Our camping spot is shared with a field of sheep, so it’s the rustle of a big, warm ball of wool brushing against our tent that wakes us up for the second day of our tour around the IJsselmeer.
A grey, misty morning greets us when we emerge from our tent but there’s no rain, so we’re happy for that. In our quest to do a relatively lightly loaded tour, we haven’t even packed our rain gear. Instead, we’ve put all our faith in the good weather report for the weekend. If it rains, we are going to get really wet.
After a quick breakfast of muesli with apples and a strong cup of coffee, we’re on our way. Our route takes us through a series of small but unremarkable villages. We get most of our amusement from trying to figure out what all the Dutch signs say, waving to little kids and keeping an eagle-eye out for anyone wearing klompen, traditional Dutch clogs.
This last quest isn’t so successful. We only count 4 pairs of wooden shoes on the feet of local Dutch folks and none of them are too interested in a picture. Next time, maybe. Our next bit of excitement comes from this cool bicycle drawbridge. Now that’s a first!
Things get even better when we spot a small field with two ponies. They are real characters, and spend several minutes posing for the camera. How can you not smile when you look at a face like this?
Once we’ve had our fill of ponies, we carry on through some typical Dutch countryside (canals, cows and fields), until we come to the pretty town of Weesp. By now, we’re hungry! Time for lunch, and what else would you have on a Dutch bike tour but a typical lunch of fresh herring?
If you’re not Dutch, you’ll probably find this lunch either absolutely amazing or totally disgusting. We fall into the first category and so we quickly locate the nearest fish shop and order 6 herring, with fresh onions and pickles, for our lunch. It’s May, the time of year when herring are in season, so these ones are particularly big and fresh. They’re simply beautiful.
We lift them up by their tails and lower them in, one by one…
Now it’s early afternoon and the sun is shining strongly as we cross a long bridge into the province of Flevoland. There’s a saying about this part of the country: “God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”
The phrase refers to the fact that Flevoland didn’t exist until the 50s and 60s. In fact, it wasn’t even officially recognised as a province until 1986. The whole thing used to be underwater and it was only recently, after the Afsluitdijk was built in 1932, that the Dutch reclaimed the land and started to build there.
There’s not much to see… very few people live here and the roads are all totally straight. The province is mostly farmland and after a few kilometers we can almost imagine that we’re in the Canadian prairies. We almost expect to see a grain elevator on the horizon.
One thing reminds us that we’re in the Netherlands: the excellent bike network signs.
It’s about now that the headwinds kick in. We don’t take many more pictures because, frankly, there’s nothing to see! Just the long, long roads of Flevoland. The wind whips around our ears. There’s nothing to stop it here. By the time we get to the town of Lelystad, it’s all we can do to pedal the last few strokes to the campsite where we collapse. This bike touring thing can be hard work sometimes!