Harwich to Holland Headwinds
Updated: May 31, 2018
(Ruth) One of the first questions people ask on this trip is ‘how much training did you do before setting off?’ The short answer is ‘probably not enough.’
I did have every intention of attending spin classes and spending my weekends seeking out steep hills to climb but it turns out I’m not that kind of person. I’m more of the work-it-out-as-you-go type. Plus, I didn’t think I had anything to worry about because we were starting in Holland, the flattest country there is. I figured I could ‘get fit on the way’ in between gazing at Windmills and drinking hot chocolate and Stroopwafel.
How wrong I was. Holland is pancake flat yes, but the winds are mighty (perhaps unsurprising in a land full of windmills). Get them in the right direction and you’re laughing all the way down the Rhine, get a headwind and you’re breathing in freezing cold air and weeping into your scarf (my reality on day six.)
Our first schlep from the ferry port to Ottoland (roughly 70 Km) was perhaps ambitious considering the wind and below freezing temperature. But having already arranged to meet our first Warmshowers' host, we were keen to make the distance as planned. Even the kind offer of a bed in Rotterdam didn’t deter us, we drank lots of coffee, faced the wind and tried to pedal as fast as we could.
But we were going nowhere fast. It was like trying to cycle whilst wearing a parachute pulling you in the opposite direction. Long past sun down we we still crawling towards Ottoland and we were extremely late to meet our hosts: Karen and Martin.
After the third apologetic message explaining our progress, Karen sent us a message saying ‘we’re coming to rescue you!’. They borrowed Martin's brother's van and drove out to find us on the highway, still pushing against the wind.
I’ve never been happier to see two strangers pull up beside me on the roadside. They gave us a huge hug, piled our bikes into the van and drove us back to their house. Dinner was waiting (albeit a little cold because we’d taken so long) but Karen and Martin were the perfect hosts.
Having cycled from Alaska to Chile over the course of three and half years, they knew all about headwinds and cycling in minus temperatures.
They loved our determination and naivety - it reminded them of when they started their cycling tours. Karin was adamant that we stay two nights and give our legs a rest. Having lots of experience on her side, we took her advice and enjoyed shelter from the winds.
Whilst it’s been a challenging start, it’s perhaps the better way to go. Now anything above zero degrees and winds we can stand upright in feels like a breeze.
Our rescuers: Karen and Martin.