I think I can say this without it being a total lie. One stupidly drunken night in Tokyo led to a guy named Nigel to try and cycle (and nearly succeed) from England to Japan. Nigel and I had gone to the Pink Cow to see a slide show of this very trip by a guy called Steve Tallon (www.turnrightforjapan.com), who we proceeded to force-feed beers and generally question the hell out of till the wee hours. The night ended with Nigel and me making a pact to do a Big Trip one day. The short of it is, Nigel did and I sucked out. This entry is the story of one leg of Nigel’s trip (he made it to China before winter set in) through the eyes of the wuss…me.
I arrived in Amsterdam on a cool, sunny day in June. From the sheer number of people who insisted on telling me so, I was apparently very lucky with the weather this June. It was perfect for cycling every day except our last in Switzerland.
Here’s a cycling sign near Schipol airport I think. This was my first experience in a truly bike-friendly country, and I found out quickly that you can’t get lost on a bike in Holland. You’ve always got a place to go!
Here I am in Ringvart, which sounds like ‘ring fart’ in Dutch, and I’m afraid to say the guy who told me this name (and took this picture) didn’t get the joke.
No respectable blog of Holland can be without a windmill…
I stayed for a night with an ex-student of mine (and good friend), Daisuke, and his family. He was living in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam.
Me, Saki and Mizu, the next morning on my way out of town.
I (amazingly) met up with Nigel, who was coming down from Denmark, in a town called Boxmeer. We had planned this meeting (train station of Boxmeer) months previously using Google Maps. Incredibly it worked. I rocked up around lunchtime, only to find a perplexed Nigel, peering at his GPS and wondering how the hell it took him 3 hours to ride 30 km. We later learned that his GPS had a mind of its own and could not be trusted in all situations. Interestingly, this is Nigel again looking perplexed, this time peering into his beer glass.
I shouldn’t make fun of other languages, but some things are just amusing…it’s nobody’s fault.
After pannekoek-flat Holland, we entered extreme-irritating-hilly Belgium. This is Nigel on one of the many hills that collectively conspired to make him – in his own words – ‘spit the dummy’, whatever that means. Judging from the look of him near the top of each hill, it can’t be good. I should mention that my relative lack of suffering had little to do with fitness. Nigel’s bike was loaded for 4 seasons and about as many continents. I was pretty lightweight in comparison.
After very hilly Belgium we crossed the border into very hilly Luxembourg. Try taking a look at a map of the place. It’s impressive they could find any space for a city! But there is, and here is a small part of it, on our way out.
I think this is Trier, just across the border in Germany.
Still in Trier, guarding the bikes.
This is a Roman gate, also in Trier.
And the other side…
Then it was up the relentlessly squiggly (zoom in on the map at the end to see) Mosel River. If you ever want to have a very, very pleasant, flat, easy bike ride, this is it. No hills at all the whole way up to the Rhine, a cute little town every few kms, and enough Riesling to swim in if you want.
Oh, and Erdinger too!
A misty morning on the Mosel.
One of the many gingerbread towns along the river.
Here’s me in a campsite near Koblenz. The red tent is Nigel’s. He was still working out the finer points of pitching…
The guts of an ancient church, along the Rhine now, I think.
This is definitely the Rhine. Cute little Mosel turned into seriously big and functional Rhine.
I’m pretty sure this is Speyer, a lovely city with a bunch of churches and a loooong main street. It is also on the German part of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilrimage route that has many starting points in Europe, but all end up in Santiago de Compostela, in western Spain. This is unmistakably a statue of a ‘pelegrino’ of old.
The excellent weather followed us down the Rhine.
And into Switzerland, where we stayed at a haunted hotel for a night.
Another of the thousands of cycling roads in Europe.
I don’t really know what to say for this next one except…why?!
Swiss signs leave little to the imagination.
And after two weeks and 1500 km, Zurich.