Belgium and Netherlands – We Miss You Hills

Cycle touring Belgium and Netherlands

The past few weeks have been spent cycling around two countries. Experiencing some of the greatest cycling networks known to man. We’ve had: warmshowers, heat, islands, hostels, and of course friendly people along the way. Alas, we are now at the end of the “honeymoon” period. It’s time to buckle up and live frugally if we want to make it to New Zealand.

It felt good to leave Bruges, it’s a lovely city but in the height of summer there were one too many crowds for our liking. The bikes had been serviced, we had enjoyed a healthy diet of beer and mussels, and we were on our way to our first ever Warmshowers hosts. For those unaware warmshowers is a community of people who are willing to host cycle tourists on their travels, the idea being that in-turn you will host others when your journey finishes. We’ll admit we were a tad nervous about our first time, we had heard nothing but good things. Feeling very aware you are a guest in someone else’s home and naturally you wish to make a good impression. Our hosts Jan-Willem and Marian made us feel immediately welcome, their son Daniel made some delicious razor clams, and we had an amazing evening of conversation in their garden. If you’re reading this, thank you again it was an evening we will remember fondly.

 

Our Warmshowers hosts
Our Warmshowers hosts

Rotterdam would be our next destination, we decided to put in a push to get there as we had booked in to a Hostel. We set off early and covered 70km+ in the first day. The reason for this big push is it allows us to have a shorter day going in to a city. Trust us when we say you will appreciate the extra energy to navigate city streets. Crossing over many dams, by sunbathers enjoying beaches, on exposed cycle paths offering no respite from the 30 degree heat, we arrivat at our campsite.

This was the first camp we had found using our new paper maps, rather than Google. It turned out to be a fully equiped holiday park with all the bells and whistles. A swimming pool, access to the beach, bar, shop, water point per pitch, and fantastic toilet blocks. All this helped us quickly recover from the day of cycling. Impressed by the cycle network we decided not to plan our way into Rotterdam and simply to follow the signs the following day. This took us on a less direct route into the city but it was none the less enjoyable.

The super effective, super awesome cycle network
The super effective, super awesome cycle network

For those who have not been to Rotterdam, we highly advise it, it’s a really cool city. We even stayed in an area called the ‘cool district’. Spending our two days there exploring the city, eating chips with peanut sauce on, planning our route to Geraardsbergen, and taking a trip on the 185m Euromast. Fortune favoured us when by chance we were staying their the same time as a local street festival. As you can imagine we didn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy free live music of an evening.

Our Warmshowers hosts had told us of an Island south of Rotterdam called Tiengemeten which sounded idyllic. Unfortunately it turned out that thousands of buzzy, bitey insects had the same idea. We stayed there one night and took a quick tour of the island the second day.

One of the local residents of the Island
One of the local residents of the Island

Our plan had been to spend four days ‘killing’ time cycling around Belgium before witnessing the start of Transcontinental No4. As lovely and fantastic as the cycle networks are, we were missing the landscape that hills and mountains bring. We know we’ll regret saying this but we’re looking forward to some climbs. So we decided the best course of action would be to enjoy the rest of our honeymoon period. On our way to our second night stop we changed direction (almost straight into a military training zone) and headed to Antwerp for three nights. En route we hit our first cycling milestone, we have cycled 1000km since debarking the ferry in Cherbourg.

It’s been a great 1000km as well. We’re still learning a lot and every day is a school day. Our main challenge seems to be leaving the speedy mentality that we carried in the UK behind. Back home all time would be used as effectively as possible, not an hour would be wasted. We now find ourselves in the most unusual of circumstances, we’re time rich. In the flats of Belgium and Netherlands we will cycle 50km in 3 hours, that leaves 21 hours spare. Neither of us have ever had that sort of time to let our minds wonder, so we are still learning to ‘invite boredom’.

It's been a super sunny 1000km
It’s been a super sunny 1000km

We’ have also made a some new kit purchases, :
Exped Hyperlite Duo – Phil’s sleeping mat is just a bit rubbish and Ellie’s self-inflating mat no longer inflates. After waking up with aches almost every morning, we have invested in a much more comfortable sleeping system.
Exped Air Pillow – For similar reasons as the new mat, we’re investing in a good nights sleep. It makes all the difference to the legs and, more importantly, moral the next day.
Garmin eTrex 20x – This we had toyed with for a while leading up to the trip. We’re finding that paper maps seem to be increasingly hard to come by. We’re certain that this will purchase will add to the trip rather than remove from the adventure.

As you read this we are moving our way towards Germany, the current destination is the Danube River. We hope you’re all doing well and here’s a short video for your enjoyment.

 


 

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