This was our first tour abroad and I must say it did feel a bit funny being on the continent with just our bikes and a tent. Little did we know that it would be the first of many! This account was done rather retrospectively as we set up the site in 1998 and initially concentrated on the country pages and as a result we cannot remember the exact locations of some of the photos. If anyone does know or we have got any thing wrong, then please let us know.
Heok van Holland - Den Haag - Katwijk aan Zee - Noordwijk aan Zee - Zandvoort
We caught a train from our local station to Harwich International and caught the Stena line HSS to the Hoek of Holland and after getting lost going through Den Haag and being helped by a very nice Dutch lady we soon found our campsite just north of the City. We set off the next day and worked our way along the many cycle tracks that go through the pleasant Oost duinen to the town of Katwijk aan zee which seemed to be having some sort of beer festival. We continued on up the coast through Noordwijk aan Zee and camped just north of Zandvoort.
Zandvoort - Ijmuiden - Zaan Stad - Monnickendam
It hadn't been a good choice of campsite as the pitches were on sand, one of my pet hates as everything gets covered in gritty sand. It was close to the motor racing circuit, who's fans decided that it was OK to stop up all night drinking and being noisy! Anyway we set off north towards Ijmuiden and came across some sort of ceremony or re-enactment with military bands in 18th century costumes. We crossed the Nordzee Kannal via a myriad of canal locks and from here my minds is a little blank, but I think that we went through Beverwijk, Heemskerk, Uitgeest, Wormer Ipendam and then to our campsite at Monnickendam. If you recognise the places then please let me know!
Monnickendam - Marken - Volendam - Edam - Hoorn - Enkhuizen After a much better night on a nice quiet campsite we set of across the causeway to the very pretty island of Marken. Once a little fishing island in the middle of the Zuider Zee, it has some very colourful painted wooden houses and a charming harbour. we stopped for a short time and had a look at the museum which explains it's local history. From there we took the small ferry across to the bustling town of Volendam before heading north to Edam. Yes the place of the Red waxed cheeses, it's quite a quaint place with cobbled lanes criss crossing canals. We stopped and had a look at the 'Kaaswaag' market where the cheeses used to be weighed and sold, apparently they do still have a market on a Wednesday in the summer but this is purely for the benefit of tourists. From edam we carried on north up the side of the Marker meer through the pleasant harbour town of Hoorn to our campsite at Enkhuizen. In some respects this was a strange campsite as you seem to be camping in the municipal park or that's how it seemed to us as the site was so open!
Enkhuizen - Markerwaarddijk - LelystadOur route the next day took us south crossing the 32Km long Markerwaarddijk which links Enkhuizen & Lelystad. We were held up initially as there is a large set of locks and a lifting bridge at the Krabbergatsluizen that allows boat traffic to pass between the IJsselmeer and the Markermeer. We didn't mind the wait as it was quite interesting to watch the bridge go up and the small flotilla of boats go through. The weather was brilliant if a little too hot but fortunately for us there wasn't too much wind as we crossed the dijk, there is a good cycle track well separated from the road so it's easy cycling but must be hard work if you have a head wind! After a brief stop at the 'Trintelhaven', the half way station for some refreshments we soon approaching Lelystad. Lelystad is unfortunately a rather uninteresting modern town named after the main engineer of the Zuider Zee scheme. However it does have one saving grace the ship yards at Batavia Werf were they have reconstructed a 17th Century Dutch East India Company merchant ship the 'Batavia'. We decided that it was worth a good look and decided to go and pitch the tents and the local campsite and come back. It was certainly worth it as you can wander all over the ship and the craftsmanship is excellent. Next to it they were building a replica of the 17th Century Man-o-war 'The Seven Provinces' and I had a good chat to some of the shipwrights about the construction. On getting back to the campsite we met 3 chaps from Yorkshire who were also touring. They did make us laugh as they invited us across for a cup of tea, but could we bring over our own mugs as as they put it "we're traveling light this year and only have a cup each", wow did that mean that last year they carried extra mugs just in case of guests? We had a good chat with them and it was interesting to hear their experiences and how they organised themselves for touring. Again they made us giggle later when they explained the various ways that they had cut down on weight, but then we noticed that they all had a tent each, hadn't they thought of sharing!
Lelystad - Harderwijk - Ermelo - Garderen - Otterloo - Arnhem
We had decided on an early start as the temperature the previous day had been really too hot for cycling, so we were up and away by 7.00am A very early start for us, but it was worth it as we crossed the very open flat land of the Flevoland polders in the cool of the early morning and were soon crossing the bridge into Harderwijk. This town had once been a thriving port on the Zuider zee but is now very much an inland since the draining of the Flevoland polders. However it does retain it's fishing status with the numerous stalls selling smoked eels. we couldn't resist trying some and they made a nice late breakfast. They are like having very oily kippers, but quite tasty and certainly more appetising than jellied eels! As the day got hotter, we were soon into the shade of the forest tracks of Gelderland forests as we wended our way south between Ermelo, Garderen and Otterloo. It had cooled down a little as we crossed the heath land of the De Hoge Veluwe National park and we had a welcome ride down into Arnhem and to our campsite. In the evening we had a ride down to have a look at the famous 'John Frostbrug' scene of the fiercest fighting of operation Market Garden in WW2.
Arnhem - Open Luct Museum & Market Garden Museum
We decided to stay a day at Arnhem and as there were several things we wanted to see. We started in the morning with a visit to Nederlands Open air museum which has a great collection of old dutch buildings set in various themed villages dipicting various areas of Holland. An old tram network allows you to get around this huge site and between the various exhibits. In the afternnoon we spent some time at the airborne cementry and then at the airborne museum which is situated in the 'Hotel Hartestein' which had been the General Urquhaarts HQ during the ill fated operation Market Garden. The museum is well worth a visit as with its various diaramas and artifacts very graphically explains the airborne landings and subsequent retreat across the rhine.
Arnhem - Culemborg - Schhoonhoven
After our very pleasant stay in Arnhem it was time to move on as we had 3 days left to get back for our ferry. As we were striking camp there were another couple across the way from us who were doing the same, but I hadn't realised that they were cyclists until I saw them packing their trailer. They had a large frame tent, double burner camping stove, complete with 4.5kg bottle and two folded up camping chairs which they packed into the trailer before pedaling off, Now I realised where we were going wrong, perhaps the Yorkshire lads were wrong we should be doing it in style. What we need is a trailer like theirs, then there would be room for the picnic hamper, napkins, finger bowls, silver candelabra, oh and the champagne cooler!
We headed out west from Arnhem and were soon reminded of the Market Garden operation as we came across the Airborne monument at Heelsum. The Monument was put together by a local Blacksmith from all the canisters that were dropped in the airborne landing sites nearby. We followed the north side of the Neder Rijn before crossing it at Rhenen and fiddled our way through the small lanes and villages to Culemborg where we stopped to admire it's lovely Town hall and market square where we also found a cafe for a bite to eat. It was shortly after Columberg that we hit our first milestone, our first 1000 miles on our bikes so we had to mark the occasion with the ubiquitous photo! Our route west took us towards Leerdam and on to Meerkerk where we turned north to Ameide to catch the small ferry across the river Lek. It was then a short ride to the campsite on the north side of the river at Schoonhoven. It had been an in creditably hot day and as soon as we had the tent up, it was on with the swim suits and into the river for cool down. It felt quite funny swimming around in the sites little bathing area with all these big barges going by, it was probably heavily polluted but we didn't care it was just so nice to be cool!
Schhoonhoven - Gouda - Delft
Again we were up early to get underway before it got too hot and had a lovely ride up from Schoonhoven to Gouda where JH couldn't resist buying a pair of clogs. We then skirted through the quiet lanes and cycle routes to the north of Rotterdam till we got to our campsite at Delft. As we had arrived mid afternoon we pitched the tent and then went into the town to explore the place famous for it's pottery.
Delft - Hoek van Holland
The next morning it was only a short ride from Delft back through the numerous areas filled with glasshouses to the Hoek and we were soon boarding the HSS. We had had such a great time and we were hooked on cycle touring and as we sailed back to Blighty we had already started to plan were we would go next year!