Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016
Dodgy Dutch Drivers
By Ren Withnell
Today is our last full day in The Netherlands. Today we must ride the 60 or 70 miles north back to The Hook Of Holland so we can catch the ferry home to Blighty tomorrow. There'll be one more pitch-up tonight then that's it, game over, back home and back to reality. Urgh. I have a few pounds in the bank I could just keep on going couldn't I? Well, yes, but that money will run out sooner or later. Then when I get home I'll have no business and no more money coming in. I can't just abandon my house, can I?
It's tempting isn't it, just keep on going as though everything's going to be alright. Mind you there are advantages to living in a house. When it rains hard in the morning generally you stay dry within the house. Here I have to take down our nylon house and wrap it up soaking wet and stuff it into a bag as we ourselves get wet. It's bouncing down once again as a few of the caravanners look on sympathetically from their awnings.
Aaaah the joy of life in a soggy wet tent. It's the future I tell ya.
Despite the rain and despite a lack of motivation we eventually leave Oostkapelle and hit the road north. We cross over more of The Netherlands's impressive land/water management systems as the rain eases and the visibility returns to once again reveal the vast expanses of endless farmland. We pull into a petrol station for a fill up and stop a moment to rest.
As I look around I guess it is about time to go home. I knew before we started this trip that The Netherlands was never going to be about amazing scenery, big mountains, arid deserts or verdant forests. I have admired the vast open sensation of space this landscape brings forth in me but after almost 2 weeks I am, I must admit, ready for something new. I knew it was flat, I wasn't prepared for how flat.
Flat. Really Flat. Really Very Flat. Wide open flat. OK, enough flat for now thank you.
There is contrast to be found though, Rotterdam and the towns along the river that form the ports is the antithesis of the open rural countryside. As we make our way along the motorway with the now all too familiar tailgaters ("3 lanes, you can overtake you know") we are surrounded by massive industry mixed in with massive accommodation. High-rise flats mix with trendy apartment blocks nestled between enormous warehouses along side retail malls amongst stacks upon stacks of containers. This is a cacophony of all things required for human industry and modern existence.
Sheer luck and will power guides us through the maze of multilane motorways. We need the left lane, then the 4th lane, then the outside lane and then again the inside lane. All the while we need to stick together, I fear if we're separated here we will never see each other again.
Ahhhh, at last a sign for "Hoek Van Holland". Being slow we're in the far right lane, the nearside. This sign indicates this lane will veer right into the melee of towns that are not "Hoek Van Holland" and therefore not where we wish to be and therefore will lead me to become lost once more. All we need to do is move one lane to our left. To our left are 4 trucks in dangerously close convoy. I slow just a little to allow them to pass. Behind the fourth lorry is a gap and as they roll by we indicate to move out. That gap is hurriedly filled by another truck from the 3rd lane. As he passes we continue to indicate then more trucks, yes, that's plural, all close up into tight formation once more.
With but a car length betwixt each massive articulated behemoth we have zero chance of getting into our lane. I decide in the interest of safety we have no choice other than to follow this lane off the motorway. I soon park up to regroup.
I have no idea where I am. I've just stopped to catch my breath and check we're alive.
"THE B@#?RDS!" Yes Sharon, I quite agree. The actions of the lorry drivers upon the motorway were a deliberate and completely intentional act to force us off the motorway. After years of riding motorcycles I'm used to the solo buffoon who likes to make life difficult but there were at least 6 trucks all working together to ensure we could not change lane. My conclusion and my new quote regarding the Dutch? "The nicest bad drivers you'll ever meet". What matters more than the bad drivers and the fact I am lost once more is that we are both safe and well. Stuff 'em, sod 'em, we're alive and we'll get to Hoek Van Holland despite them.
I say that in defiance but sure enough we're soon lost in a network of narrow lanes that look more like cycle lanes with dead ends, peculiar allotments and of all things some kind of surreal nature lake. We end up back where we started and back on the motorway. This time the traffic allows us to progress safely. Off the motorways and somewhere near the port in what is now glorious sunshine I spot a cafe-cum restaurant. It's time to chill out and refresh our frazzled brains. Time is on our side, there's a couple of campsites close by and we've done it, we're here, we're alive and we're well.
As we approach the door of Het Jagershuis I'm beginning to rethink rapidly, it looks far too posh inside for a couple of scruffy bikers to pop in for a brew. As we stand on the porch about to look at the menu the door opens and a vast Dutchman smiles at us disarmingly. I get the feeling our host is not going to let us leave, yes we can just have a cup of tea if we wish but he's visibly disappointed we're not dining. Inside all is smart, clean, upmarket and filled with a character that is somewhat lacking outside. There is only one other solitary guest inside, I can understand why he did not want to let us go.
We drink our tea and try not to make a mess on the clean bright white table cloths. Our host chats with us about our journey and he asks if we'll be returning soon with the implication that when we do we must have a full 4 course meal here. He's delightful and friendly as ever I'd hoped the Dutch would be. I chuckle to myself, I want to ask if he's also a tailgating lane blocking driver as well. I'm scared of paying, this could be costly. Fortunately his prices are within tolerances and expectation, not cheap, just acceptable.
Camping Hoek Van Holland on the other hand is quite cheap in relation to the other sites we've stopped at. While not exactly picturesque and not what I'd term luxurious it has everything we need for this evening. We're surrounded by mostly empty static caravans and tourers that probably haven't seen the open road for some time. All is quiet save for the occasional passer by and we pitch up - on another blasted ant infested piece of grass. The rest of the evening is spent researching on the internet how to deter the little bleeders. It seems Sharon's incredibly expensive only for special occasions perfume slows them down.
Functional and fine if not magnificent. Camping Hoek Van Holland.
As we settle in to sleep it is warm and dry. There's a small mound of deceased ants that Sharon has despatched to ant heaven, the rest of them seem to think it must be bedtime too. Tomorrow we'll be back in the UK and tomorrow night we're booked into a cheap hotel. There'd best not be any ants in the hotel otherwise Sharon will be having words.
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