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  • Writer's pictureLauren O'Bryan

The Flatlands (Not the Badlands, sorry)

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

I feel like the best description for the Netherlands is ‘the flatlands’, for obvious reasons. In terms of the trip so far this area was pretty uneventful, it was just generally easy in comparison to other countries.

The cycle paths in the Netherlands are world renowned but at times ‘bike rage’ replaces road rage and having definitive rights on the road as a cyclist takes some getting used to. I’m more familiar with ‘legally’ having rights on the road, but actually not. Many times I gave way to cars out of pure cautiousness, when I had the right of way. The drivers of course would get quite frustrated with this, but it was difficult to get used to.

The coastal cycle paths in the Netherlands are delightful, and I actually think the beaches are under rated if just a bit cold and blustery. When I cycled past a guy on a fully loaded bike one day, I was so excited to see someone else touring and gave him a big cheery wave. He was cycling into strong headwinds, and did not appear cheery.

I had some downtime with a friend in Amsterdam and as most cycle tourers do, my downtime involved eating anything and everything. I was still adapting to the increased energy output and the need to load up on calories, it’s a good thing the summer fairs were in action already.

My friend recommended Groningen as a place to visit on my way to Germany but I was disappointed to find out that the 32 kilometre long Afsluitdijk causeway was out of action for cyclists. If I wanted to cycle across it I’d have to take a shuttle bus part way, I thought that would be a bit of a let down so instead I took a ferry from the quaint dutch town of Enkhuizen.

After spending a night with a couchsurfing host and getting woken up by the church bells all night (this is a thing in the rural area, the church bells just ring constantly it seems) I jumped on the ferry.

I was lucky enough to find another host the following night, because massive storms ripped through the area. On route to Groningen I passed residents collecting green waste on the verge for collection, which is a common sight in Northern Australia during storm season. I thought nothing of it, until I spotted an entire tree poking through someone’s roof and realised the storm had been much more significant than I’d first thought. The campground I had been recommended in Groningen was situated in a lovely park, quite close to the city centre.

It wasn’t hard to find by the sound of chainsaws and wood chippers. Uneasily, I found myself a tent spot directly in the centre of a grassy patch as far from any trees as I could. Fortunately there were no more storms and Groningen was perfectly delightful. I managed to replace a broken camera in Groningen and then kicked on to Germany.

Welcome to Germany.

The leftovers from another storm in the Atlantic had sent a verifiable hurricane up through northern Europe, and certainly made for interesting cycling. I stuck to the quiet roads so I could safely wobble along in the gusts of wind. On my way into the city of Leer I had to cross the River Ems, where the bridge had turned into a wind tunnel.

The wind was so strong I couldn’t cycle and ended up walking the bike across, at times wedging the bike between me and the hand railing and holding on for dear life when a gust of wind threatened to send me flying. Cycling is certainly an all-weather activity, but you’re allowed to push sometimes.

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