The Holiday Portion

We knew that the day was going to be cycling friendly, weather-wise so therefore could have a more leisurely start the next morning. We were hoping to pay our bill at the campsite the day before though so that we could still get away early, however, the proprietor said he had already locked up the office by the time we caught him and promised that he would be around at 07.00hrs the next morning. Despite this it was still somewhat difficult to pin him down to actually give him the money!

Our journey would be nearly 55 miles, which is the usual distances we tended to do on a daily basis, but of late with the hot weather we have been averaging around 30 miles between campsites, this this was going to be considerably longer in the saddle. We travelled mainly through an agricultural landscape, which is always pleasant and tends to facilitate quick mileage. We did come across a number of what looked like left over gun emplacements from the war dotted around the countryside, during one portion of the journey. We have seen a number of these previously, but the ones in this area south of Gorinchem, had unusual ironwork over the roof and the tops of the walls, which we puzzled over the purpose for, and are still none the wiser.

We did face real peril when ahead of us we spied a pair of swans with their young, who were sitting on the cycle way. As anyone will tell you, a swan can break an arm, and they are especially tetchy when they have cygnets, so we were very cautious about our approach. Not wanting to upset them too much, we felt that cycling quickly past was not an option, so decided that the safest thing to do would be to place Talula between them and us and walk her past them. The swans were still not happy, and there ensued much hissing and posturing (on their part) and much cowering behind the bike (on our part), but fortunately they let us pass without broken bones.

We did have one ferry crossing, which being a ‘water taxi’ type, was running before 10.00hrs, and used to the sedate nature of the ferries so far, we were quite taken aback by the speedboat nature of this thrill ride of a ferry. One of the bigger towns we had to traverse was Alblasserdam, and we were a little perplexed when the navigation app told us that we had to go over a major road, but the only access was via a flight of steps. Though the steps had a bicycle ramp way, they were extremely steep and not insubstantial in length. We were just discussing how we were going to tackle this, as it seemed impossible with the bags on the bike, when we were assisted by an elderly lady who pointed us in the direction of the ‘up’ steps as we had been about to tackle the ‘down’ steps. She guided us to the correct stairway, where the cycle ramp contained a conveyor belt to assist in elevation. Brilliant! After watching another cyclist navigate this first, we lined up Talula’s wheels, and sure enough the conveyor kicked in. What we had not appreciated, was that you needed to have the brake on for it to work effectively, and we were grateful for the further assistance of the cyclist ahead of us, who came back to help, but lesson learned if we come across another of these contraptions.

Speedy ferries ⛴

We reached our campsite at around 15.00hrs, and as we did not have a reservation, were accommodated in the ‘overflow’ area which was beside the canal, with reeds waving gently in the breeze, though we were alarmed to see a swan settled down on the bank further along, we did not meet it’s eye and fortunately it later moved on without incident.

Mr V had found a website that had a number of circular day rides around the area, so we decided on the Dijken & Sluizen fietsroute, which was a 26 mile circular route that went almost past the campsite, and also took in the town of Hellevoetsluis which google assured us had a Halfords store which stocked the camping gas we used, as our second bottle is running low. The route was pleasant enough, even though it was initially much of what we have become used to travelling through the Dutch countryside. We had been going for about an hour and a half when we approached Hellevoetsluis, finding a bench on the beach overlooking the Haringvliet river, we decided to have coffee and breakfast, enjoying feeling the sun on our faces whilst we watched the sailboats glide past. Whilst relaxing, I did a little research about Hellevoetsluis, discovering that it had a significant naval history and had the oldest dry dock in the Netherlands. We cycled a circuit of the town inside the fortifications, taking in some of the sights, before heading to the nearby shopping area in search of gas. Unfortunately, the store in question was on the smaller side of the chain, and they did not stock camping gas, but helpfully pointed us in the direction of two other options, so we headed out to them as they were about a mile from the centre. Alas, though they both stocked ‘camping gaz’, these canisters are not compatible with our stove, so we resolved to be frugal with what we had left for the next couple of days. Returning to the old town to have a little more time there, we stopped off and picked up victuals for a picnic and headed for the fortified area of the town, wondering around the numerous hillocks that were the above ground evidence of what was evidently an extensive subterranean network of defences. The sun was by this time, high in the sky, so we sought out some shade to sit and enjoy our picnic, before closing the circle of our route.

The next morning we were packed up and on the road just after 07.00hrs, heading to a campsite just outside Delft, which was one of the places on our list that we wanted to spend some time. Our route took us through the town of Maassluis, which we were familiar with as this has been the stopping place for a last coffee stop at Monsieur Paul’s the last couple of times we have visited the Netherlands. Today though we pedalled though. The approach entails travelling through the industrial landscape of Rosenberg, before taking the ferry to the very picturesque Maassluis. It is quite a juxtaposition, but we find both interesting in their own ways.

Our campsite, was one of our preferred mini camping type, though it was relatively busy so we were once again in the overflow section which abutted an orchard, so was still very nice. We had set up our tent and were sorting out our kit, when we were greeted by another speaker of English as a first language; Chris had also been touring the continent for a few weeks, but had travelled a little farther, coming as he does from Seattle! It was immediately evident that he shared our vibe, we exchanged travel experiences, as he like us had ventured into Denmark, but had taken the Baltic Coastal Route. Even so, we found that the impression of a deserted countryside was a shared feeling. It was so lovely to meet and chat with him, he though was due to depart the next day, sailing for the UK aiming to cycle along Route 51. We hope to meet up again when we are home. A couple of hours later, yet more English was heard, as a couple of London guys arrived, tired out after a long ride from Amsterdam, searching out showers, shade and sleep.

I feel that I am oft stating ‘we rose early’, this is not a case of being virtuously astir, but rather a side effect of a tent not being effective muffling for either light or sound, and though we do like the personal nature of the mini camping sites, they do tend to invariably have a local cockerel, whose crowing is hard to ignore. So, as usual, we rose early and sallied forth to explore some of Delft, having done a bit of reading in respect to the main points of interest. It is indeed a lovely city, and best explored on foot; we spent an extremely enjoyable few hours wondering around and finding some secret nooks and crannies. In a little back street close to the micro theatre, we had the most delicious, and healthy breakfast fruit crumble at a whole food cafe. Seeking big cups of coffee, we ordered large americanos, which when they arrived, we were informed were essentially, big cups containing four espressos, rather than the espresso topped up with hot water that we are used to. They certainly gave us a buzz.

After a couple more hours of meandering, we were feeling the need for a little more refreshment, and found a cafe which is evidently famed for it’s sandwiches, however, we opted for the apple pie, as it had been a full 48 hours since our last fix. This did serve as lunch though, so we convinced ourselves that it was guilt free.

We headed back to our campsite in the early afternoon, in time to catch up with Chris and bid him a bon-voyage as he set off for the next leg of his adventures.

Bon Voyage Chris!

As we are now at the closing few days of our own adventures, we are consciously taking the time to relax and treat this portion as an actual ‘holiday’. We have therefore booked ourselves in for the full Kinderdijk experience tomorrow.

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