We knew from our outward journey that Hamburg is just huge. We commenced today though from the main railway station, positioned fairly centrally, so reasoned that getting out the other side would not be such a big task. As we know, city miles take so much longer than countryside miles and it was already gone midday. We passed some familiar sections of the route, making sure that we did not fall foul of the disparity between our navigation app and the new cycleways. Though within the hour there was less stopping and starting at busy junctions, it was still a good couple of hours before we were actually leaving Hamburg and it’s suburbs behind. We had though missed the worst of the weather whilst travelling by train, and the sky, though gray, remained dry for the whole of the journey.
Once out of the city, our route was alongside one of the arterial roads, and though separate was not the most pleasant of journeys, though it did tick off the miles relatively quickly. We did have to take a detour though when we hit a road closure, usually we tend to ignore these as we can usually find a way through as a cycle, but here they were carrying out resurfacing to both the road and cycle path so there was no getting round it.
We were headed for a campsite at Tostedt, and though this was only about 29 miles, our late start and slow city miles meant that we did not get to the campsite until nearly 18.00hrs, which for us on this trip is very late, leaving little time to decompress after what had been a difficult day. The campsite though was small and friendly, the proprietor did not speak much English so with the aid of google translate, we established that the cosy lounge building was freely available for our use, it had a Wi-Fi hotspot, there was an honesty box for the drinks in the fridge and we could use the electric sockets to charge up batteries and help ourselves to tea. We availed ourselves of all those things, Mr V feeling a bit dehydrated guzzled two bottles of Radler, and half of mine (he later regretted this at 02.00hrs when his bladder was fit to burst!).
The next morning dawned bright, though not quite warm enough for us to test out the natural swimming pool that was at the centre of the site. We were headed back towards Bremen, but skirting around the city to a campsite that happened to be in the university area. The facilities here rivalled those in the Copenhagen campsite and we took the opportunity to do our washing and sort out our kit. The only thing that was lacking though was a fridge in the kitchen area, so our tinned rose wine was not enjoyed at it’s peak, but it was still enjoyed.
We were up and on the road efficiently, but not as efficiently as our neighbouring tent, which when we arrived we had assumed was uninhabited and saw no sign of life the whole time we were there, however it was gone without sound or trace by the time we got up at 0600! From Bremen we were headed to Hatten, and back to a campsite that we had used on the outward journey, a known entity with decent facilities and supermarkets close by. It was a little busier than when we were there before, and we shared the tent field with a group of teenage boys who though not rowdy, by 23.00 their music was a little too loud, they were politeness itself though when I asked if they would kindly turn it down a little, which was a relief.
We were awoken to another bright morning, and readied ourselves for our onward journey whilst our neighbours slumbered, looking forward to a lovely fresh sunlit ride. However, by the time we were on the road, about an hour later, the weather was overcast and positively gloomy. We were teased with a few glimmers of brightness, but also with some spots of rain as we rode on. After a couple of hours, we were ready to stop for some coffee and breakfast and as chance would have it in the tiny settlement of Petersdorf at a junction there was a fair weather and not so fair weather picnic facility. As it was dry when we stopped, we initially opted for the outside table, however, within a few minutes there was the plip-plop of rain, so we gathered everything up and headed into the small hut and enjoyed our break in the shelter, giving thanks to the generous community who had built this welcome facility.
Within a couple of hours though, the leaden skies could hold their cargo no longer, and the rain set in and there was not a glimmer of brightness on the horizon, so we donned our wet weather ponchos, not wanting to get cold and wet to the extent that we could not dry out. Though after a while there was a let up in the rain, it was never far away. At about 12.30 Mr V was in need of another coffee and so we looked for somewhere to stop and make a brew. At Nordhummling, we spotted a sign which on translation turned out to be directing us to a cycle touring hut. Perfect. Pushing Talula up the short track, we had expected to see something like the earlier set up. Indeed it was something like it, in that there was a picnic table and covered shelter, however these were clearly utilised by youths to gather and drink, so was not as well kept. However, needs must, so we avoided the hut and made use of the outside table to make a hot coffee and refuel.
We made our way to the campsite at Borgerwald, through an area of woodland which looked initially to be a tricky track, but ended up being fine, after I did some reconnaissance, we pushed Talula up a gravelly hill and pedalled on through what we later discovered was called the bumblebee trail. We got to our campsite after 14.00hrs, to find that the reception did not open until 15.00hrs, there was nothing for it but to wait it out as there was no one around. Luckily they had an events/BB Q marquee for us to sit in, as it was not long before there was yet another downpour, so we were able to wait that out under cover at least. Once we were able to book in, we pitched the tent as quickly as possible, and got everything inside just in time before the next wave of rain set in. Today was Sunday and so there are no shops open in Germany, but we had accounted for this and ensured that we had provisions for supper, which was fortunate as we did not want to go out again once we were ensconced in our cosy dry tent. We passed the evening making use of the camp Wi-Fi to stream Netflix, dashing out between showers to use the facilities. Tired we snuggled down to sleep, waking intermittently when the rain fell, though at about 02.00 we did both hear the forlorn meowing of a cat around the tent, both laying there silently, breathing again when it had moved away. Animal lovers we may be, but even I drew the line at letting a wet and perhaps tick and flea ridden cat into the tent in the wee-small hours.
Though the rain had abated in the morning, there was still a persistent ‘mizzle’ so in an effort to keep as much dry as possible, we packed everything up inside the tent and then decamped to the marquee to finish off loading up and making coffee. As an outdoorsman, and as I’ve said before, Mr V’s mantra is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, so he was in full ‘ATI’ mode packing up quickly minimising wet clothing and equipment. That in mind we again donned ponchos and set off westward hoping that the eastward moving weather front would mean we were headed for the good weather before the day is out.
After passing through the town of Lehe, where there were obviously some serious celebration preparations in hand, with the background sound of an ‘umpar’ band, we were instructed by our navigation app to head for the ferry river crossing at Leher Punte, where we arrived at about 09.30 and the place was deserted, no worries we thought, it is not unusual for such ferries to commence at about 10.00, so as there were tables and benches under cover, we settled down for a coffee break. Searching the information boards, I found a leaflet, and with the ever essential google-translate to the rescue, discovered that the ferry did indeed run between 10.00-18.00hrs, but only on Sundays and public holidays. As today was Monday, we would have a long wait. Our navigation app is excellent for the most part, but, as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, it really does not like it if you go off the course that it has set for you, so would not, even refused, to give an alternative route. We then referred to the back up of google maps, which knew that the ferry was not running and so gave us a detour, which fortunately turned out to be not too onerous. As we travelled westward the rain hung on with just one more shower so we took brief shelter in another little hut/picnic combo outside of Doreen, again giving silent thanks to the kind community providing this welcome refuge.
Onward we travelled, sure that we could perceive brighter weather on the horizon, and soon crossed over the border into the Netherlands at about 11.30, and almost immediately the going became easier. There were less gravel/dirt tracks and more smoother surfaces. We stopped about an hour later at Ter Apel and had lunch in a very welcome cafe, whilst we planned our final leg as we had not yet decided upon a campsite for the evening. A search and scan of the reviews had us decided on a mini camping site just outside Emmen, so route plotted we set forth and were heartened to find that we were indeed cycling to meet the better weather as shadows were definitely following us.
We found our way to what has turned out to be a most charming little campsite, with an easygoing, fellow cycle touring proprietor. Though we are camping in our own tent, there are a variety of accommodations available ranging from a luxurious yurt, to the cutest of hobbit houses.
We have pitched our tent, and the sun has made an appearance, drying everything up and warming our limbs. We shall stay here a couple of nights and relax in the laid back surroundings before moving on early as the hot weather has eventually arrived on the continent and will be aiming to tick off a few places we want to visit from our list.