Time: 4h 42m
Average speed: 21.05 kph
Song of the day: The Long and Not Winding Straat
Click here to see today’s route
Our hotel in Leeuwarden was impressive – an amalgam of an old bank and a post office, beautifully architected and tastefully furnished. We didn’t eat there though, as the Captain had spotted a Turkish restaurant over the road, and as we love a Turkish meal the decision was made. We did return to the hotel bar though, after a very good meal, for a digestif. There now follows the traditional photograph of the Stoker drinking wine, in opulent surroundings!
Today was to be the second longest day of our trip, and even then only marginally so. The alarm was set, then, for 7:30, and we rose, bleary-eyed, to partake of as large a breakfast as we could manage (not very large, to be honest) in order to fuel up for the day. We had an inkling that the purchase of new rainwear yesterday might forestall any rain today, and we emerged from the hotel into bright blue skies.
It was chilly, though, so we kept our arm-warmers on and pedalled hard through the streets of Leeuwarden to warm up, dealing with the cyclist rush-hour which seems to prevail in Dutch cities.
Soon we were out of the city and heading west, through sunlit fields, alongside drainage channels and canals. We had forty-two kilometres to complete before arriving at the Afsluitdijk, and were heading directly into the wind for much of that time, so our rate of progress was initially slow. The surroundings were lovely though – swifts, swallows and herons in the air, goats and sheep in the fields…
…oh, and a van, submerged in a canal:
I’m not quite sure what that was all about, but there was a concerted effort in place to remove the van from the canal and, judging from the relaxed manner of the operation, they weren’t expecting to find anyone in the van.
We continued on, following the nodes, until we were able to proceed no further, as the fietspad was, well, flooded.
So we consulted Google Maps (how did anyone cope before the Internet?!) and found another way round which didn’t add too much to our daily mileage. After a little while longer we arrived at Bolsward, where we took on board pancakes, tea and coffee, as we had a long hard journey before reaching our lunch spot. We enjoyed sitting outside and consuming calories with impunity, bearing in mind the task ahead.
The wind intensified as we headed further west to the shores of the Zuider Zee, and our perception was that we were having a slow day. We ground our way north-west to the start of the Afsluitdijk. This is the major dike which closes off the Zuider Zee from the North Sea – an amazing feat of construction (between 1927 and 1932) 7.25 metres high, ninety metres wide and thirty-two kilometres long. It hosts a motorway and, more importantly for us, a wide cycle path. The road and path are on the inland side of the dike, and therefore sheltered us from the northerly wind for the entire time of our transit. Occasionally the cycle path followed the top of the dike for a few hundred metres – from there we could see and smell the sea, and watch the seagulls, and if we looked left we could see the sun’s reflections in the fresh water of the IJsselmeer.
So here was our chance to pick up time – we picked up the effort and time-trialled our way across, reaching speeds up to 29kph and maintaining an excellent average for the twenty-six kilometres we needed to complete before lunch. This we took at Het Monument, which is situated at the point at which the dike was completed. We climbed up the monument before lunch, just in case we were too full afterwards. This was the view to the east:
Lunch was simple, but good, then we remounted the tandem to complete the remaining six kilometres of the transit between Friesland and North Holland. We still kept up a good pace, and were soon passing the final sluices of the dike, which were emptying water into the North Sea.
Only twenty more kilometres to go, then, and we entered a windy metalled track through woodland, the dappled light pleasing to the eyes as we meandered along.
This continued for a couple of kilometres before we emerged onto the long straight road heading south towards Medemblik.
We were tiring, now, but put our heads down and pedalled hard – the view to the east was mostly blocked by another dike, although intermittently we rose to the level of the dike and had a good view over the IJsselmeer. Mostly, though, it was slog. Fast slog, fortunately, so we soon arrived at our destination and located our B&B. Our host poured tea and coffee and we chatted for a while reflecting upon the first entirely dry day we have spent cycling here in The Netherlands. Fantastic!