Friday, August 27, 2010

A Series of Ferries; Wind and Rain

The end of August looked like the end of summer in the north eastern Netherlands and north western Germany. The ferries are fun. The wind and rain were hard.

One morning we woke up surrounded by a swamp. The grassy area where we'd set up the tent (thankfully we'd decided on the high spot) was almost all one big puddle. Joshua went barefoot to roll the bikes out of the water and I packed up a very soggy tent.

We learned a lot about keeping our spirits up when things are not so fun. Lots of singing and thanking our great gear. For a few days I took almost no photos. Mostly, we were riding with rain. The wind changed direction - and for half a day we were beating through rain and a wind coming from the north, at our side. We plowed across the Netherlands, singing songs to each other and to the wind.

Riding in the rain, almost to Groningen, the bike path ended into a terribly muddy pit - and signs saying to go no further. Trucks working in the mud had already tracked a lot of gunk onto the path, and our bikes were pretty muddy anyway, but after turning around and trying to go another way, we ended up on a squishy road where we got just caked with muck. Yuck! With a pretty bad case of the grumpies we rolled past the campsite at Groningen and into town. When we found a cafe, we just stopped and enjoyed being out of the rain for a few hours. Sometimes, the best thing to do is take a break. We debated going back to the campsite on the outside of town, or finding a hotel, or going another 10km to a campsite further east. In the end, we powered to the next campsite which was practically empty. The holiday months in Europe really are July and August. We arrived when it was no longer raining, so Joshua set up a shelter so we'd have a place to eat breakfast if it rained during the night. It did rain, and the soggy ground just swelled further, making the earth even under the shelter wet.

By the third day I thought we'd had it with the rain, but we managed to ride through the worst side-wind, rain combo yet, along a direct road (bike routes meandered too much for that kind of not fun weather) and made it to the German border at Nieuwenshans. Again we stopped at a cafe for a couple of hours, to collect our wits, let the gear dry (yup, the sun came out while we were stopped), and gather strength to ride back into Germany once again. Joshua got some good advice from the cafe owner, and we thought we had a 10km ride to a ferry ahead of us. The sun was still out, and we had plenty of time to make it to the ferry.

10km turned out to be 20km, and the wind was still coming from the north, the direction we were now headed. Joshua gallantly pulled us north alongside a high dyke, and we sang out 'Bohemian Rhapsody' at the top of our lungs to compete with the wind and our tired brains and bodies.

Our first in-field cycling experience, the sheep were experienced

View of the town of Ditzum from up on the dyke 

Although we made it to the ferry terminal much later than expected we were relieved to find we hadn't missed the last ferry. The ride even turned out to be free; we do not know why. We crossed the Ems River once again, the same tiny stream we'd seen outside of Rheda-Wiedenbruck turned into a massive river, and after another 6km we found a nice hotel in Emden. It was a good night to sleep in a bed.

Ems River near the mouth

Wind tired, but surviving and cozy

Let's get to Emden! We're gonna make it!

Fully loaded, thank you for pulling us through

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