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Home Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016

So, What About The Netherlands?

By Ren Withnell

We have the option of camping half way home. According to Google maps it is 260 miles back to Sharon's house which on two overladen 125cc motorcycles is quite an undertaking and it would make sense to camp tonight and split the journey. My mind is ready to go home though. That's it, we're done, stopping half way is just stretching out the inevitable return to reality and I just want to get it over and done with. I think we'll head for home in one shot but if it gets too much we can always find a campsite.

We ride on to the A14 and stop for breakfast at a truck stop. We continue on he A14 as the weather starts to close in. We catch the edge of a few massive showers as we approach the M6. The sun returns as our joints stiffen passing through Birmingham. We're tired and sore as we rest a while at Hilton Park Services. The last miles seem to take forever after Sandbach Services. Then we're back. 260 miles of dual carriageway and motorway in one day on 125cc bikes with camping luggage and after 1200 miles over the previous 2 weeks. I'd feel proud of Sharon and I if I weren't so bloody shattered.

2 125cc motorcycles loaded up with camping luggageWho'da thunk two 125s would manage it?

So...what about The Netherlands?

I knew before we left that there would be little in the way of breathtaking scenery and I have been proven correct. There is something of a sense of space to be found in the broad fields and endless skies (if it stops raining long enough to see the skies). De Hoge Veluwe offered a welcome change to the endless farmland or the typically bland European cities. We never found the brightly coloured fields filled with flowers. There are but a handful of the old wooden windmills left. Once you've seen one canal you've seen them all, surely? The dykes are impressive as are the other waterworks though for myself and Sharon this was not enough to make every day a day to behold visually.

A large business or apartment block in AmsterdamCities are cities and Amsterdam is a city.
A long straight path runs into the distance on a long dutch dykeDykes are Dykes much like this one.

What sets The Netherlands apart are the people. While not every Dutch person is an angel in clogs they are generally more open and sociable that we Brits. A polite smile and short "Hello" are naturally offered all around and they're happy to engage in conversation. We met some wonderful folks with positive attitudes and a welcoming demeanour - from campers and caravanners to counter staff and chatty locals. Of course we found the odd grump and curmudgeon, these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

2 very friendly and helpful Dutch caravanners smile to the camera from their caravanFabulous folks with warm genuine smiles.

No matter how gentle and open they are to strangers Dutch driving leaves quite a lot to be desired at times. Generally traversing the highways and byways can be done with an acceptable level of safety as long as you stay alert. They do like to tailgate and are rather impatient at junctions too. I got talking to a camper and it works a little something like this - rules are rules and rules are there to be bent or even broken. Speed limits can be enforced but most drivers see them as guidelines. Road markings are confusing enough for everyone to view them as "suggestions". While the Dutch are so clean and tidy in their homes and their surroundings their approach to being on the roads is chaotic.

Watch out for the cyclist for cyclist is GOD. Imagine you are in bed asleep and your car is parked on your own private drive. Imagine then a cyclist crashes into your empty car. Unless you can utterly and absolutely prove otherwise it is automatically your fault, such is the weight of the law in favour of the bicycle rider. In cities this causes terror at any intersection or street where a cyclist is in view - which is nearly all the time. Most of them kind of, sort of, occasionally follow some rules but never believe for one second they will. Amsterdam is a fearful place to ride or drive.

A female Dutch cyclist riding through AmsterdamIf she runs into you - get a lawyer quick!

Finally we have been asked if we'd go back. Unfortunately I'd have to say no, not without good reason. If a bunch of friends were going I'd happily join them. If there was a rally I'd like to attend then I'd go. Yet we both agree there's not a lot that made us yearn to return as soon as possible. I'm glad we went and I'm thankful to have learned a little about Dutch life and a tasted a sample of what The Netherlands has to offer. I guess I like my mountains and valleys more than I thought.

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?

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
What I've always found odd about the Netherlands is that they define themselves by the country's relationship to something else (ie nether or near lands). Near to what I ask you? I can understand other countries using that term about it but to use it yourself seems to show some strange psychological quirk. Holland is a much nicer name although I don't know what its derivation is, and the Low Countries is at least descriptive although I accept it covers more than just the Netherlands.

Col du Tourmalet was in the clouds yesterday and I was a little disappointed that the unsurfaced road leading to the Pic du Midi is no longer accessible by vehicle - would have been nice in the Discovery although maybe a bit terrifying in 10 metre or so visibility......

There is however a nice little restaurant along a dirt track where they serve excellent mutton so the trip wasn't in vain.

An easy day today with only a couple of scenic valleys (probably). Sun is shining, at least here at 500 metres or so.
21/09/2016 09:42:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The Netherlands - according to Wikipedia - literally translates to "lower countries". I accept that Wiki is not always correct though!

Don't be telling me anything other than the Pyrenees is constantly bathed in glorious sunshine and warm temperatures otherwise Sharon will not be wanting to go! Mist? Oh you mean hazy sunshine surely.

Keep on struggling through Ian. Be brave, soldier on and you'll make it through these hard times you're obviously facing right now. Pfffft. Not fair.

22/09/2016 12:52:42 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I do think you're right Ren - at least my Shorter Oxford agrees with you. Another brick in the wall of useless information!

Now back in the UK after a somewhat rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay and catching up......
29/09/2016 09:58:03 UTC
Åsa said :-
I'm having a good time reading your posts! I passed the Netherlands in spring, bringing my Versys from Sweden to England - I called it the Tulip Tour, because I did see flowers (you have to go in spring you see). I also had to ride in snow, sleet and hail... but that was just unlucky surely. However, it was worth it, it always is :) Try again, it is a lovely country!

Dutch tulips
11/12/2016 07:48:34 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Asa,

Thanks for the lovely picture. So the flowers are real and not just tourist hype.

I did realise we had gone too late to see the tulips put had hoped to see other flowers but to no avail. But good to see them in your photo.

Although I saw no flowers the best this about the Netherlands to me still reamins the beautiful and colourful Dutch people themselves. So friendly and warm, especially on those oh to frequant rainy days we had over there.

I have had a look at you blog. Interesting stuff and good to see a lady rider getting out and about and having so many fantastic adventures on her bike.

If you are ever out and about near us please give us a message, it would be nice to meet up with you and Christopher for a little ride together.

Happy and safe riding to you both and many happy adventures to come x
11/12/2016 09:11:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Sharon - I met Asa this weekend at The Chunky Tread rally. I'll tell ya all about it when I see ya :)
12/12/2016 11:35:21 UTC
Feiko said :-
First of all, thank you for sharing your story in your blog. I really like the way you describe the journey.

Second I like to explain the difference between the Netherlands and Holland. When you speak about the Netherlands, it's the whole country with all 12 provinces. Holland is only 2 provinces: North-Holland with Amsterdam in it and South-Holland. This two provinces are from the afsluitdijk along the coast till Rotterdam. It's only a part of the country but in the past this was the richest part of the Netherlands.

As third and last I really hope your journeys aren't ended, so I vocab keep enjoying your blog. Save travels!
04/03/2018 09:47:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks Feiko! I have made a point of referring to The Netherlands rather than Holland all the way through the story. Before I set off I watched a YouTube video which explained the difference just as you have.

It would be like refering to England as Kent!

We have more trips planned. They'll be all on here.
05/03/2018 07:25:07 UTC

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