I had a short week off from my work as a hospital nurse in mid April and Neil at Alpkit informed me that the Camino could be picked up around that time. It is about exactly a year ago since I started my cross US trip last spring, so I found it to be a perfect way to have an anniversary, a compacted micro adventure, riding from England to Norway. I hadn´t even been to England since the 90s, so that was another reason to do this. I flew to Gatwick from Oslo and hopped on the train to London and further on towards Nottingham, where I spent a night. The following morning I took a local train to put me in the town where Alpkit and Sonder are situated. Neil, their bike guru picked me up at the train station and brought me to their headquarters.
I had bought some camping gear from Alpkit a few years ago and had gotten a sense of the nice way they interact with their customers. This showed well in all the communication with Neil in the time leading up to the pick up of the bike. It made me feel valued as a customer. Once there I was presented to my new love, sitting there all put together by Neil.Neatly put into its own box was a set of various bikepacking bags that Alpkit manufacture in the back. I was given a tour of the facilities and even got to sit down at the sewing machine and put some stitches into a bag of my own. Great fun! I also got to check out all the other excellent products that Alpkit puts together, for many kinds of outdoor activities. What strikes me is the quality of design, manufacturing quality and sensible prices.
Neil suggested he would come along with me on my ride for the first few hours. We biked about 70 km together along a Google suggested route, which gave us the perfect test ride for the Caminos, as it had us go on paved roads, on gravel paths and even some singletrack, through the forest. We ended our ride with some food and beers at a local pub. Neil guided me to a hotel nearby where I spent the night with my new love.
The next day I rode up to Hull in order to catch the ferry to Rotterdam. I follow Google’s route suggestions and the Google God put me along a couple canals, on wet and rough surface. It also had me cross some farmland on muddy tractor ways. The Camino handled this surprisingly well.Sadly there are no maritime connections allowing tourist travels from Norway to England. After centuries of sailing between the countries, one is limited to a ferry to Holland. I would much rather have biked north in England, maybe into Scotland and hit the west coast of Norway directly. But instead I had to settle for tulips and Heineken.
After a rather uneventful boat ride I rolled ashore in Rotterdam and started my pedaling, aiming for Amsterdam. I knew the Netherlands was heaven for bicyclists, in terms of their excellent system of bikelanes, connecting most all of their country it seems. I had not biked in the Netherlands before, and my expectations were surpassed big time. Their infrastructure for bicycling is extraordinary, rendering a complete network of bike paths, covering the entire country. I found I really didn´t need any navigational aids at all, I could only follow the signs.
The Camino rolled easily north towards Amsterdam on mostly paved roads and bike lanes. Once in Amsterdam I stopped at an outdoor restaurant for some cold beer and some chips. The Camino became the conversation starter with some people sitting next to me. These good people gave me some good advice for where to stay for the night.
The next day I was met with some pretty cold and fierce winds from the north. I guess what Netherlands lacks in terms of hills to climb they make up in terms of wind. For the entire day the wind was in my face, really slowing me down. My plan meant I needed to put out 200km a day, but that proved difficult the wind and weather taken into consideration. I ended up making between 120 and 180 kms. As I moved north in the Netherlands the winds got colder and filled with both rain, snow and hail. I had not planned for such winter weather in late April in central Europe. At night I was seeing sub freezing temperatures, another surprise for me. Not that I am not accustomed to wintery weather, I just did not pack for it. Turned out Europe was being hit by a real cold front from the north at the time.
This cold front stayed with all the way home, so I was forced to change my plans a bit, hitting a different bearing to get out of the wind. I also decided to make use of some trains through parts of Germany and Denmark to win back needed time, to get back in time for work later in the week. So my ride home was a bit amputated by the weather and pressing time to get home for work. Ever since coming home though, I have been getting out on the Camino as much as possible. Read my thoughts after plenty of miles in Part 3