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Back in Netherlands cycling heaven so have something worth writing about!  Not touring this year as this is a convalescent trip – instead we are staying in a very comfortable hotel in Zaandam and exploring in day trips

We followed a recommended tourist cycle route today from a few miles north of Zaandam in a loop round a major area of reclaimed agricultural land. You can see from the photo that the land lies a bit lower than the canal to the other side of the dyke. The land was apparently first drained more than 1,000 years ago, and the drying out causes it to sink slightly. These days there are pumping stations at strategic points round the dyke and they have to keep a careful balance. In very dry weather, according to our information leaflet, they pump water back into the network of waterways around the fields.

imageOne thing that puzzled me was why the animals in the fields stay put, with very limited fencing. There were horses in several places with only small stretches of water or perhaps a low fence between them and freedom. I’m sure the horses could have jumped over the water easily. Not sure how well cows jump but they were in similarly open fields. Either the animals are very content with their current lot or I am missing something about how they are enclosed.

We had the obligatory navigation failure early in our tour and wound up heading past some industrial buildings at the side of the river Zaan. One of them was a cocoa factory. We had the wind behind us at that point so for miles had the scent – pleasant to begin with but eventually rather sickly.

imageA bit further on, when we arrived at the open land, the map said we had to cross the waterway (canal? I think so) by ferry. To my surprise and mild horror, this was a small chain ferry which we had to crank ourselves. We managed it, with a little help from some more experienced fellow passengers. Another mini-adventure! As well as the manually-operated ferry and open countryside, we had plenty of lovely traditional houses – about which more another day – and windmills to enjoy.

Our hire bikes are sturdy and upright, in the Dutch style. I like the riding position, which is excellent for sight-seeing. Both seem a bit under-geared, especially for such flat terrain, but this is not a huge problem as we are not trying for high speeds or huge distances. I do miss my faithful Fidel and especially his saddle, but look forward to bonding more with my hire bike in the next few days.

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