We rose with the larks on a lovely sunny Saturday morning in Bruges, quietly making breakfast and going about our morning routines, there was no stirring from our fellow campers other than the neighbouring puppy, who was turfed out to do his business, staring at us as he did so for such a long time that we wondered how such a small dog had the bladder capacity.
We were packed and on the road before 8am, the morning air already warm but still fresh. It is a joyous feeling to be cycling along in such conditions as the rest of the population are still a slumber. We knew today was going to be hot so wanted to get as many miles under our belts before the full heat of the day made the going sticky.
Before long we were nearing the border back into Holland, but not before having to ride over one last cobblestoned street. Man they do shake your bones! It is strange to see how the passing towns and countryside become more ‘Dutch’ as we progress further over the border. There is a neat and tidiness to the way the Dutch live their lives which we noticed is absent the further we ventured into both Germany and Belgium. We had also left behind the ubiquitous cornfields of Belgium and the arable land was more of a patchwork of different crops, with just the odd cornfield for good measure.
Our route today saw us rejoining the LF1 further down the coast, so there was a feeling of closing up the circle the further north and closer to our final destination we travelled. Being a glorious Saturday, the pathways were busy with people seeking sun,sea and sand making the going tricky, added to which, lovely though the dunes are, all those ups and downs are seriously hard work on a heavy tandem. The coast here, referred to as the Holland Delta, has many large inlets to cross, the first by ferry, a half hour journey which was over too quickly, such was our enjoyment of the comfy seats.
We moved onwards through small towns and around vast wheat fields, spotting along the way the hulking outlines of gun emplacements left over from the war. Stopping by two that were about a 100 yards apart just off the pathway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we had a little investigate, scrambling inside the derelict remains of what was once a deadly outpost. Short girl problems meant that I could not see out of the top turret hole though. It is quite eerie to be stood in such a place, with the sun shining, birds and crickets chirping, but still having the sense of the desolation of that dark time.
Further north we spent nearly an hour peddling into a strong headwind as we crossed the huge Oosterscheidekering Dam. This amazing feat of hydraulic engineering forms part of the largest flood protection system in the world. It was hard work getting across, whenever we thought we were nearly there, there was another section; it seemed to go on and on. We reached land eventually, feeling quite spent. The plan had been to move further north and find a campsite, but our energy levels were low and the heat was becoming overpowering.
We stopped outside one of those seaside town stores that sells just about everything, and bought a couple of well earned ice creams. The small town, obviously very popular, had 4 eateries situated adjacent to each other. Mr V was taken with the thought of a meal at the Pizzeria Di Firenze, so we booked a table there having found a camp site a 1 minute cycle away. Hopping on Talula, we made haste to get booked in, the thought of a nice meal tantalising our senses. Disappointment though, as for the first time we found that the site was full and could not even squeeze in one tiny tent. Crestfallen we again consulted good old google maps and there were a couple more in the vicinity, ringing ahead to avoid a wild goose chase, we were told that there were a couple of tent spaces for cyclists but they could not be booked so it was a first come first served situation. Google said it was 3 minutes ride a way so off we peddled to call dibs on a spot. There ensued a little confusion by the fact that there was a separate tent site to the chalet site which also had a couple of tent spots, but once sorted we showered and made ready for what we realised was our first meal out on the entire trip. Yes, we have had snacks, coffees and lunches whilst out and about, but our evening meals have been taken on our campsites. It felt like a real treat and a little like a step of rehabilitation back to the real world. We even had stemmed glasses!
Mr V awoke early the next morning with a sinking feeling. Not only had his inflatable pillow (which had been unreliable this last week) gone down, but the ultra lightweight air mattress had clearly sprung a leak also. He was not a happy camper. Given that we only had one more night before catching our ferry, we decided that we would see if we could book into a Vrienden op de fiets in Brielle, which had been our destination for the day. Identifying a suitable self contained accommodation, we left a message seeking availability.
Having to wait for the campsite reception to open before we could be on our way, meant that we were later setting out than has become the norm. Picking up the coast route again, we had to navigate some steep inclines with tired legs. The sandiness of a lot of the cycleway also meant that we were a little more cautious in our progress. There was though the breeze from the sea to give us a little relief from the heat. Turning inland though our route offered no shade from the relentless heat, the only breeze was self generated whilst we peddled, as soon as we stopped it was stifling. Though we were tired and in need of a break, there was nowhere suitable, we came across numerous benches with lovely views, but the only shade was that cast by them. Riding on, we eventually came to a small town with a perfectly positioned fiets cafe. We parked up and flopped down at a table in the shade of their parasols, ordering cold drinks and apple tart. Guzzled those down and ordered more cold drinks. Then we just sat for a bit, unwilling to venture out into the heat.
As we sat my message was returned, with the offer of accommodation in Brielle, but the elation was short lived as there had been a misunderstanding and it was thought we needed it tomorrow. Turning to a booking app, we identified a reasonably priced hotel and secured a room. Relieved that we had a comfortable bed for the night, we pushed on over yet another sea bridge to work our way up to Brielle. About an hour or so later though, the hastily guzzled cold drinks were making themselves known and the need for a relief break became more insistent. The route was relatively exposed and well used by fellow cyclists and a few cars. However needs must, and I suggested we pull over in a gateway and I made a dash for the small cover that was there. Now the ladies among you will know that when assuming the crouching position, one feels a little more secure holding on to something. I instantly realised my mistake in holding onto an old gate, as it turned out to be unattached to a post. In my precarious position I was powerless to halt its descent and I found myself pinned to the ground underneath it in an altogether rather undignified manner. Mr V from his vantage point on slightly higher ground and holding Talula, was not in a position to rush to my aid, but did find the whole thing entertaining whilst demonstrating how much easier such things are for boys. Righting myself and the gate, I hastily remounted and we were on our way again.
We found our hotel soon after, though we were an hour ahead of the check in time. The staff were extremely helpful and we stowed Talula and our bags whilst we sought out some very welcome ice cream. We knew that once we got into our room and showered we wouldn’t want to go out again so bought supper provisions, a small bottle of red may have slipped in too.
This is our last night in Holland, we have a short ride tomorrow to get to Hook of Holland, but will take our time. We will of course have to ensure that our route takes us past the purveyor of Mr V’s beloved choco waffles in order to stock up!