Thursday, January 12, 2012

Was that a Gouda Bike Tour? No.

Back in June, I did a bike tour in the Netherlands. It was my third trip there, and both the previous ones were blinders so I had no reason to suspect this wouldn't also be great.

It wasn't.

To catch the Friday midnight ferry, I have to get my bike on a train at about 7:30, but I was stuck at work until about 6:30pm. I dashed home to grab my bike out of the garage and my helmet fell off the handlebars into a pan full of oil that my flatmate had drained out of his car's sump several years ago. It vanished into the black with a "gloop" noise. For the next week, my head smelled of old motor oil.

Because I had been working late all week, I also had no time to do any planning. I knew I going to start by heading for a town called Breda, but that was about it. It turns out, successful bike touring requires a bit of preparation.

Also, and this was the key factor, this was one of the worst ever summers in the Netherlands, with tons of rain and little sun. It poured down unremittingly and was freezing cold, and after spending a week squatting in my tent reading a textbook about Roman archaeology, I gave up and took an early boat home. Sure, I may be soft, but the Travelling Two also bailed on their summer tour in the Netherlands, and they are bike touring badarses, so you know it was dismal.

I took very few photos because of the rain.

Gemeente Heusden. Translation: It's Going to Hose Down

It wasn't entirely terrible. The first day I rode down through Rotterdam, where I had the experience of taking my bike down an escalator and along a bike-only tunnel under the Rhine. I camped for a couple of days outside Breda (it never stopped raining so I never actually made it into Breda).

From there, I did a day trip into Eindhoven on the mistaken assumption that a big city like that would have something of interest to see. Okay, the bowling pin art was cool, but I needed a little more than that.

I then biked up to Vught, which is a little south of 's-Hertogenbosch. I have no idea how that is pronounced. Where do you look in a map index for a name beginning with an apostrophe?

I then continued north to Gouda. I walked into the centre of Gouda with the intention of having a meal with Gouda cheese in it, but when it was time to order, I forgot.

The day riding to Gouda was probably the most fun, because it required catching a bunch of ferries to get across various waterways. I suspect those waterways did not exist prior to that "summer" weather.

If you look closely, you'll see I'm carrying a fuel bottle. I took my stove and cooked my own meals for the first time, which was satisfying. Of course, there's something to be said for buying food, too. A takeaway pizza is more exciting than self-cooked pasta and sardines.

That's a Gouda Town Hall

From Gouda, I biked to Delft along pretty country roads. I knew from my first trip that I could camp at Delft, but I phoned the ferry company and they were willing to bring my departure forward to that evening, so I pushed on and made it to Hoek in time to catch the ship home.

So there you go: Disappointing, but still more fun than anything else there is to do. These things are relative. Oh, and feel free to ask me anything about the archaeology of ancient Rome. I am a fucking expert now.

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