Invisible Borders

Though the campsite was extremely quiet the night before, we were both reaching for the ear plugs when our Swedish neighbour drifted off to sleep and it sounded like he was sawing logs in his tent, he was suffering from a summer cold so we had a little sympathy. Mr V and I were woken early (05:30) by a definite chill in the air. Curious as the forecast had been for yet another fine day. Bleary eyed we opened the tent door to see the campsite shrouded in mist and having put on my summer duvet jacket and leggings to stay warm it led to a reluctance to leave my cosy sleeping bag for just 5 minutes more. There was a day to be had though, so we quickly dressed donning our jackets as we (by we I mean MrV) set about deflating and stuffing into sacks our possessions. We breakfasted as usual on porridge with honey and banana before continuing with our morning routines (Mr V finishes the packing whilst I make a vague effort to look presentable). When I returned, Mr V was in deep conversation with our Swedish neighbour Michael, who evidently considered that we were camping luxuriously as we had such things mugs and a ‘spacious’ tent. Goodness knows what he would think if he knew we also carry two mini hot water bottles! Unnecessary extra weight as far as he was concerned. He and his friend had been touring for a number of years and seemed to be paring down further and further the kit that they take. We are aware of touring cyclists who travel with the absolute barest of equipment, but quite frankly I just don’t see the point; we are not savages.

Michael packing his microtent & Mr V not convinced! Nosy cat!

Following the effusive recommendation from Olaf, we had plotted our course over to Germany to pick up the Ems route which follows that river along the border between the two countries. Our route was clear until we entered Germany, after that we were unsure how the cycle ways were marked and how easy they would be to follow. As it turned out there is a certain overlap between the two countries and so we had little problem. We headed for the town of Haren which is just inside the border and from there picked up the Emslandroute.

Haren,where I have been immortalised in boat form

From Olaf’s description, we had envisaged the cycle way travelling by the side of the river, and indeed it does at some points. But this is a meandering river and where it bulges out to take lazy loops along the countryside, the cycle route takes the short way, ending up not alongside the river but in the countryside itself. Pretty countryside for the most, but not what we had been hoping for. We left the Ems and joined the DEK down to Meppen, this path was on the opposite bank and ran directly adjacent to the river. It was a lovely stretch and we enjoyed following the twists and turns of the river, different in character to travelling alongside canal ways. We stopped for lunch next to a pleasant quiet wide pool of the river and enjoyed sitting at a picnic table with backs to the chairs; this is one of the surprising things missed when camping.

The lovely River Ems and a lunch spot we could sit back and enjoy

We pressed onward through Meppen, which seemed unremarkable from what we saw and then rejoined the Ems. As we travelled we did discern a gradual change in character from the Dutch to Germanic suburbs and cycle system. The Germans have a reputation for precision and order, but I think that in actual fact the Dutch quietly pip them at the post. We have noted on our previous trip as well as this that almost everywhere you go in Holland things are neat, tidy and in good order. If you see a property that is disheveled it tends to stand out as unusual, and 9/10 turns out to be an empty property. We noticed that this was not so evident in Germany; on a sliding scale they are slightly more like the British than the Dutch on that front. The cycle paths here are also not as well maintained. On the whole they are good, but not up to the Dutch standard. We fear that we may have set ourselves up for perpetual disappointment by setting Holland as the standard by which all others are measured.

Peddling ever onward, we travelled through woodland, wheat fields and elephant eye high cornfields, but saw very little of the river. The day was hot and without the consistent dappled shade that we had yesterday, we were finding the going tiring. Gone were the birds singing overhead, replaced by the churupping of crickets in the dry grasses as the constant accompaniment. This only added to the feeling of arid heat and when we decided it was time to search out a campsite, hoping for an early finish to the day, our hearts sank when the closest one was the best part of another hour away and well off the Ems route. Wearily we peddled down some long hot stretches of road seeking out the Blue Lagoon campsite. Stopping for provisions for supper along the way, our hopes were raised by what looked like a campsite, but when Mr V investigated it turned out to be a group of camper vans parked up in a car park so we had to push our tired legs to go a bit further.

The Blue Lagoon did not disappoint though, there are adequate facilities, we are alone in the tent area, the other residents being in caravans or cabins the other side of the lake, there is a cafe/bar within striking distance of our tent where we indulged in a couple of cold beers, sitting in proper chairs with the sun setting over the ‘lagoon’. Simple pleasures.

Simple pleasures!

Having had to take such a detour, we are practically back in Holland so we have decided to leave the charms of the Ems and work our way to Coevorden which according to our friend google may have given indirectly given Vancouver its name.

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