Riding (into) the wind through Zeeland

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May 21st 2008
Published: May 21st 2008
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Hello everyone! This blog entry sees me well if a little sunburnt, sore knee-ed, aching shouldered and weak fingered in a town in northern Holland called Alkmaar. It's a beautiful place full of ice cream eating locals and tourists alike, lots of canals running around, a lovely red light district (one street) which I just walked down to get to the internet cafe - I saw the funniest thing: one of the (scantily clad) girls was presumably having a break, and in a public telephone box making a call (maybe to her mum?!). I should have got a picture of that....

Well my trip has been fairly tough so far, thanks to an unseasonal northeasterly wind. Yup that's precisely the direction I've been trying to head in. On the plus side there's hardly been a cloudy in the sky since monday morning when I began (er about 10:30 so hardly bright and early as I'd hoped). I set straight north out of Gent, with tearful farewell, and made good progress passing into Holland (suddenly the cycle paths get much better!) through pretty town after pretty town. I crossed my first ferry into Zeeland. This part of Holland I've since found out is probably the most beautiful part and really is amazing to see. Every single town is picture postcard perfect - every street has a canal running down the middle, all the houses are elegant townhouses with flowers arranged along windowsills to perfection. All the streets are perfectly smooth cobbles which the bike wheels just glide over. So I carried on through town, field, windmills, town to my first dyke cross. This was apparently the damn they build to prevent the flood disaster that happened recently happening again (according to a friendly lawyer I had a chat with in Leiden). Anyway imnpressive as it was it was hard work. And there were more dikes to come before the day was out. That night I stopped in a pleasant beach resort called Renesse. I found a nice campsite next to the dunes. Sleep came quickly after a celebratory can of Heineken.

Day 2 began as Day 1 left off. With a strong wind in my face and several more dykes and river crossings till eventually I got over the big one just west of Rotterdam. From there, Maassluis, up to Delft was very scenic. You really feel like you could eat your dinner off every pavement it's so clean and tidy! I passed windmills again. Delft itself had a fantastic old town square which I rested briefly in. All this time I've been relying on a large scale map of Holland and the amazing red and white cycle signs to get me places. Navigation got a bit trickier out of Delft, getting lost in a 'rough' housing estate (by dutch standards but nice compared to anything back home) before reaching Leiden, Holland's oldest university town. That had a lively look to it, but apart from a chat with a friendly guy looking after his kids in a play park (whilst I had my broodje mit kass und ham) I didn't dither as I wanted to push on back to the coast at Nordwijk. I made it there and a little beyond before camping at a place it turns out was directly under the flight path for schipfol airport!! It was also the most expensive campsite ever (15euros) but this in some ways is countered by the fact that the previous night I'd snuck in and out for free!

North of Nordwijk has been diunes dunes and more dunes. This the closest I'll get to a mountain in Holland. I noticed some spot heights on the map of 30m+! It was very pretty and of course all set out for the cyclist. At the exit to the national park just before IJmuiden I had a chat with a local girl who was doing a part time job counting the people entering the park to fund her studies. She had a category for almost everything, but not one for crazy long distance cyclist!

After IJmuiden I finally got the wind out of my face and have fair powered up to Alkmaar. But I'm hoping to do a bit more tonight, and then tomorrow is the big Afsluitdijk - a 30km dyke across northern holland. Let's hope the wind has dropped a little!!! Please! Then I'll be on to Groningen where I may treat myself to a rest day - I may have to!

The bikes been a dream so far, except of course the weight of the panniers (i'm just stocked up on instant noodles which is turning into my staple evening meal, and a large quantity of fruit). Silly me - I did manage to leave my bike pump in Gent (now a birthday gift to Kat - how happy she will be!) but no fear, there's a bike shop on every second corner here so I've picked up a replacement.

Day 3 - Gent to Renesse - 19/5
Dist (miles): 68.45
Ave speed (mph): 11.5
Max speed (mph): 21.0
Time on saddle: 5h55

Day 4 - Renesse to Noordwijkerhout - 19/5
Dist (miles): 77.08
Ave speed (mph): 10.8
Max speed (mph): 19.6
Time on saddle: 7h06

Additional photos below
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