Monthly Archives: July 2018

Day 28: Zwollee to Meppen (25 June)

This is the last day in Netherlands as we cross to Germany at 46 km today.

Today was not very warm but there was no wind and mostly flat, riding about 96 km and just about all on bike paths.

Great Dutch cycling road. One lane for the cars, two for bicycles.

Once again most of the views today were fields of crops with a background of windmills. Even though the weather was not very warm there were people camping and in caravans along the canals in campsites (or in Dutch – Kampen). In the Netherlands there are very few areas you can camp not in a camp site. 

Camp site on the canal.

Along the canal there was a campsite and next to it was a open Hawaiian bar with a straw roof over the chairs and tables, and row of fake penguins. Too early in the day to be open but not sure how busy it will get in this bleak weather.

We went past one Kampen ground that was previously a farm, and I was interested to see the thatched roof structures they had to cover the hay. There were four poles and the roof was peaked and in the poles were holes with movable pegs, so depending how much hay there was the roof could be moved up or down. Now most the hay we see is wrapped in plastic so these structures are now covering picnic tables.

Adjustable roof for hay storage

It was interesting to stand underneath a thatched roof and have a good look. Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation, such as straw, layering it so as to shield the water away from the roof. The lifespan of a thatched roof is 20 to 40 years depending on the skill of the workman, and the quality of the material. To replace a roof cost £100 per square metre. The barn had an interesting thatched pattern on the wall that I haven’t seen before.

IMG_5413I forgot to mention in the blog the last two days I did not see a single beggar in Amsterdam. I googled and it says begging is against the law and there are social kitchens and places for homeless to sleep so there is no need to beg.

We went over a canal bridge and stopped to have a look and saw 2 water hens (coots) with their chick. They had made a nest in the canal bridge.

While we were watching we met Gerrit, who is a Dutch canal bridge operator. Gerrit looks after 6 bridges and will follow the boats/ships up or down the canal. This may lead to some waiting if he is opening bridges further up and you are waiting for the first one. There is no fee to the boats, as it paid for by the Dutch taxes. Gerrit is part of a team that works 12 hours a day 3 days on, then one day off. The bridges are only open from 7am to 6pm so if you miss the cross off you wait till the next day. 

Operator explaining the bridge opening procedures

At the crossing from the Netherlands to Germany I got a photo of Blythe and Rhonda and me.IMG_5437We saw the first Storks of the trip just after the border, and another few km further a baby birth announcement, with two storks and clothes on a line and the name Simon.

First Storks

Just after this we came to a field with three horses, each with a foal. I was talking to Rhonda and the foals were much younger than I had thought, the one in the paddock closest to us was only 1-2 weeks. Rhonda knows a lot about horses, as not only is she a vet but she also used to breed Arabian horses. Rhonda is from USA and has two sons, one daughter and a cat called Mr Charles.*

I have had lots of problem with Garmin this trip, it randomly stops calculating kilometers for no reason and when it starts again it doesn’t add what you have done, very frustrating and of course it is past its warranted period, but today it has decided to stay on all day, weird!

It was very cold when we got to the lunch spot, and I pretty much put on what I would wear to ride in Wellington in the winter. The day warms up considerably in the afternoon and it was quite pleasant when we got to Meppen.

The view from hotel room today is a construction site. The room was nice. Back to huge square pillows, had forgotten about these in Germany. 


Dinner was a buffet, we ate with Dan, Shirley, Mary, Rhonda, Michele and Tony. We had white table clothes and candles – what a contrast to camping in a bush camp! The food was nice – nice tomato soup, crunchy bread, fish, salad, chicken and various vegetable dishes. Dessert was a tiramisu type dessert, and strawberries and ice cream, very nice.

Mary comes from USA, she has one son and one granddaughter, and is a yoga and Pilates instructor. Mary has done a lot of rides, but not sure if she has ridden with a TDA before. Mary rides as fast as she can from one place to the next so she can get to the gym and work out. Mary is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables, much to the understandable confusion of the restaurant staff when it’s à la carte and she sends her meal back. Mary eats anything sweet, and potatoes, bread and butter.

I was amused to see that by each place at the restaurant there was a bit of paper called “The devouring map” which is used to record your drinks, plus food if à la carte.

* Editor’s note: Clare I hope you liked the inclusion of the pet detail 😀 

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Day 27: Amsterdam to Zwolle

113 k flat ride today with mostly a tail wind, feeling very refreshed after two rest days plus the tail wind.

We are again mostly on bike paths. I am still finding it very hard to trust that cars are going to slow down and stop for cyclists at most intersections.

Amusing moment outside the hotel this morning, we have a weight and a size restriction on our bags – 23 kg and must be soft (not a suitcase). This is so the staff can safely lift them and they can fit in the van. Gergo had got annoyed as some of the bags had been increasing in weight so he weighed them. Of course the Wasp 2 was well over 30 kg, and she was trying to prove to Gergo that her bag was not heavy to lift, so attempted to hold it above her head and nearly fell over it was so heavy.

The Wasp 2 continues to be annoying, she rides on the road when there are bike lanes getting hooted at by angry truck drivers and motorists, and I have lost count of the times she has nearly been hit. At every hotel she is trying to negotiate an upgrade, organise coffee before they start serving, and pushing in in front of people. Hopefully she is not planning to do the North America ride. I try to ignore her but it’s difficult when she rides in front of you cutting in without warning.

The first 20 km on out of Amsterdam was a convoy on bike paths and through some lovely parks, nothing at all like the ride in.35114071_10155320158765780_4427376031019565056_n.jpg

Convoy out of Amsterdam along Amsterdam Rijnkanaal.


Today was riding through the countryside, lots of crops. It was pretty flat and apart from crops and windmills not much else to see. Very peaceful day riding through small villages, with thatched roofs etc.


Passing through Oostvaardersveld, a nature preserve in Lelystad.


Some beautiful boats along the many canals today.

We had about 30 km on the type of surface that is used on running tracks, fantastic to ride on.


Dutch bicycle lanes fantastic, plus cars must give way.

We are staying at Hotel Lumen. Today’s view is of a roof but today we can also see the sky. At least we can see the sky.

Dinner was in the hotel restaurant, we had a really nice mustard soup, followed by pork medallions with fried potatoes and salad. To finish we had a really nice chocolate brownie with yummy vanilla ice cream.


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Day 26: Rest day two in Amsterdam

Woke up early and had a messenger call with Tracey and messenger chat with Shellbe.

The breakfast restaurant was much quieter as it was still quite early.

We caught the tram to Amsterdam station, then the train to Heerhugowaard to catch up with TDA staff member Adrian and his family – wife Rosa, daughter Zoe, and Rosa’s parents Dick and Nellie who joined the South American ride in Santiago to Peurto Montt, a very tough section even for those of us who had ridden the whole tour.

On the way out of the city we saw a number of community gardens again.

Amsterdam Central Rail Station

While we were waiting for Adrian to pick us up at the florist next to the station, I saw a number of Hydrangeas in pots. I mentioned this to Nellie later, and she said it was more usual to get a hydrangea plant in a pot than a bunch of flowers, which explains why Hydrangeas are so prolific here.

When we got to the house we also got to meet Adrianne’s sister Emma who was there for a visit. Nellie gave us a lovely Dutch cake that was like a custard square but nicer with pink icing and cream. Then we went to look around the farm.

Dick and Nellie grow vegetables. Dick took over the family farm which was one building and 50 hectares when he was 17. Now him and his two partners have over 700 hundred hectares and produce 100,000 plants a day. We got to see the one of their smaller operations where Dick and Nellie live.

Adrian, Dick and Brett at the farm.

We watched the cupboard boxes being made, and the process from start to finish. The iceberg lettuce as an example, is picked by a machine, when they are picked they are enclosed in plastic. When they get to the plant they are put into a cooling room for 30 minutes and are reduced to zero degrees. They then go into cold store where there is no oxygen and they can last up to 4 months!

Cardboard box making machine ready for supermarket lettuces.

Having gone into the room with no O2, I think I would survive about 15 min – as long as it took to use up the O2 that came in with the door being unlocked.

One of the huge chiller rooms storing lettuce before dispatch to supermarkets

We also got to see row upon row on of plants growing hydroponically in a green house, and got to see the difference in growth in 7 day intervals. A finished lettuce takes one month. It was all very interesting.

Farm hydroponic lettuces in hot house takes 30 days to move from new shoot to being harvested at the other end.



Out of the hothouse, ready for harvesting.

I got to sit in a John Deere tractor. Dick also mentioned that he is growing a whole field of wild flowers for a bee apiarist. He  showed us a video of the field, there were hundreds of bees swarming around.IMG_5376img_5377.jpgWe then went inside for a very nice lunch – soup with tomato, parsley and mince, followed by fresh bread, cold meat, cheese, a boiled egg each, tomatoes and of course plenty of lettuce. Then a sweet bun, and strawberries and cherries.

We went for a ride around the channels in their channel boat, very interesting to see the land from another perspective. We had to duck down in the boat a few times when we went under a couple of low bridges, with not much distance from them to the water.

Dick and Nellie took us in their boat for a cruise on the nearby canal.
Ducking under a low bridge over the canal.

We also got to see a very old windmill up close. A lot of the Netherlands is below sea level and to ensure the land doesn’t flood, in earlier times the water was pumped out by a series of windmills. This function has been taken over by a network of electric pumping stations and the old windmills are now tourist attractions or homes. They are not cheap, there was one for sale in Heerhugowaard up the channel a bit for €1,000,000 (a million euro).

Old Dutch windmill alongside canal.

They are not that big inside, and have very small windows. You are not allowed to enlarge the windows or make any modifications on the outside, as they have to be kept in character.

Then it was time to catch the train back to Amsterdam, so Adrian dropped us back off at the railway station. By the time we got back to the hotel it was just after 7pm, so we ate upstairs in the hotel restaurant. I had a very nice bell pepper soup.


Adrian and Zoe

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Day 25: Rest day one in Amsterdam

The restaurant for breakfast was really busy and really noisy. The only place to sit was on a stool which I found surprisingly difficult to get up onto and off, as a result of the tumble off the bike yesterday. I am a bit stiff today and have quite a sore hip – so the rest days are well timed as I would not like to be biking today. The hotel has a gift shop and I found a charm of a windmill for my granddaughter Lucy’s charm bracelet.

A pretty canal (Photo taken from Michele’s Facebook page)

After breakfast we caught a tram into the city, there was a stop right by the hotel.As we are in Amsterdam we thought we should go to a couple of different museums, so we went to the Sex Museum and  Prostitute museum. Both were quite interesting.


The Prostitute Museum gave the history of prostitution in the Netherlands and had a prostitute who was currently working. It gave a commentary as you were walking through. There is a wall of remembrance for all the prostitutes who have died while working, it seems too sadly be about one every two years. There is a lot of concern at the moment about girls being lured over here with false promises of work in a restaurant, and then having their passports taken and being told they had to work to pay their fare back.

There are numbers all over the place in the red light district of who to call if you need help, or you think someone else does. Prostitution is legal here like it is in NZ and prostitutes have to pay tax.

There is a book written by twins who worked in Amsterdam as prostitutes for 50 years! They started at 20, they were 70 years old when they retired! Martine and Louise Fokkens – they now run a tour and have published a couple of books.

The working  ladies sit in rooms with windows and a door that opens onto the street. Some sit on a stool and others stand. The rooms cost £50 each for a 10 hour period to rent.IMG_5347In the museum there is a mock booth and I had a photo taking of me sitting on a chair.IMG_5346.jpgThe Sex museum gave a commentary of changing views over the centuries and what was considered ok in different customs and times.

At the Sex Museum

I also had a photo taken outside the Hospital Bar which is actually a live porno show, which we didn’t go into. IMG_5367.jpgI was interested to see that they have police on both bikes and  on horseback, I guess with the crowds 821,752.00 live in Amsterdam it can be hard to get through the traffic.

We walked around going into cheese shops trying different cheeses, they have purple (lavender), green (pesto) and red (pesto), and some nice aged cheeses. We bought some cheese to take for lunch tomorrow. We are catching up with Adrian who was a TDA staff member on the South American ride, his partner Rosa and her parents Dick and Nellie, who rode a couple of weeks with us, and Adrian and Rosa’ s daughter Zoe who is 15 months old.

Photo from Michele’s Facebook page

We saw a Truck parked with the back wheel on the left hand side over the canal, hopefully they don’t back when they go to drive out.IMG_5343.jpgWe had been looking for a book shop to buy a book for Zoe but we couldn’t find one and in the end we went into a huge shopping complex to find a present. After wandering around I decided on a denim dress with a pink t-shirt.


Dept Store shopping

The complex was 5 stories high and going into it you could just go from elevator to elevator but coming back down you had to work through each floor. I thought of my Nana as I was walking past a section with ripped jeans. Many years ago when I was a teenager my brother Pete had a pair of ripped jeans, and he stayed at my nanas and when he got up the next morning they had all been patched up – he never had the heart to tell her they were meant to be that way.  Nana would have never understood why people would pay good money for worn, ripped clothes.

We decided to have lunch at De Nieuwe Pilserij, and would you believe it out of all the places in Amsterdam, halfway through a group of TDA riders walked in. The restaurant owner seeing us talk to them decided we must want to sit together and busily organised a table. We traded stories about what we had been doing that morning, they had been to the Rijkss Museum which has over 5,000 paintings including Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

In the photo below, from left to right are Hanns, Mary, Catherine, Ross, Brett and Blythe.  Hanns is from Canada who done numerous TDA tours, Mary is a yoga instructor and is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat any vegetables, she also has done a number of TDA tours. At the end of the table is Catherine, the wife of Hanns. Ross has done the Silk Route twice to fill in bits he missed the first time because he was sick. Blythe is an ex-Army nurse now does hospital accreditation. In the Army you can’t stay more than 30 years unless you reach the rank of Commodore. In the Nursing Corp there is only one Commodore so there was no option for Blythe but to leave. Blythe has done one ride before, the Madagascar ride which is pretty hard.

Hanns, Mary, Catherine, Ross, Brett and Blythe

We spent the afternoon wandering around and buying a couple of small presents, plus we went to the railway station and sorted out what train we needed to catch the next day out to where Adrian lives.


At 6:15pm we had tickets to the Anne Frank House (Haus), we bought the tickets in May. I learned from last year, when I thought you could just rock up that day and get tickets on the spot. I read the Anne Frank diary when I was about the age that Anne was when she wrote it. It’s hard to imagine 8 people living in 4 rooms and having to be quiet all day in case the people in the factory below heard them.

The rooms entrance was hidden behind a book case, so unless you knew it was there you wouldn’t know there were rooms behind it. They were hidden from July 1942 to August 1944. A couple of people from the factory provided food for the families, mainly bought on the black market.

Sadly the two families were discovered by the Gestapo in August and sent initially to a holding camp, and then tragically they were sent on the very last train out of Amsterdam to a concentration camp. They initially went to Auschwitz and were then separated again and Anne and Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen where they died from typhus in Feb 1945. Two months later the camp was liberated on 15 April 1945. Edith the mother died in Auschwitz in early Jan 1945 from starvation. The dad Otto who stayed in Auschwitz was liberated in Jan 1945 and started to look for his family, tragically out of the 8 who hid in the house he was the only one to survive.

Man’s inhumanity to fellow man is unfathomable and sadly in different parts of the world it continues. I was pleased to have gone to the museum, the four rooms are still the same and I think it is places like this that keep the reality of the horrors visible, so they can’t be glossed over and forgotten.

We had arranged to meet Michele and Tony for dinner at the railway station. It is always helpful that Tony is 6’5 when trying to spot him in a crowd. I was impressed again by the multi level bike park by the railway station, am sure I took a photo last year but took another anyway.

Multi storey bike park near Amsterdam Central Rail Station

A closer view (Photo from Michele’s Facebook page)

Interesting fact each year approximately 15,000 cycles are pulled out of the canals.

We went to Fondue restaurant called Cafe Bern. Trip advisor recommended the restaurant in 2015. We couldn’t get through all the fondue, I had a three cheese fondue it was very tasty.

When we were on the tram back to hotel I couldn’t believe it was 10pm as it was still so light. Currently it is light from about 4am to 11pm each day.IMG_5335IMG_5336IMG_5339

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