Netherlands Motocycle Tour
Motorbike Adventure Netherlands
France was never an intended place to spend some serious time touring but after spending about 3 days in the summer of 2001, I vowed that I would return to really investigate the country that holds such allure for many people around the world. After 6 weeks planning I was ready to embark on a trip of a lifetime on a Triumph Adventurer which I had already ridden from as far south as Crete (Greece) all the way up to Inverness in Scotland.
My time in Scotland began with September 11 and finished with the passing of the Queen Mother; two of the more significant era setting events that occurred early in the 21st century. Many said after 911 that the world will not be the same, and it isn’t, and with the passing of everyone’s ‘Grand Ma’… a lady who fitted so much into her life and saw the advent of 2 world wars, human flight, man on the moon, television, computers, etc and put her success in life down to one main driving element; duty and respect.
I get onto the ferry (Newcastle to Ijmuiden) and park the bike in the bowels of the ship and have to traipse up no less than 5 stories to get to my cabin. Ship corridors are not wide and so I struggle in full leathers and thermals through the other ‘ants’ who are trying to get to their nests, bars. Anyone who has done this type of travel should be able to relate; add to that that some ‘unfortunate’ has left something in their car and must ‘swim against the human tide’ in order to get back into the bowels of the ship before the lock it all up for the trip. My hibernation in Scotland left me with extra kilos around my belly and the fitness of a couch potato so I am struggling physically and overheating thermally. I finally make it to the cabin and feel I have just run climbed Everest. I rest and shower then head to the bar for some refreshment and reflect in what I am leaving.
So 8 months in the UK…. I did enjoy Scotland and my 6 months in Edinburgh one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been!. I do have a soft spot for the Scots and not only as my grandmother's parents were from Alva but I find the Scots a proud people who have had such huge influence on the rest of the world who still get a bit of hard time from the English and although they are a separate country it is a relationship that at times seems convenient.
The Scots have a soft drink that on first taste resembles nothing that would or could occur naturally not only on the planet, but the solar system but is something I will miss. ‘Irn Bru’ is an intriguing drink that has absolutely no resemblance to any natural flavour and yet after acquiring the taste I found myself drinking it morning, noon and night. (Pronounced ‘Iron Brew’ to those not familiar to the language of the north).
When I arrived in Scotland, I could understand about 30% of what people where saying to me… by the time I left it was up to about 75%. (In fact when I arrived in Newcastle I thought the Geordie accents were think… till I went north of ‘The Borders’ It is such a pleasant and happy accent. It comes from the soul and is indicative of the spirit of the Scots… regardless of their lot; they can at least put some energy into what they are saying. It a pleasant attribute of the country. The place just lacks good weather, sunshine etc and the winter is bleak (too bleak for me). I admire the spirit and the courage of a people who have lived in this environment for centuries.
I leave Newcastle in the same weather that I arrived. Midsummer I arrived and it was terrible… left in April and it was the same.
I have breakfast and then there is the announcement to disembark. I gather my gear and make a beeline down the ferry’s cavernous stairwell that nearly got the better of me the day before. I make my way down the 5 flights of narrow stairs with my rucksack; luggage in hand and my helmet on (no free hands) and go to push the door and crash… it is locked! I fall down in a rather pathetic heap in a 1.5m x 1.5m stairwell and in total disbelief that the door is locked.
I am able to get up, good thing I had my protective motorcycle leather AND helmet, but with my pack on I am unable to turn around and am dreading walking up the dreaded stairs again. I bang on the door hoping that someone on the other side will hear me and release me from my nightmare. To no avail, so I must go back all these stairs and take the track of the other conformist ants or I may be stuck here and end up doing the return trip to the UK. So, I unload everything and must do the 1st flight in 2 trips and then when I get all stuff up and loaded onto my back I hear a bell sound and without even turning I know someone has a sense of humour; the door is now open. So I traipse down and find my trusty stead and get off the boat.
Ah… success, I am now in Amsterdam and having been here before I know where I am going.
One does not need too many reasons to go to Amsterdam, it is such a beautiful city in a beautiful country but another reason I am travelling to France via Amsterdam is to visit my brother who often stays there due to his work.
Navigating the streets of Amsterdam, I venture around to my brothers has and ring the door bell. He buzzed me in and I opened the door and I am once again confronted by stairs. These were even steeper and longer. I arrived in his apartment and fall into a chair. I am over stairs.
The following day calls for a day trip. North Holland and across to Friesland which I assume is where the cows come from.
The owner of the hotel tells me of a little village on the way up that I must see. Tradition ½ wood houses and people in traditional dress. I am going along the spit to this place and it is busier than central Amsterdam. There is one thing I hate more than the wind and that are hordes of tourists. Yes I know.. I am one but they have a habit of dawdling and getting in your way. So I think out of respect of my host I will look at the village. I once again use my ‘BOB’ logic and bypass the car park where the other ‘ants’ are going and think that I can just ride through the village 1st and get a taste of whether it is for me. I am stopped by an attendant who insists I must go to the car park and pay.
Well… that was enough for me… I decided it was not for this ant. So it is off to what I really wanted to see….Afsluitdijk, a VERY large Dyke. 31 km long with ocean on one side and a lake on the other. This thing is huge and a reminder of just how much of the Netherlands is below the sea and a testament to the engineer prowess of the Dutch. There is a lookout about a third of the way along. Amazingly, one cannot see the other side of the end of the inland lake which it creates. Awesome!
So, 6 days in The Netherlands and I am reminded that this is one of my favourite places and is a Jewel in this part of the world….
What a place….. a country that has had a massive effect on the world…. New Amsterdam (New York), The Pennsylvania Dutch, The Dutch East India Company, New Holland (Australia), New Zealand, The Afrikaans, Abel Tasman, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Inge Debrune, Peter Van Den Hoogenband, Ray Barneveld, Djiks, Tulips, Clogs, Windmills, … and not to forget the colour Orange.
The Dutch are so unpretentious despite the ability to cohabit, a small land mass that is almost 40% below sea level, with so many different people. There is a Dutch word for this acceptance that people will be different and are not judge but are understood that it takes all types to make up society. I am an person from a very young country (with regard to European habitation) that owes its existence to Europe and the Dutch where, and are, a significant ingredient.
Their style is not displayed with arrogance that would upset this country of bicycles, beautiful parks, relaxed ambience, artists, museums, architectural tolerance, societal experimentation, and plenty of wind! And I do mean wind, maybe a reason for their sailing ability and lets not forget windmills. Another endearing quality is their ability to use English, to us ‘non-Dutch’, without looking down their noses at you coming from the other side of the world and having the linguistic agility commensurate with coming from a ‘sunny-beach laden’ country that was the place that the English set up camp 200 years ago.
It is an endearing quality of the Dutch how English is utilised without any loss of their ‘Dutchness’.
How does it work? I would not pretend to know and not all is perfect, but the following is what is what I saw on my third visit to this wonderful country.
Next stop ... Brugge (Bruges) Belgium and the French border.