And now I’m really off!

After spending a few very nice days with my sister and brother-in-law, my nerves were cooled down and I got some extra fat of all the good food. I left Tuesday morning. Although the coast from Alicante and up is called the Green Coast and is therefore quite beautiful, I chose to take the inland route up to Gandia and than to Valencia and so on. Just for the variety.
When I was one pedalstroke off the drive I was directly back in my element. Like I never did something else in my life, so quickly you’ve got the same routine back again. The difficulty of getting out of a city (Alcoi this time, Valencia was really easy!), the rythm of the pedalling, the adaption to the ways of the Spanish traffic, finding a nice spot for a break, checking the map while riding, enjoying the view, a chat with a local, filling the watersack to have water for dinner and washing and all the other little routines who come along with this easy way of living.

The first day the sun was out, the wind had died down a bit, although it was still there, but fortunately I had mostly tailwind. It was a fabulous ride (apart from navigating through Alcoi). The Spanish drivers give you so much space, that I sometimes fear they’ll go off the road on the other side.
And how I love to climb. Slow and steady you go up in that neverending rhythm of the pedals. You sweat like a pig, you pant like a sixty old whore and you feel like a million bucks when you’re up the mountain to enjoy the view. And than the sweet treat of going downhill. Can’t we get any mountains in Fryslân?
The scenery is magnificent and places I go through are not so touristy (yet), because it is still only Februari. And therefore it is not so hot, but just very nice to roll up the sleeves of my jacket.


But that was only the first day. The cycling itself along the coast isn’t quite what I expected (so I was even more pleased with the choice of going inland first). I needed to go on some highways or along a cycle path beside it. I must say, the roads or good and in cities the cycle paths as well. Apart from that is the scenery still beautiful. Mountains on my right and the Mediterranean on my left. So why the ‘but’ at the beginning of this paragraph? One of the routines, a big routine I can say, is wildcamping. And that is not so easy along the Spanish coast. Or have I lost my touch? The first day I did find a spot. The second day I didn’t and ended up on a camping. The third day I found a really nice spot just behind a railway track, but it was with some difficulty. And while I am writing this blog entry I’m sitting in a hotelroom for crying out loud! I rode for miles and miles without succes. Contacted two Warmshower-hosts, as well with no succes. But a hotelroom is most definitely not part of the adventure. It’s nice to have a shower, to sleep indoors, but it is the selfsufficiency, a bit of hardship, the total freedom of sleeping whereever you want that make a cycle trip so great.


Don’t mind the railway track behind the photographer…

If have the feeling I don’t have much options along the coast. It goes only one way north, so to speak. There are a lot of orchards, but I’m afraid if they spot me they throw me out. I can’t camp near the see for the same reason. There isn’t much space alongside the road and there I’m as well too easy to spot. Am I making excuses? Do I just have lost my touch? I’m I too chicken to try? I know one thing for sure, I need to go looking for a spot a bit earlier. It’s already getting dark at around seven o’clock. I’m used to cycling in summer time, so I have to remind myself that I have now shorter days. This hotel feels like a failure, to be frank. I really have to change either my route, my mindset or whatever it is that led me here…


And I’m off!

And I’m off! Not quite, since I’ll be cycling on Tuesday. First of all I’ll spent a few days in Alicante with my sister  and my brother-in-law.

Actually, I need those few days to regain my nerves again. All went well with the packing of the bicycle. My usual bikeshop had a box and some bubble plastic to safely wrap the bike up. The band I used to play in still has a trailer and my mother-in-law (yes, I am going on a bike trip again, but not because my relationship has ended, as some people think) kinda took care of the ride to Eindhoven Airport.
So, no worries there, but when we got to my parents-in-law their place I saw that the box wasn’t that solid after all. The front tyre sunk through the cardboard a bit. We wrapped it up with tape as good as we could, but still it was in the back of my head. Off we went right on time. Nice weather, not much traffic. A hour too early we arrived at the airport. We had a coffee, but my anxiety about the box only grew. What if it would tear? What if they wouldn’t handle it with care?


The time for the check-in came. If I had deflated the tyres? Uh, no I didn’t. It wasn’t on the website. Oh yes, it’s clearly on the website, the woman behind the counter said. No use for a squabble, I had to make a little hole in the proximity of the tyres to be able to get to the valves. We brought the tape along, so while I cut in the box, my girlfriend went back to the car for the tape. The package was now lighter because there was less air inside, but we overcompensated it with a lot of tape. Very environmentally friendly… Flying as well. What the hell was I thinking of venturing a trip like this?
No turning back now, no time for second thoughts or whining. We fixed it as good as we could and put it on the line for odd-sized luggage. I prayed to many deities when the shutter went down again and my precious bicycle was out of sight.
Than I had to wait to go on the plane. While flying you can only think of the bicycle down in the luggage compartment. Is the box still in tact? Or better yet, the bicycle?
Itwasn’t all horrible, I had a place at the window. And it was a clear day, when we took off it was twilight, so you could see the many lights down where people fled home from their work like ants. To worry about your bike isn’t so bad as to worry about your mortgage, your squealing kids and your headaching wife.


And as always, everything turns out just fine. The box was there in one piece. My sister and brother-in-law were there and took me by car to their summer house. We had some wine and something to eat and of course a nice chat. We’ll probably have some more of that these coming days before I ride back north.

I want to fly my bicycle, I want to fly my bike

Yes, I have a fixed date! On the third of Februari I fly from Eindhoven Airport to Alicante in Spain. There I will be a couple of days enjoying the company of my sister and her boyfriend, who has a summer cottage there. And then I’ll ride all the way back to Fryslân again. I guess I’ll be back somewhere in March.

I’m really looking forward to a new little big adventure. In my previous blog post I wrote that I can lean on a bit of experience. In other words, I’ll just have to pack my stuff and go. But I have to add a little footnote in this post. Because I will fly to my starting point. That’s not that exciting you might say. But what is exciting, is that I won’t be flying alone. In order to ride back up again, I have to take my bike with me on the plane. Therefore it will not be enough to just pack my stuff, I need to pack my bicycle as well. That gives me more to worry about than the whole darn trip. How do I pack it up safely? How do I get it to the airport once it’s in a box? Do they treat my package (i.e. my bike) carefully? In what state do I get my bike back, or will I get it back at all!?

Well, first of all I will ask for a box and advice at my bikeshop next week. From there on I’ll just go step by step. Everything will probably turn out just fine. As always till this far. Before I know my bike and I are safe and sound in Alicante in order to commence my new adventure!



What a difference between the next trip and the last.True, the next one will be shorter and therefore needs less planning. But moreover I have the feeling that I know a bit how such a trip goes. Which gear I need and how to use it. I know about the strokes of the whip as we say in Frisian/Dutch, which means I know the basics and the routines. So, all in all I just have to stuff some clean boxers and tooth brush in my panniers, put them on my bike and get going. I have a rough route in the back of my head and I have a date (more or less, when my tattoo has healed) and a destination. So, that is all the preparation I’m doing this time.
Although not completely, I’ve wanted to do some winter camping to test my gear below zero degrees. In april last year I still had some cold nights. Therefore I wanted to see if I could keep myself warm with an isolation sheet and some other clothing. I brought my gear over to my parents’ place, who have a big garden. The weather forecast said it would freeze, but it didn’t. Hopefully I’ll get another chance before I leave. Otherwise I’ll improvise on the road again. Part of the adventure, isn’t it?

I love it, that I don’t have to prepare more than that. The planning and to figure things out isn’t what makes the journey worth while. Sure, it is necessary, but not part of the fun. The biking itself is.
Therefore I’m happy to say I’ve got some experience and because of that I know a little what to expect. But I still feel to joy of going on a new adventure to new countries and meeting new people. The fact that it will be just a month and a half makes it nice and easy to overlook. No quick and hasty cycling through a relatively lot of countries, but just three (Belgium, France and Spain) of which I’ll make the most of it. I’ll be quite a long time in France and if possible my sister and her partner will be in Spain to show me around. Somewhere in March I’ll be back again to plan my next trip!


New little big adventure

I’ve been home for a while. Did some other things than riding a bike. Although I have to confess I don’t cycle every single day, the urge to ride is always laying in the back of my head, like a bear in hibernation. And the need to go on a bigger trip is laying right next to it.
I can’t describe it differently than a ‘need’. Now that I know how it is to go on such a journey I can get a little restless at times. The joy, the pain, the people, the adventure, the struggle, the satisfaction etcetera etcetera. I can almost say it has become a bit of a part of me.Since my life situation has altered some I have no need to be away for four months, let alone to go on a world tour. I’ve been way up north to the North Cape (Norway) last summer. In February next year I want to go down south. Final destination is Spain. Madrid, Gibraltar, Valencia? I have no exact route yet. Well, there won’t be one either, since it’s part of the adventure to go with the flow. You get some advice about the road up ahead, you hear about a certain place you should visit, there is a Warmshower host you really like to go to. Only by thinking and writing about it increases the longing to be on my way!
So, first I only need an exact date. When I have one, I’ll let you know.
A thing that ís certain at this moment is that I want to keep on promoting Cycling out of Poverty. That charity organisation is worth cycling for!


In dire need of going out that confined space

The very last assignments

My trip round Scandinavia and the Baltics has now really come to an end, now that all the assignments have been completed (and payed for). Like I wrote before am I not finished cycling. I’ll get back to that after I summed up the three last assignments.

Since she will be a grandmother in the near future, she gave me the assignment to do something with the new generation. I am fague about it, because she gave me space to do whatever I wanted to with that subject. Because I encountered some hosts who take their kids on bike trips and by that teach them the love of cycling and adventure, I chose that as a starting point. Here are three pictures of three hosts. The first two in Sweden, the last one in Poland.

My very friendly host in Bialystok, Poland, gave me the assignment to write them a letter by snailmail. I like writing letters, and I love snailmail, so that was no big deal. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph to show you, but he already let me know that the letter had safely arrived in Poland.

A friend of mine gave me a rather extensive assignment, which I read to late. He was nice on time, I saw he had written me an e-mail and I thought I would read it later on when I would have more time. And then I forgot all about it. But if I couldn’t do the initial assignment, there was a backup. I could’ve easily done that just before entering Groningen, namely to make a picture of the place sign of Muntendam – small village in the province of Groningen and also his surname. Of course I haven’t read that either, so I went there one day from Groningen. I had a nice trip, because the weather was exceptionally good.


In my previous blog post I mentioned a ten day trip to Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. How do things go when you take on work again? Yes, I have the honour to give a course again, so my hands are a little tied. Next week I’m free, because of a vacation. Time to undertake a little trip of two days I reckon. And when the course is over beginning next year I want to plan another trip. I’ve been north, this time I want to go south. A month, maybe two. Needless to say I am not done cycling yet. Ever.

The adventure is over?

When people welcomed me back ‘home’ (read my previous blog post), they also mentioned that it was too bad that my adventure was over. They liked the photo’s and blog entries. It made me wonder why my adventure would be over. Do people think that now that I had my bike trip and I am back again, that I should get a normal life?

Well, there is nothing more that I desire. A house on the corner in Stiens, with a big wooden fence around it, a shiny car on the drive way, which I’ll wash every weekend after I have mowed the lawn. But most of all go to work every single day with a huge fake smile just in order to pay my mortgage. All the while thinking about how I wasted precious time on my bike, cycling through those boring countries and meeting a lot of uninteresting people.
I would smother in no time. I’m living anti-squat again in an old school building. Nice and cheap and very flexible. I am buying my furniture second hand, in order to save money for the more important things in life. In that way I don’t have to find a job right away, so I can work on a translation and write a book about my journey. In that way I keep a lot of spare time and freedom to be able to do some cycling and travelling (of course this time not always alone).
Therefore I had a little trip last weekend. In December last year I was blown back by a raging storm on the Afsluitdijk. I’ve crossed that dyke before, but I wanted to do it again, although it’s quite a boring ride. This time I succeeded, since the conditions were slightly better. I could camp on a farm (acquaintance of my sister) in Wieringerwerf. I didn’t bring my little fuel tank since I had forgotten it. I still don’t know how stupid I could’ve been like that. So I ate my kidney beans cold with some apple sauce. The tap water was so hot, that I could use that for my coffee the next morning. So I had no problems in riding across the dyke between Enkhuizen and Lelystad to the city of Apeldoorn where I visited a Beerfestival on Sunday. To taste new beers and to have a chat with my great sponsor Bernd Beersma of De Kleine Beer Brouwerij.

It was pleasant to be on the road again, and I will do so again.This month I’m going on a ten days trip to Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. Other routes are in my head as well. With those trips I still want to promote Cycling out of Poverty as well. With the hope that people will still donate, or that they give me assignments again when I announce a trip. CooP does a lot of good work in Uganda and Kenya, they deserve all the support they can get. So, I’ll let you know when I know more about my next trip.

In other words, don’t be dissapointed, my adventure is far from over in my opinion. It just got started, because I had a little bite of it and I loved the taste.