Tag Archives: nl

When I grow up I want to be a Dutch tree hugger

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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness,” said John Muir. I don’t know if I’ve tapped into any secrets of the Universe cycling through the forests of The Netherlands, but I can definitely say it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done here.

Our Southern cycling route is now looping towards its terminus point, and after covering another 100 miles or so North we’re again going straight West, towards Amsterdam – the city where things start and end this summer for me. We’ve had a few days of nagging rain and forests, the latter making the former more bearable.

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If you like trees, the national park De Hoge Veluwe is a beautiful place to visit. It’s very large, spanning over 50 square km, and it features a mixture of lush forests sand dunes in alternating fashion, a landscape formed during the Ice Age. Oddities keep things interesting right? In this park you can cycle or hike for miles and miles and not meet a single road or house.

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This time we didn’t actually go through the park but covered quite a bit of distance cycling around it, alongside forests which are just as beautiful as those in the park. We camped for the night at a lovely nature campground in Otterlo, where I promptly setup a clothesline and hung my various belongings to dry, plastic bags and all. That gypsy lifestyle!

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We’re now in Utrecht, where we took a day off to give our asses a chance to recover from the saddle brutalities. And now that I’m finally standing still I can think about how incredible it is that we actually made it here. Yesterday was without a doubt the windiest day I’ve lived in this country. A short 40 miles from the Veluwe park to Utrecht should have been a breeze, but instead it was as if we’d raised the wrath of the grumpiest wind gods. Cold air hit from all directions, and even in our lowest gears we were barely crawling at 9mph. Occasional maverick rain would remind us from time to time that it could, in fact, be worse.

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The wind was something extra. When we finally got to our campground, located on a charming farm outside of Utrecht, we setup the tent with zombie motions and considered calling it a day. But the city was so close! I managed to pull Jim out of his defeated state and we bravely biked into Utrecht for some beers.

Well, one beer turned into 3, and then some bitterballen were consumed, and then some ice cream. Finally, close to midnight we got back on the bikes and rolled into the night, through the partying city of Utrecht, over tall bridges and dark, silent cornfields, back to our farm campground. We agreed it was a good decision to go out after all. To beer or not to beer? The answer is obvious.

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Once you go Dutch you can’t go back

Memories of cycling in The Netherlands stayed with me in a really pressing, come-back kind of way, so I decided to come back here and explore the Southern part of the country in another week long tour. This time though I am not solo.

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My friend Jim and I have been on the road for about 170 miles. We started in Eindhoven and biked 50 miles into Belgium almost entirely along a canal that was so symmetrically framed by trees that it could very well have been in a painting.

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Our camping accommodations were nothing to write home about, but we did get a spot near a pond, which we thought was a great thing, but realized that it wasn’t when we were prematurely awoken by the yells of a very outspoken duck.

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On the second day we turned North again and rolled back into The Netherlands along a beautiful path near the Maas river. Small cafes with patios dotted the path, where older couples propped up their upright bikes and sat down for koffie verkeerd (Dutch latte, literally “wrong coffee”). I don’t know if I mentioned this but Dutch old people are very cute.

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My favorite part of cycling in The Netherlands are the paved cycling paths through forests. Cycling here is like hiking on a bicycle, the smell of pines and wet earth fills your nostrils and your hair blows in the wind (if you’re wearing a helmet take it off, this is The Netherlands!) and you find yourself wishing the path will never end.

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We found a place to spend the night at a terrific campground in Roermond which is part of the Natuurkampeerterreinen national camping network. I can’t say enough good things about these campgrounds: they have everything you need as a tent camper, including hot showers, toilet paper and electricity close to your site. The campgrounds are often located within an actual farm, so you get to camp on lands with 100-year old trees and hang out with all kinds of animals while you’re there. This time it was horses!

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The third day we covered about 65 miles heading North towards Nijmegen. The route I mapped out online using the LF router took us on a hopscotch trajectory between the two shores of the Maas river, and we found ourselves on 4 different ferries going back and forth. These mini ferries are adorable, and most passengers are talkative old people on bikes, so adorable x2. The price for every ferry is only about 1 euro apiece.

No proper day in The Netherlands is complete without a bit of rain. On the last 10 miles, before we stopped to camp just South of Nijmegen, we got properly soaked and muddy. Now this is the Netherlands I remember!

The campground, another “nature” campground this time with self-service check-in, offered hot showers and a pine-smelling meadow to park your tent in the middle of a forest. Every day of camping in this country is like opening a little surprise nugget out of a box of Dutch chocolates.

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