Amaya snags country number 8 while we float on fluffy clouds through a cycling paradise. The Netherlands is simply as good as it gets for bicycle touring! It is flat, the people are warm and friendly (and speak many languages including English), the food is interesting, campgrounds are ubiquitous and the weather is good (though I am told this is not the norm). What’s more, EVERY ROAD HAS A BICYCLE PATH NEXT TO IT!!!! Please excuse my gratuitous use of capitals but how else can I express overwhelming excitement? It is incredible! Quite literally every road has some sort of bike path associated with it. And there are some cool, sensible road rules to go with it. For example, one courier driver we met told the story that his boss is accepting of the occasional accident or break down, but under no circumstance can he hit a cyclist as he will ALWAYS be in the wrong. Additionally, bicycles are free to ride both ways on a one way street, thus recognising bikes as a hybrid vehicle and something quite apart from cars, helmets are optional.
There are a steady stream of relatively fit people riding past us – everybody says hi – they look happy, they are from a wide cross section of society and not just the lycra clad urban warriors that cars battle with on Sydney streets.
Needless to say we are loving it! It has also been wonderful to share this experience with Mum and Dad, who have been a great help on the road. Amaya has adored spending some quality time with them while seeing some truly amazing things. We entered the Netherlands with no real plan (not unusual) – maybe we’d see a couple of windmills, ride on a dyke or two and drink some Heineken. It has been so much more than that…
We crossed the “Delta Project” which is an astonishing feat of human engineering allowing the Dutch to stop the sea at will. Windmills abound and last Saturday happened to be the annual windmill open day – so we climbed up the insides of a windmill!!! On Sunday we stumbled upon Hollands biggest free music festival and caught up with Amaya’s friend, Lola, who we met in France – along with her parents, Alex and Elisa who are wonderful people! In the same city – Dordricht – we also visited a 1:1 scale replica of Noah’s Ark! It was floating in the harbour and even came equipped with hundreds of animals (some live, most sculptures). Very random location, but quite appropriate given the generations long battle with the sea the Dutch have had and continue to have. To top it all off it hasn’t been one or two dykes we have ridden – we are pretty much riding them all day every day.
So, as we approach 3000 km and meander towards our final destination we are in no hurry whatsoever to leave The Netherlands.