2nd November 2010
Day 21 - Assen to Sneek 91km

What a hard day... I fought against strong winds and rain for hours... The wind really is the worse thing to combat on this trip. If it rains and I get wet I can dry out, if it is cold then I can put extra clothing on, but the wind slows me down. So when I finally reach my destination - often at least an hour or two later than expected - I'm totally exhausted! Doing 80km on the flat with no wind takes only about 4 hours, but doing it against the wind takes over 6 hours, and all that extra pedaling is seriously hard work.

3rd November 2010
Day 22 - Sneek to Den Helder 84km

wow... By far the hardest day yet. Today I crossed the Afsluitdijk...

The Afsluitdijk was completed in 1933 and blocks off the the sea, creating the fresh water IJsselmeer lake. The dyke is 32km long and a lot of hard work to cycle. Next to the 4 lanes of motorway there is a bicycle lane, separated from the traffic with a barrier. The wind was against me all of the way, and I could only manage 12km per hour maximum. It took over 3 hours to cross it. The only consolation is that for the second time only on this trip so far, the sun came out. It was fairly sunny until about 1pm when the clouds started to roll in.

After the dyke itself the rest of the trip was just as bad. Howling winds reduced me to actually walking with the bike sometimes - when travelling across very exposed places like open fields. The struggle against the wind continues only until the outskirts of Den Helder where I was then sheltered from the wind by the buildings at the roadside. I arrived finally at Esther and Jowan's house at about 4:30pm after travelling for about 8 hours...

It was so nice to see them all! Giulia has grown so much!!! I lived with Jowan, Esther and Giulia up in the Appennino Mountains south of Bologna in Italy for a year. Giulia was only a few months old when I moved to Bologna itself. She is such a clever little girl, at only 4 and half and Bilingual, in Dutch and English! And Joseph is sooooo cool! He's so cute (only like 6 months old!).

After much beer, awesome Surinamese Rum, an amazing fish curry and great company, I finally collapsed into bed, safe in the knowledge I didn't have to get on the bike for a few days. Its holiday time!!! In Den Helder!!!

4th November 2010
Day 23 - Den Helder

A day of relaxation plus a little shopping! I bought waterproof trousers that I can cycle in, because I'm getting soaked and freezing cold in the shorts I was using before. Spent the evening relaxing with Jowan, drinking beer, rum and laughing like hell at a Billy Connolly video.

5th November 2010
Day 24 - Den Helder

Spent the day relaxing again (there's definitely a theme emerging here...) and managed to finally get the GPS working on my second mobile phone. I now have the full Tom Tom Navigation System with maps for western Europe installed and working! This will really save me a lot of time on the trip. Every time I arrive at a destination town I normally spend at least an hour trying to find hotels and the tourist information point. Just having a clear zoomable map will also help to sort out any confusions with my paper maps, which sometimes are only 1:400,000 scale, which means its hell getting through small towns along the way. This will change everything and hopefully save me time and hassle.

Evening was also spent drinking beer, rum and laughing a lot!

6th November 2010
Day 25 - Den Helder

Todays project was trying to get the "donate" part of my site working. After hours of endless adjusting parameters, copying and pasting code and repeated testing, I think it now works! (I think...)

If you believe this project is a good thing, and that this enormous endeavour of cycling ridiculous distances in the middle of winter is worthy of reward, then just go to the donate page of this site and please feel free to contribute (via credit card or paypal) to the two charities I am supporting - Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

There is also an extra donate button! If you want to buy me a beer along the way, or offer help with the general funding of this trip (which is costing me all my savings - thousands of euros) then please feel free :-)

Evening was also spent drinking beer, rum and laughing a lot!

7th November 2010
Day 26 - Den Helder

My last day here :-(

I have been having so much fun! Reminds me of the good times when we all lived in Monteacuto Vallese at the top of a mountain in northern Italy. We had quite a crazy household...I have also come to the conclusion that little Joseph is soooo cute, and Giulia is as mad as a goats hairbrush! We all went for a cycle along the dyke by the sea, took lots of photos, picked up supplies from the supermarket and then it was party time!

Evening was also spent drinking beer, rum, martini and a eating really good food. Its gonna be weird hitting the road tomorrow after so many days of rest...

8th November 2010
Day 27 - Den Helder to Amsterdam 89km

I was sad to leave. I took Giulia to school, packed up the bike, said my goodbyes and got on the road at 10:20am.

Jowan & Esther! I had an amazing time! Thank you for your incredible hospitality!!!

It was a hard ride today. The wind somehow had completely changed direction over the last few days and yet again was facing me most of the way. I followed the Great North-Holland Canal southwards most of the way, but as the canal is very open the wind made travel a little hard. Cycling along the canals is normally the most direct route but also fairly boring, travelling in straight lines for many kilometres before making a turn. In that respect I quite enjoyed the bit cycling through the town of Alkmaar, which was fun to navigate and full of canals, boats and stuff to see.

I finally arrived on the outskirts of Amsterdam at around 4:30 but lost a lot of time waiting for the ferry to cross the North Sea Canal. The shipping lane was so busy the ferry couldn't cross the canal for about half an hour! I found my way to Sjahin's flat (brother of Tolga whom I used to play music with in Italy and a super famous percussionist in his own right!) and after a few beers we are heading out (on bikes!) to the city to take a few beers.

9th November 2010
Day 28 - Amsterdam

Today I tried to see as much as possible, but by the end of it I realised - like with many of the other places I have visited - there is never enough time.

I cycled first to the house where Anne Frank lived. Outside was about 200 irritating and screaming dutch school children waiting to crowd their way in. Joining them appeared to be quite a few Americans and Japanese tourists, so I just watched the spectacle from the other side of the canal and then circled around the corner to the Homomonument.

This really interesting memorial is dedicated to the homosexuals persecuted because of their sexuality. The memorial itself is 3 different pinkish stoned triangles, with each one representing a different perspective. One triangle points in the direction of the National War Memorial, one to Anne Frank's house, and one to the headquarters of the COC, a Dutch gay rights group formed just after the 2nd World War. The three triangles also form the 3 points of an even larger triangle.

Next stop was a memorial to the Women of Ravensbrück, a memorial to the Gypsies persecuted by the Nazi`s, the Hollandsche Schouwburg - a theatre that became a transit camp for Jews being sent to Westerbork Kamp before being sent to Poland for extermination, and then to the Dutch Resistance Museum. This really interesting place explores how the Dutch dealt with being occupied by the Germans from the capitulation on the 14th May 1940, who formed resistance movements, and why. I highly recommend this to anyone visiting Amsterdam wanting to see something a little more important than its numerous coffee shops and the atrocious red light district.


10th November 2010
Day 29 - Amsterdam to Amersfoort 63km

A fairly ok cycle today... The wind was not so bad, although as usual pointed straight at me...

I arrived at the Amersfoort Kamp at about 11pm. Amersfoort was originally a Dutch army training camp, but after the Dutch surrendered  the Germans turned it into a concentration/work camp, and later a transit camp. It is from Amersfoort that many Jewish people were deported (often via Westerbork) to the extermination camps in Poland.

Nowadays there is very little remaining of the original site, but the people who now run the memorial have certainly done a good job using whatever they can. There is an original guard tower still on site, and the enormous shooting range - a 350 metre long trench where many prisoners would lose their lives. There were around 37,000 registered prisoners and at least 13,000 unregistered who passed through the gates of Amersfoort. A big thank you to the staff for helping me store my bike bags and providing cups of tea!

11th November 2010
Day 30 - Amersfoort to Den Bosch 67km


Extreme wind, extreme rain, extreme cold, and it hurt a lot.