Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Our journey has abruptly come to an end. When we left the village of Ierissos on Tuesday 13/9 we rode on a wide two-lane road. Suddenly an oncoming car started to overtake the car in front of it. Doing this it came way too far to the left and it hit Eveline, who rode just behind me, at full speed. The left side of the bike was hit. Eveline was injured, but not unconscious. An ambulance has taken her to a hospital, where it became clear that her left arm was badly broken in several places. Although it looked worse initially she has amazingly few other injuries, considering that on the left side of the bike everything was ripped off and that the content of the rear pannier hung high in the bushes. The arm needs surgery. In consultation with the emergency center of our insurance company the decision was made not to wait for this to be done here. We hope to arrive in the Amphia hospital in Breda next Friday, where they have a MRSA-room available for her.
We hope to be able to continue this blog as usual in due course.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Finding a place to stay

We use several sources of information: maps, guidebooks, tourist information offices, the internet, information passed through by travelers we meet and co-incidence. Internet is a recent phenomena in this area and its significancy is rapidly growing. No traveler without a laptop, hardly any accommodation without wifi.
When traveling in Europe most of the time we camp on regular campsites, since staying in hotels or hostels would be too expensive in this part of the world. Besides that we like to camp. There are many campsites throughout the continent, very often with free wifi, and we usually find them just by locating them on the maps we use.
In countries with a decent touristic infrastructure we visit the Tourist Information offices in the places we pass and gather all the information that could be useful for us, including locations of campsites. Or we have them book a room, as we did in Martigny (rain!)
Sometimes, f.i. when we're tired or if the area is nice and there is a road sign indicating that there is a campsite we just follow that.
Sometimes, if available, we use a warmshowers address. As I mentioned under the button “Links” there is this website Two American guys who like cycling set this up. You can subscribe and then you declare yourself ready to host passing cycle tourers and provide facilities such as: a warm shower, a bed, couch or something else to sleep, safe storage for the bike, a meal etc. Only the first 2 items are required, the rest is optional. Requests for a stay can always be refused, so no obligations. Members are then also allowed to request a stay at another member's place. Thus among others so far we hosted a Taiwanes cyclist, two Koreans and a London couple, all long distance cycle tourers. And as you can have read in earlier blogs, we stayed in 3 warmshowers homes during this trip so far. We just sent a request per e-mail 1 or 2 days ahead and got yes as an answer. And all three were very agreeable stays with interesting talks, excursions, even IT-training and good food included. In Italy, the Balkans and Greece there are hardly any warmshowers adresses.
In countries like Albania and Macedonia and in the part of Greece that we went through there are no campsites either. Then we have to free camp, which we are not fond of and we have not done so far. So we have to find a guesthouse, a hostel, a room or a regular hotel. The Lonely Planet, but also guidebooks as Brard, provide you with pre-selected adresses. Most of the time they suite us fine. These guidebooks aim at travellers like us and backpackers, so you will not end up in posh business hotels. Only if nothing else is there. Mostly they are easy going places with rooms, sometimes also dorms with 4 or 6 beds, a garden or a inner yard where the guests hang out in a relaxed state, can cook and do their laundry themselves if they like, chat and exhange information, since they are all more or less of the same kind. Prices are considerably lower than in regular hotels and the atmosphere is mostly utterly agreeable. Very often they are small family run houses, so contact with the staff is mostly very personal. In south east Asia we have been in the most wonderful ones for just some euros or dollars per night.
Then there are sites like They give the same kind of information as the Lonely Planet, but now you can read reviews and book ahead. We seldom do the last, since exact far-ahead planning is hard for us. But f.i. for the Thessaloniki hostel we did, as this is a much frequented city. And it was very nice, this “Little Big House”. For Istanbul we most likely will use this possibility as well.
Another source of information is the fellow traveller. Whenever you meet other cyclists, either along the road or in a hostel, you stop and talk. What you mainly do is exchange information, on routes that are good or bad to ride and about places to visit and stay the night.
In practice the result is that you always find a place to stay. Some examples: In Elbassan (Alb) we stayed in a beautiful new hotel because it was recommended by a friendly young man that we met on a coffee stop. In Ohrid we went to an address that was recommended by the Lonely Planet. It was in the centre of the historic city and in the spaghetti of narrow streets and stairs we found it easily by means of our gps (hurray for those modern techniques). But it was fully booked. So I parked the bike and went strolling around. In places like these there are always people who rent rooms and within 10 minutes I had arranged the nice room with balcony in a private house (€15 for the two of us). In Edessa full again, at least they said so at two places (the posh little bastards didn't like sweaty cyclists I suppose). So we went back to another hotel sign we had noticed and found a decent room for €35. Today we're camping on the grass (exceptional in these dry regions) on Sithonia, the middle one of the 3 fingershaped peninsulas of Halkidiki, near the village of Vourvourou. When we leave our patch of grass we step right onto the beach of a blue lagoon and the Eagean sea. In order to get here we have made a 100 k detour. It was recommended to us by Mewes and Astrid (, two world cyclists who we met on our way to Thessaloniki. Standing still and talking along the road (they were on their return from China) we exhanged this information, next to some pears and grapes that both couples had scored on their way that day.
In 2010 in Colombia we met a Brit who cycled from north to south through this country. He told us that he had planned not to spend any money on accommodation during this part of his trip. He was a week under way and until then he had always stayed in the homes of people who offered him a free place to sleep and eat.
Hiram, the Taiwanees cyclist who we met in Yunnan and who slept in our house in november 2010, pitched his tent just everywhere under all circumstances, on a boat jetty in Harlingen, in a park near the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam. The two Koreans that stayed with us in May this year told us that in the beginning it took them up to 2 hours to locate a good spot for free camping, now it was the least of their problems, 20 minutes at most and they would find a proper spot. (Mind that mostly it's illegal, so you must carefully pick your spot.) 
So, all in all, finding a place to sleep is hardly any problem (for a cyclist?). And when carrying a tent it should not be at all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Macedonia, then Greece

We spent a relaxing day in Ohrid on the lake with the clearest water you can imagine. It's a very touristic place, but the high season is over, so it was quiet and nice. Many terraces of course, and souvenirshops, but the historic qualities of the place are very much in shape.
We stayed in a room in Emile and Sandra Jovanovice's house. A simple room, with a simple shared bathroom, but so cosy and nice. A place to feel really at home.
The day after that we rode to Bitola, they say the cultural capital of Macedonia. Here we slept in an old mansion house, now a private house combined with a 3-room guesthouse. Perfect again, only a 10 minutes' walk away from the centre. Here there were some mosques, a clock tower, a covered bazaar and an app. 800 meter long shopping street that for 80% is used for terraces for the numerous bars, restaurants and cafés. The Macedonians really like to hang out. Even in the early morning, just after 8 o'clock, when we were in the street to change our unused denars into euros again, there were already people having their coffees there.
Having got rid of the elsewhere useless Macedonian Denars we left the town in southerly direction. Within a kilometer we stopped for a visit to an archelological site, Heraclea Lyncestis. Remains of buildings from Greek, Roman and Byzantine origin. Sixteen km further we reached the border with Greece. We entered a region with only a few settlements and not much activity to be noticed. When we stopped for a coffee at the first bar we saw after a couple of hours, it appeared to be closed. But the owner, who had worked in Germany for 14 years, didn't mind a chat apparently. He offered us a frappé. This is the cold coffee that is very popular in these regions. Nescafé, with or without milk and sugar, is beaten up with a little mixer, ice cubes and water are added and that's it. The locals can sip hours on one, the barman said, and it was going to give us energy enough to reach Thessaloniki. We had an interesting chat about all matters, including the euro crises. “If our politicians would give back what they have stolen from us, there would not be any problem”. He felt that the ordinary man now had to pay for the debts caused by the politicians. And not untrue, since f.i. VAT is raised to 23%, even for food. Only water is exempt from this high tariff.
We left without having to pay, he wouldn't allow us. Just half an hour later we were waved into an orchard, where we had to eat pears right from the tree and from where we couldn't leave without a plastic bag full of the delicious fruit. After 110 k we ended our day in beautiful Edessa, in a simple but good and cheap hotel. In the evening we had to flee from a terrace (of which there were a lot again) because of a thunderstorm, the first rain in 4 months.
Today we continued to Thessaloniki. Not a nice cycling day, as there was no real alternative for a busy main road. The Greeks build new roads for cars just over the old ones, leaving no escape for other vehicles. They say that Thessaloniki is the record holder as to the number of bars, cafés and terraces. We'll see tomorrow. But, as a German cyclist who we met told us when he descibed this phenomena said: “Die Griechen sind pleite, aber sie feiern!” So we suppose it'll be true.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Through Albania

We entered Albania in the north and the first town we stopped was Shköder. The road from the border to the town (app. 15k) was quiet and pleasant, and so was the town. One of the reasons that it was so quiet was that it was the day of the end of ramadan. We found a pleasant hotel in the centre (Hotel Kaduku) and in the evening everyone came outside to parade the pedestrian area and to pay a visit to one of the many terraces.
The next day we rode over 100k to the capital Tirana. To avoid the busy main road we used side roads. In the morning this was ok, although we got lost on, I suppose, a deserted army base. Overgrown tarmac, bunkers, and no one to be seen. Once we had to walk and push our bikes through the shrubs and in order to reach a normal road we had to pass through a closed gate, that was not completely closed, that is, the closure was broken. But no problem, now and then smiling countrymen would wave us into the correct direction and with the aid of the gsm we were at least sure that Tirana was gradually coming closer.
In the afternoon we took a parallel road east of the highway (here called autostrada) and this become a miserable affair. The road surface was very bad, so, in spite of a friendly tailwind, our speed dropped dramatically. For a great number of kilometers there were roadworks going on. This implied that the road was completely broken up, no hard surface, loose rocks and pebbles and the scarce traffic had to wrestle its way through. Just as we had. No road workers to be seen, no signs or any indications how long it was going to be like this, so no joy for a cycle traveller.
At a certain point there was a possibility to go to the 'autostrada'. Not allowed for us, but what else? The term autostrada appeared a bit optimistic. It was a 4-lane road (most of the time), traffic was not too bad, the tailwind helped firmly and progress was so good that we reached the centre of Tirana and a cosy little hotel at app.17.00 hrs.
Tirana is a traffic nightmare, but as experienced cyclists we make ourselves as big as we can and claim our road space. Until now this approach has worked well.
We spent a nice and relaxing extra day in Tirana. Pleasant, dusty, noisy but with quiet places and parks, many terraces and restaurants as well.
After Tirana we cycled to Elbassan, to the south east. Except for the beginning a quiet highway that took us over a 800 meters high mountain range and that was really beautiful (video). The night we stayed in Hotel Colombo, a posh hotel with swimming pool and everything, a bit past the town of Elbassan. It was adviced by us by a young man who adressed us when we were having a coffee stop. The hotel had only very few guests. There was a striking presence of some, relatively many, men with a certain attitude. Big, short haircut, uninterested, somewhat annoyed look in their eyes, smoking, big cars, greeting each other very intimitely, acting as if the world was theirs, some with a (too) posh female companion. Then there were some of the hotel staff who were clearly busy making a good impression on some of the first. We had our doubts of the nature of the professions of these men. This was something that we had noticed before, Albanians are friendly and open, but there is this kind of macho man that you cannot escape to notice. An unpleasant note.
Another thing that we noticed was that after we had passed Tirana the economic situation looked better. Good road, everything in better shape than during our first day in the country.
From Elbassan we rode further east and again we had to cross a mountain range, this time 1005 altitude. It went surprisingly well, the border post was on the highest point and after that we only descended towards the Ohrid lake in Macedonia. In Ohrid we found a simple, cheap but very pretty room with balcony overlooking the historic centre with the oldest cathedral and the lake itself. Here we stayed again for a non cycling day, for a stroll, a drink, a dinner, so for a nice and quiet day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A poor country?

Albania shows many signs of an underdeveloped country, or is it more correct to say developing country? If the latter term is used it implies that there are things developing. We didn't notice much of this.
The bar owner in Shkodra already told us that there are no jobs and that their politicians are no good. The word corruption was used, public interests came second. Schooling is bad and parents had difficulty to pay the extra money for the teachers. Teachers' salaries are so low that, without asking extra money, they are not high enough to support a family. (Didn't I hear exactly the same story in Cambodia?) No jobs means no money, so though people are friendly, he said, they are not happy. There is little hope for a change for the better, there is no change at all.
In spite of this most people are well dressed and in this the image is similar to other European countries. Besides that, the fact that most people are muslims doesn't show in clothing or other behaviour. Men and women visit bars, together and on their own, and alcohol is served everywhere.
But, as the barman told us, many guests in bars sit for hours on one coffee with the glass of water that is coming with it. Not much money to spend. This does not prevent the many bars and terraces being crowded in the evening, mostly with young people. The atmosphere is certainly agreeable.

On our way from Shkodra to Tirana we saw many men idling and hanging around. We noticed a large informal economy. Many people have set up very small businesses. As the motorcar seems to be the status symbol, there are very many 'Lavazh', car washers. Just a waterhose and some cloth and you're in business. Hundreds we have seen. Also very many bars, small 'markets' (groceries), people selling cigarettes and potato chips from a cardboard box along the street, or gsm's, fruit, sun glasses, shoe shiners, a man with scales to determine your weight, etc. People try to earn some money in all possible ways.
Then we also saw deserted factory buildings, a deserted railway complex, a cement factory in good shape but with no activity. Roads were sometimes good, but often really bad and for many kilometers we had to work through roadworks that had been started but where no road workers were to be seen now. In Tirana there are big areas in the centre that are broken up, but where there are no igns of activity. Just in a few places building is going on. Streets are not clean, side walks are broken and a lot of waste is just dropped along the roads and in rivers. So public services are not performing, or not well enough.
I already mentioned the great numbers of Mercedes Benzes. In the city it's more mixed, but in the countryside it is mainly this brand, the great majority. Most of them are old or very old. You can see that for many drivers it is their way to be someone. They just hang around in and on and near their cars. The reason why it must be this one brand must be found in sociological and cultural processes, of course. In more places in the world you'll find a similar image. F.i.: just watch any photograph of a Palestinian place, sure to see the same brand of car as here in Albania. Once again the similarity with Cambodia struck me. Also economically very much deprived, corruption is tangible and no signs of improvement visible. There the only car owners are the military, politicians (=the same), the police and other criminals. There it's not Mercedes, but Lexus.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Today we entered Albania. Our last night in Montenegro we spent near Bar in an “apartmani”, a room that is called an appartment because it has a cooker and a small sink. We were charged too much, we found, but these are the things that you have to learn during the process. In the house we met Sebastian, a 29-year old Polish marketing man in the paint business. He was on his motorbike (an Aprilia for the connaisseurs) making a tour from Poland to Istanbul and Athens and now on his way back. That day he had come from Igoumenitsa in Greece, had passed through Albania and now he had stopped in front of the same gate as we had. Until late in the evening we had a nice and interesting discussion, mainly on his motorbike, which indeed was a sleek and mean machine. He is an enthousiastic and energetic young man and it's always nice to meet youngsters like him. At breakfast this morning we said goodbye.
Our last kilometers in Montenegro were a preparation of what was ahead for us in Albania. After having left the urban area of Bar we had to make a left turn and the road changed into a narrow road steep uphill. We feared another heavy day of climbing. But after the initial 200 meters ascent the road stayed on the rim of the mountain range and was quiet and the scenery was really beautiful. This we liked very much, since all the way in Montenegro, except for the Kotor bay, the road had been noisy and busy. Now we rode smoothly and extremely quietly and enjoyed wonderful panoramas over the Adriatic sea and the most southern Montenegran town of Ulcinj. The road surface was poor, now and then a donkey would walk astray on the road, cows were grazing in the road side. We passed several little shops and bars, but all closed. What's up? Where is everybody, why is nobody working? We passed several mosques and Islamic graveyards; of course, we were entering into Islamic territory. The first break we could take was at a brand new and modern gas station. Lots of young man were sitting there and having coffee. When we left they started asking us questions about our bikes, they had seen they were special ones. On the other hand we asked them about them all being gathered there and the shops being closed. They explained: a muslin holiday. Then we realised; August 30th 2011, end of Ramadan (Lonely Planet!). So again we were entering a new world and we had to learn how things work in this region.
As a wiser couple we continued and reached the Montenegro-Albania border after some kilometers. It was so nice to see that the first border official we had to pass was a cow. These are worlds we like to be in.
We crossed the border without any problem and then we almost immediately recognised the feeling. This is a different world. The country makes a poor impression, but the people greet you friendly. Young children wave and shout and give you a high-five when yo pass. It reminded us of countries like Laos and Cambodia, this friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The road to Shköder (Shkodra) was easy. Seven of ten cars is a Mercedes, of all types and years and we saw some dozen of the app. 60.000 one man bunkers that have been built under the great leadership of the late Enver Hoxha. Here and there between the simple houses and fields there were nice looking restaurants and just befor the town we enjoyed a lovely break at the riverside in such a new and very well run facility. It seems that Albanians from abroad invest in these enterprises, they look extremely well. Professional and agreeable staff, no nonsense, they make us feel very at easy and comfortable. We are now staying in Hotel Kaduku in the centre of Shköder, again a place where it is absolutely nice to be. Airconditioned room, wifi, tropical, cosy and cheaper than the appartmani of the night before.
We spent the evening in town where now everyone was about, enjoying the holiday. We had dinner and after that another drink in a bar, where the owner sat with us for almost 2 hours. We discussed many items and mutually learned a lot. This is what travelling is for.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Bay of Kotor. Entering Montenegro for a moment gave me a small reminder of the former east block feeling. On the border, when it was our turn, the customs officer waved us back without giving us a glance and leisurely started a conversation with a colleague, pretending not to be aware of the long line of vehicles waiting for him to do his simple job, just look at their documents, give a stamp and ask for the next one. But no, he used his full power and let all of us wait so that he could enjoy the full benefit of his monopoly. Well, the only thing one can do is wait and behave as the man likes. So, when they were finished, he gave us the uninterested glance and we got through in a wink. The first kilometers immediately showed a difference with the countries we had passed until now. There was rubble along the road, abandoned used cars, unfinished buildings, unattended places of land. It was not dramatic, but still obvious. It's small things, f.i. the toilet in the bar where we stopped for a coffee was dilapidated.
Riding through sometimes chaotic traffic we reached the bay of Kotor. It is a butterfly-shaped bay, 40 k circumference, with a narrow, funnel-shaped, opening to the sea. There is one road along the bay, some villages and historic towns and then steep and rather high mountains. All in all this makes a wonderful setting, much used for calender illustrations and therefore classified World Heritage. We could have skipped the bay and taken the ferry across the bay's opening (maybe 100 m), but we wanted to enjoy the beauty of the bay. Some kilometers further we found a campsite, well, something like it: a small field with 2 caravans and 2 small tents directly on the bayside, the outdoor-shower took its water from a plastic container on top of the concrete 2-squat-toilet house.
This morning we stepped out of our tent directly in the cool water and, to top the cake, when we were having our breakfast a group of dolphins gave a show within 100 meters from our tent. So for us the bay is OK.
Today we rode further round the bay (flat road for once) and visited agreeable and historic Perast and Kotor. The latter, like Dubrovnik but much smaller, completed surrounded by high and thick walls and pressed against the steep and rocky mountain behind it. Now we have pitched the tent on a small campsite again, not bad but not as nice as the former one.
Today we decided not to continue via Skopje. There are at least 2 rather high passes, and this combined with the heat and the road conditions in Kosovo and Macedonia made us decide that it's better to go more south. Now the plan is to pass via Tirana and the Ohrid lake towards Thessaloniki.
We'll keep you posted, as long as there are internet opportunities. This may become less. The last days we regularly had difficulties becoming online. We don't know much about the situation as to this in Albania, but the countries reputation does not suggest the best.

Friday, August 26, 2011


We reached the campsite near Dubrovnik before noon. Temperatures again were that high that we kept low until about 16.00 hrs before taking a bus into the old centre. It was worth while again. A fantastic monument of history, architecture, balanced good taste and atmosphere. It's got her Unesco World Heritage status for good reasons. It was crowded, like it always seems to be in summer. There were two cruiseships lying in the port and a third one was coming in when we were approaching the place. Huge vessels, with undoubtedly a couple of thousand passengers on each one. Eveline and I don't quite understand why people want to be on such huge cruiseships. With some thousands of other persons in a limited space. We found ourselves lucky when we could have a ferry during the night, so that we could sleep the time at sea.
All these cruise people and other tourists and us and a couple of other cyclists were wandering through the beautiful street and alleys of old Dubrovnik, almost shoulder to shoulder. But it's amazing how easy things go, how gallantly people behave among each other. A nice and happy atmoshere as a consequence. Who is telling us all the time that people don't know how to behave? They do!
As we want to continue further south and east we needed information on the countries that we may cross during the next few weeks. We still have not decided which route to take. We wish to go via Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This cannot be done without having to cross some high passes again. And since it is so hot, we have our doubts. The heat is overwhelming, today on my bike I registered 37C again, in the morning! So it might be better to go more south into Greece and avoid such high mountain ranges. If possible there, because there are not many flat places in the world, we know by now. In any case, to make a decision, we needed more information. And it so nice to see that in the main street of old Dubrovnik, between the monastries, churches, souvenirshops and restaurants/bars, the only other shops are two well sorted bookshops. Clever town! We found a good map of the region including Montenegro, Albania and part of Macedonia and a Lonely Planet of the Western Balkans. So we have all we need now and tomorrow (aug 27) we'll depart for Montenegro. They say the Bay of Kotor is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We'll check it out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dalmatia revisited

We have visited Split before. In 1974 and 1975 we travelled in our Renault 4 through the Balkan countries, Romania and Kosovo included. That's an awful time ago, many years have passed and a war was waged after that. But we found Split in the way we remembered it, agreeable, beautiful and very touristic. We spent a day wandering through the old city-centre, which originally was built by the Roman emperor Diocletianus as his summer palace. We also vivited the museum of the here very famous sculpture Mestrovic and the museum of Fine Arts. Both worthwhile the visit. We concluded the day with a dinner at the campsite restaurant. Like we experienced in Italy, also here the quality and atmosphere in these restaurants meets rather high standards, especially when the price is taken into account. But you can imagine a dinner at the beach on a warm evening, not bad to have it now and then.
The next day we got on our wheels again to ride the Jadranska Magistrala southward to Dubrovnik. The name Magistrale was given to this coastal road because they were so proud when it was finished in the late sixties or early seventies. Before that most of the settlements on the coast had been isolated places, only to be reached via the sea, as this coast is all mountains. Technically it indeed was quite an acheivement. It was a dangerous road from the beginning. Motorism was new at the time, for ourselves (we owned our first car in 1970) but certainly for the locals here. (Development of Yugo-Slavia lacked behind Western Europe). The road was all slopes and turns, cars were less safe than nowadays. I remember the old wrecks lying down the slopes. Now it has been improved and, though pretty busy, is a wonderful scenic road. We have done 160 k on it now and are some 35 k before Dubrovnik, our next destination.
The road goes up and down, so we have to do our share of climbing again. This is to be done, but what is makeing extreme is the heat. We are having a heat wave at the moment. The locals are telling us that they have never had it this hot before, inland there was even a measurement of 50C. My gps came to 39C. And what are we doing? Riding! We don't find it an option to sit and wait till it's over. And it can be done, we ourselves are the living proof. But I must say that I'm not enjoying the fantastic panoramas the way I would if it had been some 15 degrees cooler.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Siena, then Perugia, that we did visit. Very historic, beautiful and lively town. After that Assisi. Very historic, but a museum in our eyes. Beautifully preserved, but not a living city as f.i. its neighbour Perugia. It's all San Francisco, with the extraordinary double cathedrals, monastries, nuns and monks in the streets.
Then Spello, small, old and beautiful again. Then our puzzle to pass through Foligno and up north into the vally towards Ancona. We stopped at alt. 538 in Fossato di Vici, just before the last pass we had to cross in Italy.
The next day we rode 100 kms, over the pass and then downhill to the port of Ancona. We found the ferries' ticket-office quickly and were happy to hear that we could leave the same evening for Split. A double cabin with shower and toilet with a discount, since I have reached a certain wisdom during my life.
So this morning we woke up with a different country in front of us. Different experiences will follow. For us Italy belongs to the past now. We enjoyed it, it must be said.

Single minded infrastructure and helpful natives

I have to conclude that Italy is a not very bike-minded country. In spite of its, earlier mentioned, colourful tradition in this field. And with the exception of some northern areas, where last year we rode many beautiful kilometers on fine bike lanes.
Though there are many quiet small roads in the countryside, especially in the urban regions we have been passing through these days the complete infrastructure is based on the use of the motorcar, little or no thought has been given to cyclists or foot paasingers. Especially in the more urban regions a desert of asphalt exists, with exits, junctions and by-passes one after and over the other. Between them there are the commercial areas with their shopping malls. The result of all this city-planning is that an Italian without a car must be a handicapped person. He won't be able to reach any of the modern facilities that he is told to need.
Pray that such developments will not occur in our home country.
Now we come and try to pass these knots of roads on our way to the east. Road signs galore, but never we can be certain that we will not end up on a motorway or another road aligned with high safety barriers and racing cars just inches away from our right arms. Situations we don't want to be in.
So often we stand and check our maps and gps and don't know anything better to do than ask someone. Very often we address a cyclist. Rather many of them, pensioners on racebikes mostly, can be seen on the Italian roads. And a couple of times already such a cyclist would start to explain how to ride and then come to the conclusion that he better accompany us for some time. And so it happens then. Yesterday f.i. a man rode with us for maybe 20 minutes up a pass untill there was a tiny road to the left, la strada vecchio. We should take this old road, for else we would come into some long tunnels, and that would be “multo pericoloso” There he left us and returned.
Once we had crossed the pass this way (multo bello, by the way) we descended and again, in the narrow valley, the old road and the new motorway mingled into an unclear situation. At a certain moment a car passed us, stopped and the man asked us where we were going. Wrong road, according to him. He told us to turn round etc. But some 4 kms further, there he was again. The situation was too complicated, he said. He would drive in front of us for 3 kms. So it happened. Then he made a drawing of the situation of the coming roads and pointed out how we had to ride. Then he said goodbye, after we had expressed our gratitude of course.

Such kindness!

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's great to be a European

I've always deeply considered myself a European. I remember my childhood. I was born in the year when WO II came to an end. We lived in a house along the road from my native village to the neighbouring village, which was Meer in Belgium. This village was very close, the people there spoke my language, but at the border the road was blocked by steel posts fixed in concrete blocks.
Today is different. We move and feel as free Europeans over our own continent. Uncredibly much has been achieved by our politicians in my lifetime. Unfortunately at the moment they seem to lack the vision and leadership to solve the current problems, and the wind is against.
What I also like tremendously in my continent? Europe has been inhabited by people for a very long time and thus it has a long history from which the remains can be seen and experienced in very many places. In Italy this is so obvious, it is teeming with well preserved historic places. I find it impressive to see how normal 21st century life takes place in places where numerous generations over tens of ages have done the same. Another reason why I consider it great to be a European.   

Monday, August 15, 2011


We are glad we followed some good advisors. Gianni in Torino and Hans, one of Eveline's running friends in Breda, have done well. Bellisimo is probably the word that a native would use to decribe the beauty of the countryside that we have been riding through this last period. The crossing of the mountain range south of Parma, the ride over the Volterra plain and especially the day towards Siena presented one scenic highlight after the other. Sometimes we had to work hard because of Apennines and the Tuscany hills, but it's no secret: good things don't come free. And it's not that we especially like climbing, but we have developed a skill in it by now. We don't mind so much any more. As long as the rewards are so good. And we have not finished yet! We have only reached Siena today. From here we want to proceed towards Perugia and Assisi, and then down to the Adriatic coast. So more climbing and hopefully more beautiful scenery is coming up.
Tomorrow there will be this year's second Palio in Siena. The famous and wild horse race on the shell-shaped central square in the centre. It's a contest between the city's districts and a centuries-old tradition. The town is crowded and hot, we are a bit tired, so we don't go into the centre. We've been there before, even on (rented) bikes.
We do remember the Palio-square as one of the most beautiful squares ever seen though: bellissimo!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Translate button

You may have noticed the `translate-button' on the top right hand side of the page. This can be used to immediately (Google)translate the text. This button is also available on the Dutch page. If you're interested in what Eveline has to say about our endeavours this could come in handy.

A pain in the eye

Not so many Italian people ride a bike. But still, on a warm summer's day you see quite a lot and today, a Sunday, we saw many groups n racebikes speeding along. It's strange to notice that in a country with such a rich cycling-history, with it's illustruous Giro d'Italia, many world champions and many Tour de France winners, so few countrymen know how to use this simple but clever machine properly. Over 90% of the ordinary cycling Italians, especially the female ones, assume a thoroughly wrong position on their bikes. Wrong here means that the position in which they are when riding the bike is ergonomically not according to the meaning of the design of the vehicle. Very often you see the saddle in the lowest possible position and the middle or back of the feet placed flat on the pedals. The result is that the knees rise up high between the arms of the rider. This position is comfortable in that sense that when standing still the feet can be placed flat on the ground while the rider remains seated in the saddle. A position taken based on a feeling of insecurity, better be sturdy on the ground when something happens.
But this is not what the designers of the vehicle had in mind. They meant a position in which the legs can be stretched to the full, thereby using the muscels and the joints of the hip, the knee, the ankle and the forefoot. A modus that is efficient and makes use of all muscles and joints in the legs. The position that one observes most of the time in this country is inefficient, more tiring and, one must agree, doesn't look good at all. On the contrary, it's a pain in the eye.
How come that in a country with such a long tradition in dominant cycling teaches its own population such bad cycling. Maybe here lies a chance for the prime minister, who has been experiencing some bad days lately. Wouldn't here be his one and last chance to make his governance a succes after all. He could use his far stretching powers to make sure that that in the future his countrymen and -women are thaught to ride their bicis properly. The rest of Europe, at least I, would appreciate it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mediterranean, so blue, so blue.

A translated quote of Toon Hermans, the Dutch father of the one-man-show.
We left Villafranca in Lunigiana in the morning and it took still some 30 kms of descent through the valley before we reached the sea. The crossing of the Appenines from Parma to the sea as we did it is very beautiful. Mostly quiet roads too, only past Aulla there was much traffic.
When we started it was not our intention to see the Mediterrenean, but since we abided to our Torinese advisor Gianni, here we are.
This stretch of coast is very popular among sun and beach lovers. Some 40 kms we cycled along it and it is one uniterrupted line of bars and restaurants with their own secluded beaches, where you can rent a sun shade and 2 beach chairs for 20 or more euros a day. We hardly saw the sea, as all these conveniences were blocking the sight. So not much blue for us. Looking in the opposite direction we saw mountains with huge pieces missing. Understandble when you realise that we passed Massa and Carrara. Since the tourists here transport themselves by their private cars the roads were busy and it was parked cars wherever you could look. It's high season, so we are not complaining, but these are not the places where we want to be very long.
Now we have landed at a campsite near Viareggio and tomorrow we will continue to Lucca. Not very far from here, but we want to see the place and have some time for that. As there are no campsites or warmshowers hosts in the vicinity we expect that we will spend the night there in a hotel or b&b-room.

On the road again

On Tuesday we buried the old man. As a family we had prepared a worthy and beautiful ceremony in which he was commemorated as the man he had been, how we remember him and what he had meant for us. I realised that saying goodbye was not that difficult any more, since – by his illness – we had lost him quite some time ago. Though there have been moments of contact until very late in his illness, even very humorous ones. Now we all feel that it's good that he has found his rest.

We flew back to Pisa on Thursday. There was some stress that morning. I have acquired a new MacBook Air (Yes, I know, too much). Just to try how it is Tjetske borrowed my MacBookPro. She took it with her to Amsterdam, but she also took the adapter of my new little Air-thing. Two Macs in one room appeared to be one too many. So we travelled to Amsterdam Central first, where Teunis handed over the adapter and then back to the airport. Actually nothing special, a smooth operation, but imagine me not finding the adapter the day before. Well, Teunis compensated by also handing over a bag of concentrated fruit as a strengthener for us when cycling. Good stuff.
Nice to mention also is that we travelled to Amsterdam with the high speed train Fyra, together with our friend Lisa, who was going to visit her daughter and grandchild, who moved to Berlin a couple of months ago. Such a coincidence.

We arrived at the campsite at 17.45. They knew we were coming. We were warmly welcomed and 30 minutes later we sat in front of our little tent and we were set again. Mentally it took a bit longer.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Yesterday, Wednesday Aug 3rd, we took a flight home from Pisa. The reason to return home is the very bad fysical condition of Eveline's dad. The worst is to be feared.
We left our gear on a the campsite in Villafranca in Lunigiana and will pick up our journey later. We'll report again at that time.

Aug 5th: We have seen Eveline's dad the same evening and the day after we were there when he passed away. His death was a relief for him and ourselves, since he suffered too much during his last days.
We estimate that we'll return to Villafranca app. the 11th of August and continue our journey from there.

Over the Appennines

We followed Gianni Gandini's advice. After Torino we passed and visited Asti, Alessandria and Piacenze. Italian towns, historic and beautiful as you wish Italian historic towns to be.
First we avoided – as advised – the strada statale (national road) because of the traffic; a nightmare they said. So we chose beautiful countryroads along the vineyards of the Grignolino and the Barbera d'Asti. Later, since the Po-valley became less interesting and it was weekend, we used the strada statale after all just to make progress, with a rear wind to assist us. Just before Parma we turned south to enter into the valley that would lead us to the the Passo della Cisa (alt 1041). Through this pass we would cross the Appennines and leave the land of the Parmezan cheese and enter into Tuscany. The road up to the pass was not light, but extremely beautiful, we enjoyed the crossing very much. Now we've put up camp in Villafranca in Lunigiana, some 30 kms north of La Spezia and the coast of the Ligurian sea (Mediterranean). From here we intend to continue via the famous coast-line with f.e. Viareggio to Pisa (Lucca), San Giminiano etc. towards the east.  

An Italian is bound to be special

This country is inhabited by Italian people. People who above all boast of their land as a land good for food and wine. They keep on telling you this and they are not telling lies. There is nothing that's more important than food. And wine of course. And family. And home. But don't forget the food!
They are proud of their region and they find the people in the north of their region, let alone of Italy as a whole, quite different from themselves. And so they find the people of the south, and the east and the west. These people are much different, you know what I mean? (Do I?) We've heard it so many times. Yes, and the reason why he is telling you all this is that he is a special Italian. OK, but I have a friend in Torino who says the same thing. Than he is also a special Italian. Yes, and in the end every Italian is a special Italian.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Italy 150 years

In 1861 all the kingdoms and regions of this peninsula were united and the state of Italy was founded. The most famous name of this period is Garibaldi and there is no town in the country that has not a Corso or Via Garibaldi. Also Cavour is such a name and if you have ever visited this country you have been in a Cavour street or avenue somewhere.
In Torino a great exhibiton is going on dedicated to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the state. There is a wing showing the history in a most modern and appealing way. There is another wing dealing with how Italy will look like after the next 150 years. Here innovations and future trends are exhibited. One of the stands is occupied by a small firm called Arduino. They make a small (computer) board the size of a cigarette packet that is sold for little money and which can serve many purposes. Gino's son Davide works there and they play with and invent all kinds of applications for their device. You see them work with a 3D-printer, with robots, with led-lit texts in a bicycle wheel and more. Here they try to connect the past with the future and thus find a way to shape the new Italy and its new citizens.

Torino revisited

Leaving Aosta is easy. It's a 70 kms long descent out of the valley. The wind from behind, so hardly any pushing of the pedals. (video)
Here you'll find a campsite where the home made wine is only € 1,-- for half a liter.
Continue like we did and you'll stop in front of the small appartment in Turin where we stayed. This appartment belongs to Anna, who happens to be our friend Gino's wife. A small but comfortable studio, more or less in the centre of this pretty city, very worth while a visit.
Meeting our friends was as always, with much attention to food, a visit to the mountain house on the high slopes of the Susa valley, to the museum of modern art, a bicerin, evenings with friends on a terrace in the centre.
We were adviced about our following itinerary to the Adriatic coast by Gianni Gandini. He is a colleague of Gino and a former one of myself, since long ago we participated in the same international educational project. Gianni is a cyclist himself and knows where to ride or not.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Track and profile of the Grand Saint Bernard

A self-inflicted birthday present

She did it herself and she wanted to do it herself. What better birthday present can you give yourself than the conquest of one of the historic Alps-passes, the Grand Saint Bernard. Eveline celebrated her 62nd birhtday with me on the the misty and very cold pass at an altitude of 2473 meters. It's not our record, in China we ticked 3300 and in Colombia even 3700 (by bike it is, on foot we were much higher). But nevertheless this is not a small one. It didn't come all that easy, circumstances here are really alpine and the ascent is tough enough.
We left Bourg Saint Pierre (alt. 1600) a bit past nine in misty conditions. We had to fold the tent completely wet and were said goodbye by our Swedish-Thai neighbours. After some time we reached the entrance of the tunnel that we ignored and from then on it was a quieter and steeper, up to 16%. There were times that just a touch of a little finger would have thrown me off the bike. These are the moments that you ask yourself why you are doing this. Several answers come up, but none of them covers all the aspects of the question. In the end you conclude that you just want to do this and that it is thoroughly satisfactory to do. Euforia at the top.
We celebrated the conquest of this bubble in our mother earth's surface and Eveline's birthday with some coffees, a sandwich and a piece of cake (way too expensive).
The descent was initially very cold, I had to stop several times to blow my (covered) hands, since I couldn't control them enough to ride safely. Gradually temperatures and sight improved and after some 2 hours of impressive rolling down we reached Aosta, where people were walking around in t-shirts and shorts.
We stopped at the city campsite (dilapedated) and had a pleasant walk in the old city-centre, concluded with a nice Italian dinner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

So far so good.

Under perfect weather conditions we climbed 1200 meters up to the camp site of Bourg Saint Pierre. Tomorrow another 800 and we will be able to toast on Eveline's birthday on the Col du Grand Saint Bernard. Great feeling.
After that the descent to Aosta will take less than 2 hours and Torino is then just a couple of days away.
The Monet exposition in Martigny was great. A visit to the Gianadda museum is worth while year round, there is a small own collection, a museum of old automobiles and the garden is full of sculptures of well known modern artists. A joy to walk around in.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We left the slopes over Lausanne after midday, since it rained all the time and I still had to attend my second lesson in computer and gps technics. Fortunately we were lucky and under more and more clear skies we reached Martigny. The heavy clouds over the Geneva lake were impressive though,
In Martigny we once visited an exposition on Rodin in the museum called Fondation Pierre Gianadda. This was a long time ago, when Teunis still was a little boy. It happens that today there is an exposition of 70 works of Monet. Of course this will be our first activity tomorrow morning. Coincidence, for us Martigny is a place of modern art.

From our doorstep the road starts climbing towards the pass; Le Col du Grand Saint Bernard, border with Italy. Altitude 2496. You know, there are monks up there and big dogs walk around in the snow with tiny little barrels of liquor tied to their collars to bring fainted cyclists back to the world.
I was their on my own on my bike 5 years ago. I reached the pass by bus. The weather at the time was too bad. It is not certain, but the weather forecast for tomorrow seems not too bad. There is supposed to be snow at 2400 alt. If we decide to cycle we will do it in two days. 1000 meters ascent per day (Martigny is 475). It would be nice, since if we succeed we can celebrate Eveline's 62nd birthday right on the Col. Let their be dogs with full barrels!  


Our stay with Alain and Ursula didn't supply us with a warm shower, a bed and good food only. We have a lot in common. More or less the same age and same cycling history. So a lot to exchange. Alain appeared to be very sophisticated in making his website, check Ursalain. Very extensive and helpful when you are preparing a bike tour yourself. Besides that he is a master in all kind of digital skills as to the use of the gps. I sat with him at his computer and we had 2 “lessons”, one in the evening, the other one in the morning. So I left a more skillful cycle tourer than I was before. I will start practising asap, maybe tonight, and never again make mistakes as when we came riding up to their house. Thanks Alain, we'll be in touch.  

Nothing as warm as a Warmshowers' host.

Our stay in Avoudrey was wonderful, though Eveline had been in bed for 32 hours at a stretch. The next day Eveline said she was fit to travel. With pain in the heart we said goodbye to Marie Claire, who had to go to work. We found it wise not to have Eveline make all the climbs between Avoudrey and Neuchâtel by bike. Christian managed to get us, the bikes and the luggage into his car and he drove us some 40 kms to the campsite of la Chaux de Fonds (Sw).
The camp site is run by Christian's brother Bernard and his wife Claire. We were warmly welcomed and immediately put at the table for lunch. After this we said goodbye to Christian as well and we descended in the rain to Neuchâtel. (Descend we were told, but there was a very nasty climb in between).
In Neuchâtel we stayed in the Warmshowers home in Rue Louis Favre of Johanna and her family of three plus cat, who were all away this time. Their house is an appartment in the loft of an old building and you live there among the old beams supporting the roof and there is a beautiful view on the lake. A very nice and kind stay again.
From Neuchâtel we rode to another Warmshowers house, this time of Alain and Ursula Besson. They have cycled in many parts of the world as well. Our Garmin navigator stupidly sent us to their house through the centre of Lausanne and as a consequence we had to climb 450 meters in just a few kilometers up to their home, as this is nicely sitting on a high slope (830 alt.) in the little village of Vers Chez les Blanc. When we stopped by their door steam came out of our ears. This could be done better, Alain said, he had the solution and he would teach me. From now on we would be more clever. But first a cold beer and a warm shower of course.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The crossing of Le Morvan

The track  and profile of 2 days in Google Earth. The approach along the Canal du Nivernais, then up into the mountains to Savault and then eastwards out of them to Pouilly-en-Auxois.

Exactly at 100 kms is the house of Charles & Margriet.


A couple of days ago Eveline had a sore throat. It didn't go away and yesterday she went to bed early, since she didn't feel well. This morning we found that she had a fever. The doctor cocncluded that it was an inflammation of the trachea. He subscribed 4 sorts of medicin, of which Eveline certainly will finish the antibiotics. Fortunately we are staying in Christian and Marie Claire's house. A nice and comfortable house it is and so is the bed. As I write this Eveline is sleeping like a log.
The doctor said it wouldn't take long, so we hope to continue our trip as soon as possible. For the moment not much is wrong and we are in good hands.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nice and warm showers

We left my sister's house on a rainy morning. The morning became afternoon and it kept raining all the time. We are clad well and the rain was not too hard and too cold, so we pedalled on over the Morvan's slopes. Up and down again and again, reached altitudes over 700 meters. After 66 such kilomters and app. 700 altimeters we stopped at Pouilly-en-Auxois, where the country is flat again. Here we booked a room in an Etap-hotel, a formula-hotel at the exit of the motorway. No atmosphere, not expensive, simple but convenient when you're wet.
The day after was Quatorze Juillet, le jour de fête national, the celebration of the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1889 and the beginning of the French Revolution. The revolution that would change Europe and the world and give it the tools to build the democracies on that we are living in now. That is, many of us. The French keep remembering themselves on their city halls with the slogan “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.
The next day the weather was nice and again we rode for nearly 60 kms along a waterway, this time the Canal de Bourgogne. We stopped at Dijon for a drink and a look at the nice city centre and continued east to the small town of Pontailler sur Saone, wher we pitched our tent at a beautiful campsite on the banks of the river. It was a 100 km ride, but not difficult at all this time.
In the mean time we had received the confirmation on our warmshowers request in Besançon, mr Antoine Pétiard was willing to receive us for an overnight stay in his house. So the next day, after a good 60 kms ride we reported at his door in Rue Battant, right in the centre of this old city. Antoine is a 30-year old young man who lives in a nice and light small appartment two backyards behind the street. He had another friend as a holiday guest as well. We got his own bed, he presented us with a guided city tour and a visit to the citadel, built in the 18th century bij the well-known Vauban. Then he prepared us a good meal and we had a nice evening together. The next day the two guys had to leave early to help move a friend. No problem, we got his key and we left the house when we were ready. This is how cyclists, and why not everyone, can trust one another and make each others lives agreeable. Thanks again for your hospitality Antoine and François.
Then we cycled another 51 kms to the little village of Avoudrey (alt. 750). Here we are hosted by Christian and Marie Claire in their cosy and comfortable house. We met them in December 2008 cycling in Cambodia and spent some days together then. Now it is as if we met only a couple of days ago. We're again enjoying free hospitality and interesting discussions. Meeting people belongs to the essence of travelling.
Tomorrow we'll enter Switzerland on our way to the next stop: Torino.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


July 12th 2011
The first stage of our journey has ended in the lovely house of my sister and her husband in a hamlet in the Morvan. It took us 10 days and app. 670 kms to get there. The house is an old farmhouse restyled into a nice and comfortabel holiday house, a real second home. In the large garden fox passes by every night, as well as a family of badgers that even has their latrine there. (Quiet clean, no odours). We watched this wildlife on the films that our brother in law made with an automatic camera during the night. During the day all kinds of butterflies fly from flower to flower and birds are singing all the time.
The name of the hamlet is Savault, some 20 houses and part of the community of Ouroux-en-Morvan. The Morvan is a really mountainous region, the house sits on 480 altitude. In order to reach it we followed the river Yonne and the Canal du Nivernais, that is built beside and many times in the same river, from Auxerre southwards. This was a welcomed route as we had a good 100 kms of flat cycle lanes. What a relief! The only climbs we had to make were the 2.5 meters at every lock in the canal (I guess we passed some 50). This canal is part of the former transport route for timber and other agricultural produce to Paris. It comprises a number of rivers that are interconnected by this type of canals. They all end up in the Seine river.
When we left the banks of the Yonne and turned east into the Morvan we had a hard time. In 30 kms we had to do 700 altimetes. Tough, especially as the climbs only started after this first 66 flat kms. You can imagine how nice it was to be warmly welcomed by our relatives after such a day.
We will stay here for a day to take a rest, to do some laundring, change the oil in one of the Rohloff Speedhubs and to talk.
Tomorrow we will continue eastwards and we hope to reach the village of Avoudrey in 3 or 4 days. Here we will visit Christian and Marie-Claire. We met them a good 2 years ago in Cambodia, where we cycled up with them for a couple of days. Reliving old stories again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

J'aime des gens fous.

July 6th 2011
Another 3 days of cycling have passed. And still it doesn't come easily. The landscape is marvellous, nothing wrong with that. So is the weather. And so are the slopes, ascents over 10%, even 15% are no exception. On day 3 we had ourselves seduced to stop at only 50 kms. There was a road sign pointing to a small campsite, the scenery was nice and the acids in the legs were convincing. In times long passed the site had been a “pêcherie”, a fish farm. There are 3 ponds at different levels where once the famous Ardennes-trout was raised, I presume. Now they serve as swim- and fish pond for the guests. The ponds are fed from their own sources, which are the sources of the small river of Lescheret in mean time. Thus the name of the campsite: à la source de l'Escheret.
It is a small campsite and the guests were few in number. A quiet place and the big event in the evening was the arrival of a company of donkeys, accompanied by a a holidaymaking family, whose luggage they were carrying. Very rural.
The site is owned and exploited by a family of Dutch origin, Jeannette Begeman and Arthur van Duin. They have run it now for 7 years. Before they had their international careers. Now they and their children have a round the clock job running this Ardennes-gem.

Day 4 and 5 were not much different. We have now left the Ardennes behind us and, though we stayed on an altitude of app. 500 mtrs for the whole of day 4, the slopes are less demanding. Now we are a couple of 100 mtrs lower and the landscape is much more gentle, though nowhere flat. Today it wasn't the slopes, but a tough head wind we had to cope with and which again made us stop earlier than planned. In the end we found ourselves back on a small municipal campsite in Varennes en Argonne with a Belgian guest acting as the (voluntary) guardian.
Like most other hamlets, villages and small towns that we have passed through in the Ardennes and this part of France, this little town is dead quiet and seems more or less deserted. Nothing is going on, hardly any people in the streets. The barman that served us our drinks in the early evening had nothing better to do than clean his nose, stand in the doorway and look into the empty street, turn over a newspaper for some time, clean his sixties-model glasses and then start the same cycle again. I suppose this is his standard procedure during his whole working life. The land is farmed and mostly wheat is grown, and there is a lot of cattle (meat). With their enormous machines even the farmers are few in number. The largest amount of individuals that we encountered was an extended family of wild boar that noisily disagreed with us passing through their territory. We can fully imagine that many of the original inhabitants of these regions have left to other places.
Those who have left are kind enough. There was this fruit vendor at the stall where we stopped to buy just 2 apples to take with us. He was highly interested in the little rear view mirror I'm carrying on my bike helmet. Together we came to the conclusion that this was a thing “très intelligent”. He asked many questions and we had a lot of fun. When he heard of our round the world plan he was totally exited. In the end he grabbed 2 handfulls of cherries from his stall and dropped them in my handlebar bag, broadly smiling: “J'aime des gens fous”. (I love crazy people). We felt honoured.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

River Ourthe

We have been cycling for 2 days now. Just 2 days and the legs are hurting. So soon, what's going on?
We left Breda on Saturday morning, confidently leaving our dear house in the care of our dear neighbors. The train that was too take us to our starting point Maastricht was not running because of railroad works. Nice, but this is what travelers have to get used to. They learn to  improvise. Not so difficult this time, we took a detour over Venlo. You know, the place where our famous blond Mozart originates from who is now thriving so much in the media and parliament with his anti-islam (and what more to come?) agenda.
From Maastricht we rode south. In no time we were in Belgium and had to climb the hills (or mountains) of the Ardennes. In these 2 days we traveled over 140 kms and climbed 1600 altitude meters (Eveline's figures). My GPS says it's only 1140 altimeters. (How I like all this modern devices. They give you so much information, but it's not clear which is correct.) Enough altimeters to feel the legs though. It's the beginners problem, we'll get over it.
In the mean time we have learned about modern campsites with kind staff and with wifi on the grass in front of your little tent. We have spent a night in our new Hilleberg and cut a whole forest in the mean time. The weather was nice but fresh, even very sunny the second half of this day. Currently we camp on a very quiet grassy spot on the border of the river Ourthe, just 3 meters wide here. We have the evening sun right on us and we pitched our little tent in such a way that the first rays of tomorrow's sun will hit us fully in the face as well.
So we are settling again in the life of the cyclist, which is a good thing to experience.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First post on our new weblog

Hi everyone. Welcome to our new blog. The old blog didn't meet our needs any more. With the help of our son we made this new site and the 2-language blogs.
For us this blog is a method to let you know how we are doing, but it certainly is a way to keep in touch with our relatives and friends as well. So we do hope that you will make full use of the opportunities to react to the blogs, to e-mail us directly, to chat or whatever. 
This year (2011) we will be on our way during the 3 summer months of July, August and September. From next spring on these periods will be much longer. From previous experience we know that it's awfully nice then to stay in touch with home and friends. 
Most posts on this blog will be written by me, Frans. Eveline will mostly write on the Dutch blog. On both blogs you'll find stories about our experiences, in this one there will also be reports on the more technical matters like our route, roads, tracks, maps, equipment etc.

We'll depart early July, hope to meet you again then.