Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 63: to Dokkum (105; 4119)

probably have said this more than once, but this was THE perfect cycle-tour day.

A mysteriously condensation-free night gave me the opportunity for an early start. It was a beautiful clear morning and I was away by 7.30, although subsequently delayed by the breakfast temptations of the supermarket, which didn't open till 8. 

With a mostly tailwind, clear skies, easy navigation, and no hills (obviously) I made great progress and had done 80k by 1.30. Which I think is a record. Feeling a bit frazzled by then I was delighted to find a beach cafe on the edge of the Lauwersmeer, a nature reserve and UNESCO site that's basically a dammed inlet of the Waddenzee. Interesting flora and fauna, wifi, and cold drinks on a sunny terrace. Pretty much the perfect rest-stop.

Given that this is the official North Sea route I have been surprised to see relatively few cyclists over the  last couple of days, and no official signposting - not that that matters much around here. More tractors than anything else as it's largely rich agricultural land and with a couple of exceptions not even much tourism around. Lots of horses though, I have twice met a Molly-alike going for a ride today, possibly the first horses I've seen being ridden all trip.

Things got even better this afternoon when I crossed into Friesland proper.  The sluice bridge was up so there was a buildup of cyclists on both sides, including the most glamorous lady in front of me in a 1950s dress and heels, who then totally kicked my butt in the race to be off (on consideration, she may have been on an e-bike). 

It was a really magical moment crossing the few km of dam. I took the route right along the water's edge with the North Sea on my right, dyke on my left, the tide rushing in and a thumping tailwind. You can't get better than that. 

Just hope I'm as lucky in a day or two's time when there is a 26 km crossing to be made! 

There are noticeably more cyclists in Friesland, lots of whom I think are cycling the 'eleven cities' (of Friesland) tour. This is historically a super-tough one day skating race, which hasn't taken place for years because it no longer freezes hard enough to be possible. (Nonetheless my Frisian friend Alle-Meije is often heard muttering about the likelihood..). Cycling it however is a lovely and more manageable holiday. I am staying tonight in Dokkum, one of the glorious eleven, and famous because St Boniface and fifty-odd followers were massacred here in 754. St B, originally from Crediton, was over here missionary-ing, and told his followers not to resist the robbers who attacked them. A storyline worthy of Game of Thrones I believe.

It's a gorgeous place, the town centre is a hexagon of bulwarks and with canals all around that are covered in sailing vessels. The overall effect is very charming but kind of difficult to get around - my trip to the supermarket which is probably about 200m away as the crow flies took 20 hot minutes each way due to the need to detour over multiple bridges.

A cosy campground, a cute town, wonderful weather and a full belly. I think I'm really getting the hang of this cyclocamping now!

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