We had identified a campsite outside of Arnhem as a possible place to spend the next three days as the forecast was for for extremely hot weather, with advice to do as little as possible. Our route took us through the Veluwe national park, a place that we have traversed before, and where Mr V is still in search of the mystical cyclists’ cafe that we found by accident on our first trip. He has scoured google maps, but his search remains in vain. We had been going for about an hour and a half, and in need of a rest out of the saddle and breakfast. However, as always seems to be the case, as soon as you want a nice bench in a salubrious setting there are none to be found. When we did come across one, a couple had the audacity to be sitting on it! Riding on, we had almost given up hope and were about to set up our own lightweight chairs, when there it was, the saviour for our derrières in a small clearing. Almost screeching to a halt, we poured the coffee and made what has become our stock breakfast of peanut butter spread on a soft tortilla, wrapped around a banana. All food groups covered!
We took our time to soak up the peace of the forest, before mounting up again, refreshed and invigorated (well, caffeinated). The journey was lovely, cycling through dappled sunshine, with the odd dash through an unshaded area of heathland. As we passed through Ede, we hit a bit of a roadblock in the form of a herd of horses, a few of which were not going to move off the path, so we had to push round, being careful not to spook them. We did have a long straight section that was exposed to the full sun, going past what seemed to be acres of land that was part of the Euro-Park enterprise. Having to pull over after a while to re-hydrate, another cyclist also stopped and chatted, he in the same heated situation.
We found our campsite easily enough as it had a huge depiction of a WWII troop carrying glider at the entrance. We were fortunate enough to catch the proprietor just before he was going to close for lunch. Paying for one night with the option of staying a further two, I quickly purchased a couple of ice-lollies before we headed to the designated tent area that he had directed us to on the map. The site was quite large and seemed to be predominantly touring caravans that were parked there semi-permanently. The tent area was right at the bottom of the site, but when we arrived, it was actually difficult to identify the actual space, which was the small corner of what transpired to be a thoroughfare for residents, such were the comings and goings and curious looks at these strange people on their bike with a tiny tent.
Unfortunately, this added to the realisation that this was not the type of campsite that we had in mind to wait out the coming hot days, it was definitely a one-nighter, which was confirmed by the erratic plumbing which left me having to put my token in the shower meter, not being able to get any water unless I turned it completely to the cold position, or turned on the tap in the sink! Needless to say, after a hot day cycling, a ‘pits and parts’ wash was unsatisfactory.
We resigned to get up really early the next day, which was going to be the first of a couple of days where the temperatures were going to be over 36 degrees, and as the sun rose at 05.00, so did we. Our route took us to the town of Renkum where we were to cross the Nederrijn via ferry. However, we arrived at the ferry crossing point before 08.00hrs only to find that the first crossing was not until 10.00hrs. If we were to wait, then this would completely negate the early start to beat the heat, so we consulted google (who knew that the ferry was not running at that time) and worked out a detour to the nearest bridge, which added 30 minutes on to our journey, but at least we were travelling in the right direction rather than sitting still. Once over the bridge, we navigated a way to pick up the original route further down the line, but just before joining it we stopped off at the small town of Zetten for what is in danger of becoming our daily ritual of coffee and apple pie, in this case it served as our breakfast!
Returning to the plotted route, even though it was still early we could feel the warmth beginning to intensify already. We reached the second ferry crossing at Druten before 10.00hrs but were pleased to see we only had to wait 20 minutes for the first crossing, and watched as the little boat started from the other side a few minutes later. As it neared the jetty, we stirred from our bench and Mr V pushed Talula down the gangway to be greeted by one of the three guys on the boat, and though neither spoke the other’s language, we were effectively informed that the ferry was not actually running today, we think because the water was too low, but cannot be certain that this was the case given the size of the other river traffic. It was getting really hot at this point, and there was no shade around so frustration was rising. We found the closest bridge, which was a 13km detour to the west, and would mean that we would overshoot the area of the two campsites we had earmarked as suitable. However, needs must, and we set off for the bridge, resolving to reassess once we were over the Waal river. Fortunately, the route to the bridge was along the main fietsroute so the going was fast on smooth tarmac. We had set the navigation to the bridge using google, and only after we had pushed Talula up a short but steep set steps to get onto the bridge, did we realise that we could also have just cycled up the other side. Heigh-ho. The Prins Willem Alexanderbrug bridge seemed interminably long, and before long we were feeling a little pressured by a tractor bearing down on us from behind, beeping at us within a nanosecond of us reaching a place where we could allow it to pass.
By the time we made it to the other side and found an area away from the traffic, we were feeling very hot and tired, having been pedalling for over an hour in the full glare of the sun. Not wanting to double back on ourselves to the campsites identified for today and tomorrow, we looked at what was in the vicinity and found a couple of mini-campsites that were around 30 minutes ride away. We discounted the closest as it had a swimming pool and we thought that would be likely to make it busy and noisy with families, and opted for De Maasakker, which was slightly further but had amenities around it and very good reviews, with pictures that showed shady places and a fridge! Saddling up, we followed the set route, but came to the third ferry crossing of the day with feelings of trepidation, however it was a case of third time lucky, and within about 5 minutes of disembarking the ferry, we were at the campsite and enjoying the warm welcome of the proprietor. The campsite was perfect for sitting out the rest of the hot day and the even hotter day that was forecast to come. There was an onsite cafe which served coffee and apple pie and also ice cream, so Mr V was extremely delighted.
We flopped down and enjoyed a couple of ice creams before setting up our tent and sorting out our kit. We dashed to the nearest supermarket and bought enough provisions so that we would not have to venture out at all the next day, and then showered and just kicked back to relax in the shade of this ‘natural’ campsite. Mr V had been on the look out for a second pair of shorts, and thought he had hit the jackpot as the supermarket in question had shorts in their middle aisle, however, being the slim snake hipped build that he is, was disappointed to find that the smallest size they had was medium, which in the men’s sizes are just too baggy on him. But, being the slim, snake hipped build that he is, the ladies small sized shorts fitted him perfectly. His masculinity is not fragile, so he is not to be deterred from such a purchase if it fits the bill.
It was not long before another couple of cycle tourists arrived and set up just across from us, we exchanged pleasantries, they were on a short touring trip of about 5 days and we were surprised to hear that they were pressing on the next day despite the heat. Though we must admit that after being kept away by the snoring of one of them, we were not too sorry to see them go. We had pitched the tent without the fly sheet for the first time as the night was going to be so warm, and there was something a little exposing but exciting about being able to see the stars through the roof netting.
So that we did not have a completely inactive day, we decided to take a stroll along the lane and riverside whilst the morning was still cool, this was lovely, but even at 08.30 it was already quite warm away from the shade. We meandered back to the campsite just in time to bid farewell to our neighbours, who had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (this could be ordered from the site) and were only just leaving at around 09.00, which is positively late in our book!
At around 11.00hrs, we thought we should sample the coffee and apple pie, it was after all time for elevenses, as we went to order another cycle touring couple arrived, and they too were upon a tandem, but one that had a front recumbent seat arrangement. We returned after out repast, and found that our fellow tandemers were our new neighbours. They were a couple from Belgium, and of course we exchanged tandem tales. Their amazing machine was actually battery assisted, and of course I had to have a try of the front recumbent seat; I must admit though, I do not think that I would find it fun being in the front going down some of the hills as fast as we do, and having to cling on for dear life!
The rest of the day we spent being as useful as the ‘g’ in lasagne, as the energy sapping heat built up throughout the day. The lovely thing about the nature campsites, is that especially in the case of this one, they plant flowers and shrubs that encourage pollinators and other insect life. The not so lovely thing about this is that the bitey ones seem to find me particularly tasty! We ascertained that our neighbours were also early risers, and liked to be on the road by about 06.00-07.00 so we were pleased that we would not be disturbing them in the morning.
We had another night without the fly sheet, so the rising sun at 05.00 woke us from our slumber, to see that out neighbours were already packing up. Not far behind them we set to breaking camp and were ready to go by about 06.30, and even though the proprietor had assured us that they would be up early so we could settle the bill, I suspect that we still got them out of bed given the bleariness of their eyes.
Off we set with the rising sun headed to another nature campsite near Kassel Nederhemert, via the garrison city of ‘s-Hertogenbosh (which Mr V and I have struggled to get our tongues around the name of) this city has been a garrison for about 400 years and was recommended as a place to visit. It was nice with a notable cathedral, but there seemed to be a considerable amount of building and repairs going on so our visit was rather ‘whistle-stop’ before heading on to the campsite.
The weather has been forecast to change, with heavy rain overnight going in to the next day, so we were looking for a campsite that we could potentially stay for two days. When we arrived at the nature campsite we had identified, the proprietor said that he could squeeze us in for one night, but was fully booked from the next day. After discussing this with Mr V, we decided to look elsewhere, as we really did not want to be packing up our tent in the rain to move on if we could avoid it. In addition, I did note that the facilities of the site did not offer much in the way of shelter for inclement weather. So back to Google to search out an alternative, hitting on the well reviewed mini camping de Reekins, we pressed on and when we arrived, we were pleased that the camping gods had been smiling on us, as this lovely little site offered the perfect facilities for the coming couple of days, in addition to some cute fluffy neighbours.
We also soon had some fellow cycle-touring neighbours, a similarly aged couple who were well seasoned tourers, indeed they have cycled more extensively than us in the UK! We were also impressed by their knowledge of the nuances of the current political climate in the UK, which exceeded ours of the Netherlands.
The forecast rain did not arrive overnight, and indeed it was clear and fairly bright in the morning as our neighbours were packing up to head off, we wondered whether we had made the right decision to stay, but then reminded ourselves that we are on holiday and had resolved to have more rest days since leaving Copenhagen.
We set off on foot to have a meander around the nearby fortified town of Heusden. This is one of the classic ‘star’ shaped fortified towns that we have seen evidence of throughout the Netherlands, Heusden is an excellent example and the town inside the fortifications is indeed charming. We spent a good couple of hours having a flaneur, before the rain started to set in and we took refuge in a pancake house, which disappointingly had not yet started serving pancakes, so we had to make do with coffee and apple cake. We were pleased to see that the patched up tent seems to be holding out against the downpour though.
Heading westwards tomorrow, seeing if we can get a 50 miler under our belts as the weather is looking more cycling friendly.