Day 10, 14 Sep, Amsterdam to Delft, a captivating ride.

Amsterdam is a city that’s worth exploring for a few days, but I didn’t have a few days. By the looks of it, I could only enjoy the city for a day and I’d have to get a move on if I was to keep my schedule. I’d realized that the itinerary I had so cleverly planned was actually more feasible if done over at least 5 weeks… or better still, 2months.

The sun was shining bright and early, but the wind was gusty and cold

To Delft it was then. I was looking forward to it, too, as I would be staying with Martha’s friend from my hometown – Bee Suan, and her German husband Sebastian. Martha had so kindly arranged this special stop for me and it meant a nice break from camping as well.

The day before, I had asked and, according to the guy in the campsite’s bikeshop as an indication, Den Haag (or The Hague in English, which was very near to Delft) was only was about 50km or so from Amsterdam.

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Camp Zeeburg’s bike rental shop

50kms or so sounded like a ride in the park, especially with the weather forecast to be sunny (the weather forecasts here are very accurate). This morning, after packing up, I realised my rear tyre needed a little more air but I had already packed the pump and it was too inconvenient to dig through the pannier, so I headed for the bikeshop again.

It was another guy who was manning the counter and as I asked to borrow the pump, I told him about my plan for the day and asked him what the best route was to get to Delft.

He was a nice friendly guy (all the Dutch people I met seem to be friendly) and suggested I follow the scenic Amstel river route for part of the way. He even showed me the best way out of the city. well, it was … for about 3kms anyway.

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Errr… now what?

As is typical of Dutch fietstraats, or cycling paths, they were all numbered and all you had to do was simply follow the direction to the number coming up next on your planned route…. if you had a cycling map, that is. I didn’t have any, as I just couldn’t find a shop which sold one.

But soon, an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked if I needed help (tip: if you acted forlorn and lost long enough, somebody will eventually come and help you).

‘Ok, first you go straight until you come to a canal. Then you turn right until a traffic light and then you go across to the other side and you follow that road until you come to some new buildings, then you turn right because there are roadworks there and you have to go that direction anyway…etc etc…’

Ok, bye-bye, thank you very much and off I went. Naturally, by the time I reached the first turn after the canal, I was lost again. It never crossed their Dutch minds that a Malaysian from some tropical country which had no cycle paths would be able to remember their ‘easy’ directions.

And so it went on like this throughout the day. It was like a treasure hunt.

 

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Automatic train crossing

 

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Wonder who’s the invalid?

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Dutch cycle paths are some of the best in the world

 

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Bike parking at a train station. Count them..

 

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Local policemen doing their bit for lost world travellers

 

When I finally got out of the messy roads leading out of the city, I suddenly found myself on the Ouderkerk on the Amstel route. As amazing as the fact that I actually found it, the change in scenery was what made me gasp with surprise. It was beautiful, and it made getting lost so worth it.

As I wound my way along the Amstel, it became one of those moments that only a cycle tourer can explain — the sheer delight at the spectacle that kept unfolding with every pedal stroke; always surprising, taking your breath away every now and then and, as a bonus, clear blue skies and the wind behind your back — this was what we lived for as a cyclo-tourist.

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The Ouderkerk on the Amstel route, very scenic and very popular with recreational cyclists

 

 

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Along the way… what Dutch cheese and milk do before they become cheese and milk

 

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The route was so nice, I just had to stop and drink it all in …along with a cup of coffee al fresco

 

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Soon, the Amstel and I had to part ways and I was back to treasure hunting. But, I wasn’t worried at all. You see, instead of a cycling map which I couldn’t find, I had gotten myself a driving map. This gave me an idea of where I was at all times, and in the Netherlands, civilization is never more than 20 minutes away.

So, all I had to do was adopt a different strategy – when asking for help, tell them my final destination, then whip out my roadmap and ask them which was the next nearest town I should head for … and so on and so on.

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2 friendly ladies who helped me with directions

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This particular spot was so captivating that I just had to stop and soak it all in. I had my lunch break here as well, but sitting still meant being exposed to the cold wind so after a while I hit the road with the wind behind me once again.

 

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You couldn’t ask for better, or safer, roads to cycle on in Netherlands. The red sections are strictly for bicycles. Cars passing by would always be civil and careful. Such is the culture in Netherlands.

 

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Whenever you see the sign ‘Te Koop’, it meant ‘for sale’, In this case, fruits and vegetables from an unmanned roadside stall. This particular unmanned one, like many in Europe, operated on an honesty principle.

 

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You can even park a big boat in your backyard

 

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At one junction, I asked for directions from a helpful Volvo showroom salesperson. He even let park inside when I asked to use the toilet..even offered me a drink. So nice

 

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Idyllic scenery like this continue to roll by

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A fully-working windmill and home to some farmer

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That’s ‘Ha zers wow der dop’. Very near to Delft now.

It worked like a dream. Trouble was, I was now only halfway through and the trip-meter had only clocked about 50kms. Oh well… onwards to Delft. I had confidently told Bee Suan that I should arrive by lunchtime but now if I was lucky, it’d be dinnertime instead.

I was right. Rolling into Delft, I located her waypoint on my Garmin (that was all I had) and rode towards her home. I had gotten her GPS coordinates by pinpointing her address on Googlemap and then, by clicking on ‘get directions’ it would display part of the results in coordinates. I would then copy those coordinates and created a waypoint in Mapsource, then upload it to the GPS unit. Pretty neat, Googlemap is, and very, very accurate.

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Arriving at the town square of Delft. The town’s church is just behind me.

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And so at around 6.30pm, I rolled into a very narrow street called Smitsteeg…

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found the number of Bee Suan’s home and rang the doorbell…

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My gracious host for the night — Bee Suan and Sebastian welcoming me to their warm and cosy home

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The hunt was over for today and I was looking forward to a dinner of Hungarian Goulash that Bee Suan had told me she was preparing for dinner. Paired with a bottle of excellent Spanish red and the company of my gracious hosts, what better way than this to end a day of hard riding?

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Authentic Hungarian Goulash, cooked with authentic Hungarian ingredients.

 

 

Tomorrow: Exploring Delft

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Distance today:: 89km

Distance to date:: 541km

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Day 9, Sun 13 Sep, exploring Amsterdam Pt 1

Camping by the edge of the water had been a good choice. With the tent door open, I was treated to a very captivating nature scene. It was also a very cold morning … the wind was quite strong and the sun had not yet broken through the clouds. With a cup of  hot coffee and some breakfast going, I was very reluctant to come out of the tent so I simply lounged around … then some feathered friends came a calling …

First, it was this white goose …It casually strode right into my tent looking for a free meal

Then a whole bunch of mallards came along, having gotten wind of the food

 

Me, outside my tent

The rest of today’s journal is best told in a few thousand words’ worth of  pictures. I had fun, I finally visited Amsterdam which is an immensely beautiful and charming city … well, the old, central part of Amsterdam is, anyway.

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Outside the home of one of the most well-known Jewish victims of the holocaust. She gained fame posthumously with the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, written while in hiding in this house.

 

Just half a wheel longer than my bike.

 

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Ana another one of these small wonders

 

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Free secured bike parking station

 

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Free unsecured peeing station

 

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And another one… but a little more private

 

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When someone invites you to a coffee shop, caffeine is not the main drug of choice, it’s cannabis, legal here in Amsterdam.

 

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Take your pick

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Day 8, 12 Sep, from Deutchland to Netherlands, Pt 2

I had no choice but to sit on the staircase for the ride to Emmerich since my bike was in a very inconvenient position, latched onto a railing that led down the steps of the exit. A little later, a seat nearest to the stairs on the upper level was vacant and I quickly took it, while still able to keep an eye on my bike.

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Just before Emmerich, as I was preparing to get off, a young German girl of about 20 or so who was standing next to me sensed that it was going to be quite a task getting my whole loaded bike down, asked me very sweetly, ‘Do you need help getting your bike down?’

I guess angels do exist after all 🙂

After helping me, she walked off quickly before I could take a shot of her.

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Emmerich was just a small dot on the landscape. The station was rather scrappy looking and had seen better days. The town was quiet with little activity. As I headed out of town, it began to lightly drizzle. With my jacket on, I headed out towards the Rhine, and the little hamlet of Millingen an de Rjin, which is Dutch for Millingen on the Rhine. From there I would soon be in the Netherlands. I loved crossing borders.

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Outside the train station

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What I’m always on the lookout for

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Sculptures like this one facing the Rhine is common throughout Europe

 

 

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Houses began to take on a decidedly different look … in this case, Dutch.

 

Just before I reached Millingen, I realized the signs were reading a little differently. Then it dawned upon me that I had already crossed the border into Holland without even knowing it. By then, I was fairly famished and food was on top of my mind.

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Main street, Millingen en de Rjin or, Millingen on the Rhine

 

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I spotted a cutesy-looking café and decided to make it my lunch-stop. It was some kind of fast food joint run by a friendly ‘couple’

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‘Husband’ and wife, not twins

 

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They were the only one working the cafe

 

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They did serve a mean sandwich though

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An interesting subject at the cafe

 

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Interesting toilet of the cafe

 

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After lunch it was time to continue my journey towards Amsterdam. But first, we have to cross the river by ferry..

 

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Waiting for the ferry

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This is a passenger/bicycle ferry only, no cars

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The Millingen ferry crossing, which was just a stone’s throw away, took less than 5 minutes. The Dutch, I realized later, were friendlier than the Germans and even on the ferry, folks on bicycles were already talking to me, asking me where I was from and appreciated the fact that I had come all this way to see their country (inevitably, they would also ask if I was Indonesian, as the country was once colonized by the Dutch).

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Nice comfy seats made from fleece for the more matured cyclists. Check out the handlebars … they like it as high as possible

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Once on the other side, there were I had to determine my direction of travel towards Arnhem, about 45kms away.

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Can be quite bewildering. The signs in green are for specific routes, usually very scenic. The ones in red are for getting to the next village or town only.

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The ride to Arnhem looks vry promising

 

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I met many cyclists along the way. All were friendly. This was Dutch lady #1 of the countless Dutch ladies on bicycles from whom I would ask for help.

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This lady didn’t just give me directions, she ask me to follow her until the next town where she would show me the next easy route to take.

 

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The outskirts of Arnhem. I wish I had time to explore this lovely town but I had underestimated the distance. It turned out that Amsterdam was about 134 km away, so I decided that in the interest of time, I would take the train to Amsterdam instead.

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The modern, busy side of Arnhem

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At the train station

 

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Good thing most Dutch speak some English, as did this helpful ticket lady

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Bike -designated carriages are clearly marked

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Fellow cyclists on board, all of them heading to Amsterdam. This couple was riding a custom-built tandem built by a well-known woman bike maker in Amsterdam.

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Ample space on board

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Exactly 1 hour and 4 minutes later, I found myself in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. I couldn’t wait to explore the city but first, I had to sort out the digs for the night — Camp Zeeburg, in the district of Zeeburg, about 20 minutes from central Amsterdam.

After registering and paying the 8.50 Euros (plus an 80ct token for a hot shower), I headed out to the tent area, following directions from the camp map.

It was a very big campsite and I was about to get the shock of my life.

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It was a sea of green, blue, yellow, red and other assorted colours. It was also very noisy. My heart sank. All this time, I had been camping in relative luxury – big open spaces, few tents, quiet atmosphere — but this was different. I had stumbled on Woodstock. There were young kids shouting and singing, and the worst of all – the smell of marijuana was thick in the air (grass is legal in Amsterdam).

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I finally picked a ‘quieter’ spot by the edge of the water, and where there were fewer tents. The only saving grace was the splendid view from my tent’s entrance – reeds bending in the breeze, ducks and swans and geese swimming and noisily skimming the water as they landed in a big group, and at night,  the amber lights of the bridge would cast a warm glow across the water.

It didn’t feel too bad after all, except that I couldn’t quite take the smell of marijuana constantly wafting through the air. Even the tent behind me was going at it, sitting at the tent entrance doing their thing, blowing through a jar with water gurgling and smoke coming out of it. Looks like happy days are here in Amsterdam.

Next: Exploring the city of Amsterdam.

Distance today: 45km
Distance to date:

 

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