Wandering Waffle Eaters Hit Sudden Snow
02 March 2000
Written by Kevin
Subject: Netherlands - Belgium

I am writing this in the warmth of a B & B at Francochamps in Belgium. Since Lowanna last wrote from the ferry in the North Sea we have been weaving our way across the Netherlands and south into Belgium...

We arrived late afternoon in the Hook of Holland, and, true to form, it started to rain just as we got off the ferry. Wobbling in the wind and trying to remember which side of the road to cycle on we set off towards Amsterdam. Several hours later we arrived in Den Haag and realised the limitations of our map.

It was great in the open countryside but not so good in the cities. After cycling several times around a large park in a torrential downpour we were rescued by Jan, who lived in The Hague and felt sorry for us. We went back to his house where he cooked up a wicked couscous feast and plied us with beer. Hours later, dryer and warmer and very happy, we fell asleep on his lounge floor.

Next day we carried on up the coast towards Amsterdam. As amazing as the dunes might be in the summer, with the wind whipping off the North Sea we decided to make the best of the dodgy weather and move further inland. At times nearly blown into canals (an occupational hazard in the Netherlands!) but still safer than on the roads - the cycle network in the Netherlands is an inspiration (perhaps the result of spending 16 times as much on bikes as the UK does) we arrived in Amsterdam. With an incredible feat of map reading Lowanna got us safely to our friends house. We unpacked the bikes, squashed them onto the stairs and tucked into an amazing hot meal...

Next morning we ventured into Amsterdam central and headed for a veggie cafe. The trams, bikes, buses, footpaths, underground, local and national trains all combined to push the car into very last place. So amazing to be able to cycle around a city without the fumes, smell and intrusion of cars everywhere! Also so frustrating to see how much is possible and how little is actually achieved in most places.

But soon it was time to move south, and with the sights of Amsterdam still fresh in our minds we headed south. The next week was spent slowly inching our way through the usual mix of February storms. The daily rain added to the incredible amount of water visible in the Netherlands - there are canals and ditches everywhere and as the fields slowly sunk under the winter onslaught it gave the impression of cycling across huge lakes.

A mental yearning for hills began to compete with the physical bliss of no hills, and as we hit Maastricht the first bumps on the landscape began to appear. A huge aggregate works was slowly consuming the one hill the Netherlands seems to possess. But soon we were in Belgium, where the cycle lanes disappeared and mountain climbs began to feature in our daily cycling.

We are now in Francochamps. We had hoped to be further south but have been held up by snowstorms. It is funny getting stuck in the town that holds the Belgium Grand Prix - there are fast cars everywhere, and once more we find ourselves outcasts in a world where speed is everything.

But now the sun is rising once more and it is time to throw on some layers and head south towards sunshine and Switzerland...