Day 1½: London to Harwich to HoH to (just beyond) Haarlem

These blog posts are about our cycle tour to The Netherlands in August 2014.  We took the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland on a Friday night, spent a week exploring before taking the ferry back to Harwich the following Saturday.

We spent Thursday night packing up our stuff ready to leave on Friday evening for the ferry. Going for a week cycle camping, as most of you know, requires precisely the same amount of stuff as going for a weekend. I’ve pretty much got my packing sorted now so it isn’t so hard, everything has its place sort of i.e. the sleeping pannier, the clothing pannier etc etc.  I had arranged to go into work late on Friday so I could avoid commuting on a fully loaded tourer in rush hour. I always find that getting onto a loaded touring bike puts me in a completely different frame of mine to, say, my commuting hack, and I pottered gently into town, taking quiet back streets, not racing and enjoying cycling in London.

After an easy day at work finished off with a few wines at our Friday afternoon bar, I meandered over to Liverpool Street station, bought lots of soap from Lush to keep us smelling nice on holiday and got onto the Harwich bound train without issue. Same at the other end at Harwich and before we knew it, we were on the ferry, at the bar on the ferry, asleep on the ferry and waking up in The Netherlands.

Ferry1As we walked across the car deck to the exit, there were streams and streams of water coming down from above, which we both thought was water pouring off the deck above. Yeah, no it wasn’t. It was rain. Bah. And then very loud thunder and lightening. We stopped, put on waterproofs and stood and waited, and waited, and waited, hoping it would pass. By the time the ferry had finished unloading, a break in the sky appeared so we cycled pass the queue of cars waiting to get through border checks etc (ha ha, so long car suckers) and we were off.

First stop, supermarket to get some brekkie (as you will discover reading further, cycle camping isn’t really about cycling, or camping, but eating….), and then we actually were off. The weather (and my face/mood) changed from rain and sulks to sun and smiles in space of about 1km.

We easily found the cycle path (they are everywhere, on pretty much every road) and we cycled along the coast, through the dunes, with a nice tailwind to assist our progress. The cycle paths were full of cyclists (of course) including large groups of club runs. There were also joggers, dog walkers, lots of people out and about. But it was all remarkably social and civilised and everyone got out of everyone else’s way with no fuss and mostly a cheery “hoi”. It was nice and flat and it wasn’t raining I thought this might actually be ok. We saw lots of sand dunes, and more sand dunes, and lots of green spaces. All in all it was very pretty. And pretty flat.

We cycled through a residential area filled with enormous houses, each one unique, and then realised that a lot of them were embassies on the outskirts of Den Haag.

It started drizzling a bit and given it was around lunchtime, we decided to stop and eat (I had Uitsmijter, dutch fried eggs on bread with cheese and ham, something I would eat a LOT of, nomnom) and as we finished the rain had pretty much passed.

We pressed on to our campsite which was just beyond Haarlem in Driehuis. I had contacted this campsite previously to book a pitch, but had heard nothing back, and had tried calling a few times but no answer, so I was pleased it was actually there. The reception was closed but we found the tent field and soon enough we were all set. The nearest supermarket was basically a corner shop, so we had a fairly basic dinner (we were cooking for two with a single small saucepan and lid – I will detail recipes at the end of each day’s entry) but after a day cycling it tasted pretty bloody good.

As the sun set, it got rather chilly and I was worried my summer sleeping bag wouldn’t be warm enough, but I snuggled in, read some of my book and before I knew it was fast asleep. Before I knew it (again) I was wide awake in the middle of a massive rain storm. I hoped the tent would hold out (it did). I was cold. The rain stopped and back to sleep I went. And then rain = awake, no rain = asleep for most of the rest of the night. I continued worrying about my sleeping bag.

Kilometres cycled: 82
Route: here

Camping dinner: Most nights we shared a bottle of plonk, had a starter of soup and bread and a pudding consisting of some sort of baked goods, so I will just include the main dinner, which was the key variable each night.
One pot dinner: Smash as per instruction, add jar of dutch equivalent to baked bean and mix through, open tin of spicy tuna and empty on top, sprinkle over some grated cheese. Eat with spork.

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