Finally got to an internet cafe – not easy to find if you are avoiding cities. Hazel has told you about the cycling through but the journey to Holland is also worth noting.
The start of the trip was a comedy of errors, accidents, false starts, inclement weather, and equipment failures. Here are some of the highlights:
1 – Just as we were about to leave the driveway in Telford and head to Hull for the ferry i heard someone cry for help. Outside in my sister's driveway was a poor old bloke who had tripped and fallen into the road, and was now unable to move. Went out to help him, Hazel called the ambulance, and together (old man (called Fred), his dog (also bizzarely called Fred), me, Hazel, the fast response paramedic, and the ambulance) we provided some excellent midday entertainment for an otherwise sleepy village. The best (most worrying, maybe) part was watching the ambulance driver spend 5 minutes trying to close the back door! Fortunately, Fred (the human) was OK, a bit upset and bruised but nothing boken. Fred (the dog) was loving every minute of it. After all the excitment was over we left for Hull about 2 hours late.
2 – Successful, but late, departure was shortlived as we almost immediately made a wrong turn onto the M6 and into heavy (stationary) traffic. Almost another hour later we manage to get out of traffic and backtrack to where we should have be (20 miles from where we started). On our way again.
3 – Arrived at Hull ferry port after speedy trip with one 5 minute pit stop. Remove bikes from car and assembled them. I leave hazel with the bikes and luggage and return to Hull to find the car hire office. After almost another hour driving around in circles in Hull (currently being dug up for a new shopping mall – oh how i miss Dubai already) I find the Hertz office. It had closed 20 minutes earlier!
4 – Back to Hull ferry port where we disassemble the bikes and put them back into the car. I change the ticket for tomorrow's sailing and then return to Hull to find a hotel.
5 – If you are in the Uk you will know that Hull recently suffered severe flooding. As a result, all the hotels were fully occupied with unlucky folks whose houses had been flooded. We ended up in Beverley, whichhas a rather splended church or two – apparantly it used to be an important place.
6 – Back to the ferry port, unpack, undissassemble, successfully return car and actually get on the boat. WooHoo. Smooth sailing, so plenty of sleep. The Hertz man was also wonderfully sympathetic (the story of Fred (the human) almost bought a tear to his eye) and didnt charge me for the extra day. I tried the same story during the taxi drive from Hull Hertz office to the ferry port, but the driver wasnt so soft hearted nor generous.
7 – One of the super new German panniers we bought (Ortlieb) to replace the crappy English ones (Carradice) break within 1 hour of cycle from Rotterdam! It looks like one of the important bolts has been cross threaded and is now stuck fast, but not tight in its fitting! As a result, the pannier falls of the bike when you go over a bump, which is not a useful feature. A helpful dutch bike mechanic applied a great temproary fix with a tie tag – these plastic wonders are a gift from the gods, almost if not more useful than fire. With the aid of a bungy, I have now converted the temporary fix to a permanent one. I am confident that it will last for the next few months.
8 – Stop for the first night at a lovely little dutch campsite and check out our gear again. I soon discover that i have bought the wrong gas cannisters for our little emergency stove. These are tricky things to find at times on the continent!
9 – Decided to start cooking with our trusty MSR Whisperlite stove and discover that i have bought the wrong fuel for this as well! You can burn a pint of Guiness in this stove, but i managed to bring the one thing that wont light! This is very annoying as i have used these stoves for years – pretty dumb! We ate cheese and bread that night.
After this things start to run more smoothly. I find the right fuel, the panniers are working well, we are heading in the right direction without unexpeted delays.