Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016
Bicycling De Hoge Veluwe
By Ren Withnell
While Sharon sleeps I bravely use some of my data allowance to check the weather forecast. I'm scared. I'm scared if the forecast is for rain then Sharon will insist we do "nothing" today. Rain in the morning, that is certain. The afternoon could, possibly, maybe, might be dry. This is torment.
3 years ago Sharon and I had the displeasure of being stuck in our little tent from 1200 until 0800 the next day. We were in France and the rain poured and poured and poured. While the rain poured we slept a little. While the rain poured we made a bite to eat. While the rain poured we talked. While the rain poured we got so desperate we took it in turns to come up with girl's names beginning with A...then B...then C... A part of me died that day.
I fear today could go the same way. I'd rather be out riding in the rain and getting wet than sitting in the tent going stir crazy. Sharon on the other hand is a different person to me. She can do "nothing". She could sit and read all day long happily taking naps between chapters, drop into Facebook for a couple of hours then just to complete the day rustle up a simple meal before settling in for the rest of the evening. How she can do this is a mystery to me.
I give her the news regarding the weather forecast, she does indeed want to "chill out" today. I beg her to not put me through this, I plead with her to at least let us try. Reluctantly she agrees to walk to the National Park at lunchtime and decide what to do depending on the weather. Oh sweet merciful mercy at least we're going to try.
The skies are leaden yet the rain is light as we set off into Hoenderloo. We trudge along the road in our waterproofs, by the time we arrive at the entrance the rain is heavy and it seems all hope is to be lost. The delightfully cheery chap behind the counter shows sincere sorrow for the 2 soggy wastrels stood before him and without asking goes to check the forecast on his tablet. He seems to have some super accurate app showing radar images which promise a reprise "in about an hour". We splash back into Hoenderloo and purchase some pastries with a drink and eat them while sheltering under a bus stop.
The rain lightens and there are slivers of blue between the clouds! We are going to give it a shot. The happiest counter clerk in the world is delighted to see our return and to take €20 off us to enter the park. A short walk takes us to rows upon rows of white bicycles that we can use to explore the park. Courageously we remove our waterproofs and put them into our bags.
Bicycles And De Hoge Veluwe
Included in the entry fee De Hoge Veluwe National Park has plenty of these white bicycles for anyone to use and this seems to be the best way to explore. After struggling to find one small enough for the Hobbit - I mean Sharon - we both promptly fall off. I catch my leg on the baby seat as I get on and stumble into a puddle, Sharon has forgotten how to steer and crashes into the racking. Seeing us like this must be like watching a Laurel and Hardy scene.
Pick a bike...any bike...not that one...
Somehow we finally set out and after half a mile we start to come to terms with not having an engine, the coaster hub rear brake and how sensitive the steering is. We merely look like novices now rather than a circus clown act. Riding the bicycles is serene compared to the motorcycles. There's no noise except for the rhythmic clunk-tink of my worn out crank bearing, there's no need to fear speed limits or tailgaters, the scenery goes by at a pace my brain can absorb and I don't feel as though I'm intruding on the National Park with fumes, oil and noise.
The centre of the park has a visitor centre. Yeah whatever, we read a couple of signs and make use of the toilets. I do declare that the sun has made an appearance and it is already getting very warm. We cycle past the art museum complete with peculiar lumps of concrete outside. Yeah whatever. We cycle through the forest as the sun flashes between the trunks. Ah! That's more like it.
This is far better than visitor centres and museums. Look closely at Sharon's footwear - sexy!
We are happy gently pedalling through the trees and out into the open spaces. We stop to discuss the landscape as it is most engaging. The grassland that spreads out before us could easily be used as a backdrop for a savannah scene, it is easy to imagine a Wildebeast being stalked by a Lion in Africa or an American Indian Teepee would not look out of place. Where the savannah meets the trees I imagine ancient tribes looking into the distance in search of food. Sand dunes! I'm Laurence of Arabia (or the cartoon character "Beau Peep") making my way to a Beduin encampment under the scorching sun.
Africa? America? Nope, The Netherlands.
I need to emphasise this. I'm rarely impressed particularly by such nonsense as a few trees, a bit of grass and a handful of sand dunes. Perhaps the sun has gone to my head, perhaps it's the relief of not being trapped in the tent, perhaps I am finally starting to grow up. Whatever the reason I am absolutely engaged with De Hoge Veluwe and the various landscapes being presented to me today. My imagination is running wild, stimulated by the ambience of the location.
Water...water...I need water...so hot...so dry...so thirsty... Oh, there's a town about 5km that way.
We help a grass snake cross the cycle path safely. We take pictures. We sit on a high up wooden viewing bench. We talk. We cycle. We enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on our bodies. We watch a bird of prey hunting. We cover an estimated 10 miles with plenty of breaks in an easy afternoon. My only regret is the splendid gentleman is no longer on counter duty as we leave, I would have liked to thank him most sincerely.
How lucky have we been? Incredibly lucky. As we walk back to the campsite we stop for an ice cream then the rain returns as we get back to the tent. For a while the rain is light and intermittent, we have time between the showers to walk around the campsite and discover it is massive. We shower and we cook and we ponder where to go tomorrow. We endure a crashing thunderstorm with flashes of lightening illuminating the tent. This tent has aluminium poles, should I be concerned? After one final cup of tea it's time for bed.
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