Dusseldorf to Beek (76 miles)
Today was always going to be a tough day and when my alarm woke me at 6.30 and I saw torrential rain, it certainly started that way. I won’t lie, it was a challenging goodbye and when I cycled away from Hanna and a warm cosy bed into a wet and cold Easter Monday I did wonder what the hell I was doing! In addition, today was a long day. At over 70 miles, it would be 20 miles longer than any day so far. However, all of this I did already have an idea about. What I’d not considered was the wind. I’ve read many a complaint about head winds on various cycling blogs but I had failed to consider it so far! Today was like cycling through treacle for numerous parts of the day.
In summary, we left Düsseldorf and retraced our steps for the first couple of hours. We made good progress and stopped for a Subway where we spent far too much time. It wasn’t long after that the wind picked up to around 20km per hour and continued to increase throughout the day. No hurricane but enough to make forward movement a challenge. There wasn’t much we could do except cycle on. We were staying the night with my friend Ruben and his wife and boy, Santi and Timo. We’d originally planned for a 5pm arrival but after gradually delaying the ETA, we eventually arrived at around 8.30 in time for some food and a beer before hitting the hay. 76 miles with over half into headwind made for a very good night’s sleep. It was good to see Ruben and family even if it was a short stay.
Beek to Deventer (43 miles)
After the previous day’s effort it was an unsurprisingly sluggish start to the day. Once we left, we went to the city of Nijmegen, famous for a huge annual walking festival. I had been here the previous summer and Al had also visited befofe so we didn’t hang around too long before making tracks. Being Holland, it was a fairly cycle to Arnhem where we stopped for lunch. There were a few minor climbs in the afternoon and we passed through some beautiful forests which are part of the National Park Veluwezoom. Despite a shorter day, due to our later start we arrived into Deventer in the evening. This wasn’t such a bad thing as the sun was out and slowly setting and Deventer was a lovely picturesque town. I think my favourite time of the day has become the golden hour before the sun disappears so this made for lovely cycling. Our Warmshowers hosts were Maarten and Céline and after kindly welcoming us in they revealed an incredible view. From the lounge you could see the River Ijssel, the town and surrounding fields and the setting sun. Both Maarten and Céline are experienced cycle tourers so it was interesting to hear about their own trips which had taken them to New Zealand and also for Maarten across parts of Africa. Thanks for a lovely evening guys!
Deventer to Henglo
From Deventer, we had three days to get to Hamburg and a much needed rest day. We followed the long distance cycle routes for much of the day which were lovely but certainly meandered through the countryside somewhat. It meant our progress wasn’t as good as we had liked and despite covering the best part of 70 miles the previous day, it was more like 50 as the crow flies. We found a wild camping spot next to some sort of large oil platform and luckily we went unnoticed again.
Henglo to somewhere (woods camp)
Another day progressing towards Hamburg and we arranged for a Warmshowers stay the following night in Bremen. Google Maps had told us to follow the 213, however it was forbidden to cycle on some of this which meant more detours to add on to the mileage. The dry weather was still holding out which was a bonus and we cycled into the early evening before turning off down a track into the woods. We were about to set up camp when we noticed a couple further down the track with a very large dog. A combination of my poor German and their better English and a look of exhaustion and innocence and they kindly allowed us to camp in their woods. They left shortly after and we had the woods to ourselves with the benefit of permission to camp for the first time on the trip!
Lähden to Bremen
A reasonably early start meant we should have arrived into Bremen by 4pm however more trouble with the 213 added yet more mileage and another 70+ mile day. We made it to Julian and Ole’s house by 7ish. Julian had recently moved into the house and it was actually Ole who I had contacted to ask if we could be hosted. Ole was actually away but after checking with Julian, he let us stay in his room anyway. Amazing generosity! Due to arriving late and torrential rain that evening we didn’t get to see much of the city but what I did see, I liked. The people also seemed friendly with some asking us a into our trip and welcoming us to their city. I’d certainly go back if the chance came up.
Bremen to Hamburg 76 miles)
Our last day before a day off in Hamburg was another long one and turned out to be one of the toughest so far. A fairly ordinary start meant we covered some decent miles either on the road or on bike paths. The weather turned as we approached Hamburg and some heavy rain set in. We approached a bridge and although there were barriers stopping cars going down, the bike lane wasn’t blocked. We cycled round and kept going for another 3km until we reached the bridge. At this point there were a lot more barriers and the bridge seemed completely deserted. As we stepped past the barriers, a loud speaker sounded with an angry sounding German saying something. I only caught the first word which was Warum (why) but we didn’t need to understand the words. It was pretty clear that we weren’t going any further. We had no choice but to turn around and cycle the 3km back into the wind and rain. As we renavigated our route into the city we also encountered a closed road, then my front rack which holds the panniers on came loose and Google also tried to send us through the car park of a Mercedes-Benz factory car park, which had locked gates. To cross the river we were looking for a bridge which in fact turned out to be a tunnel (the Elbe Tunnel), similar to the one in Antwerp. I couldn’t work out why we were exactly where we were supposed to be but couldn’t see a way across the river. We finally arrived at the hostel at around 9pm where I discovered they had no record of my reservation. It felt like the gods were against us but luckily they had still had space for us and within the hour we were showered and had a pint in our hand.
I actually didn’t take any photos of Hamburg nor did I do much in the way of sightseeing. I had visited before so it didn’t feel like a total wasted opportunity. Plus we only had one day off and we had done some long days over the past week. It was a day of washing clothes, sleeping and trying to write some blog. Okay, I was also hungover a little but they were well deserved beers after our final push to this city. (Note – No spot the Al in this post but he’ll be returning in the next one!)