Friday afternoon, July 15 at 14:03 is the start of a new adventure: we are going to Scandinavia! Already in the winter, not long after our cycling trip on the Canary Islands, we booked a ferry from the north of The Netherlands to the south of Norway. We have set our sights on (a part of) the European Divide Trail, a long distance MTB route from Lapland to Portugal. It is the European counterpart of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route through the USA and Canada, which we cycled in 2017. Since we booked we have often thought: why not cycle to the sunny south? Hopefully, at the end of this 2,500+ km adventure, we will have a good answer.
We had agreed to leave no later than 2 p.m. after working during the morning. Those 3 minutes we are late, we take for granted. The fact that this time overshoot is recorded here indicates that we are hard up for bicyclelife. We are back in our element: we are back on the pedals!
The first stage takes us from Helmond to Groesbeek. We camp at a spaciously laid out natural campground in the woods, but we don't have it easy there. The neighbors have four small children, who have built little houses for gnomes everywhere. Destruction of a gnome temple guarantees drama and we don't want that on our conscience. All houses are explicitly designated and that helps to avoid being lynched by gnomes (or their four young patrons).
In a few days the Nijmegen Four Days' Marches will start, a true folk festival and that is already visible. In the city along the route there are numerous chairs, and also fauteuils and sofa's on the streets. Because it gets too hot on the first day, this year it's a three-day event.
Between Nijmegen and Arnhem we pound through open fields against the wind. In the center of Arnhem we stop for coffee and apple pie and then we cycle into the National Park de Veluwe. The route is beautiful!
At the supermarket near Apeldoorn, we meet a fellow (long distance) cyclist, who lives there and knows the area like the back of his hand. He advises us how to cycle via the Crown Estates of Het Loo to the campsite. The route is part of the Roots walking route from Delfzijl to Goirle and is easy to do with our bikes. The route is slightly longer but much more beautiful. So do it!
On arrival at the campsite near Emst, manager Roelie tells us all about his favorite country Iceland, while Harry learns that he cannot put up the tent (poles) by himself. Harry therefore goes to meet Willemijn, the friendly neighbor at the hiker-biker field. When Roelie returns from the payment (chat session) the tent finally can be put up.
After another beautiful part of the Veluwe, the next day we cycle into the village of Hattem. We cross the IJssel by ferry and drink coffee with apple pie in the center of Zwolle. Then follows an extremely boring, depressing part between Zwolle and Meppel and even a bit beyond Meppel. The only things that stand out here between the mega-stalls, desolate corn fields and empty meadows are upside-down flags. The upside-down flag is a sign of the current farmers protest. It is only just before Dwingeloo and the nature campsite at Lhee that cycling becomes fun again, and that is where we end today.
The campsite is huge and there are only a few tents there. We cycle around to choose a spot, but then it appears that the computer for registration has crashed. The forester and troubleshooting service have been called by predecessors. We are in the region known as the Bible Belt, where many christians live. It is Sunday, no one will coming to reset the thing. We are actually on this beautiful campground for free.
In the morning we cycle some nice miles through National Park Dwingelderveld. After it gets a bit boring again. The planned route is somewhat dominated by getting to the ferry in time. Continuing on the Roots walking route would probably be much nicer, but longer and it is going to be a very hot day. We left relatively early in the morning. It's still early when we feel like having coffee with apple pie but on Mondays a lot of things are closed. Fortunately a care farm in a small village has a sign outside even before 10 o'clock that they are open.
The apple pie wins the apple pie comparison contest. This one is tastier than the ones in Arnhem and Zwolle. We feast while in the barn behind us some young bulls roar and the chickens scratch around us. After the break, the route becomes much more fun to cycle again. Apple pie seems like a turning point to switch from a boring route to fun, and vice versa. After the pie, the route through National Park Drentse Aa is very nice and we even imagine ourselves in a piece of jungle, so that in all our enthusiasm we go too far and have to cycle back a bit.
We then balance on the invisible border of the provinces Drenthe and Groningen. The crossing over the Drentsche Diep is a self-service ferry where 6 ladies are already enthusiastically cranking the ferry to us. With an overcrowded ferry of eventually 10 cyclists it doesn't really work, after which Harry decides to intervene and takes us to the other side.
We cycle to Schildwolde for some shopping and then spend the rest of the hot summer day in the shade of the trees on the nice camping Wildemansheerd.
We do the last stage in the Netherlands on a scorching hot 19th of July (it's the day that the Four Days' Marches is cancelled).
In the beautiful town of Appingedam we buy a bike computer for Harry to collect data on the road and a roll of tape for any minor emergency repairs. The standard of coffee and apple pie are exchanged for a cold soft drink. After this nice old town, the last part shows few more cornfields with the industrial zone of the Eemshaven in the distance coming closer and closer. We ar ready to go: on to / in the (cool) boat and to cooler regions!