At the risk of repeating myself

(Doo Doo Doo another one bites the dust)

Here I am in Assen, Nederlands after crossing the border from Germany shortly after midday yesterday having completed that 400km stage of the journey. A good psychological win!

I joked before leaving that this would be my last big adventure and in future it would be nothing over 1000km. But the reality is that a thousand kilometres is a long way, and when you string them together they take their toll.

The last week in Norway was hard and part of me was thinking “Norway is enough”. The other part of me was saying “but life is not a dress rehearsal”. If I want to cross a continent, I do it now or never.

So the Churchillian quotes and jumping straight onto a ferry were really just a crude approach to sports self-psychology. To set my mind to the road ahead and not allow myself to pause (and maybe falter). The spill at the start of Denmark didn’t help (I told me so), and so for the past two weeks my only focus has been the ride.

Now I am in the Nederlands, the chance to cross Europe is real; three of seven countries are behind me; I have passed the half-way mark; and plenty of time to complete the adventure in a less hectic manner.

My two day break in Rudbøl was very pleasant. The hut was very basic but the restaurant great. Not great fancy, but great wholesome with “almost” home cooking. Steak, chicken and lamb, each served with a big bowl of baby potatoes, a big bowl of baby carrots, and a big bowl of fancy peas (done with bacon and fried onions). And gravy!

I did a Herculean tour of Rudbøl and Rosencranz, which involved checking out the twenty-odd houses on the Danish side and eight across the bridge in Germany. A textbook example of the “Dependency of Nations”, Rosencranz had the only supermarket and Rudbøl the sole pub/restaurant. Clearly both sides had a vested interest in cross-border trade.

Full of Spring vegetables, I embarked on the German leg, following backroads through thatched roof villages until the shops opened and I could get some essential supplies – (A man cannot cross continents without (at least) two packets of cigarettes and two Coke Zeros in his day pack.) – before heading to the coast.

The sand dunes of Denmark were replaced with a dyke that extended into the distance and as for bike tracks, German engineering didn’t disappoint! Two tracks (on either side of the dyke) with the track on the sheltered side the cycling equivalent of an autobahn.

I headed off on the seaward side, which was shared with sheep (a slight inconvenience as they had gates every kilometre or so) and enjoyed a very smooth ride. With the tide out, all that stood between me and the islands that ran in a chain offshore was sand flats.

The European concern over rising sea levels really hits you here. A few maps show how the area has changed over the past 500 years. The islands were all once part of the mainland, thousands of square kilometres of land have been lost, storm surges have only breached the dyke once, but the farms that it protects are clearly at risk. It is so flat (and low) that without the dyke (and dunes in Denmark) all of it could disappear.

My first day in Germany ended in the campsite just outside Husum (a very pretty town if you avert your eyes from the industrial area).

From Husum I headed inland towards Tönner to avoid a big curve on the coast rejoining at the Eider Dyke that controlled tidal flows into the river. I then just meandered along through Wesselburen, Wöhrden, and Meldorf to the Brunsbüttel Ferry across to Cuxhaven. Cuxhaven was a very popular seaside resort (and full) so I wandered down the coast to Duhnen and the Seelust Hotel.

The next day was much the same swapping between either side of the dyke depending on how windy it was. As I approached Bremerhaven, the first sight was the docks. Someone had had a great time with their Mekano set and built a container system that makes the Port of Melbourne look like a bunch of baggage handlers!

Alas this also heralded the end of the enjoyable ride, with the usual nightmare of navigating through the industrial and residential zones to reach the city centre. I didn’t complain about the bike detours this time – riding amongst container trucks is bloody scary!!!

Had a day in Bremerhaven and finally bought a new camera. Different make but still orange. Alas while it came with instruction books in every European language, it didn’t have one in English. I imagine post-Brexit there was an EU ruling that all English instructions be removed from products. So have camera can’t sync 🙁

The plan from Bremerhaven was to catch another ferry across the river. I arrived at the departure point to find a big red sticker over the timetable. It was in German but the word “kollision” was a bit of a give away and a local confirmed the ferry had closed after an accident. The rivers are like barge highways so I imagine the ferry is less important to them.

I headed off up-river to find another way across with the first available being a tunnel. Fat chance of course but in trying to get around the freeway that led to the tunnel I took a wrong turn and turned a 10km ride to the next ferry to a 30km one. To make matters worse when I finally got to the ferry from Sandstedt to Fähranleger the skies opened up, so on disembarking I headed into Brake and found a nice Pensione on the riverfront.

A lovely old house owned by an elderly lady who seemed quite content to chat endlessly, content with my occasional polite smiles.

I was a fair way south of the coast by now, so I decided to head west “town-hopping” through Jaderberg, Westerstede, Apen, Stickhausen and
Neuberg to Leer where I found a great Greek restaurant and had the Zeus Platter I am still digesting. Got to love a cuisine that includes five servings of meat with a meal.

From Leer it was a short run the Nederlands through the village of Weener to the border crossing at Nieuweschans. More town hopping and I was making good time towards Assen when about 25km out I hit the freeway. The next four hours was a frustrating attempt to navigate a myriad of towns and hamlets where every “Assen this way” sign led to another freeway ramp. So it was a late arrival at Assen, fish and chips for dinner and a day off today. To be fair on my navigating skills, when I told the hotel receptionist about how hard it is to get to Assen, she agreed and said she often gets lost after going cycling.

So here I am and things will slow down for the next few weeks. I plan to head in to Amsterdam for a look around and then onto Bruges before catching up with Nico. Nico and I shared many trails doing the South Island of New Zealand but is a marathon cyclist at heart having ridden pretty well everywhere.

Then it will be on to France and a catch up with Rose in Nantes for the last ten days of September. So all is good and Tarifa here I come.