Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016
A Short Hop To Oostkapelle
By Ren Withnell
We're only planning to travel about 15 miles today. Why? Camping Zandkreek where we are now has been an absolute god-send these last 2 nights but we're ready to change our scenery once more. We'd spotted a rather posh looking "holiday camp" style place in Oostkapelle that promises a swimming pool, a bar and other such luxuries so we're going to give that a shot.
Sunshine, 125cc motorcycles and washing. Life on the road.
As we decamp I'm joined in the common room by the site manager, his wife and a handful of other unfamiliar but always friendly faces. In the course of the morning I learn that Camping Zandkreek is not a "business for profit" it is a cooperative run and owned by a club. For the membership fees the members have use of the site and most of the caravans are here all year round. Any profits from membership or indeed paying customers such as myself are ploughed back into the site in terms of maintenance, services and upgrades. On this day a massive grass roller arrives as well as a a couple of tons of timber for the new patio and barbecue area.
Each new face speaks excellent English and they're all joyous. When they talk between themselves in Dutch I don't know what they're saying but I recognise the tones and laughter of teasing banter. They ask me about our trip and where we've been and as ever they all point out the various places we should have gone to, typical. As we depart it's handshakes all around and they even wave us off at the barrier. What a revitalising privilege it has been to meet these folk.
Top campsite with friendly folks. Thanks ZandKreek.
15 miles. 15 miles that we've already ridden and only yesterday. 15 miles that I've studied on my map. 15 miles and I still manage to get lost. It comes to something when Sharon has to tell me that this is the road we want. Sharon - the woman whom if I moved the settee in her living room would no longer be able to find her own kitchen - is giving me directions. The shame, I shall be returning my "man badge" for I no longer have need of it.
Vakantiepark Ons Buiten is completely different to Camping Zandkreek. This is a somewhat more "Hi-De-Hi", only mature Brit's will understand this reference. This is a holiday park with caravans and campervans rather than chalets. There's a pool, there's a bar, there's a restaurant and there's a fast food counter, great! Oh, the swimming pool's closed, the fast food place shows no signs of life and while the door to the bar is open there's no-one within. This is June. I suspect there's a massive switch somewhere in The Netherlands and presently it's in the "off" position. Sometime, soon, someone will flick that switch and all the bars, swimming pools, fun parks, arcades and entertainments will magically open and hoards of Dutch tourists will flood through the doors. A part of me is disappointed that everything is in stasis, a larger part of me is thankful there's no vast swathes of screaming brats.
The pool looks lovely but the doors are firmly closed.
The restaurant ain't heaving either.
We wander in to Oostkapelle. I am becoming polarised regarding Dutch towns. The smaller ones like Edam, Hoenderloo, Zierikzee, Veere and now Oostkapelle are in the "I like this place" box. Larger towns including Utrecht, The Hague and Hoorne are cast out to the "No thanks, not unless I have a really good reason" pile. I wonder if it's because I'm a snob? Possibly. Probably. I live in a scruffy mid terraced house that's not been decorated for 13 years. I guess that makes me a hypocritical snob and this makes me laugh to myself. I like getting a little older, this thought would have bothered me once, not any more.
It's a bit rough in Oostkapelle, as you can tell.
Back at the site I return from the toilet and Sharon tells me we are in trouble. Between our pitch and the one next to us is a post that has 2 taps upon it. Logic suggests the tap to the right, the one closest to our pitch, is for our use. However there's no handle, no "T" piece for us to turn the tap on and off on the right hand tap. The left hand tap does have a handle so when filling our water bag earlier I'd simply moved the handle, the "T" piece onto our tap. I'd thought nothing more of this.
Sharon has been sternly informed that the handle, the "T" piece is NOT ours to use and must NOT be used again! If we feel the need to turn the tap on or off we must take the matter up with the staff at reception. I suspect that on this site at least taps don't come with handles and campers are expected to have their own or borrow one from reception? I'm guessing here. However if this is the case there was no need for the caravanner next door to be so aggressive, a simple and polite request would have sufficed. I look at the registration plate on the caravan. They're not Dutch, they're German.
2 Taps and now no "T" piece or key or handle to turn either tap. Dummy out the pram.
Once upon a time I would have been wracked with guilt. I would have kept my head down in shame and been most upset. Now I find I feel a hint of guilt then I dismiss it as one of those things. I never intended to cause offence. I have never come across this situation in years of camping. No, if I have made a mistake it was an honest mistake, no-one has died and if the grumpy old buffoon gets off by upsetting other campers then stuff him. Angry? No, I'm not confrontational or looking for a fight. I'm too pretty for fighting.
One last thing to mention today. It's hot. From lunchtime till now, this evening, it has been scorchio! Sharon is loving it, lying on her mattress, hitching her skirt up and trying to expose bits of flesh to the sun while keeping her dignity. Me? Well I hitch my shorts up but Sharon tuts at me and says my shorts now look like a babies nappy (diaper) and she's embarrassed to be seen with me. Other than that I'm too hot. There's ants in the tent too, we've already moved it once as we thought we'd camped on a nest but it's made little difference. Bedtime soon, the ants don't seem to be the biting type.
Move the tent dear, I think we're on an ant's nest.
The sun always makes Sharon smile.
Prologue - The Netherlands 2016
Why are we going Dutch? What's that peculiar box on Ren's bike? Why are we taking our 125cc motorcycles? Is there even a plan? Find out more...
The first day of our trip is not the start we would hope for. Yet with some luck and the desire to improve his mindset Ren manages to keep a calm and positive outlook.
Crashing Out To The Netherlands
This is Sharon's take on the first day of The Netherland's trip. Oh the best laid plans of mice and women.
No News Is Good News
It's an ordinary day of ordinary travelling for our dynamic duo. Sometimes a lack of excitement can be a good thing doncha know.
Sharon covers the second day of the trip to The Netherlands. She moves from discomfort and bruises through nervous and fear to luxury and comfort. All in one day!
Hades - I Mean Amsterdam
Ah The Netherlands, fields of flowers, windmills, tranquil canals and leisurely cyclists. Or is this what the tourist office would have you believe?
Crying In The Rain And Laughing Gonkeys
Sharon's first time motorcycling on foreign tarmac is a baptism of fire. What on earth is a laughing gonkey anyhow?
We Are Tourist
So what is Ren's take on the popular city of Amsterdam? Will he survive the bicycles? Is he a wild traveller or just a tourist?
The Lost Experience
Once again Ren's expectations get the better of him. Once again Ren gets completely lost. Once again the rain is coming down. Is there any hope at all? Actually it's not all bad.
Smiles In The Rain
The friendly Dutch folk mean that a rain filled day can still be a worthwhile day.
Bicycling De Hoge Veluwe
Will today be a tortuous day stuck in the tent waiting for the rain to stop? For the sake of Ren's mental health let's hope there's some good weather.
Urk? Is That The Sun?
A break in the weather brings a positive feel to the day along with pleasant places, friendly faces and new acquaintances.
A Big Dyke With Edam
What is the Afsluitdijk for? Why would you name a town after a cheese? All these questions will not be answered by reading this.
Edam, Marken, Tourists and Symmetry
Ren and Sharon visit a town named after a cheese. Why would you name a town after a cheese? Weird folks these Dutch.
Sunshine, philosophy and an alternative kind of campsite.
Drowning In Zierikzee
Philosophy, friendly people, terrible rain and salvation all in one day! Not bad really for pair of wastrels on 125s.
We're chilling out and exploring Zeeland 2-up on a 125. Is this the Dutch Riviera?
A Short Hop To Oostkapelle
How do you get lost in 15 miles on a route you already know? How do you upset a German camper? How do you do all this and remain content in yourself? It's called getting old.
Dodgy Dutch Drivers
Their last full day in The Netherlands sums up the whole Dutch experience. "The nicest bad drivers you'll ever meet".
It's time to leave The Netherlands and return to good 'ole Blighty. There's some shocking news that might change things for the future though.
So, What About The Netherlands?
After 2 weeks of riding around The Netherlands on 125s what does Ren think of the country now?
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Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016