Amsterdam Today, Bogota Tomorrow

Amsterdam - city of tiny cars that drive in the bike lane and park on the sidewalk.

Amsterdam – city of tiny cars that drive in the bike lane and park on the sidewalk.

We’re back in Amsterdam, one of our favorite cities, on our way to South America! With we said goodbye to Asia with heavy hearts and are on our way to Bogota, Colombia. We’re excited, as none of us have ever been to S. America. Our Spanish is weak to nonexistent (ahem, that would be me), so this is going to be a great opportunity to learn a language, or at least some of it!

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As usual, we don’t have a full agenda planned out. Our idea is to land in Bogota, stay for a week or so and figure out our next steps. We’ll likely explore Colombia a bit, then move on to other countries. As we do our research and formulate a plan we’ll be looking for interesting subjects and themes to guide our adventures and learning. There is no shortage of things to explore in S. America. We’ll let you know what we find….

Speaking of that, we are waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind on blog posts. We’ve been slowly working on “flashback posts” to try and catch up. Here are the places we’ve been which we have yet to blog about:

  • Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Bodufolhudhoo, Maldives
  • Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
  • Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Mirissa, Sri Lanka
  • Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
  • Ella, Sri Lanka
  • Udawalawa, Sri Lanka

As you can see, we are waaaaaaaaaay behind! We’ll catch-up with “flashbacks” as we can, and try to do a better job of staying up to date as we hit S. America. I hope the internet connections there are better than what we’ve had lately.

That’s all for now. I have to go run some errands to get ready for tomorrow’s flight to Bogota. Hasta luego!

Back to Amsterdam

With our “Rhine from source to sea” trip officially complete, we still needed to get back to Amsterdam, so this morning we got up, had a big breakfast at the hotel, packed our bikes again and hit the road. The plan was to ride to The Hague (Den Haag) and catch a train to Amsterdam.

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

We took a route that followed a long bike trail all along the coast, hugging the beach and this turned out to be another really nice ride and one of our favorite days on the bikes, simply because the landscape was once again surprisingly beautiful. The past few days in the Netherlands have been such a pleasant surprise and really a highlight of the trip.

Yesterday as we rolled into Hook of Holland, we saw a playground that looked like a good one (we are in the Netherlands after all!) and I promised Jette we could stop there today. So, on our way out of town we took a very slight detour and stopped at the playground, which was tucked into the landscape between the edge of town and the beach.

Walking down to the playground

Walking down to the playground

It is frustrating as our photos don’t even begin to capture the subtle beauty of the landscape.  In addition the the typical playground equipment, this park also features a long zip line tucked down in a small, green crevasse. The whole park is full of lush grasses and small wildflowers that dance in the wind and almost glow in the sunlight filtering through the clouds. To the eye, there is a most beautiful and subtle variation of color, texture, and motion that is totally lost to the camera, at least in our quick snapshots.

Diverse and beautiful landscape

Diverse and beautiful landscape

View towards the ocean

View towards the ocean

A little black cat hunting in meadow

A little black cat hunting in meadow

Anyway, we parked our bikes and walked down the little, winding footpath to the zip line and had some fun on the zip line and the other playground equipment.

Little gymnast

Little gymnast

Will the big kid break it?

Will the big kid break it?

Zippy

We hopped back on our bikes and rode along the same path that we took yesterday to get to the beach. As we reached the dunes along the edge of the beach, we turned right onto a path that runs along the beach, and goes all the way up the coast to Den Haag.

Back towards the beach

Back towards the beach

Our route was North and little bit East which meant that the strong southwesterly wind coming off the North Sea was an almost perfect tailwind for much of the day. That made pedaling easy and was certainly a welcome treat after battling the headwinds yesterday!

As we rode North, we sometimes the path ran right along the top of the dunes at the edge of the beach. At other times we curved inland, up and down along dykes, with the dunes and the beach to our left.

Hurry up dad!

Hurry up dad!

Pretty colors in the landscape

Pretty colors in the landscape

In a couple of places we passed huge complexes of greenhouses.

Sunlight reflecting on the roofs of the grreenhouses

Sunlight reflecting on the roofs of the grreenhouses

Along the dykes, everything was green and spotted with windflowers. Among the dunes, the grasses were taller and more heavily textured, and the colors of the plants shifted to a softer green and picked up the creamy yellows of the sandy dunes and the beach.

Sea grasses

Sea grasses

Amazing light, colors and textures

Amazing light, colors and textures

Dancing in the wind

Dancing in the wind

At De Zandmotor we took a break and walked down to the beach. De Zandmotor is a massive coastal protection project where they have dredged sand from the sea bottom and deposited it at the shore. They have constructed a giant penninusula that is  1km by 2km and over time, the winds and tides of nature will shift the sand along the coast, incorporating it into the existing dunes and beach, making them bigger and providing more protection. They call it “building with nature.”

Reading about the Sand Motor

Reading about the Sand Motor

Views at high and low tide

Views at high and low tide

Warning

Warning

Walking down to the beach

Walking down to the beach

The dredged sand is full of tiny shells

The dredged sand is full of tiny shells

Handstands and a double horizon

Handstands and a double horizon

Mila at the water's edge

Mila at the water’s edge

At the water's edge

At the water’s edge

We hopped back on our bikes and before long we were in Den Haag where we headed to the central station and bought tickets for Amsterdam. Fifteen minutes later we were on the train with our bikes, and an hour or so after that we rolling our bikes off the train at Amsterdam Centraal. We hopped on our bikes and once again rode to Camping Zeeburg and pitched our tent.

At the Den Haag train station

At the Den Haag train station

Looking down on Camping Zeeburg

Back in Amsterdam and looking down at Camping Zeeburg

Up goes the tent

Up goes the tent – for the last time on this trip!

Day 23: Rhenen to the North Sea – We made it!

Today we took a couple trains and we rode 46.44 km.

This is it! This is the day we made it to the North Sea, the mouth of the Rhine.

We call this “the day that would not end.” It was a great day, and a very, very long day.
This will probably be a long post!

We awoke to a wet and misty morning. Before I loaded my bike, I laid it on its side, removed the new bellcrank and squirted about a half bottle of Finish Line Wet Cross Country chain lube (which is really a good quality, high-viscosity synthetic oil) into the hub. I don’t think I mentioned it in yesterday’s post, but with the hills around Arnhem and the weight I’m carrying I’ve pushed the hub to its very limits yet again. I got the brakes so hot on one of the downhills that I burned out the remaining grease. There is a good likelihood that there were/are some metal fragments floating around in there too, as not only were the brakes “screaming” when engaged, the hub was making squealing noises when I pedaled and even when I coasted. This is how it sounded as we rolled into Rhenen last night:

Before we checked into the hotel, we stopped at a local bike shop to see if they had any of the special Shimano grease for the Nexus hubs. They did not. I intended to take a couple tubes with me from the beginning, but I have yet to find a bike shop in the Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland that would sell me a tube! Some of the bike shops had their own stash for their shops, but they wouldn’t sell me one. When I had the rear tire replaced in Koblenz I bought the bottle of the Finish Line lube as a substitute, “just in case.” I’m glad I did, because it worked. This morning before we started off, I put about half the bottle in the hub with the hope that it would flush out any metal fragments and also seep through to the brake shoes and give them some much needed lubrication. It did. As we rode into town to find breakfast, the hub was quiet and smooth as were the brakes. Nice!

We stopped for breakfast at a cute bakery and enjoyed some hot tea and pastries. I had a delicious apple pastry. It was so good we got two more for the road.

Our breakfast stop

Our breakfast stop

Cute spot

Cute spot

Tea

Tea

As we were eating, we looked at the weather forecast and the calendar. The forecast was for rain today and the next couple days. Mila and Jette were not keen on riding in the cold rain, but there was no way we could make it to the North Sea if we took any more rain days. We were simply too slow for the days we have remaining. After some debate, we agreed reluctantly that if we were to hit the finish line by bike we would have to take another train. The plan was to train to Rotterdam and ride the final 40k or so to the Hook of Holland and the coast of North Sea. So, we packed our delicious apple pastries, hopped on our bikes and started riding toward the train station. The mist of the morning had turned to rain. A slow, cold, steady rain.

At the Rhenen train station

At the Rhenen train station

There was no ticket agent and the station, only a ticket machine. To get to Rotterdam from Rhenen the trains went through Utrecht. There was a train at the station, and we couldn’t figure out how to buy passes on the bicycles on the ticket machine, so we just bought three tickets for Rotterdam and jumped on the train. Once again it was a local train that allowed us to roll the bikes on fully loaded. So easy and so nice!

On the train the Utrecht

On the train the Utrecht

The wet green landscape out the window

The wet green landscape out the window

 

Bike parking at one of the little stations along the way

Bike parking at one of the little stations along the way

It wasn’t long before we arrived in Utrecht where we rolled the bikes off the train, and headed for the ticket office there.

Elevator in Utrecht station

Elevator in Utrecht station

I told the ticket agent that I’d purchased three tickets to Rotterdam using the machine in Rhenen but that I couldn’t figure out how to purchase the bike passes. She was super-friendly and asked to see our tickets (actually “OV chipcards”). I gave them to her and she immediately saw that we had purchased an adult fare for Jette. She looked Jette in the eye and asked her how old she was.

Jette said, “Ten.”

“Oh,” the ticket agent said with a smile.  “Then you have overpaid. I owe you some money.”

She proceeded to count out 14 Euros and give them to Jette, who smiled and said, “Thank you!”

This lady made our day. A smile and positive attitude makes such a difference and this nice lady went above and beyond.

Tickets and bike passes in hand, we rolled our bikes to platform 8 and a few minutes later, onto the train to Rotterdam.

Bikes crammed into the train

Bikes crammed into the train

At 11:37 we rolled the bikes off the train at Rotterdam Central Station.

On the platform in Rotterdam

On the platform in Rotterdam

Station Exit

Station Exit

Leaving the Rotterdam Station

Leaving the Rotterdam Station

In Rotterdam we had sunny skies! Yay!

We rode through Rotterdam, winding through the city.

When we saw this cute frites stand, of course we had to stop and sample their wares.

Frites!

Frites!

Pomms

Pomms

We rode on until we reconnected with the river. When we did, we stopped at an old marina to snap a few photos.

Quick stop at an old marina

Quick stop at an old marina

We were very luck and spotted the rare and elusive Rotterdam Monkey.

Rotterdam monkey

Rotterdam monkey

Route through Rotterdam

Route through Rotterdam

From here on, the route runs along the North shore of the river, all the way to the Hook of Holland and the North Sea.

An old windmill in the middle of the city

An old windmill in the middle of the city

Somewhere in the outer ‘burbs of Rotterdam, Mila thought her rear tire was losing air. We stopped, I pulled the hand pump out of the trailer and pumped it up. This was the first time we had topped-up her tires on the whole trip!

Tire inflated

Tire inflated

In the outer burbs, we passed a giant shopping center and really started to feel the wind from the North Sea, which would turn out to be a brutal headwind for the rest of the day.

We rode through a couple cute little towns, some very industrial areas, and then the route curved down, right along the shore of the Rhine.

We were only about 15 km from the Hook of Holland but this is where the day would begin to feel like it would never, ever end. We rode and we rode and we rode and sometimes it seemed like we were getting farther and farther from the North Sea. Was that powerful wind blowing us backwards?! It sure felt like it!

On the left side we had the Rhine and on the right the industrial areas gave way to a long, beautiful park, green with grassy lawns and forested areas.

The path and the park

The path and the park

Giant Windmills

Giant Windmills

There were giant windmills, huge cranes, big smokestacks and of course big ships – all the things you would expect to see along the biggest port in Europe. For 40 years, Rotterdam was the busiest port in the world. In recent years Singapore and Shanghai and other ports have surpassed it in shipping volume.

We came upon a section of the river where there was a massive sand bar that formed a sort of “beach.” With the sun to the West, we could see trails of footprints snaking out across the sand. It was enticing and we stopped for a few minutes so Jette could go down and explore.

The sandy beach

The sandy beach

Jette climbing back up

Jette climbing back up

On we go

On we go

Against the wind

Against the wind

Water break

Water break

As we approached the Hook of Holland, we came up onto the dykes and rode past large floodgates and water control facilities.

Approaching Hook of Holland

Approaching Hook of Holland

Water control facility

Water control facility

As we come into the Hook of Holland, we pass more sheep and some lighthouses.

Into the Hook of Holland

Into the Hook of Holland

Lighthouses

Lighthouses

We ride and ride and ride some more and finally catch a glimpse of the North Sea!

1 km from the beach

1 km from the beach!

We ride for another ten minutes and suddenly we are surrounded by beautiful sand dunes and a winding network of bike paths (this is the Netherlands after all!).

Sand dunes and bike paths

Sand dunes and bike paths

Around and over some dunes and we see the North Sea and the beach!!!!!!!!!

Dipping our toes in the North Sea

Dipping our toes in the North Sea

We did it!

We did it!

Ha! I did it!

Ha! I did it!

The North Sea at the Rhine Delta

The North Sea at the Rhine Delta

1,124 km

1,124 km

Wet and happy, glowing with accomplishment, we rode back into Hook of Holland and found a hotel. The first B&B we tried was booked, but we found a room at the Grand Hotel.

Grand Hotel Hook of Holland

Grand Hotel Hook of Holland

Source to Sea!

Source to Sea!

They did it

They did it

After checking in and clowning around in our room, we walked to an Italian restaurant down the street for dinner.

A well-earned dinner

A well-earned dinner

Jette's calloused hands

Jette’s calloused hands

We did it!

What a river. What a ride. What an experience… There is so much that we have seen, so much that we have learned, and so much that we have enjoyed on this journey.

Day 22: Arnhem to Rhenen

We rode 49.76 km from Arnhem to Rhenen.

I woke up early. Mila and Jette were still asleep, so I walked to the little grocery store across the street to get some things for our breakfast. The streets were still wet, but the rain had stopped. It was cool, maybe 11 or 12 degrees celsius (low 50’s) and the morning commuters were riding by on their bicycles in coats and scarves. I was in shorts and sandals, my typical riding outfit, and I got quite a few doubletakes and stares. Jette and I are both fairly cold tolerant and don’t like to get bundled up, especially when we are being active. On this trip we’ve marveled at how, to us, many Europeans appear to be overdressed. I suppose they dress for the morning temperatures or the worst case scenario, but when the day goes from 55 to 73 and they are still walking around in down jackets and scarves it is our turn to stop and stare!

Mila and Jette were awake when I got back and we had a quick breakfast of bread and fruit. We packed our bags and retrieved our bikes from the hotel basement. We were ready to roll.

Ready to leave Arnhem

Ready to leave Arnhem

I checked the map on my phone. There would be no trouble getting back on route this morning, as the hotel (the little yellow star on this map) was right on it. Off we went to the West.

We rode past the main train station, made a bit of a jog and were faced with a pretty big hill. That was a surprise! We didn’t think they had these in The Netherlands! We were about to be even more pleasantly surprised, as today’s ride turned out to be one of the prettiest and most surprising of the whole trip.

We were parallel the train tracks, and as we rode up, we left the center city and came into a more residential area. The leafy suburbs, if you will. It wasn’t long before we started seeing signs like this one.

Sign for Route LF4b

Sign for Route LF4b

The Netherlands has a national network of cross-country bicycle routes, and we’ll be following the East-West LF 4b route for this part of our trip. Of course we’re still following the EuroVelo 15 Route for the full length of the Rhine, but as one crosses from country to country the EV 15 “uses” various local, regional, or national routes, so the signs and route names change along the way. One universal is that the route is well marked, and I think it could be done quite easily without even the need for a map for navigation. It has been nice to have maps, but we’ve really needed them very little.

From the quiet streets of the pretty residential area, the route turns onto a bike path through some really beautiful forested parks.

Forested parks near Arnhem

Forested parks near Arnhem

It was a surprise and a bit surreal. It was so unexpected and so pretty that I almost got goosebumps. It was an experience that would be repeated a number of times today.

We wound around, up and down through the forests occasionally coming out into of getting little peeks of bright green meadows and fields, sometimes with sheep or cows or horses grazing. The photos don’t capture it, and I can’t put it into words, but it was a truly magical landscape. And the light. It was as if there was a different sun illuminating this world as the visible sunbeams came streaming through the forest canopy and through the clouds over the impossibly green fields.

Through the forests and by the meadows

Through the forests and by the meadows

Some photos that just don’t capture it:

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At one point we came out of the trees and ran along a huge, luxurious equestrian estate complete with modern buildings with impeccably thatched roofs. There were large, ornate gates to the property and two large signs with the Glock logo. We were totally confused. Glock is the Austrian arms manufacturer that popularized the polymer handgun and is one of the largest handgun producers in the world.

The Glock facilityThe Glock facility

glock

As we passed the gate and rode along beside the estate, we passed a security guard who didn’t look too friendly and perhaps the fanciest stables I’ve ever seen. There were other nice buildings and a number of luxury cars. We were perplexed. What does Glock have to do with horses? Later on I googled it, and found that Glock does indeed have an equestrian operation and this was indeed part of it. It tuns out the company also has in interesting history of embezzlement that includes an attempt on the founder’s life and a general history that reads like pulp fiction (or an old season of Dallas).

As we rode on, the route alternated between forest trails ended and quiet roads through pretty villages or residential areas.

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Stopping to snap photos of thatched roofs

Stopping to snap photos of thatched roofs

Lots of cute little houses with thatched roofs

Lots of cute little houses with thatched roofs

We left the residential area behind and rode through a large forested park or nature preserve on a small road. There were lots of trails and people out walking, many of them with dogs. Somewhere along here we missed a sign and go way off route. We realized our mistake and backtracked. The sign we missed was for a turn at the bottom of a long, fast downhill and it was immediately apparent why we missed it. It was facing the wrong way! Anyway we were back on track with a few extra kilometers on the odometer.

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At times we could see the green fields and dykes on the edge of the forest.

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In the village of Heelsum we stopped for lunch at Mamajona cafe.

Map of Heelsum

Mamajona cafe

Mamajona cafe

Salad

Salad

Sandwiches at Mamajona

Sandwiches at Mamajona

We rode on and as we came to the edge of the village we heard planes passing low overhead. I looked up and there were two old biplanes. There were more planes int he sky ahead and suddenly parachutes too. A little further on the route switched from a street to a path though a large field. Except we could barely see the path – it was crowded with people.

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Clearly we had stumbled upon one of the events associated with the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem. As if on cue, more planes passed over and streaming out of them came more airborne troops with the old, round military parachutes of WWII.

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We watched the parachutists and then made our way through the crowd. Back on quiet streets we passed through another very pretty residential area on the edge of forests and fields.

Passing through another pretty residential area

Passing through another pretty residential area

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We left the quiet streets and turned onto a smooth, wide bike path that skirted the edge of the forest and the fields.

Coming out into the fields

Coming out into the fields

On the edge of the forest and fields

On the edge of the forest and fields

It wasn’t long before the path moved up to the top of a dyke, with fields on our left and houses on our right.

Up onto the dyke

Up onto the dyke

Mila and the sheep

Mila and the sheep

Past happy, grazing sheep

Past happy, grazing sheep

We were getting tired and the sky was looking ominous. According to Google Maps, there were no good camping options nearby. There appeared to be two hotels in Rhenen, so we decided that would be our stopping point for the day. We rolled into town and found the first hotel. It was closed and empty. Thankfully the second hotel was still in business and had a room available. Before we had even unpacked our bikes, the sky got dark and it started pouring rain.

Hotel bicycle parking

Hotel bicycle parking

Hotel bike room

Bikes safely tucked away, we had a nice bath and dinner then called it a night. It had been a beautiful day with beautiful scenery. The photos really don’t capture the magic and the beauty of the varied landscapes we saw today, the tiny wildflowers hiding in the fields, and the quality of the light. Today was a good day.