Yes, that’s right. We caved. We piled our wet soggy bodies, and our dripping tent and our musty shoes onto a train and we went home. You might think we were wimps. Maybe we were, but sometimes you just have to push that reset button and for us – after 4 straight days of cycling under a rain cloud – this was our time.
In another time and place, we might have done something else (like get a hotel for the night) but that’s the advantage of touring close to home – there’s always an easy way out if things get too miserable.
So home we went, to wash and dry our clothes, hang out our tent and restore our spirits with a good night’s sleep in a warm bed, rather than a squishy, muddy field. Twenty-four hours later, we were ready to set out again, so we checked the forecast and headed for what the weatherman said would be the driest spot in the country; Groningen.
Our mission was to cycle as much of the Fietserpad as possible; a 500km bike path that runs north to south through the Netherlands, and twice enters Germany. As soon as you leave the city of Groningen and head south, the Fietserpad starts to shine. It goes past some iconic Dutch scenery. The dark skies hung over us, but it didn’t rain.
As we pedalled along immaculately paved bike paths, we couldn’t help but admire the Dutch bicycle infrastructure. Even though we’ve been living here nearly 2 years now, we’re constantly amazed at the diversity of paths, and how well marked they are. This one shows signs for local paths, as well as the direction of a long-distance bicycle route.
We were also impressed at how much woodland we cycled through – over 100km and we barely had to cross another road or even see a car, let alone cycle alongside one. How is this possible in such a crowded, densely populated country? Of course, you wouldn’t find this near Amsterdam, but the Dutch are good at preserving what nature areas they have, and all of this is accessible by bicycle. Bliss.
As the Fietserpad wound its way south, we occasionally dipped into Germany, and we didn’t need the border signs to tell us that we’d changed countries. We could guess as much when the bike paths turned to sand, and bumped along the back of fields. This happens sometimes in the Netherlands too, but most of our ride in Germany seemed to be like this.
And when we crossed back into the Netherlands, the bike paths magically reappeared. On the German side? A dirt road full of potholes. On the Dutch side? A smooth, marked bike path.
Although the weather had certainly improved from the first half of our bike tour, the second part of our trip wasn’t without its disasters. One night, in a campground, a gust of wind blew over Andrew’s bike before we had the chance to catch it. His handlebar bag was still on the bike, and there was one casualty: our beloved Kindle.
This seems to prove the concerns we had about its fragility when we reviewed it. Nothing else in the handlebar bag broke (there was a camera, a GPS and other gadgets inside), and the Kindle was protected (albeit not in an official Kindle case). Hopefully Amazon will replace it, and we’ll have to think up a better way of carrying it for future trips. We still love this thing; it’s incredibly useful and convenient, but it does require a little TLC.
On we pedalled, through seemingly endless Dutch woods, finishing up each day in one of the great nature camping sites (less developed campsites). We were determined to try some new camping recipes, and the highlight of our camp cookery was sausages and mashed potatoes (bangers & mash for the Brits out there); inspired by a recipe we got from Liz & Chris (we’ll share it soon on the site). It was by far one of the best camp meals we’ve ever made, and a great way to finish our summer bike tour around the Netherlands!