I'd heard a lot about the cycle path along the River Rhine in Germany (otherwise known as Eurovelo 15) but after the disaster that was the Trans Pennine Trail I was a bit apprehensive that this cycle path would be more misleading signs, gravel paths and dead end hills.
The first few days in Germany we followed roads to get from the Netherlands boarder to Cologne. The second night we camped by the Rhine and met a lovely lady called Erica (our first cycle tourist!!) who was cycling from Basel to Rotterdam. We had a great meal with her, swapped stories and she assured us that the signs were easy to follow. The next day however we were back on the road as we couldn't see how to get on to the Rhine cycle path.
This took us into Cologne where we spent a day (the Cathedral was impressive but apart from a nice wander around there's not much else to do there). It was leaving Cologne that we finally found the Rhine path and we've stuck to it ever since, despite our sat nav trying to lead us on to the road and up some very big hills - the brightside being that I think our fitness is improving, we definately wouldn't have been able to cycle up them a few weeks ago:)
We have been following the river Rhine for a few days now and it was just as I had hoped :) lovely smooth, flat cyclepaths right by the river, stunning views with castles up on the hills at almost every riverbend, it's made the cycling and navigating nice and easy too! And every campsite so far has been by the river, which helpfully makes them really easy to find!
The only disaster we've had is that one of our tent poles has given up the ghost and snapped. So the past few nights we have been improvising by tieing the porch bit up to a tree. Although it works well it does mean that our whole view is blocked by a tree and it makes getting in and out of the tent a bit tricky.
One man told me we had to practise putting up a tent obviously thinking that we thought that was how it was supposed to be haha!
We stopped in Koblenz which was a great little town where another river meets the Rhine. You can see where the two different waters meet as the two colours are so different. We stopped for a cable car tide and icecream before setting off that day :)
The weather has cheered up and we are back to tshirts and sunglasses, hopefully I'll be able to sort out the stupid tan lines on my arms!
Since setting tyre in the Netherlands the weather has bebeen gorgeous, sunny, hot and on the most part not windy (apart from that one day, we don't talk about that day ). The houses are adorable and quaint and there is water mostly everywhere, it is like each individual house is on its own island, with a moat and sometimes even a drawbridge for the more dramatically inclined. It's been a wonderful first country to cycle through despite the many MANY people who have warned the weather won't last...but its just so hard to believe them when its so damn sunny!
We had a slight change of route to swing by Eindhoven to meet Lydia, my friend from school on HK who I've not seen for 18 years. I was really nervous before meeting her, I mean 18 years is a long time and what if I couldn't think of anything to say! I sat nervously on the steps of our hostel waiting for her to arrive, looking closely at every blond girl that passed by. But from the moment she cycled up to us I recognised her and it almost felt like the last 18 years hadn't happened and we had a lovely catch up. I'm really glad we made the stop and had the chance to talk about HK as we remember it before going back there for real at the end of this bike ride.
We're about to cross the border into germany and after 15 days on the road i thought I would make a list of all the things that i brought which it turns out,are unnecessary:
1) 4 coats
2) 7 bike lights
3) 1 stove and cooking set which without a small but apparently essential nozzle, is useless.
4) More glasses cases than I have glasses
Not too bad...next blog will be all the thing which i couldn't live without on a bike tour.
Everyone knows that the Netherlands is a cyclists dream, it's flat and perfect for pedalling and I'm serious when I say literally everyone rides a bike!
As well as the people you'd expect to see on bikes, teenagers, students and kids, I've also seen a man in a suit holding a briefcase, a mum with three kids in a box attached to the front doing the school run, kids on roller blades hanging onto the back of their parents bike for some speed, elderly couples doing their shopping, groups of old women out fir a weekend trip and, my favourite, a girl in a pencil skirt waiting at the lights, who wpuld run and jump onto the back of her boyfriends bike everything he set off again!
To handle this many cyclists the Dutch have had to make sure that their road infrastructure is top notch to avoid accidents. Which is fantastic really but it does make a rather confusing array of new rules for a tourist to get used to.
The first surprising thing I had to get used to was that scooters (and sometimes actual cars) are also allowed on the bike lanes. That was a surprise the fist time I was over taken by a man on a scooter speeding by!
The second was that there are bike paths literally everywhere, if you're not on a bike path then you probably shouldn't be there. It is really wonderful how bike friendly the whole of Holland is, such a nice difference to cycling in Manchester where you were on edge every moment.
The third thing to get used to is just how to cross roads safely, on a bike and on foot.
My Mum warned us to always check both ways before crossing a road as you obviously can't hear bikes coming - however I've noticed that in Amsterdam all the bikes have their own little quirks and personalities. Everyone's bike seems to make some sort of noise, some would whirr as they go by, others a more obvious clattering that makes me think they really should get it serviced, others have a bell that tinkles every time they go over a bump. Overall there is a great noise of clicking, wizzing, clattering, ringing and whirring that should alert us to a bikes proximity, unfortunately it doesn't help at all and there were still many near collisions, especially in Amsterdam!
Not only do they have the red, yellow and green lights for the cars, they also have the expected pedestrian crossing red and green man, but they also have a red and green light for bicycles. The intention is great but what it makes for is a dazzle of lights and colours leaving me not knowing where to look. It takes a bit of getting used to but once you do it is great system that is much safer for cyclists.
I've really enjoyed cycling in Holland and will be sad to leave tomorrow for Germany. But at the same time super excited for a new country:)
A Wheely Long Journey Blog
Charlie and Lou are twins from Cheshire, UK on a mission to cycle back to their childhood home in Hong Kong.