Time: 3h 21m
Average speed: 19.58 kph
Song of the day: Windy Straats
Click here to see today’s route.
A good meal last night in the hotel, we were seated facing out towards the water, watching the huge barges whizzing past bearing enormous loads of sand, containers and other mysterious cargo. Many of them have a car on a little platform at the back, how it is reacquainted with the land is a conundrum – a gangway, a crane?
We knew there was a storm coming in thanks to the Buienradar.nl weather app recommended to us (thanks, Dennis!), so it wasn’t a surprise to open the curtains and see trees bent horizontal and scudding clouds. Today’s direction was largely eastwards, and that’s the way the clouds were going, so we knew it would be in our favour, but the gustiness was a bit intimidating.
We breakfasted with a view of the windmills, all their sails chained down now against the gales. At the museum yesterday it was explained that different sail positions were used to signal between the windmills, this position meaning ‘start pumping’, that position notifying a birth, another a marriage and so on. All the sails were in a ‘George cross’ configuration, signalling ‘best stay in bed today, it’s too windy’…
No such luck for the touring cyclist, though, and we struck out east along the little path through the windmills. The reeds on either side were practically flat in the wind, a cross-tailwind except for a brief diversion where the cycle path was closed. Just a couple of hundred metres into the teeth of the gale was absolutely exhausting, such a relief to turn back east.
We cycled for a couple of hours through dairy farming land, the fields bounded by water-filled channels, lots of herons and quite a few swans. Suddenly out of one farmyard came a little snarling bulldog, hurtling towards us, baring his teeth. He gave chase, and astonishingly, given our speed, he was actually gaining on us. A squeaked request by the stoker for more power (the rear motive unit’s legs being much closer to the bulldog’s slavering teeth), a burst of speed, and he was left behind.
We followed the path of ‘De Lek’ river east, passing through some gorgeous little villages, Goudriaan, Noordeloos, Meerkerk. Canals ran through the centre of each, with charming little bridges across, all beautifully kept.
At Vianen we stopped for lunch before the big river crossing. The Grote Markt was full of market stalls (and not especially grote), car-free and very attractive. We idled away an hour over broodjes and then headed out to tackle the bridge. It seems remarkable that bicycles, pedestrians and other prohibited traffic are all allowed to cross right next to the motorway, but that’s how it works. It feels perfectly safe, but the cross-wind was very strong, and it was a relief to get down off the bridge and into the suburbs of Utrecht, tonight’s destination.
The outskirts of Utrecht were not particularly picturesque, although the section next to the Lekkanal had many floating homes, bungalows on the canal, each built on its own floating platform, which were interesting. After a slightly hairy navigation into the centre of Utrecht we found our hotel, quirky and friendly, the owner delighted to see we were ‘still talking to each other and smiling’ after our day in the wind.