Day 10 – Monday 7 September – Bonn to Köln, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland.
Distance: 45 miles; time: 4 hours 12 minutes; Calories: 2859
After a good breakfast we checked out at 8:15 and retrieved our bikes from the Keller.
We set off on an easy path with lots of dog walkers and few cyclists. However amongst the cyclists we saw on our short, 35km hop from Bonn to Köln was a delta trike (unknown brand but looking a bit old and rickety) and a Trice T.
As we approached Köln through some woodland we saw that the path ahead was closed due to tree felling with lots of tape across it. There was no diversion marked but it looked as if there was a parallel cycle path across a field so we walked the bikes across the field (there was some kind of footpath so this wasn’t too bad) and then joined the other path which curved back to our correct path very quickly. There was a diversion sign at this end of the path.
Our average speed from Bonn to Köln was 11.5 so this was excellent for us, despite the occasionally bumpy path with tree roots pushing up the surface and making it bumpy.
From about six miles from the centre of Köln we could see the Kölner Dom (Cathedral) on the skyline, an impressive sight and a useful aid to navigation. Considering the trouble I’d had last time on my solo tour getting from Köln to Bonn, where I got lost loads of times, this was a really easy route, even if Pippa had a dodgy experience with a dog which was a bit annoying for her.
We got to the main station in Köln about half an hour before the train was due to go (the earlier of the two that we hoped to catch, giving us plenty of spare time). However we used up all of that half hour in buying the tickets (took twenty minutes as Deutsche Bahn ticket offices are like UK Post Offices, but at least I got the complete tickets for us and bikes to Hoek van Holland at 54€ each) and then Pippa’s loo stop where she discovered she had to pay and had to return for some money. We got up to the platform for the train to Mönchengladbach with five minutes to spare, not enough time to buy food or a cake for James (I had hoped to bring him home a German cake).
The train to Mönchengladbach was much less busy than at the weekend. It was an easy step across the platform to the train from Mönchengladbach to Venlo (where the conductor removed the metal pole to assist my trike to get on) and on that train we talked with two German ladies who were very pleasant, asking us about our holiday. Various rough-looking lads got on with their mucky mountain bikes which filled up the bike carriage area but they all got off at the stop before the Dutch border which is apparently (according to these ladies) a place where German youths can buy marijuana etc. This was, in fact, the stop where the police sniffer dog had nosed around the young lad who got on the train there on our outward journey, so now we know why.
At Venlo we had twenty minutes to buy sandwiches, a cup of tea, a doughnut, crisps etc, and settled happily onto the Dutch train and ate. This is a two hour journey but we filled our time with iPods etc and it went fairly quickly.
During that journey we decided that as we were making such good time we would cycle from Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland, rather than taking the train. Although we’d bought the tickets all the way through, we would get to Hoek van Holland rather early and I remember there not being much to do there. So we exited Rotterdam Station and set off on the rather scary cycle paths. Scary? Yep, they are. Loads of cyclists on variable bicycles, no hand signals, mopeds sharing the paths, the paths littered with glass in places, the paths a bit narrow for a trike to comfortably pass a person whose bike is laden with luggage. We also found the traffic signals took AGES. We were relieved to get out of Rotterdam onto wider, longer, smoother roads.
I got lost a few times doing this ride last time and we got lost in similar places this time, fortunately having a GPS route to help us (although it didn’t exactly match the signage that the Dutch cycle routes offered). We did, however, arrive at the pancake place I enjoyed last time – to discover it was shut! Argh.
We carried on and got lost in the town/village of Maasluis which was very pretty and which had a pancake place so we stopped to eat there. I had Poffertjes which are like little fluffy pancakes drenched in icing sugar, lovely; Pippa had pancake with mushrooms and bacon and cheese.
The route from Maasluis wasn’t obvious and we had to do a bit of trailblazing but eventually found ourselves on the lovely, long, straight paths across polders towards Hoek van Holland whose cranes and ships were just visible in the distance. On this part of the ride we saw three herons, one of which flew over my head with a fish in its mouth. Lovely!
We arrived in Hoek van Holland at 6pm and bought some food supplies in Lidl, faffing around for a while. We arrived at the ferry check-in at 6:45 at which point it opened and so we were one of the first onto the boat. The bikes were stored in a side room up a ramp (that was exciting cycling!) and there were five bikes in there, including what appeared to be a home-made recumbent bicycle owned by a Dutch chap.
We enjoyed our first shower without washing clothes of the whole trip, then met for some drink and food before having an early night. We would be waking up in England!