Archive for February, 2010

Day 7

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I wake up in the morning open the door of the tent and see across the field a lady walking her dog who looks at me like I am mad. The fog is down and its below freezing so I pack up as quickly as possible and cycle off in search of breakfast.

Keeping on the LF4 I am taken on a tour of Dutch surburbia and village life. It would appear that the planners want to take as many detours as possible to show you the full gamut of styles that are found across this country. the thing that strikes me more than anything is that everything is so Clean. Clean and again no tracksuits. Like Germany the country gives off an air of stability and efficiency. If there are bad parts I am yet to see them.

The other point that is reinforced time and time again is just how friendly people are, and how bad our grasp of foreign languages is in comparison to those on mainland Europe. Everybody speaks english, even if only a small amount but the usual response when the question is posed if they speak english is a defensive “”of course..’”

I spend time in the afternoon talking to an English lady called Jenny who had married and settled just outside of Utrecht. Sat on a bench in the middle of nowhere we swapped travel stories.

I left and ended up sleeping the night in a Caravan park run by an old hippy. Costing the same to camp as it did to stay in a caravan I slept in the caravan. Not brave enough to sleep on the floor or the bed as they are so dirty I end up falling asleep on the sofa listening to the world service and wake early to get on the road again.

Day 6

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I loaded up the bike with trepidation knowing that it was likely to be  a tough day as whilst my right leg had healed, I could barely stand on my left ankle. I loosened the float in the pedals as much as possible thinking it might do some good and headed off into the centre of rotterdam to pick up the LF4.

The Lf4 long distance bicycle path starts at the Hauge and finishes in Enschede. the idea was that there is a Eurovelo route that picks up on this path and heads all the way through to Berlin where I am due to meet Malte.

What I was not aware of was how hard it is to follow the signs. Stood in the middle of the Dutch countryside miles from anywhere trying to second guess a Dutch sign maker is not a game I would recommend.

Arriving at the Hauge I asked in the tourist information centre for a map to get out of the city and to see the building where Tony Blair would be brought to account. I attained the former but the latter was not understood. Shame.

I spent the afternoon sat outside a cafe in a very upmarket part of town eating cake, drinking coffee and watching beautiful people cycle past. Is there a better way to kill a few hours?

Leaving the Hauge I ended up camping in the middle of nowhere. That in itself posed no problem but it was when I started cooking a lentil and sausage stew that I realised I had no petrol for the stove. If you have ever been so hungry that you will eat a stew uncooked then heaven help you.

Day 5

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I eat breakfast with Wit, swap contact details and I am promised a tour round Thailand if I can make it there in two years time. Wit leaves a coin from the UAE for good luck and pocketing it I head off out to explore Rotterdam.

I make it as far as the main square before it dawns on me that I can not walk up or down steps without looking like I am disabled. I manage to walk to the far end of town to find the sign for the bicycle path that heads out of the city to allay any fears of getting lost in the morning.

I walk through the rain listening to the Smiths, go past the Cathedral that is undergoing renovation and I smile as I am struck by the thought that I am not in the office..

I go back to the hostel, spent a couple of hours worrying about my legs then collapse into a deep sleep.

Day 4

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

So I made it to mainland Europe. In all honesty the thrill has diminished. I remember the first time I rode off a ferry on a motorcycle and started to ride out of the port on the wrong side because I was so excited.

Now, well docking in the morning mist seeing a foreign country still makes you thank your lucky stars you are not sat in an office suffering but the sheer enormity of what lay ahead cast a very large shadow.

I rode off the ferry through customs waved goodbye to the squaddie from the night before then with my ankles that had now decided to go on strike rode round the corner to see a sign saying rotterdam 32km.

Unbeknownst to me the port was 20 miles out of Rotterdam, despite calling it the port of Rotterdam. So against a head wind in the driving rain I cycled up into the city cursing everything and anyone.

Crossing a canal I met a Polish worker, employed here in the greenhouses who was cycling home. Stopping for a chat my mood reversed as quickly and I was reminded of what I had learnt on the last journey that nothing stays the same. As long as you keep on pedalling whatever irration you are suffering from will slowly ease and a new pleasure will be derived.

I enter Rotterdam barely able to walk as my ankles are giving me so much grief. I cycle round aimlessly trying to find somewhere to sleep. After asking half a dozen people I find a hostel and end up sleeping in of all places.

Sharing the room was a Thai Architect by the name of Wit who had just been made redundant and was travelling round Europe on his way back to Singapore where he aims to set up his own import/export business. Sitting in a little bar underneath the tree houses, drinking dutch lager I wonder what it would take to inspire Wetherspoons to create an enviroment such as this. It is not the gorgeous wooden boats in the nearby port, the beautiful women or even the grand majestic buildings that survived the war, it is more than this, it is the complete and total lack of anybody wearing a tracksuit.

Day 3

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Day 3

Hull. One small word that in the English language defines somewhere you don’t want to Live. Even people who have never been there say it is bad.

They are right. 

There are a lot of bad towns in the north of England. I say this knowing full well it is likely to offend people. I care not. A bad town is a bad town.

Go to Hull and show me a smiling face.  So cycling very fast at this point I get to the ferry terminal and meet a group from Newcastle heading off to Amsterdam. Feeling very sorry for the Dutch I board the ship and spend the evening talking to a squaddie I was sharing a cabin with on the way over about how in his words ‘we are in Iraq for oil and Afghanistan for gas’ and fall asleep to a mixture of the sounds of the disco behind my cabin and my room mate waking up intermittently screaming; be it from some past trauma or some future concern I did not think it appropriate to ask at 4 in the morning.

Day 2

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Leaving Sheffield was an utter nightmare but I managed by hook or by crook to get onto the trans-penine trail which was to lead me to Hull.

One can imagine that a bicycle path that heads through Doncaster to Hull might not be something people write poems of. For those of you that are ever stupid enough to attempt to ride this wonderfully advertised debacle - don’t. The little swines steal the signs or turn them round and unless you have a penchant for decaying english indsutrial estates and riding through mud filled paths that go up to the axles stick to the main roads.

I slept that night in a small village called Snaith and woke in the morning unable to walk.

Day 1

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Day 1

So I managed to leave. A feat in itself I have to say. I am writing this a week later as It is the first chance I have had to sit down and collect my thoughts, but I can still remember the feeling after 5 miles of wanting to throw the bike in a ditch and pretend it was stolen :)

One soon learns that the shortest way is not always the easiest and 50 miles over the peak district with snow and 25m visibility made the first day tough. Very tough.

But through the peak district out far far away from Stone and through tiny villages, tourist traps and down into Sheffield.

In Sheffield I stayed with Danielle from Hosiptalityclub and was treated to a wonderful evening of food and conversation. I fell asleep to the feeling that the world of the office was retreating further away…

Day 0

Friday, February 12th, 2010

s wind tunnel

“You won’t have a future if you don’t make one for yourself.
It is as simple as that.
If you accept the forms that be, then you are doomed,
to your own ultimate blandness.”

- John Lydon. (Sex Pistols.)

To everyone who helped me get to the start line – thank you