This first week of my cycling trip was about wind, sunshine, saddles sores and knee troubles. I managed to cover 602.04km in six days on my bicycle. Due to really painful knees I decided to take two days off of cycling and this morning I took a train to Hamburg.
In total I have traveled over 800km in a week. Six days on a bike and one afternoon on a train. Not too bad!
Day 1 (April 1): Geel, Belgium – Dussen, the Netherlands
18.26h. A good first day, all in all. Very sunny weather, but pretty windy, especially the last 15km. Even though I had a late start at 11.00h, I managed to arrive at the B&B before 17.00h. I was a little nervous in the morning to be honest. It’s quite a big challenge after all! My dad rode the first 50km with me, which was nice.
I crossed the Belgian-Dutch border five times today. I rode through the odd town of Baarle-Hertog, which is an actual Belgian town completely surrounded by the Netherlands. Interesting place!
On my own now, curious about what lies ahead.
Day 2 (April 2): Dussen – Katwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands
21.13h. What a day! Started quite early at 10.10h after an amazing breakfast. Seriously, that was a bunch of food. Made some sandwiches for lunch too.
This northeasterly wind is really annoying. I’ve been struggling for most of the day. On top of that I missed a few signs and had to backtrack a couple of times. So I ended up doing a lot of unnecessary kilometres.
I didn’t get to the hostel until 19.00h. Hostels are possibly the cheapest places you can stay at, but I won’t be sleeping in a dorm anymore on this trip. That’s for sure. It’s such a hassle carrying all my bags (I’ve got seven, plus my sleeping bag) up the stairs. My stuff literally took up half the room. And after a day of cycling I really need rest and privacy. So it’s either going to be B&Bs, cheap hotels or my tent from now on. Big pizza, coke and an ice tea for dinner.
Day 3 (April 3): Katwijk aan Zee – Schagen, the Netherlands
23.56h. Brutal headwinds again. A lot worse than before. The last section was exhausting. I was so starved when I arrived in Schagen, I really need to eat more properly during the day. Had a nice dinner though: fried chicken, fries and a big salad. Dried fruits and nuts for dessert. My body starts hurting a little, but tried to take care of that as well as I could tonight.
Beautiful scenery today though. A big part was through and in between sand dunes on the North Sea coast. Took some busier and faster roads too for a while, to avoid the wind.
I need shorter days. It looks like this winds aren’t going to turn soon. Crossing the Enclosure Dam tomorrow, I expect a very difficult day.
Day 4 (April 4): Schagen – Sexbierum, the Netherlands
18.54h. Made it! Crossed the Enclosure Dam (Afsluitdijk). Short but very slow ride, 12.8km/h average. Five Beaufort headwinds all day long made it really tough. Especially the last part was hard again. It took me three hours to ride those 30km over the Dam, but I was mentally focused. A fantastic fish and chips lunch and my iPod kept me going. Music definitely gives a mental boost.
I was so relieved when I reached the town of Harlingen, but I still had a windy stretch ahead of me.
Pretty cold day today, 2-4°C. The Dam wasn’t that spectacular, just a very long and straight road. No great views or anything, but I’m glad and proud I did it. It really wasn’t an easy day.
Very saddle sore at the end of the day and that needs to be looked after. My legs felt better today. Just ordered macaroni and a beer for dinner. Winds need to turn!
20.58h. That was an awesome dinner. A mountain of pasta and a gigantic salad. Also had a second beer. Just handwashed some clothes.
Day 5 (April 5): Sexbierum – Niekerk, the Netherlands
20.08h. Fantastic day. When I walked in the dining room this morning I thought it was going to be a breakfast buffet, but it turned out to be all mine. That was definitely a great start to the day. I didn’t really need lunch after that big breakfast, but did have a sausage roll and dried fruit, nuts and m&ms. That’s why I love B&Bs. They always have an amazing breakfast and that keeps me going for a while. Can’t wait to camp out though, but it’s still too cold at night at the moment.
I chose to ride on busier roads today and from town to town. That was much faster and less windy. A lot less scenic too obviously, but I really didn’t mind. Last stretch was beautiful again and more quiet, but also more wind.
My knees hurt a lot today. I put the saddle 1cm higher in an attempt to solve that problem. Let’s see how that goes… Still a little saddle sore as well, but the knees are my main worry now.
Had to cycle back into town for dinner: plate of bami and chicken. I’m staying in a “farmtel” tonight. It’s a farm where you can rent a room or camp. It’s an awesome idea! I’m the only guest, so I’ve got the bar all to myself. Doing some work and planning there.
I checked my bike earlier, everything still looks good. I need to do laundry soon!
Day 6 (April 6): Niekerk, the Netherlands – Weener, Germany
19.55h. Fastest day so far. It was very sunny again and a really enjoyable day on the bike, except for my stupid knees. They hurt really badly and I’m getting scared of infections. I may take a day off tomorrow and take a train somewhere.
Had a great dinner once again. Schnitzel (hey, I’m in Germany!) with rice and curry sauce and ice cream for dessert. Also had lots of fruit today.
I kind of wanted to take a picture of the German border, but I completely missed it. Didn’t even notice I was in Germany until I looked at the next road sign. I love open borders!
Put something cold (a beer) on my knees all evening, but really should rest tomorrow…
Day 7 (April 7): Weener – Hamburg, Germany
14.22km by bike and approximately 200km by train.
12.36h. Cycled about 15km to the nearest train station on this quiet and misty Sunday morning. I’m on a train to Bremen as I’m writing this. I’ll be changing trains there and head to Hamburg, where I will spend two nights. Hopefully these two days off will be great for my knees. And I won’t lose momentum either, the region of Hamburg is where I wanted to be tomorrow night anyway!
20.26h. Was really surprised at how easy it is to take bikes on a train in Germany. Very good to know! Knees feel a little better, but still hurt after walking around for a bit. I’m going to take it really easy tomorrow, and finally do my laundry. My hotel is right next to the train station. Didn’t want my bike outside during the night, so I took it into my room.
Pretty good first week, all in all. I am where I intended to be (and even further at this point). Absolutely on target for Copenhagen on Friday!
It’s nice to be able to take some time and explore a new city, for sure.