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  • Jamie Shannon

Across the North Sea and through the dunes to Amsterdam

I was a little nervous the night before as I had no alarm clock and thus no way of knowing if I would oversleep. I had to be at the ferry 08:00 the next morning and so this was indeed a real possibility. Having prior experience of course, I knew that I was always awake by 06:00 and hoped this wouldn’t change now.

As it happened I was awake at half five, woken by the thunder of trucks on their way to the port thus I had lots of time to organise my stuff. For instance which things to take into my cabin in order to get everything washed and organised.

Boarding the boat was so unbelievably easy that I still wonder how much contraband got brought into England this way. On my way here from France six months earlier, not one of my bags was checked either by human,hound or indeed electronically, nor were they this time. This also goes for my person too as crazy as it sounds. Anyway, I wasn’t, as it happened the only cyclist there. There was a family of four I was chatting to that were going on a four day cycling holiday in The Netherlands in order to see the famous tulips grown there and thought to myself this is something I might also like to see.

Having secured my bike in the cargo area I made my way to my cabin and the next seven hours passed fairly quickly. Electricity, a bed and hot water after three days without any were always welcome and I was very happy to have paid the extra fifteen pounds. You have to treat yourself sometimes right?

Arriving in the Hoek Van Holland, I found the first thing I needed to do was to switch my mirror to the left side of my bike. This wasn’t for symbolic reasons I must profess but rather practical as I would have been flattened by racing bikes had I not done otherwise.

I had heard of a beautiful coastal route through the sand dunes all the way to Zandvoort, near Amsterdam and, although the word beautiful (nature wise) and The Netherlands don’t usually go hand in hand, I was intrigued. Imagine my surprise then, when what I found was both pretty and uncrowded. I didn’t think this was a possibility here, but for the rest of the day, I found myself cycling over smooth tarmac and through these awesome sand dunes all the way to Scheveningen. I couldn’t believe my luck.

There wasn’t many people to talk to, just racing cyclists zooming past every few minutes clad to the nines in ass clenching lycra. Outside of Scheveningen, I found myself cycling past a nature reserve which I thought would be a perfect camp site. The only thing was, there were plenty of signs saying “ no entry”. Now I never actually camp on land where it explicitly says not to but I also knew that I never ever left anything behind me when I have camped somewhere. Right down to little chunks of chopped onion, everything that I take into a place comes right back out with me in the morning. So, with this mentality, I didn’t think it would be a problem and in the end it wasn’t. I even had some foxes for company also. Not bad I thought. Real Dutch wildlife!

I left the following morning fairly early to avoid being seen when I rolled my bicycle back out onto the cycle path. It had been another dry night and was looking like it was going to be fine weather all day. I thought I had been very lucky this past week with regards to this and hoped it wasn’t going to change any time soon. Rain just brings a whole host of problems when you’re cycling and camping.

Back on the cycle path, I continued to make my way up the coast towards Zandvoort, but at the same time, I tried to take my time and just enjoy the scenery. I also didn’t want to be in Amsterdam too early as it was a weekday and probably most people I knew there were working.

The whole day was extremely easy cycling rolling through the sand dunes and over gentle hills. I stopped in Katwijk in order to visit the ING bank office just to see what state my Dutch account was in. Upon further investigation, I found it be 350 Euro’s overdrawn but soon realised that it was nothing to worry about. With that sorted and access to some money, I continued on my way, stopping only briefly to make some lunch and coffee which the wind decided to knock over. Thus, I made it again. I was not to be beaten I thought!

It was feeling great to be back in The Netherlands, and when I came to Scheveningen where we used to go to the beach, the feeling just intensified. Two hours I thought, and I would be back in Amsterdam where the madness begins once again.

From here, I turned East and headed for Haarlem, again along smooth easy going cycle paths. At this point I knew where I was going having done this route a couple of times before, and so with the wind luckily behind me and only Amsterdam in front, I was flying. I was cycling an easy 25km’s per hour all the way there, and with familiar sights passing me by all the way, I began making my way through the ordered chaos of the cities bicycle traffic. A little later, I arrived right in the centre to say hello to my old colleagues and enjoy a well-deserved Duvel beer. Job done.

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