Despite the wind, the rain and the cold, cycling in Holland was an incredible adventure. The Zeeland province is beautiful, lush and green. Zeeland (“sea-land”) is made up of a number of islands, and water is never far away. It is a large river delta and large parts of the land are below sea level. The cycling infrastructure and the numbered cycle route system make it a very enjoyable experience. The Dutch people were both friendly and helpful and we felt welcomed in this windy and wet country!
DAY ONE: Amsterdam to Noordwijkerhout | 52KMview the whole album
Cycling out of Amsterdam was very pretty, with the dedicated cycle paths taking us past house-boat marinas and through the ‘Amsterdam bos’ (bush). We cycled past Schiphol Airport, along the top of a dike. Schiphol is located on reclaimed land – 4.5 metres below sea-level.
I had woken with a pinched nerve in my neck and the cycling just seemed harder today, the wind was blowing steadily against us and Carl was very patient with my slow-going. On the plus side, the weather seemed to be warming up at last, so much so that Carl even decided to wear short pants for the first time!
When the rain started around Lisse (home of the famous Keukenhof Gardens), it didn’t help much but we continued on – the paths were absolutely beautiful with an assortment of tulips, daffodils and other flowers growing wild along the streams we passed – in the soaking rain, the flowers helped to brighten the mood.
With the bad weather setting in, we stopped at the next campsite we saw – probably not the nicest we have stayed in – but it served its purpose for the night.
CAMPSITE: La Parage – Noordwijkerhout
- Campsite for caravans, no separate space for tents.
- Adequate facilities, but nothing to write home about (need to supply your own toilet paper).
- Bar on-site, but not recommended.
DAY TWO: Noordwijkerhout to Wassenaar | 42kmview the whole album
The day started much colder – a long pants and jacket day again. We looked at the weather forecast and were dismayed to find that much colder temperatures and heavy rain were in store for the forseeable forecast. Unfortunately, this was to become the theme for the rest of this particular cycle trip. We were back to riding in long pants, thermal tops, rain jackets and neck warmers, and would be for the rest of the trip to Brugge.
We spent a lot of time cycling through the tulip fields ( the bollenstreek area) today, the colours were spectacular – especially when the sun came out!
The wind was blowing very hard again, with intermittent patches of light rain and we didn’t go as far as we would have liked due to all the stopping and starting in the tulips – but we were very happy to have seen them in all their glory.
Cycling through the town of Valkenburg, some of the numbered signs were missing and we got hopelessly lost. We felt a bit frustrated with ourselves and the world in general, but decided to just head in a southerly direction and give up on our pampered ‘cycle by numbers’ approach. No sooner had we had got back on the bikes and headed south, we found the markers again and peace was restored.
We stopped at a campsite just near Den Haag (The Hague) and set up camp for the night. It was in a lovely, secluded wooded area, next to a small stream. Another touring cycling duo arrived shortly afterwards, threw down an inordinate amount of beer and then got back on their bikes and headed into town for the evening.
In the middle of the night we both woke needing the loo, the moonlight was so bright so I stood outside enjoying it for a while. Noticing something shining in the grass, I found a tupperware of ours about 20 metres from our tent – instead of in the vestibule, where we unpacked it. We were both super-puzzled by this, wondering if it was a small animal that was particular interested in the butter, salt and pepper inside, or a neighbouring camper with a weird sense of humour. We never did get to the bottom of it… however, another tent had appeared in the night; the chap spent most of his time the next morning in his car smoking weed and we decided that he was our most likely candidate for the strange behaviour!
CAMPSITE: Duinhorst – Wassenaar
- Large campsite, with good areas for tents.
- Good, clean facilities.
- Restaurant/Bar and kiosk on-site.
DAY THREE: Wassenaar to Brielle | 61kmview the whole album
We spent half the morning in The Hague buying a few groceries and camping items (folding chair etc), then discovered another pancake café so stopped a while longer…
The Hague is a really beautiful place, the shops and cafés are located along beautiful cobbled streets and many of the houses are built alongside canals, just as in Amsterdam. We were pleasantly surprised, having somehow (wrongly) expected more of a ‘functional’ rather than beautiful city.
Cycling out of The Hague was very pleasant, mostly through the streets on bike paths and then through a picturesque forest area. We were aiming to join up with the North Sea Cycle Route (EuroVelo 12) which runs down the coast of Holland, and continue with it to Belgium. But we weren’t quite prepared for what was in store.
When we got the the more exposed coastal area, the wind was a harsh south-westerly, a cross-headwind, and it hit us like a brick wall as we joined the cycle path along the dunes. At times it was so strong that as I turned a corner and hit the wind head on, it felt like I was on an exercise bicycle, screwed to the ground, and when we went sideways to the wind, our bikes would be literally crabbing down the road, tilted over at quite an angle. We stopped to look at the ocean; it was grey and dark and wild. Carl was doing slightly better, so he spent most of the afternoon as my wind-break. The ride was gruelling; Carl suggested we cycle in 2km intervals, after which we would stop and take a break – however each of those felt about 20km! We read afterwards the winds were gusting around 60km/hr (force 7). Fairly sturdy.
Plenty of road cyclists in their lycra were coming the opposite way, flying past grinning from ear-to-ear, pretty much not pedalling at all. I hated them.
We rode down through the Hoek of Holland, a large industrial area at the entrance to the Rotterdam Port/Harbour. It looked very interesting, but with the wind the way it was, we simply kept our heads down and legs pedalling.
We came across two friendly Aussie cyclists, Bert and Dave from Melbourne on their recumbent bikes – who were, in their words, “taking a break from their wives”! They were en route to Switzerland, through Germany along the Rhine. We parted ways with them in Maassluis, they had booked a room for the night in a town about 25km further down the road. We couldn’t help but feel sorry for them having to cycle so much further in the wind, but they headed off without a complaint!
We took a ferry across from Maassluis to Rozenburg, where we cycled another 8kms to the nearest campsite. We were pretty tired and after securing our tent with guy-ropes to hopefully hold it down from the howling wind, we fell asleep long before it was dark! We were woken in the night with heavy rain, which continued all the following day.
CAMPSITE: De Krabbeplaat – Brielle
- Campsite for caravans, lots of long-termers. No dedicated tent area.
- Also have trekking huts, (small wooden huts with electricity).
- Okay-ish facilities.
- Supermarket, Restaurant/Bar on-site. (didn’t use so can’t comment, except even the manager said he probably wouldn’t recommend the bar!)
- Didn’t seem to have any noise restrictions, we had loud music and teenagers screaming until around 2pm…despite the rain!
DAY FOUR: No cycling due to rain
The rain continued consistently throughout the day, so we decided to stay put. We took a ferry to the beautiful town of Brielle in the afternoon for a couple of hours to charge our laptops in a cafe and to get a few supplies. When we arrived, we realised we had left the chargers behind – we enjoyed the coffee and apple pie nonetheless.
DAY FIVE: Krabbeplaat (Brielle) to Ouddorp | 65kmview the whole album
We took the long way around Brielse Meer (Brielle Lake), which looked like it could be a very pretty place in the sunshine. I was a little grumpy about the continuing wind and freezing cold, and perhaps even grumpier because Carl didn’t seem to be too affected by it! My left knee was quite painful and lets just say the cycling coming out of the ‘bike-behind-the-bike-in-front’, wasn’t up to scratch. After some serious talks to myself I seemed to get my head right enough to catch up with Carl.
We stopped for lunch in the town of Rockanje; it was Mother’s Day and we enjoyed watching all the families celebrating the happy day – we also enjoyed our coffee and delicious paninis. After being revived by some food, the cycling felt a bit easier again and the wind and cold were easier to bear.
We were now in the province of Zeeland. One of the major reasons for cycling on this route was Carl’s dream of seeing the massive Zeeland dams built across the sea, built to hold off the North Sea due to large parts of Holland being below sea level. In the afternoon, we cycled over the Haringvliet dam wall and sluice gates, with serious headwinds (again). It is an incredible structure, having taken from 1958 to 1971 to construct. We stopped at the expo centre at the end of the wall, partly because Carl wanted to find out more about the sluices and partly because there was a massive storm approaching. The ‘expo’ ended up being 2 movies about the floods of 1953 and the construction of the sluices – quite old and fuzzy, but interesting nonetheless!
After getting to our chosen destination for the night, Stellendam, we found that there were no campsites, and all accommodation was booked. We headed on towards Ouddorp – where we stayed in a lovely B&B (due to the impending rain). After unpacking, we took the bikes and headed down to the coast to check out the beaches on the North Sea. We were met by freezing winds again, but the beaches looked pretty – no doubt a favourite place in good weather (do the winds ever stop blowing here?). Ouddorp felt like a fairytale town, with every house in absolutely perfect condition and every garden beautifully tended.
We ate dinner in a local restaurant, Pannetjes, the food was outstanding and we headed home stuffed full, still red-cheeked from the burning wind of the day – happy.
DAY SIX: Ouddorp to Kamperland | 50kmview the whole album
Carl also felt the impact of the wind today, which was around Force 6. We headed out from Ouddorp along the top of a dike, which was completely exposed and left us battered by the wind. We both decided the cycle-path planner must have had a sadistic streak to route the paths on such exposed land. The scenery was beautiful with fields of green to the right and a quiet, protected harbour to the left. We came to the Brouwersdam, another large part of the Zeeland Delta Works. Cycling across the 8km dam wall was brutal, especially when cyclists coming the other way weren’t pedalling at all!
Prior to leaving Sydney, a good friend had given us a supply of energy gels, I stopped and had one, when I felt my energy at an all-time low. The slug-like consistency made me heave, but the chemical contents soon seemed to help peel me off the wall I had hit.
The next big sluice was the Oosterscheldekering – Another 8km dam built right across the ocean. Due to the wind, neither of us felt like braving it, but we knew it was something we, especially Carl, would regret if we didn’t do. Carl told me later he had visions of us being blown off the side of the dam wall as the wind was so strong, (glad I didn’t know that at the time!) We stopped for coffee and pancakes and a mental break from the wind, before braving the crossing. Surprisingly, due to the large metal structures on the side of the dam wall, we were largely protected and the ride over was easy, what a relief.
We arrived in the town of Kamperland, I was shattered from the wind and Carl wasn’t feeling too energised either, so we settled into another B&B for the night as more rain was on the radar. It turned out to be the right choice as it bucketed down for most of the night and next morning.
DAY SEVEN: Kamperland to Brugge | 67KMview the whole album
At breakfast the following morning we asked the guesthouse owner about the ferry to the town of Veere. She told us that it doesn’t run every day and only 3 times a day, in non-peak season. Thankfully, it was one of the days that it was running – otherwise we would’ve had a very long detour!
The town of Veere was absolutely beautiful – we wanted to walk around for a while and take a look, but we had a fair ride ahead of us with bad weather nipping at our heels.
We were rained upon intermittently the whole day. Around lunchtime we had to take another ferry from Vlissengen (Flushing) to Bresken. It simply bucketed down while we were on the ferry and we were relieved to be undercover. Our relief was short-lived when the ferry stopped and the rain didn’t. We took shelter until the worst was over then headed out again.
We had a very wet ride in the afternoon. Thankfully the wind had died down so the rain was falling vertically rather than horizontally (into our faces, of course!). We cycled off the edge of our maps, so stopped in the town of Oostburg to find the local tourist office and ask them for some more local maps. The office was not to be found, so we bought coffee and used a cafe’s wifi to map out the route to Brugge. The scenery became increasingly more and more beautiful, especially cycling along the Damse Vaart canal between the towns of Sluice, Netherlands and Damme, Belgium. Again, we had no idea when we crossed the border!
On arrival on the outskirts of Brugge, we were captivated by it immediately. The architecture, the cobbled streets and the canals made for a great welcoming party. We were exhausted from the week of wind and weather – but relieved to be there.