Day five and my first real opportunity to provide an update.
I write this curled up in my soggy tent which is set up in a public forest (sorry Nederlands, we know we’ve broken the rules!) and all I can hear is that wonderful sound of big raindrops falling onto my tent. It’s amazingly satisfying when the survival instinct kicks in and you realise you can survive with so little.
So anyway, here I am, and what a journey it has been so far. The build up to our departure was full of mixed feelings, my brain felt like it was in a million places at once. Leaving work and leaving things in good order was dominating my thoughts in the weeks before, and there was also the preparation, mainly focused around getting my bike and equipment ready. But two or three days before departing different things started to coming into the picture, reality sinking in and the growing awareness that I won’t see my friends and family for a long time, particularly Willow giving birth to my first niece or nephew. The anticipation of being alone for so long made me cling to those that I love the most, absorbing every moment I could to help carry me on this journey. I was filled with sorrow to be leaving those I love, panic that I may not have planned for every eventuality, fear of the unknown but more than anything a gut-tingling excitement for what Mafensway might have in store.
The departure was perfect, not as I had planned at all but typically us, mum up until midnight the night before sewing makeshift pannier bags for Taylor, me making last minute decisions to actually fit my mudguards (so glad I did!) and then our 8am departure slipped to about 11am. But finally, with a few teary eyes our little unit divided into two. Mum and Willow waved us off and there we were, Bruv and I, on our adventure. I looked at him and there was wild excitement in his eyes, the day had actually come for us to set off, Taylor accompanying me on the first short leg of my trip.
We hurtled through the countryside of Essex as if we were flying. The Essex countryside is breathtaking and so many times we would just look at each other saying “I’m so happy right now!”. Thundersley to Harwich was complete within 5 hours of cycling, we were desperate to get to that ferry. The moment we rode onto the ferry was a really special moment for me, the only barrier between me and my destination was that small strip of water, crossing it was a big deal.
We woke to a very rainy Holland and it has pretty much continued in that vein since. Holland has been an incredible training ground for this adventure, the perfect place for testing the water and seeing what works, the plethora of cycling shops means no essential piece of equipment is far away and the landscape has given us hours in the saddle to get us ready for the days ahead.
Holland is, as everyone says, entirely flat and patchworked by canals (or Rivers of Straightness as we like to call them) Yes, this is true but it is so much more. From the perspective of a cyclist, the eternal flatness and straightness of every road and river, symbolises constancy in the form of effort. However it’s not constant pain nor constant pleasure, the legs tire, the mind wanders, but the flatness continues and the body endures. This epitomises Holland as a whole, it is a country the endures and it does it with love. Everywhere I looked I saw love, not necessarily couples embracing, but the kind of love that others can see between two people without them even knowing that you can see it. I watched a mother and son riding through Amsterdam holding hands, him slowing down so that she would drag him along faster. I watched two older men cycling a footpath with their tennis racquets, a trip they’ve probably done time and time again over the years. I watched a young boy and girl cycling together just chatting away, perhaps he invited her somewhere just him and her, the beginnings of a special friendship. I watched a father and little girl riding into town on Saturday morning, perhaps going to buy breakfast to take home for their family still relaxing at home.
So Holland, like love, is to be endured. It is a constant effort, sometimes painful, sometimes repetitive but entirely rewarding and beautiful. A perfect perfect place to start this adventure.
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Thanks for reading. X