Apple pie and windmills

We left Northern Germany with a sigh of relief leaving busy trunk roads and the constant whoosh of arctic lorries spitting up a vortex of grit and rain from the road. 
Each time I enter a new country I feel like there should be prancing horses and a fanfare to recognise my next level of the odyssey but at best it is a line in the road and usually rarely more than a change in road signage. However entering Holland is like cycle utopia. I could write an entire post just about road surfaces and Hollands perfect flat Tarmac paths through sunlit forests, farms, villages and towns would take first prize. We have weaved our way through an impressive network spiders web of paths along dykes with cows grazing, storks flying, eagles hovering and two girls on bikes flying. At each point a handy map has shown us the next direction to take and on we go with “onwards and downwards” as our mantra. Our camping home for the night have been plentiful and varied – by a riding stables, by derelict buildings, in a public park roundabout, a tree farm and by a fishing lake to name a few. And no one has batted an eyelid. 

Towns and villages are plentiful and close together so my days of carrying three days food and wondering where the next shop will be are well and truly over.  Katherine and I have fallen into adopted roles.  I am navigator and cook while she is water collector, translator and masseuse which has made a dramatic improvement to my useless arm. 

So to get the inside scoop I asked Katherine to write about her experience of life on the road…. 

It has been a fabulous couple of weeks of tagging along with Phil’s amazing trip, filled with laughter and nonsense chat. 

There is a wonderful simplicity and rhythm to this life. The wild camping, packing up, eating raisin buns and then back on the bike and off on the open road again. 

Holland has been a surprisingly wonderful country – extremely friendly people even when we’ve held up the traffic checking directions – and we’ve cycled through perfect country lanes, along canals and past windmills, only contending with the odd tractor and a remarkable number of cheery elderly Dutch cyclists.

Slightly in awe of Phil’s mileage to date, I packed with a strong focus on weight – even cutting the labels out of my clothes, which has enabled me to keep up with the cycling warrior herself……only to find Phil has squirrelled away over half a kilo of porridge oats, a family size shampoo bottle and who knows what else! She’s even tougher than I thought she was! 

We have happily indulged in Dutch apple pie on most corners, particularly when it’s been raining and a healthy supply of chocolate has kept our legs going and our spirits high in the face of rather a lot of wind and rain. My sunglasses were decidedly surplus to requirements in week one. 

A slight worry for her route planning is Phil’s left and right – it was always worth checking which ‘left’ she actually meant….although in truth when left in charge of navigation in Bruges and I was found to be considerably worse! 

We’ve engaged in a daily ritual of sketching – our evening view or a cathedral over coffee in a town square. The results are mixed (mine are rubbish), but prices for copies are available upon request!

It’s back to work for me sadly but given half a chance, I’d be pushing on for another day on the road with Phil! 

the tarmac forest path

windmills in abundance

Belgium – country number siz

a cycling selfie