferry to Norway, follow the NSCR to Bergen, fly to Lerwick (with a change at Aberdeen) and complete the NSCR back to Harwich.

My dislike of flying and the probability that we'd be shake, rattle and rolling from Aberdeen to Lerwick in a small twin-prop was enough for me to vote for the Copenhagen route, adding in the timescales and that the days were already noticeably shortening and it became a no-brainer, we were off to Wonderful Copenhagen.

Additional photos below
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Souped up SMART carSouped up SMART car
Souped up SMART car

We're not sure why but somebody must like it!

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