Onward to Groningen

Published: May 23rd 2008
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Well after 5 days of full on cycling, battling against a headwind all the way, I've finally made it to Groningen! Hardly my destination, but given the ardour getting here, and kind of intermediary success. In fact I assumed that Groningen would somehow be close to Denmark, but on inspecting a map I've discovered to my horror that what is to follow across Germany to get to the ferry port for Denmark is pretty much the same again as what I've done (I´m sure this is not the way it seemed when I checked Google Maps back home). So at this rate it'll be June before I make it to Copenhagen.

Let me fill you in on the last couple of days. Firstly I've seen a lot more cute, picturesque Dutch towns. Really there's not a single town I've been through so far that hasn't been. After heading out of Alkmaar, avoiding the red light district as I did so, I headed back towards the west coast of Holland and followed a lovely cool cycle path in the shade of some huge dunes that border the sea and effectively keep Holland from being flooded (a combination of high dunes and dykes do the job). The dunes went straight up about 40-50m and on the landwards side they were forested at this point. I saw a whole bunch of mountain bikers which was a bit of a surprise. Holland and mountain biking! Anyway after heading on the point where the dunes receeded and a dyke took over at Camperduin I found a side road back south into the dunes. Going down there a couple of km's I found a perfect spot for a rough camp for the night, my first of the trip and whole lot better than being ripped off 15 euro by the grumpy campsite attendant of the previous night. The night passed smoothly except for some very noisy crickets, a strange sounding bird call at 3am (sounded a bit like the electronic noise of a kids toy gun, so for while I figured I was about to be abducted by aliens) and then some wildly enthusastic German people shouting somewhere nearby at 5am! Bizarre!

The next morning the big plan was to cross the biggest dyke in Holland (if not the world?!) the afsluitdijk (spelling?!), 30km in length (that´s half way to London for those living in Oxford, or the distance from Dundee to Perth for those up in Scotland). I headed north into more wind, picking up a lovely apple turnover on the way (see picture) and eventually reached the start of the dyke. It stretched off ominously into the distance. I armed myself with a large sausage and plenty of fruit and water (i've been getting through water like nothing else, all 3 water bottles a day if not more). Strangely the wind almost seemed to drop as I hit the dyke so I maintained a good pace all the way across (13-14mph), but even so it was a 2 hour slog (including breaks for photos and rest) across - I had my head down a lot so you can see the typical view I have (note: my helmet, totally unnecessary in Holland is serving as a good basket for my camera) but when I did look up it was a like a mirage into the distance. You could see bikers approaching in haze from about 2 miles away. I eventually crawled into the nearby port town of Haslingen and treated myself to an ice cream and a beer in the sun. I plodded on after that another 15 miles in an evil wind that had whipped up again during my thirst quenching. My speed dropped slower and slower and it seemed that finally I'd hit some dreary looking towns with not a campsite in sight and no land suitable for a rough camp, being all farmland as far as the I could see. Very picturesque, but I was beginning to get the night time worries.

In the end I had a stroke of luck, getting back towards the coast I stumbled across a nice site in a place with a weird name, Nij Altoenae. A reasonable price this time (7euros50), a nice spot next to a canal and with a beautiful red sunset. This morning I was tempted to have a dip, but settled instead for dipping my feet in, it was cold and didn't look too clean really. Onwards I pushed today, along the north coast dyke passing lambs happily agrazing (and the odd lamb corpse too), passed typical dutch style thatched farmhouse, often completely surrounded by trees for wind protection. After about 20 miles I was able to head back inland towards Groningen. My legs were somewhat flagging by the end, overtaken by several hardcore cyclists and a couple of over-eager schoolkids on their way home (of the two dutch guys I've spoken to they both said that they had to ride for over 15km every morning to school, and back of course at the end of the day). Groningen has a bit of a different feel to it than the other dutch towns and cities I've seen. A bit rougher, a lot more modern buildings mixed in with the old, even in the heart of the old town. I found a nice student bar serving a wide selection (like two pages of 10pt font menu) of Belgian beer. I went for a trusty Westemalle. Then a trusty chicken kebab at a nearbby establishment. Tonight and tomorrow I'm staying at the only budget place seemingly in Groningen, 15euro for a dorm. Alas (or maybe a good thing) tomorrow the dorms are full so i've got to splash out on a single room (40 euro). Think it's wise though - campsites in cities are notoriously bad.

Well, I should say a bit more about how I'm feeling about the whole solo cycle thing. Firstly it's been hard. I was expecting that, but because of the wind it's been really hard for 5 days when it could have been a breeze (excuse the pun). I'm not sure what I think about, mostly when and what I'll next be eating, or sometimes I find myself dictating this blog in my head (of course pretty much all of what I dictate is long forgotten by the time I reach the computer). Other times I think how painful most parts of my body are. My left hand for some reason has been getting a bit numb and weak (to the point that trivial things like open a toothpaste tube are now hard) and my left knee has swollen a little (though today there was signs that it's starting to go down), presumably this means that arthritis will be heading my way at some point in the future, all the more reason to do my cycling now!😉 Naturally my ass also hurts when I'm on the saddle.

Having said that I feel pretty good right now. So we'll see how it all pans out in the weeks ahead.

My rest day in Groningen has been very nice - buying maps (ug... can denmark really be so far away) and provisions, climb the steeple, then go for a swim in a huge lake south of the city - very cold, but invigorating! I like Groningen 😊

Day 5 - Noordwijkerhout to Camperduin - 21/5
Dist (miles): 48.79
Ave speed (mph): 11.4
Max speed (mph): 18.5
Time on saddle: 4h15

Day 6 - Camperduin to Nij Altoenae - 22/5
Dist (miles): 69.85
Ave speed (mph): 11.7
Max speed (mph): 19.6
Time on saddle: 5h57

Day 7 - Nij Altoenae to Groningen- 23/5
Dist (miles): 51.68
Ave speed (mph): 11.5
Max speed (mph): 19.8
Time on saddle: 4h29

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


27th May 2008

many happy returns
Hope you are enjoying your birthday, thin boy. Where are you now?
16th July 2008

biking the netherlands
I am planning on studing in the Netherlands this fall and want to do a bike tour of some of the contry during mid october. Do you think the weather will be too harsh then? Also, what did you bring with you during your trip?

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