The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016

Crying In The Rain And Laughing Gonkeys

By Sharon Parker

In the morning I feel refreshed after a good night's sleep. Bike gear is duly climbed into and the trek is made down all the stairs to the bikes. The bikes are still upright and as I climb aboard I feel the butterflies let lose in my tummy. Calm I tell myself, keep calm and deep breathes. Getting off the ferry and out of the docks is no trouble, however once out we are hit with a deluge of rain and my senses are attacked by everything unfamiliar. I can barely see the road signs in the rain but even when I do see them I have no clue what they mean.

We pull in to get our bearings and for Ren to consult his map and for us both to scramble into waterproofs. Damn it to hell this was not the start I was hoping far. Riding in an unfamiliar place is hard. To do so in a foreign country with unknown road signs and traffic on the opposite side of what you are use to is even harder. Add to this pouring rain so we can barely see anything then it becomes a real problem. Talk about a baptism of fire, or should that be a baptism of rain. 

We ride on towards The Hague. I don't like city riding at the best of times but mix that up with all the above then you guessed it I am feeling pretty damn terrified and miserable. I feel completely confused and disorientated. I am surrounded by cars and scooters and cycles and pedestrians. Arghh...who has priority because they all seem to think they do? It feel likes complete and utter chaos and my heart feels like it is about to burst through my chest, grow wings and fly away from this madness. I have to question my sanity right now. Why the hell am I doing this to myself? This is not fun, this is horrible. I do not want to be here. If I have to be here I certainty do not want to be on my own bike. Why did I think I could do this? I want to be on the back of Ren's bike not having a mini mental breakdown on my own.

We get lost and end up in the suburbs. Another motorcyclist shoots out from a side road right in front of me. I have to slam on the brakes hard and hope for the best with wet roads and a fully laden bike. Somehow I stop in time and also remain upright. Ren is oblivious to my plight as he continues up ahead.  I hate this, I HATE this I HATE THIS!!! I am shaking all over, I want to cry, I want to stop but Ren is disappearing into the distance. F*** it I have no choice, I am just going to have to keep riding. 

We emerge from The Hague Hell Hole and get onto a motorway. There is spray everywhere on the motorway and the directions signs are tiny. However hard as it is it is a hell of a lot better than the city madness we've just escaped from. We turn off the motorway and end up in the very cute village of Oude Wetering. Lovely little houses lie along the waterfront. Ren spies a cafe across what looks to me like a foot bridge but after speaking to a local it seems we can cross the bridge on the motorbikes. Oh great although I really could do with a rest and something to drink I am not overjoyed by the prospect of turning my bike around in such a small space and somehow getting it over the little bridge. But Ren is already up and over...pfft so it is grit my teeth and ask my spirits for some courage as I follow suit. I manage to get over the bridge without either falling off the sides or slamming into the wall, and park up the bike. I feel completely wrung out. That was one hell of a first experience riding abroad. Now come on wobbly legs get me to that cafe and a well earned rest. The tea has no milk but I am beyond caring about such trivia, I am just glad to still be alive.

Sharon stands in front of an information sign wringing her hands and trying to smileMy face and hands still show how anxious I am.
The tranquil canal with boats and houses at Oude Wetering

The cafe and footpath-come-road where Sharon relaxes
The 2 overladen 125 motorcycles with luggage beside the canal on the way to AmsterdamAfter the city madness we relax in the tranquillity of Oude Wetering.

All to soon we are back on the bikes. I do not usually feel dread at riding my bike but this is one of those times. I tell myself it will be better now the rain has finally eased. However Amsterdam is another bewildering city of too much going on and me having no clue to any of it. I feel I need a thousand eyes to watch out for other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians all while trying to keep Ren in sight and look for road signs. There are numerous zebra crossings that are bizarrely placed right before the numerous roundabouts. You are trying to watch the roundabout for traffic as you approach while also trying to watch the zebra crossings. Arghh this is madness. To add to my neurotic state I now keep seeing bizarre hybrid creatures at every corner. Is it is sheep, is it a goat it it a donkey? The gonkey laughs as we eventually realise that we are not seeing numerous strange beings but the same bloody one over and over again. That will be us lost again then.

One thing I strangely do not seem to be struggling with is riding on the right side of the road. It feels rather natural to me. Looking left at roundabout is also surprisingly easy.

By the grace of the Gods, the mirth of gonkey and the great navigation skills of Ren Withnell we somehow arrive at our chosen campsite on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Camp Zeeberg is - err - very busy. It is full to the brim it seems with young bohemian types. I have no problem with this other than the strong smell of weed wafting up my nostrils. I hate the smell of weed, it knocks me sick. Yes I know I am in Amsterdam what else can one expect? We are told we can pitch on the blue field as there is plenty of room. Errm, ok is that so, hmmm. We eventually discover a tiny space just big enough to squash our tent into. As we pitch up I look around the field and see naked blow up dolls sitting in circles with spaced out young folks surrounded by beer cans and thumping loud music. Well this is not my usual campsite of choice but haaa when in Amsterdam. Although I do not do as other Amstedamians are doing as in partaking of the alcohol and the weed. But I am happy enough. The campsite has nice clean good facilities. Free wi-fi and a shop too. 

It certainly has been a day of new experiences, a bit of an overload on the senses. But we survived, we are here, we are camped up and our adventures have truly begun. I actually hated it all at one point. I wanted to cry at another. I wanted to sulk and give up. But I carried on and I got here. Wahoo!! 

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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...
Disaster 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.
Helter Skelter 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.
Curious Distelloo 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.
Exploring Zeeland 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".
Going Home-ish 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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