Off we go, to venture forth into Holland and see what discoveries we can make. We rode out of Rotterdam, along that terrific bike road, with the wind still blowing super strong, but of course, we had a nice flat ride as the trade off. It was so great to have that special road and we pedalled along, stopping at our own traffic lights, giving way at our own intersections and wheeling along happily.
“I’m loving this,” I called to Steve.
“It’s pretty good isn’t it,” came his reply.
The extra bit of fun were the double bump speed humps, which came along every so often. We had that nice flat road, then occasionally we’d have the woo-hoo…woo-hoo going up and down the double speed humps, for an entertaining mini roller coaster to break up the flat ride. Such fun!
We hadn’t been able to set the route using the usual map and program we’d been using because for some reason it was having a bad day, so we were forced to use “Dodgy Dave” the GPS. Surprise, surprise we took a wrong turn. We’d been on that great bike road, heading towards Gouda, then as we reached an intersection with a main road, I saw a sign for Gouda pointing right, but Steve crossed the road and went straight ahead. We ended up on a regular road, so I asked why we were there and hadn’t followed the sign.
“Because it’s where I’ve been told to go,” Steve said.
Well, we ended up in an industrial estate, riding past warehouses and trucking companies. Clearly not right. We stopped and Steve had another look at the GPS, feeling a bit frustrated that we were going wrong.
“I think we’re better off just following the signs,” I said. “There are plenty of other cyclists who ride on these paths and follow the signs, the don’t use a GPS.”
So we rode back to the main road, found the signs and then followed them without any problems, all the way to Gouda. Low tech won the day!
We stopped for elevenses in Gouda (home of the cheese) and sat in the lovely market square, watching the townsfolk walk and pedal past. It’s clearly very proud of its cheese, because where some towns have flags strung across the streets, Gouda had wheels of cheese! It was a really nice town with cobbled streets and historic buildings.
We popped into the tourist information centre to get a map. Hank and Trui had told us about the network of cycle routes here, which are numbered, so we decided to get a map with the routes marked and use this to make our way without Dodgy Dave. From Gouda on, it was like playing Bicycle Bingo, waiting for our number to come up! The cycle network gives a series of numbers for a route, the numbers are then shown at intersections, so it’s a matter of knowing the order of numbers on your route and then following these at each marked junction. We set off on 41, looking for our next number, 40, then pedalled on until we spotted our next number, 35 and took the direction on the sign and on we went…34…12…27, just waiting for our number to come up on a sign and then following the direction shown. Easy peasy! So much more reliable that Dave the GPS!
It was a lovely ride, beside a canal, with open farmland that was as green as green, charming houses and thatched cottages with pristine gardens and quaint villages.
“It’s just so pretty,” I called out to Steve. It was the Dutch version of the gorgeous rides we’d done in England, passing through villages and seeing the lovely houses. We stopped along the path and Steve checked the map to see what our next number was and it was a section of path beside houses, so cars were allowed to drive along it very slowly. As we were stopped, a man drove past and saw Steve with the map. He wound down his window and asked if we needed any help. We said we were OK, but there was another wonderful person, stopping to see if we were OK and to offer help. We just keep meeting the nicest people!
We pedalled on, along the path, passing through more lovely scenery.
We wheeled into Schoonhoven, where we found a park to sit for lunch. We had some laugh out loud, lunch time entertainment while we were there. A girl arrived walking her little fox terrier. The dog was carrying a ball in its mouth and dropped it at the girl’s feet and looked expectantly up at her. She kicked the ball away and the dog swiftly raced off and retrieved it. The girl picked up the ball and threw it into the lake. The little dog sped off and did the most spectacular flying leap and belly-flop into the water and swam after the ball. It grabbed it in its mouth and paddled back to the edge of the lake, then hauled itself up the bank, dropped the ball by the girl again and began bouncing around as if to say, “Again! Again!”. The girl threw the ball into the lake again and that little dog again raced off, took a flying leap off the bank, hit the water with a spectacular belly flop and paddled off after the ball. Now, this little dog was somewhat on the chubby side, so when it belly flopped, it really hit the water and it did a full body submarine, hitting the water with that round little body, going all the way under, then resurfacing, to paddle flat out after the ball. All the time its tail was sticking up like a periscope and wagging back and forth as it swum along. Steve and I were glued to this entertainment throughout lunch and laughed out loud at this little dog and its athletic spread-eagled dives, followed by its tail wagging swimming style and finally its bouncing around, looking at the girl and pleading to be able to do it all again! It was the most entertaining lunch we’ve had!
We pedalled through the pretty little streets of Schoonhoven and we loved seeing the van parked in the town. Not a fast-food van, not an ice-cream van, no…it was a cheese van. How excellent!
On we pedalled beside the canals, past more pretty houses and scenic landscapes.
We rode past a house with a box out the front selling jam, so I stopped to get a jar. I love picking up things like this as we’re travelling, local produce in markets or finding things on roadside stalls. It’s always nice to try locally made things. It was shortly after this, we saw something very strange. Something we definitely didn’t expect to see…wallabies! A house had a small paddock out the front and there, scratching under a tree, were two wallabies! Another two sat in the shade nearby and in the small stable, there was an albino one.
“What are you fellas doing there?” we enquired of our fellow Aussies. There was another animal there too, but I don’t know what it was. Some sort of small, roman nosed, brown and grey antelope looking animal. It was quite a surprise to suddenly come across wallabies while pedalling along the roads of Holland!
With more rain and thunderstorms forecast for tonight, we decided to once again find the shelter of a hotel, so we were heading for our destination in Bergambacht. We were nearing the town, so we stopped to check the address of the hotel. As we were stopped on the side of the road, a man came past on his bike and stopped to ask if we needed help.
“We’re just looking for our hotel,” I said.
“The Hampshire,” added Steve, “in Bergambacht.”
The man smiled at Steve’s pronunciation, then repeated the name of the town for us, spoken correctly. “Yes, I think that’s in Bergambacht,” he said, “just up there you will see a sign. Bergambacht is only a few more kilometres, six at the most.”
We thanked him for his help and I grinned. Lovely, lovely people. How lucky we are to meet these people, who just stop to check if we’re OK and to offer help. We experienced this all over England and now we are finding it happening here too. The delightful Dutch are making themselves known.
We found Bergambacht, pedalled along the quiet streets, passing the many other people cycling around. We saw mums and dads cycling with their children, parents collecting their children from school on their bikes, or children in their soccer uniforms either being collected from or taken to their game. What I really love about this, apart from seeing kids on bikes being out and about and active, is hearing the conversation going on between the parents and their children. So often, when I’ve seen kids picked up from school, the child hops into the back of the car and straight away reaches for an iPad, or some similar piece of technology or device and no interaction happens between parent and child. You can’t do that on a bike, so what I’ve seen instead is parents and children talking to each other, cycling along side by side and having a conversation. How refreshing! It’s so nice to see.
We found our hotel after a 57km ride and Steve went to check us in. The man from reception then walked out with Steve, came up to me and shook my hand and introduced himself, then walked us around to their bike shed, where our bikes were safely stored. He was so friendly and welcoming and we are in a very, very nice hotel. We went for a short stroll to gather supplies and then settled in. At the moment the thunder is rumbling, the lightning is flashing through the window and the rain is pouring down horizontally in the wind. It’s also really muggy, so we have the window open too, getting the full storm experience! I’m so glad there’s a storm because I don’t feel so guilty now about being in another hotel room and not the tent. If it hadn’t rained, I couldn’t have justified it to myself, but I wouldn’t have liked being under nylon in Mother Nature’s fury that’s raging outside at the moment, so I don’t feel so bad.
Today was a super day. We had great paths to ride on, it was warm, we had gorgeous scenery, towns and villages and met some friendly people. All the things we love. The wind made it hard going at times, but everything else made up for it. Another lovely ride that just reminded me of how lucky we are to be here doing this. More than once we said to each other, “We’re in Holland!” just to remind ourselves we’re here! I hope more Dutch Delights and Netherlands Niceties await us tomorrow, because I’m ready for them!