James and I made our way down to breakfast at 8am and saw a rather perturbed-looking Wowbagger who wasn’t feeling at all well. I know how exhausting train travel is at the best of times so hoped that he would recover quickly – fortunately the breakfast and coffee and paracetamol seemed to have done the trick.
We paid for our rooms and fetched the bikes from the storage area, then cycled the 0.76 miles to the railway station. We were there very early but wanted to give ourselves time for another exploding inner tube or other unexpected event.
The train pulled in the and the bike carriage had a fair number of bikes in it already. Still, we squeezed ours on and chatted to a Dutch couple who were at the end of a three week cycling holiday (from Rome to Koblenz). The cyclists were all staying on till at least Köln so we didn’t have to shift bikes around for an hour.
We had some awkward bike-shuffling at Köln, which involved me getting off the train and so many people crowding round the door that I couldn’t easily get back on and one of my wheels dropped between the train and the platform. And nobody came to help me. The Germans clearly need more lessons on how to queue, but all was well in the end.
We got off the train at Düsseldorf, along with almost all the other cyclists, and then made our way off the platform down below. I carried the trike down the stairs and Jan came along with some of their luggage but then a helpful person told James and Wow that there was a lift (we’d found one but it was closed). So they went off to find the lift – which took them to a different bit of the station and they couldn’t connect in with where Jan and I were waiting. In the end I went to the platform we were supposed to be leaving from and found James just arriving there in the lift, so I went back to fetch Jan and my trike. We had time for a drink and doughnut before the next train came.
The train from Düsseldorf to Venlo was one of the new Eurobahn trains which was very nice – loads of bike space, wide doorways, comfortable seats, decent loo. However the train couldn’t go right into Holland (for some unexplained reason) so we had to get out at Kaldenkirchen, 3.5 miles from Venlo, and swap onto an older Deutsche Bahn train. Which was not very suitable for trikes at all, and we manhandled my trike rather badly to fit it on. Wowbagger went down the train a little (realising our bit would be full up) and found a bike carriage which was still busy but more manageable.
After our four minute journey we had to deal with the rush of Germans desperate to get off the train rather than wait for 1 minute for us to move the bikes that were blocking the doors. Various ladies in Saris stepped over my oily chainring to get out. Someone needs to teach those Germans to queue!
Anyway, we had a 10 minute wait on the same platform and then our next train arrived. It was the usual yellow doubledecker NS train and we fitted all three bikes on OK. We got off after 45 minutes in Eindhoven (as engineering works meant this train wasn’t going all the way to Rotterdam – I did check!) and walked straight across the platform to the next train which was going to Utrecht.
At Utrecht we had a ten minute wait but the train that arrived, headed for Rotterdam, was only a single decker and had a really silly bike area which was extremely difficult to fit the trike and the tandem in (and James thought that just his bike on its own wouldn’t have fitted that well). the air conditioning wasn’t working very well either and it was really hot. Several young girls got on and insisted on standing in the bike area, rather than going to sit down somewhere, so I had to ensure my trike didn’t roll and deposit oil on them.
When we arrived at Rotterdam we were all hungry and weary so we refuelled with some chicken sandwiches (and James found a pastry) and then we set off to ride to Hoek van Holland.
I remembered not enjoying the first half of this ride with Pippa when I did it in September as it was really busy but, being a Saturday and not rush-hour, it was easier this time. I had prepared a GPX route to follow but had decided to go with the official signs as our route, just using my route if we got lost. It all worked fine and we arrived at the pancake place just outside Maassluis and had a pancake with strawberries, ice cream and cream to fuel us for the second half of the 20 mile journey.
We cycled through the very picturesque town of Maassluis and at this point picked up my route, rather than the official one, as it looked like it would be more scenic. We took the North Sea Cycle path and it was lovely – along the Maas river, looking out on water and barges and swans and wind farms. We went much faster, without having to stop for traffic lights the whole time, and it was also cooler away from the buildings.
The ferry was visible from over three miles away as it’s so huge. As we approached Wowbagger and Mrs Wow peeled off to visit a supermarket in Hoek van Holland and James and I went straight to the ferry check in. After we checked in we had to wait for five minutes before boarding as they were moving around some containers, and we were eventually sent up the ramp to just park along the side of where the cars were (there’s usually cycle parking at the front or in a room but I suppose we were later so these areas were already closed).
We wandered around for a while and then watched the ferry cast off, doing a very impressive turn pretty much in its own length. We then went to sleep and woke up in Harwich.