Here is the much nicer part of the start of our trip :-)
Le Guess Who?
It's been almost a month since we left my home town on 10 November in our camper with the bikes neatly locked on the rack. We needed to get to Utrecht but didn't want to pass Antwerp so we took the more scenic route and drove past Middelburg. This meant we were abroad just a little bit earlier and put us in the travelling mindset from the start.
Our first destination was Le Guess Who?, a music festival in Utrecht dedicated to music from all over the world combined with movies, workshops and other small events around the town. It is a great festival for discovering new music and seeing musicians and groups perform you wouldn't necessarily find on the regular programme. The music takes place in the standard concert halls but also in small bars, churches and mosques. I can definitely recommend it :-)
Unfortunately (but understandibly), during the festival the covid-19 measures needed to get stricter again. This meant the schedule was changed completely overnight, some bands could not play anymore and we had to sit down during all concerts on Sunday. All in all we were happy that the music was still playing! Plus, during the last concert of Sons of Kemet everyone kind of "forgot" the rules and we got up and danced anyway. Great ending!
Taking the bikes for a spin
After the festival it felt like the real start of our trip. No fixed plan anymore. Just a few hints of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. So we started driving, excited.
Eager to test out our touring bikes (named Arthur and Achiel) we drove close to Amsterdam and parked the van on a shopping mall parking (I cannot recommend it, see previous post). We packed the essentials for the biking trip in our panniers and started cycling some time in the afternoon. The weather wasn't great, cold and slightly raining, but we were ready for that.
We cycled along the east coast of North Holland between all the little canals and fields to the small Island of Marken. We arrived there well after sunset but decided to try and find a place to put our tent in the small village. We rang some doorbells and spoke to some people in the street and eventually ended up in someone's back yard just big enough to put our tent. In the morning she immediately phoned her siblings living on Texel so we were already sure of a sleeping place for when we got there.
On the second day, the sun broke through the clouds and we had another good day on the amazing cycling paths of The Netherlands. As a cyclist you really feel like a first class citizen of the road here. Combine this with the flatness of the area and this was a good first test!
When the sun was setting we again started ringing doorbells and before long we found a nice woman who offered "something better" than a camping spot, as she said herself. Next to the house she was renovating a barn into a house which she happily to offer to us. Two days in and we were already happy to sleep inside :-)
The next days we cycled more and more kilometers and got used to sitting on the bike, navigating the small roads and taking a boat here and there to cross a canal. We explored Texel for a day and then turned around to go back to Amsterdam. The first day back on the mainland proved quite difficult with a constant strong headwind. Pushing our average speed down to less than 10 km/h. Still, if you keep pedalling you go forward eventually and make good progress in the end.
The last day of the tour we decided to push through from Bergen all the way to Amsterdam. An ambitious 65 kilometers but we had the weather on our side this time. No more wind and a nice winter sun. On the way there we met Sinterklaas and his helpers, had to pull ourselves to the other side on a manual ferry and drove through a village smelling like chocolate.
The first tour was a big success and a nice start to our adventure. We took some time "off" in Amsterdam to be able to mentally process the break-in, get the car fixed and arrange paperwork with the insurance company. And now we try to forget about it and look forward. We are currently looking for a good parking place to leave the van behind and start our next tour in Denmark. We will keep you posted!
Side note: Solace
And a little side note: during our time in Amsterdam I went back to Belgium for 24 hours to go and watch the premiere of Karel Sabbe's film "Solace". It's about his running adventure in the Alps in which I played a part as well. Check it out on solacedocumentary.com.