It was our last long day, and almost our very last day, of cycling and we were sitting on the a ferry as we crossed the giant IJsselmeer lake in the Netherlands. We sat, sipping coffee and resting, before the final push; a last 60km pedal to my friend Sanne’s house in Heemskerk – just 11km from the ferry port back to the UK.
It has been a great last few days, but exhausting too. We decided a week ago to push a bit harder and to pull our return date forward by a week. Then a few days later we decided to pull it forward another day so we could stay at Sanne’s before she left for a holiday. It was a great decision, but meant our daily average increased from between 50 and 80km per day to one hundred kilometres a day or more. Luckily for us, the Netherlands is as flat as a piece of paper which makes it easier. Even better, we were at times pushed along by a tailwind, taking our average speed to 20km per hour despite our 30kg bicycles! 🙂
We also seem to have just caught the tail end of the famous Dutch flower season. A few fields of brightly coloured tulips still remained in sporadic clumps of yellows, purples, pinks and reds.
We followed tree clad canals, lined with lovely little houses with steep roofs and an eclectic mix of building materials, from wood to thatch, tiles, bricks, stone, even plastic and metal. It seemed that whole villages had worked together to create houses made of as many of these materials as possible, and the result was at once surprising and charming.
Yesterday was our longest day yet, 120km through this land of canals and fertile fields. We had accidentally prepared terribly for it the day before… feeling like a treat after our 100km day we bought a beer each… Little did we realise until afterwards that they were in fact 12%!! Not exactly what you want after a hard day’s cycling with another couple to come and no rest day for a fortnight! Nor did we camp in the nicest of places… Determined to continue our wild camping all the way home we ended up in a small woodland on the edge of a town (the only one marked on the map for miles around). Unable to find somewhere hidden except on the very edge we ended up camping next to an enormous gas works. Looking out of one side of the tent we were greeted by a lovely woodland scene, complete with deer tracks on the ground and bright new beech leaves. Looking out the other side was concrete, wire fences and huge rumbling metal pipes. Just as we started to fall asleep the gas works suddenly roared into life, making us both jump and me then worry about camping next to it! Suffice to say we woke up to our longest day less than fresh!
By the time we turned up at the forest we had marked out on the map as our final campsite later that day, we were shattered. I was feeling dizzy. I parked up my bike against a tree to look for a suitable place to pitch our tent and as I emerged from the woods, Arron was bent double throwing up. It had been a long day for both of us!
Thankfully we slept much better that night and after a relatively short cycle to the ferry, we could relax for the rest of the morning as a boat carried us across the huge lake. It was incredible – a small boat for cyclists and foot passengers only. It was packed with other cycle tourers! We chatted to a few and enjoyed being in such good company – it felt good to be surrounded by liked minded souls on one of our last days cycling.
We arrived at Sanne’s feeling triumphant. We have not quite managed to cycle the 8,000km planned from China thanks to the lack of fuel, break downs and visa restrictions, but we have cycled somewhere around 3,000km since arriving in Saint Petersburg just 6 weeks ago! We are trying to raise some money for World Bicycle Relief so if you would like to support us, that would be lovely! Thank you! It has been so much fun, and I am excited to be heading back to the UK in a couple of days to catch up with family and friends!