Riding down the Rhine

Our goal after Amsterdam was to ride towards Germany and meet up with the Rhine River where there is a Eurovelo route. We planned a route from Amsterdam to the border based on the location of Natuurkampeerterrein campsites. To navigate we used the Fietsplanner app to plot a route following the node point network. This network of cycling routes covers the whole country, each intersection (node) is numbered and has a map. You can work out a route and then just follow the signs to each successive number. There are similar systems in Belgium and Germany and we thought it worked really well.

My notes on what numbers to follow, scribbled on a leftover tourist map

The first day was fairly scenic, mostly alongside water. We met a Dutch guy who told us that the land we were cycling on was all completely reclaimed land and used to be water which was pretty interesting – no wonder it was so flat! Unfortunately we had a headwind pretty much the entire way so we were pretty happy to arrive at the campground.

The campground appeared to be unmanned but had a high-tech check in computer. After several false starts we managed to interpret the Dutch and enter our details to check in. Then we tried to pay. The machine only accepted cards so we used one of our credit cards: rejected. We tried our other credit card: rejected. I used the phone to call the help number and the woman at the other end told me that the machine didn’t accept credit cards, only debit cards. “Why didn’t you bring your bank card with you?” “I’m from New Zealand.” She seemed a bit flummoxed, it turned out that there was actually no way for us to pay. She told us just to set up tent and that she would let the ranger know about us.

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A bug’s life in Antsterdam

Our campsite in Amsterdam was pretty intense, it was almost like a hostel and there were sooo many people. There was still a crowd of elderly couples and some families with luxury caravan setups or big tents, but then there were also lots of young people (especially Germans, so many Germans go camping in the Netherlands) and we saw lots of other cycle tourists. We met another kiwi couple – Amy and Tyler – who had decided to camp because it was cheaper for them to buy a tent and camping gear than to get a hostel in Amsterdam which is apparently something like 100 euros for two people. They reckoned the payback period was about three days. Which maybe explained the crowds. There were certainly a lot of people in ‘2 second’ pop-tents which I believe cost about 20 euros.

Setting up camp takes us slightly longer than two seconds

I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this, but you encounter a lot of bugs when you’re cycle touring. On the road there are often bugs landing on you or getting in your face. Then when you’re camping there are always bugs crawling on the tent or flying around getting caught between the tent and the fly. So it was still gross, but probably not that surprising, when Andy told me that I had a bug in my teeth while we were waiting to check in at reception. Eww. I hurriedly tried to wipe it off without getting it anywhere near my tongue. I managed to get it out and relaxed, until Andy peered a bit closer. “I think one of its wings is on your front tooth.” Eww eww eww.

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Visiting the King in Den Haag

I had only heard of The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) because some of my friends went there in high school for Model UN conferences. On the strength of this (and some hasty information seeking from said friends) I thought it might be worth a visit for a day so we planned another day off.

I had discovered that the Dutch King’s working palace is in The Hague so we hung out in the palace gardens eating the sandwiches and pastries we had bought from a bakery. It was Sunday and once again we were caught out by lots of places being shut. Bakeries generally close on either Sunday or Monday and usually we are unlucky on both days, fortunately this time we found one that was open (after passing two that were shut).

The Hague Cathedral

Apparently if a flag is flying at the palace it means the King is in residence and we did see a flag on one of the buildings. I’m not sure if it was necessarily the correct flag but I’m going to imagine he was there. *waves hello*

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In Bruges (and entry into the Netherlands)

Bruges turned out to be just like St Petersburg for us. It is known as a beautiful city with lots of old buildings and history and is one of the only places most people visit in Belgium. However this means that you go in with really high expectations. We arrived fresh from Ghent, which we had loved, so of course we were disappointed with how touristy Bruges was, plus we didn’t have any local guides to show us around. Just like we preferred Moscow to St Petersburg, we preferred Ghent to Bruges.

The campground in Bruges was also more expensive, we had paid about €12/night up until now but in Bruges we were charged €20/night. This isn’t really that surprising considering the campground is so close to a main tourist city, I think our outrage is more an indication of how cheap we are than anything else.

Rest day = bacon for breakfast

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