Another net downhill day, but with a fair amount of climbing along the way – 380m of ascent and 735m of descent according to Bruce’s Cyclemeter record. The main climb was in the heat of the afternoon up the side of a stunning gorge but I confess I was more preoccupied by the pedalling. We did stop at a viewpoint so I could admire it while giving my legs a break.
Feel the fear and do it anyway, as the saying goes – but I didn’t think they were talking about holidays. I was quite nervous about the first part of the day’s cycling down a steep main road with hairpin bends. All my real cyclist friends would have loved the descent on beautifully smooth tarmac, but I am not a happy descender on anything steep with sheer drops and very minimal barriers.
This will be a short blog update as we are very tired and sleep beckons. All five train trips successfully completed. The overnight train from Duisburg to Basel was booked out for bike places so we got the last two – which took quite a bit of manoeuvring. Unfortunately no sleeper berths = night spent trying to sleep sitting up = little sleep.
Nice, easy ride from the docks at IJmuiden to Amsterdam this morning, with only one route-finding error leading us onto a path not designed for bikes(take a bow, Google maps). Sunny and warm here with not much wind. A very Dutch scene above: windmills turning lazily and the wide, twin-lane bike path shaded and screened from the main road by trees.
We are off again, this time aiming to cycle the whole of the Rhine route. We’ve seen two sections before – around the Swiss/German border and into Liechtenstein in 2014, and north from Cologne to Emmerich in 2015. Both were great, but very different. Hoping this time to see all the many contrasts along the whole route.
The cycle out of Amsterdam to IJmuiden was a bit more of a navigational challenge than we were expecting, but was otherwise fine. My legs were protesting a little as they had not recovered completely from the previous day, but the short ride was probably just what they needed even if not what they wanted. We were in plenty of time for the ferry and joined lots of other cyclists at the fish restaurant on the pier before joining the boarding queue. Different ferry this time, with a different section of the car deck set aside for bikes, but it still all felt very familiar – probably because the cabins had the same layout and the restaurants and cafes have the same names as on the other ferry, even if they are in slightly different places.
A good friend has a cycling blog with a great name: ‘Al playing in the traffic’ (well worth a look if you don’t already know it). Our farewell ride in the Netherlands could have been called ‘Bruce and Elly playing in the wind’. We had one full day left after catching the train back from Berlin to Amsterdam and we could (should?) have spent it sight-seeing in Amsterdam – but we have been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, and there were knots to work out of the legs after the train journey, so getting out on the bikes seemed like a better idea. Since we had already crossed the Afsluitdijk earlier this trip, we thought it might be fun to try the other major sea dike, the Houtribdijk, between Lelystad and Enkhuizen (see map above) and make a loop back to Amsterdam. Particular fun would be cycling without luggage, so it would be really easy…
We made it to Berlin: between us we have a moderate collection of insect bites, only a little saddle-soreness, three dodgy knees and one niggly back muscle, but we are happy. Majorly off target given that we were originally heading for Copenhagen, but delighted to renew our acquaintance with Berlin. It is one of my favourite cities.
We didn’t see a great deal of Rathenow, as it was determinedly raining all yesterday afternoon, so we had poor visibility and little inclination to do anything other than find our hotel. The Hotel Fürstenhof is evidently familiar with cyclists. They were completely unfazed by people whose ability to speak German appeared to have dissolved in the downpour turning up and dripping in their nice lobby. Some other cyclists showed up at the same time but irritatingly they managed to look as though they had been cycling rather than swimming. The hotel showed us all to a garage where we could store our bikes and took away our wet clothes to dry them overnight. They gave us a map and directions to various restaurants in town. Fantastic service.
High contrast of cycling days yesterday and today. Yesterday was hot and humid, with a lot of headwind and (for me) flare ups of knee and back pain. We had planned to cycle to Wittenberge, which would have been around 100km from Bleckede, but bailed out at Dömitz where we found an Apotheke which supplied a knee support, a lovely bed and breakfast in a former brewery and an old fortress which is being restored and turned into a museum.