Going Dutch (August 5)

Harwich to Amsterdam

The overnight crossing from Harwich to Hook of Holland was either a very smooth crossing or I just slept through any unpleasant sea motions. Or maybe it was a little of both. Either way, I think it took all of five seconds to fall asleep once my head hit the pillow. The next thing I heard was music.

First view of Holland.

First view of Holland.

Clearly, I was still in a haze as I couldn’t figure out the source of the music. As my head slowly cleared, so too did my assessment of the situation. And then it all made sense. The song filling my cabin (and ears) was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, and it was the ferry’s morning 6:30 AM wake-up call. It was also stuck in my head for the better part of the day.

The first task of the day was to adjust my watch ahead one hour. It was a simple first task of the day. All things considered, most of today’s tasks were simple.

With my watch adjusted, I packed up my things and headed downstairs to await further instructions for disembarkation. Those instructions came around 7:30 AM. Fortunately, the cyclists didn’t have to wait until the very end disembark – standing on the enclosed car deck of a ferry with a bunch of running vehicles would’ve been more than a little unpleasant.

Welcome to the Netherlands.

Welcome to the Netherlands.

By 8:30 AM I was officially on Netherlands’ soil. Well, tarmac would be more accurate.

Evidence that there is a strong cycling culture in the Netherlands (and Holland specifically) was immediately noticed. It took all of about 30 seconds after disembarking the ferry to find myself riding along well-marked, isolated cycling lanes. This type of routing I could get used to. That said, I’m more than a little confident that I did NOT take the best route from Harwich to Amsterdam. It certainly wasn’t the most direct. Nor the most efficient. That said, I still managed to get there/here and probably 90% of the ride was on separated cycle lanes. Welcome to Holland.

To say there are a lot of cyclists in Amsterdam would be a gross understatement. There are literally STACKS of bicycles parked around the city. It’s rather remarkable. And at times a bit chaotic. But they’ve definitely spent a lot of time and money on the cycling infrastructure. Many of the lanes are completely isolated from traffic – including at roundabouts. Many (maybe most) intersections have three sets of traffic lights – for vehicles, for bicycles, and for pedestrians. And not only are there cycle lanes everywhere, many of them on the way to Amsterdam were on various versions of interlocking bricks. I’m no expert but I’m guessing it takes a lot more effort and time to create paths of interlocking bricks versus tarmac. Along today’s ride, I saw them working on yet another section of interlocking brick paths.

Bicycle parking at Central Station in Amsterdam.

Bicycle parking at Central Station in Amsterdam.

Even with all of the cycling lanes (or maybe BECAUSE of all the cycling lanes) it definitely would’ve been helpful to have a GPS guided track through Amsterdam. Without it, as I neared my day’s destination I ended up stopping frequently to confirm my route – all while trying to stay clear of cars, pedestrians, and a steady stream of cyclists. The cycling culture here is SO much different. And not just with all the cycle paths. Drivers are very much aware of and give way to cyclists. Interestingly, none (or very few) of the commuter cyclists wear helmets. And most of the bikes are of the commuter style (as opposed to road or mountain bikes).

I was unable to connect with a Warm Showers host for tonight so the aforementioned final destination of the day was the Vliegenbos campground. It’s in a rather central part of Amsterdam – although, it does require a VERY short ferry crossing. A ferry which is free and seems to run constantly.

Camping near Central Station in Amsterdam.

Camping near Central Station in Amsterdam.

The Vliegenbos campground is more than a little busy. I don’t know if this is a typical weekend crowd or not but this is now the busiest campground of my tour. That said, I was still able to find a spot for my tent – the joys of having a small tent!

Considering this is my first time in Amsterdam I’m having an embarrassingly quiet night. Mainly out of necessity. Okay, well … technically it’s not NECESSARY to get some writing done but it certainly falls into the sooner rather than later category. Plus, I also need to sort through my gear and figure out what I need to take to Africa. In reality, I don’t really have many options since I’m not exactly travelling with a lot of excess gear. That said, currently my gear is very much organized for cycling purposes so I need to do some repacking. I anticipate I will be travelling very lightly to Africa.

Side note: With all the time I had between my arrival in Glasgow and my arrival in Amsterdam, I’m embarrassed to say that it didn’t even occur to me to learn even a little Dutch. Fortunately, there is no shortage of English here but still, I should’ve learned SOMETHING. Sigh.

Oh, and I just ate the last of my Milk Chocolate Digestive cookies (correction, biscuits). Somehow I seemed to have become become mildly addicted to said biscuits during my brief tour through England.

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 89.80 km
Ride time: 4:50:34
Average speed: 18.54 km/h
Maximum speed: 37.61 km/h

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