We had decided that Kinderdijk was a ‘must do’ on this trip and so had booked ourselves a ticket for the whole experience to start at 13.30, this meant that we needed to make good time and leave relatively early in order to cover the 29 miles to the campsite that we had found close to the Kinderdijk. Though this is not a great distance and should take no more than 3.5 hours, part of the route was through Rotterdam, and as we know, city miles can be unpredictable and slow going. As it turned out though, we made swift progress to the outskirts of Rotterdam, and were early enough that the traffic was not heavy, added to which, the cycle paths were very easy to follow, with little stopping and starting for junctions.
The weather had been forecast for light drizzle during the morning, and indeed the clouds were heavy with foreboding for the first hour of the journey, to then unload their watery burden in what soon became considerably more than light drizzle. Before long we found that our shower proof jackets, were really not sufficient, so taking shelter under a motorway bridge we donned our ponchos to avoid the rain seeping through to our clothes.
Having started out early, after an 1.5 hours we were feeling the need for coffee and breakfast, however there was a distinct dearth of places to stop, before we knew it we were at the setting off point for the ferry across the Lek, which was within half an hour of the campsite. With past experience with ferries on this trip, we were a little concerned that we would have to wait a while for the first sailing, fortunately, this was an essential commuter crossing, so the ferries were consistent and commenced early, so we found ourselves the other side of the Lek by 09.30. By this time, the weather was clearing and desperate for a break, we alighted on a bench overlooking the crossing to guzzle down our coffee and devour breakfast, before completing the last half hour of our journey.
We found our campsite easily, but were a little perturbed by the very steep driveway, which we zoomed down, but foresaw getting up it with a laden tandem would be hard work. The proprietor was a jovial fellow who humoured me when I tried to ask for a pitch for the night in Dutch, and then asked me to say it again in English so he could understand it. The cheek!
We pitched our tent, thankful that the weather was now on the turn to dry and settled. We departed in good time to pedal to the Kinderdijk UNESCO site, the campsite drive giving our legs a workout even with only an empty pannier. It was a good job we had allowed plenty of time, we were within half a kilometre, travelling along a dedicated cycleway, when our path was blocked by a tractor and gully clearing vehicle. We waited for a while with a couple of other cyclists, as he tried to manoeuvre to let us past, but the path was just too narrow, so we retraced our tracks and made google find us an alternative route.
The full Kinderdijk experience is contained within an app once you have purchased your ticket (a reasonable €16 each), tickets are digital and include access to the two open windmills and other associated buildings in respect to the pumping stations and also includes boat rides and audio tours. We had come prepared with our earbuds (one each). The site itself demonstrates the ingenuity of the Dutch and how they have overcome the fact that a huge amount of the land that now forms the Netherlands is actually below sea level. It was truly fascinating to understand how the mills managed the water of this landscape, and having a peek into the lives of the millers, who knew the winds intimately and whose families grew up with the constant sound of the sails turning and living amongst the giant wooden cogs and wheels that worked to keep the surrounding land dry. The only frustration was the audio tour, which is supposed to track you and give you information and stories about the mills and those who lived and worked there. However, it was extremely glitchy and had to be stopped and started at each waypoint. Eventually we gave up on it, feeling we had garnered what we needed. Although tourists (including us) flock to Kinderdijk, and it was indeed busy in some areas, it was still well worth the visit.
This was to be our last nigh under canvas, as our tour is coming to an end we have booked an apartment in Dordrecht for the final few nights before sailing home, so we packed up the next morning at a leisurely pace and set off on the relatively short ride in time to take over the apartment at midday. Though, of course we had to get up that steep driveway first, it was slow and hard going but we managed it in the lowest gear.
The journey to Dordrecht was easy going, and once we had got the key to our lovely apartment it felt so good to make ourselves comfortable in our own private space and not to have to walk across a field to visit the loo or have a shower. Of course there was the luxury of a real bed to enjoy also!
We decided to stay close to the apartment the next day, so took a meander around the city of Dordrecht, which is the oldest city of the Netherlands and still a busy river hub. We have become used to the crooked nature of many of the older buildings in the Netherlands, but wondering around the narrow cobbled streets of Dordrecht, there really is a feeling of the buildings bowing over you.
Wanting to make the most of our final days, we booked ourselves on a walking tour of Rotterdam. Thought he city is an old one, little of it remains that is pre-WWII, having been razed to the ground. The medieval cathedral, which was badly burned, and has been restored, is now no longer a place of worship, but a venue for various events including what are called ‘Must’ parties, because you really must be there! From the ashes of the old city though, Rotterdam has risen to great heights with striking buildings around every corner displaying architectural innovation mixed in with some of the older buildings. There are still parts of the medieval city that survived outside of the fire line which runs along the canal, but the central area is all very new and shiny. The port of Rotterdam has grown and grown over the years, and is now the only one in Europe that can dock the immense super container ships. We had an excellent guide for our walk, Bram (not Stoker) who was a proud son of the city; it was evident that there is a friendly rivalry between this city and ‘the other one North of here’ (Amsterdam).
We headed back to our apartment in the afternoon, the realisation that this was our last full day of our trip, and that tomorrow we would be sailing back to the UK. There are mixed feelings, yes we are looking forward to seeing our family and getting back to our normal lives, but there will be a sadness also for this travelling life that we have been doing for so many weeks now that it has almost become normal.