A cycling trip to Holland: the land of the bicycle
2 – Hoorn to Deventer
From Hoorn we set off cycling northwards the 20 miles to the western end of the Afsluitdijk, where we'd turn north east to make the 18-mile crossing. I stopped to photograph some gorgeous traditional paving on the surface of a country road.
At the end of this road we turned left past a house, then along a cycle path with open fields on each side. Just as we'd got going I heard a loud crack behind me, then a shout from Sandra. I turned to see her on the ground, lying with her bike on its side. This is a sight you never want to see: your cycling partner flat out after a tumble, not to mention your own wife. I stopped and ran back, thinking: "She's badly hurt. This trip is finished." It could have been. We didn't know then, but she'd badly dislocated her left shoulder blade and broken two ribs.
There are two heavy bollards at the start of the path. One is in the grass at each side. In the centre is another collapsible bollard painted red and white. As she'd entered the path Sandra had been looking sideways at some horses in the field and ridden into the central bollard, knocking her left front brake clean off the fork and denting a pedal. Then she and her bike came crashing down, the left side of her chest falling on the handlebars. It was several minutes before she could get up again and she was in pain all over her left side.
What to do? A woman from the nearby house came over and asked if we were ok. Sandra was standing up by this time, but looking shaken. We asked for directions to the nearest town. Medemblik, she said, and there's a bike repair shop there. We cycled slowly over the bumpy cobbles, Sandra with no front brakes and feeling groggy. Sure enough, we came to the bike shop on the way into town: Leo Smit at www.twc-leosmit.nl.
We've nothing but praise for the helpful and friendly people who work in the Leo Smit bike shop in Medemblik. An expert mechanic repaired Sandra's brakes there and then for 10 Euros. Obviously the best bike shop in Holland!
Now we had a decision to make. We'd been headed north towards the 18-mile long dam leading to the far side of the Ijsselmeer, but at Enkhuizen a little down the coast in the opposite direction is a ferry across the Ijsselmeer. To continue our trip we needed to get across to Sneek that night. The bike shop mechanics reckoned it made more sense to stick to our original route, especially as there's only one daily ferry crossing (or perhaps two) from Enkhuizen. So off we went, northwards again, protected from the strong east crosswind by a dyke.
At the western end of the Afsluitdijk (photo) we turned east into the wind and set out across it. You cannot see the other end, 18 miles away. I really wanted to cycle this route and I think it was partly this that encouraged Sandra along. Partway over I crossed a footbridge over the main highway to get us some coffee and cake. Then we ploughed on again with the stiff crosswind now at an angle of 2 o'clock. The few cyclists we met going the other way seemed to fly along. Not us, and each time a truck went by in the other direction an extra gust of wind hit like a closing door.
At the eastern end we turned south east directly into the wind and zig-zagged along lots of country roads until it was time to phone the B&B to say we'd be late. Oppenhuizen was still maybe 10 kilometres away. Coby, the landlady, immediately offered to send her husband to pick us up in his friend's van – an act of kindness and generosity which we gratefully accepted. The Dutch are surely the friendliest people you could hope to meet anywhere, including Australia.
We thought of abandoning our tour that night†. We didn't know whether Sandra was badly injured or not. She was certainly in pain, but the next morning – day five – we'd see how she went and set off in heavy rain to Kampen over 50 miles away. After a couple of hours we were wet and cold, but lo! – Macdonald's with the manageress greeting us at the door with complimentary cappuchinos. Pretty amazing, that. The cheeseburgers and chips turned things around and we arrived at the superb B&B in Kampen in good order, considering everything.
Day six to Deventer was damp but not raining hard, and the wind had dropped. Pleasant cycling in a brooding landscape under a hard grey sky, and all rather beautiful. Sandra was still doing okay but when we came into town we happened to stop near a medical centre‡ so we went to get her seen by a doctor. She'd dislocated her shoulder blade, he said, and as the next two days were 64 and 67 miles we'd go by train. It meant we'd also get to see something of Nijmegen on day seven, including the National Bicycle Museum and my father's war-bridge.
Our B&B in Deventer was okay-ish and good value for about £16 each including breakfast. The room was up an attic ladder but peaceful, and our hosts were pleasant enough. Kampen and Deventer are both lovely towns with the usual canals but also the River Ijssel meandering its way up north to the Ijsselmeer. We'd have liked more time to look around, but that applies to all the places we visited in Holland. Next time, perhaps.
† We had Snowcard travel insurance with bike repatriation, but this probably isn't as simple as it might seem. We could have flown home quite easily but really didn't fancy someone transporting our bikes, and Sandra couldn't have carried anything. How does this work, I wonder? I should find out for next time.
‡ Finding ourselves outside a medical centre on arriving in the centre of Deventer was one of those odd coincidences that sometimes happen when you're travelling and when, if you respond to the moment, things fall into place in a different way. I've noticed this before.
Next: Deventer to Rotterdam »