Still, we have a saying in the Wetlands:
(S)he who says A, should say B as well...
So: ignoring that special wet atmosphere and the echoes of nagging thoughts like "you fat idiot" and "you must be joking" and putting positive thoughts in their place like "it is an adventure", "you've always loved to cycle" and "staying at home and watching the rain is boring", I had packed my two plastic Lidl bags (ready to be inserted into my brand new bike bags) and had mapped the first day of my route (knooppunten system).
What did I pack?
- a track suit from my long past tennis days (slightly too small)
- a rain cycling suit (seemed wise)
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 cycling shirts (one of which I will wear at a time)
- my padded cycling shorts (which I will wear, so technically they weren't packed but laid out)
- a legging and t-thirt for sleeping in
- a cardigan
- a pretty smock (you never know where I would end up)
- underwear (always handy)
- long pants
- warm socks
- toothbrush etcetera (little etcetera!)
- my knooppunten maps
- my mobile, broken as it was...
- my mobile charger
- my e-Reader (absolutely essential!) with 3 new novels
- sunglasses (well...always the optimist)
- credit card
- phone numbers for the people I wanted to visit
- bug spray (they love me) + anti itch salve
- my e-bike battery charger
- energy bars
- energy drink
- Paracetamol sups
I was looking forward to it, but was apprehensive in a major way at the same time; because of the weather and because, of all times, I was having trouble with my back.
I hoped it was because of standing in the North wind at the tennis courts, and that it would pass. But I slept very badly, I can tell you.
Saturday morning, at 6 am, I was itching to go albeit drugged up with Paracetamol. I had packed my bike, glad of the help my husband Theo gave me with fixing the knooppunten route holder (aptly named ' Bikepointer' by the ANWB) onto my handle bars. After a last cup of coffee and a kiss on the head of my still sleeping kids, I hugged my husband and turned onto the cycle path near my home. It was dry!
Five minutes later, it was raining. Rain wasn't the proper name for that wetness - it was a cold lashing shower.
My first lap was via the ferry at Rozenburg to Maassluis, and then through the greenhouse-filled Westland to The Hague.
At the ferry quay, I shared a dripping tree with the mailman, also dripping, and two youngsters with their hair plastered to their heads. We told each other it was a great day for cycling, in the manner of people who are trying to keep their spirits up. They were going into Maassluis, and were awed when I nonchalantly told them I intended to reach at least The Hague that day.
When I paid for my ticket on the ferry the ferryman grinned and told me I was bonkers to be out in this weather. As if I didn't know.
Which reminded me of an Irishwoman, Maira, who told me years ago that she always ignored the Irish rain, since she might as well have dug her grave if she let herself be stopped by it.
Hey there, Maira, was determined to think of you whenever the non-stop rain threatened to dampen my spirits!
From Maassluis I swiftly raced to Schipluiden, where I had a quiet biological coffee and almond cake and a pee, and then on to Delft, where I promptly got lost. Due to road works my knooppunten had been removed or covered up, and it took me ages to find them back again. Delft on a Saturday, when you are trying to find your way, is not a good place to cycle. But I did manage to get to the outskirts, where I reconnected to my knooppunten system. Hurray!
I had envisaged a stop in Wassenaar (the posh seaside part of The Hague where our King and lovely Queen Maxima have their residence) for the first night. Well, was I making a mistake! The annual fireworks show was on in Wassenaar/Scheveningen and all the b&bs and hotels were full.
Now, you could argue that I was a fool for not booking a bed in advance, but hey, not booking made it a much better adventure! So there!
So I cycled on, to Leiden (another one-and-a-half hours, groan; my bum was making its presence felt) where I treated myself to an expensive but luxurious room with a view at a Van der Valk Hotel. It came with a bubble bath and bath salts, yay! And, not un-importantly, with a lock-up for my bicycle.
After bubbling away my threatening muscles ache and my ever present backache, I took a short wet walk, and then went and had dinner at the hotel. It was lovely. The mussels and Chardonnay were great, the waitresses were sweet to me, the restaurant was warm and cozy and filled with happy people, and around 21.00 my eyes started to droop so I took myself off to my room, after admiring my view one last time.
The first day over, I tried to ignore my aching back and read a couple of pages in The Luminaries. But somehow the adventures in Hokitika took a backseat to my own adventures, so after rinsing out my special bike t-shirt and hanging it over the radiator to drip dry, I decided to plan my knooppunten route for the next day.
My tip for wanna-be knooppunten cyclists: pick a dry week!