July 2 – Ribe to Vadehavs Camping
On these travels of ours, there is never a day when I don’t want to get on the bike and ride. Even when I’ve had no sleep and I’m tired or had a hard day the day before, I always want to go again the next day because there’s always something new to see or do or experience. Today wasn’t one of those days. I was not looking forward to riding today.
The rain pelted all night and the wind howled. By morning the rain had eased but the wind was as strong as ever. The trees were being whipped this way and that, the tent was billowing and flapping and as I sat, listening to the gale and watching the wind thrash the trees and grass around me, disconcerting memories came to mind. A few years ago, riding in France, the wind was so strong that it kept blowing me off my bike. As in, literally sending me crashing to the ground over and over again. Today looked and sounded like it was going to be another of those days. We packed up the tent as swiftly as we could, before it blew away as soon as the pegs were removed, and saddled up.
“Are you ready?” asked Steve, in the tone you might use with someone about to do a solo skydive, bungee jump or swim with sharks. A tone that is both ominous and encouraging at the same time.
“Mmmm,” was all I could manage.
We rode back through the quaint cobbled streets of Ribe and then out onto the open road.
The official route took us around a peninsula, but we decided that was extra distance we didn’t need in the conditions and it would probably be even windier out there, so we decided to cut off the peninsula and ride a section down the main road. We had a path all to ourselves beside the traffic, which was great and we belted along in the howling wind. We had a cross wind and it was roaring into us sideways. This meant that I was doing a rather awkward and creative style of cycling, that no doubt made me, once again, look like a complete pillock. I was riding sideways. In order to battle the wind, I was riding on a tilt, leaning the bike into the wind, to brace myself against it. Steve doesn’t have this problem, he has the size to fight back against the wind, whereas puny me just gets flip-flopped around by it. So there was Steve, upright and pedalling, looking every shade of normal. There was me, coming along behind, looking…not. The wind blew sideways, I leaned sideways to push against it…the wind gave a big gust and I swerved and tilted the opposite way, then pushed back and leaned into it. ‘Maybe I look like a MotoGP rider, on my motorbike, leaning into the corners, all skilled like’ I thought to myself. Of course reality entered my brain very quickly after this thought and I realised that no, I just looked ridiculous!
We pedalled on, beside the road, with the sideways wind and sideways me. Then, the rain came again. Sideways. That wind blew the rain into us and we had horizontal rain, blowing sideways as we pedalled and pedalled and got soggier and soggier. We were both wishing we had our full waterproofs on, because that rain was cold!
Our time up the main road came to an end and we turned to rejoin the official route. With that turn, came a change from the sideways wind, straight into a headwind. It roared into our face and I heard Steve’s gears click as he changed down to try and make the going easier. I followed suit and changed to a lower gear, with wind being the equivalent effort of tackling a hill. On we slogged. At least the rain had eased off.
From there, we were out in open country. We had farmland and wetland and the coast off to our side and all was flat. This meant there was nothing in the landscape to slow down that roaring wind as it whipped across the grassland.
“Brrrr,” said Steve, “that’s coming straight off the North Sea!”
Yep, that wind was cold. Then, just to add to the ongoing challenge, the road became a gravel road. Swerve in the wind. Swerve in the gravel. Lean…swerve…lean..swerve…on we went.
We really were in just a vast, flat, windswept landscape. There were no towns to pass through, no towns to see actually. Just grass and reeds being whipped and flattened by the wind. Then the gravel road stopped and we were back on tarmac again. Briefly. Then that sealed road became not so much gravel, as a grassy pebbly track. This though, took us alongside a levee bank and the high bank did give us a little shelter from the wind.
With no towns or tables to stop for elevenses, we took the first available bit of shelter we could find and sat ourselves beside a wall. It was still windy and it was still chilly, but we got some respite from the elements.
We continued on, along this track until I spotted our first sign of a town, with some roofs and houses in a village up ahead. We were about to get onto sealed road again and that was very welcome! We stopped and I decided to climb up the levee bank to see what was on the other side. As soon as I was half way up, the wind struck. I braced myself, I leaned, it pushed me backwards and as I stood on top of that bank, looking across the water and the grassland, it was all I could do to stay on my feet. I tried to take a photo and had to lean sideways, bracing against the wind to try and keep myself upright. Everything was going sideways today!
We pedalled on, passing some lovely thatched cottages, then back out into open farmland. The wind didn’t let up and we had a mix of cross wind and headwind and occasionally a bit of tailwind, as we turned and straightened and turned a corner again. Then, the road became gravel again. Swerve…wobble…swerve…gust…blow…swerve….
We arrived at our pitstop, which is within the Nationalpark Vadehavet, or Wadden Sea National Park and pitched the parachute in as sheltered a spot as we could find. I couldn’t even give an accurate location for where we are, hence giving our arrival location as Vadehavs Camping. We have no town near us, in fact apart from the cluster of cottages, we didn’t see or pass through a town at all today after leaving the main road. Campsites and accommodation have been thin on the ground in these parts, as has shops for supplies, so we stocked up before we left Ribe this morning, knowing we’d have nowhere for food today and chose to stop here, a little in the middle of nowhere, even though it was fairly early, just because it had somewhere for us to stay. Thankfully, we also found a room where we could sit and get out of the wind, have some lunch and a breather from the day’s blustery ride. We did have it easier than some though, because we passed a few other cyclists going the opposite way and while we had cross winds and head winds, we did have it on our tail at times too, but the cyclists we passed were slogging into a headwind and doing it tough.
Phew! We made it. The conditions were a challenge but not as scary as I’d feared. I stayed on the bike, wind, gravel and all and while I might have looked like a prize pillock, riding on a tilt like a failed clown from the circus, my bike and I did not part company this time. The wind is still howling and I predict another sleepless night, from a combination of the flapping and whoomping tent and the fact it doesn’t get dark here at the moment, but I can put to bed another great day of adventure. So, after a ride that took some effort, I can get ready for our next day, whatever that might bring and have a rest, a little lie down…sideways of course!
Distance ridden: 45.1 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 55 minutes
Weather: cool, showery, grey then some blue, WINDY! 14C
Wind behaviour: gusts up to 62 km/h