At 6 in the morning, we open our eyes, lay still and listen.
The campground is silent. Everyone is still asleep. But more to the point, there’s no wind! After fighting stiff breezes yesterday, we’re hopeful that today will be a little calmer. We’ve already been warned by the campground owner that the wind picks up in the afternoon so we don’t waste any time getting the coffee on. Less than an hour later, we’ve eaten a hearty breakfast of muesli and fruit and we’re on our way along the canals.
We don’t get very far before we have to stop. It’s not a flat tire that slows us down but rather a sign advertising jam for sale. Even better, the jam is being sold from a bicycle basket by the towpath. Friedel investigates and soon we’re on our way again, with some blackberry syrup in our panniers. As long as it doesn’t spill all over the inside of our bags before we get home, it’ll be fantastic on ice cream.
We’re barely on the road an hour when the wind starts to pick up again, but at least this time we’re changing direction. Maybe the wind won’t follow us. A sharp left takes us up a bike ramp and on to the Afsluitdijk, a 32km long causeway that runs across the North Sea and forms the top barrier of the IJsselmeer Lake. It is, like most causeways, a long, straight road with little other than the bike path and the highway to look at. From where we are, we don’t even get a good view of the water most of the time and we don’t take any pictures.
After a couple hours of pedalling, we come to the other side, and then things start to look like Holland again. We see green fields and windmills and spend a while trying to get just the right picture of Andrew cycling by a windmill.
It’s somewhere around this point that we get lost. We have a good map but somehow we get disoriented. There are too many canals and not enough town names to help us figure out exactly where we are in the canals. Maybe the hot sun is having an effect too. We didn’t expect such strong sun, we’re starting to burn (despite putting on factor 50 SPF sunscreen) and we’d really like a cafe to cool down in. Unfortunately, there aren’t any, so instead we find a bench on a sidewalk and drink some water in the shade.
A bottle of water later and after several handfuls of trail mix, we’re feeling revived so we carry on and eventually come to a campsite, where we get the last patch of grass to put our tent on. It’s a holiday weekend and perhaps we’re lucky to have found some grass at all. Our tent creates just enough of a shadow that we can sit in front of it without feeling like we’re being fried to a crisp by the sun.
In all our getting lost around the canals and our efforts to find a campsite, it seems we’ve cycled quite a long way. Later, we find out we’ve done well over 100km (compared to our more normal 80km). The result is that we’re both dead tired. Andrew cooks supper and then we both collapse into the tent. We don’t remember much more than that.
The next day is the home stretch. We’re not far from our house but we’re not in a hurry to get there either, so we decide to treat ourselves to Dutch pancakes. They’re great! Huge things – the size of a pizza – with the choice of hundreds of toppings. I get ham, pineapple and cheese. Andrew gets tomatoes, herbs and cheese. They go down perfectly with 2 milky coffees.
Just as we’re almost home, we spot this bike, waiting for its owner to come and retrieve it. Who knows how long it’s been there. It looks a bit rusty. But abandoned bikes are all over Holland. Every few months, the police come and clear out all the bikes that no one wants any more.
And then, before we know it, we’re rolling up to our front door. Our trip around the IJsselmeer went quickly, a little too quickly in fact. In 4-1/2 days, we’d just started to get into our rythym and build up our cycling appetites. Now, it’s back to work, but we’re already planning the next trip, hopefully for later this summer.
The Day Before: Day 3 Of Our Trip Around The IJsselmeer