Amsterdam to Gent

So I’ve been in Europe for a week already, I’ve ridden about 520 kilometres so far(5 days of riding with one rest day), so now that I’m starting to get into the bike touring groove I figured I should start writing about my experience. So far I’ve been using a website called Warmshowers (similar to couch surfing except its for touring cyclists) to find accomadation. Its working out really well so far and its a great way to meet new people since Im spending most of the daytime on my own. Sooo…..

Day 1: Amsterdam to Brielle: Stayed in a youth hostel in Amsterdam with Sophia the 1st night. The next morning we got up around 8 and walked around a bit, got something to eat, and around 10:30 am I decided to get going, so we said goodbye and I spent the next hour or so trying to find my way out of Amsterdam. Eventually I found myself in the Dutch countryside heading for the nearby city of Haarlem. On the way there I stopped to look at a map and another cyclist pulled up beside me and asked me if I needed some directions. He turned out to be an Australian living in Amsterdam, and he was heading to Haarlem as well so he offered to ride with me there. What a great way to start the tour, riding with a local cyclist who was happy to give me advice and take me on a longer but more scenic route! His name was Richard and unfortunately this is the best picture I have of him:

 

 

 

Once we reached Haarlem we parted ways and I stopped to have something to eat before continuing on to the coast. Haarlem was really beautiful and I could have spent longer there but I knew I had a lot of riding to do if I wanted to get to Brielle.

Apparently it used to by the original major city in the area, before Amsterdam.

 

 After leaving Haarlem I continued south-west towards Zaanfoort and the coast, where i planned to ride the North Sea cycle route down to Brielle, where I had pre-arranged a place to stay. I rode through I some nice woodland areas and through a small national park before reaching Zaanfoort which was pretty disappointing-a modern beach resort town with little charm. I did find the North Sea route though, and was happy to find that it was very easy to follow. The Dutch cycling network is very well established! After Zaanfoort, most of the route was through foothills and sand dunes, not much vegetation, and lots of wind!( I was riding against it the whole way). Around maybe 4 pm I rode through De Haag, Holland’s second capital city, and got a bit lost in there, but eventually found my way back onto the North Sea route and continued on past more sand dunes, beach resorts and picturesque Dutch farms until I got to Hoek de Holland. Here I was informed that I had to take a ferry across the Europort which I had not been aware of, so I hopped on the ferry which took about 20 minutes, taking me across the worlds biggest industrial port. Not one of the days highlights for sure. It was about 7:30 when I reached the other side and I still had about 20 km of riding to get to Brielle, mostly through industrial areas and then through some nicer woodland and finally arrived exhausted at 8:30 after riding a total of 115 km for the day. A lot more than I’ve been used to considering the most I’ve ridden before that was maybe 70 km in a day! My legs were definitely feeling it! My first host was really nice, his name was Bram, a single guy living in a big house right in front of a beautiful canal!

Day 2: Brielle to Vlissingen:   Today I got up around 7:30 and walked around Brielle to take some pictures:

  It was a really nice quiet town, and I could’ve stayed, but I wanted to get moving again, so I packed up my stuff and headed out around 10 30. My destination today was Vlissingen, a town on the coast which was supposedly about 90 km south of Brielle. Shortly after leaving Brielle however, I got very lost and ended up taking a long detour. I didn’t mind though because it took me through some beautiful scenery:

 Eventually I reached this quaint little village that I can’t remember the name of, and there was a fruit stand in the square, so I stopped to have something to eat.

Later that afternoon I crossed over 3 huge dams that stretched on for many kilometres:

 and I passed more beautiful farmland and some forested areas before finally arriving around 8pm in the coastal city of Vlissingen:

I ended up doing about 115 km’s again today because of my morning detour, so I was very happy to arrive and my host’s Froukje and Paul, a Dutch couple who spoke very good English and told me about there plans to go on a year-long cycling trip this summer across North America! They offered me food and were very accommodating hosts!  

Day 3: Vlissingen to Ghent:   I got up a bit late today and left Vlissingen around 10:30. Paul and Froukje had suggested I take an small detour to go see the town of Middelburg which was about 6 km away. I rode there but was slightly disappointed: I really didn’t think it was anything special. So I rode back to Vlissingen and hopped on the ferry that you must take to go to the province of Zuid-Holland and continue into Belgium. It was maybe a 20 minute ferry ride, and during the crossing I met a super nice couple from North Carolina who were also doing a bike tour on a tandem! I got a picture with each of them:

Once I got off the ferry, I tried to go directly towards the Belgian border, and ended zig-zagging a bit, but it was ok because the scenery was very nice, very flat with lots of nice farms and big fields.

 I also rode past this produce stand and stopped to buy two big containers of strawberries which I sat down and ate right there.

  Around 3 or 4 pm I crossed into Belgium, which immediately met my expectations of what I imagined Belgium to be: a flat, straight path along a canal with farms on either side.

  I rode along this canal for most of the rest of the way to Gent, and at one point stopped and chatted to this couple who were also cycling. The guy was also a musician:

 Finally after getting a little lost a few more times I rode into the Flemish city of Gent around 7 pm . About an hour and many panicked phone calls later my host Karen and I finally found each other and she led me to their beautiful little home not far from the city centre. Her and her husband have 3 little boys, 6, 3 and 3 years old, who spoke no English but that didn’t stop us from having a lengthy conversation about the World Cup in Brazil. They had made some vegan food specially for me with veggies from their garden and after a long day of riding I was happy to sit and eat with them. They were all so nice and we were getting along so well that I decided I would take the next day off to stay with them and see the city of Gent. Here is Karen with 2 of the boys:  

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Heading off into the unknown

It’s been just over a month now since I wrote my last exam at McGill University and came back home to the beautiful West Coast. Now today I’m setting off again for my next big adventure, which is a 6 month trip to Europe. My sister Sophia and I decided a few months ago that we both were ready to do some travelling; I’ve just graduated from 4 years of university, and it’s time for me to do something different, something that I’ve never done before, and something that will challenge me and hopefully get me thinking about what kind of a direction I want to take next. About 6 weeks ago I decided that I would love to take a bike over to Europe as a means of transportation and to stay fit and travel at my own pace. As soon as I moved back from Montreal I bought a used touring bike from Craigslist and immediately started doing some longer rides to try and get used to riding longer distances. During the next few weeks I researched bike touring , bought new panniers, saddle, and repair equipment, learned how to replace and patch tires, and gradually kept increasing my riding distances. Here’s a photo of me from just a few evenings ago, after a practice ride with my panniers fully loaded like they’ll be when I’m travelling. It was definitely a lot heavier, and harder to balance!

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Today I rode my bike to the Vancouver Int. Airport, and fortunately only had to disassemble my bike very minimally by deflating the tires and removing the pedals. Then, with the help of my sister and some of her friends as well as my mom, we slid it into a special plastic bag and taped it shut. The whole procedure was so much easier than I had anticipated!

 

 

When I arrive in Amsterdam I’ll probably ride right out of the airport into the city, where I will probably spend a night or two with my sister, and then head off to begin my adventure. I will likely start off heading south-west down the North Sea cycle route, which would take my down the coast of Holland and Belgium, and into France, from there I have a rough idea of where I will go but I’ll reveal my plans in more detail once I’ve made it that far.
At this point I don’t think I will be spending all or even most of my time for these next few months cycling. When I’m not on the move my goal is to do some volunteering. I’m still hunting for opportunities but so far I’ve found a sanctuary in Northern Greece that rehabilitates local wolves and bears, that Ive been invited to volunteer at, as well as an organic fruit farm in Western Greece and an organic mango farm in Israel! I will likely meet up with Sophia again in the fall so that we can go to those places together. I also want to get involved in any kind of direct action (protests, rallies, etc that I can find.) I guess my other goal for this trip is to see if I can document my travel experience through my youtube channel that I’ve recently started, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU5QKsq5cbc, as well as continuing to publish more posts on this blog! So if you want to follow me on my adventures, stay tuned for videos/blogs of where I’m going, what I’m eating, and what I’m doing!