Dutch courage along the dunes….
A Dutch couple riding a tandem stop by the roadside, and the stoker gets off and lets the back tyre down. “What are you doing that for?” asks the captain. “Oh, I just need to lower my saddle a bit. It was too high”.
Whoever said Holland was flat has never cycled the length of the dunes running from Den Haag to Zandvoort, a distance of some 80km. Flat they are not….any route that runs through dunes is going to be seriously undulating, but the compensation was the almost desert-like wilderness, and the thrill of mixing with a cycling nation out to play.
This route is a favourite with sports cyclists, chasing their Strava points. But the excessive heat began to exact it’s toll, as we headed towards the hottest day ever recorded in Holland’s history….in 48 hours time, we would be ‘basking’ in 38C+ degrees….which for us on the tandem could be health threatening…..decisions had to be made. Our options would either be to make a very early start to Leiden and beat the hottest part of the day, or throw in the towel and take a train….watch this space. But when we limped into Haarlem seeking refuge from the heat, we found some respite in our accommodation for the night on a canal boat….not luxurious, of course, because cabins can only ever be classed as ‘cosy’, but the thrill was in having a picnic supper on the cool deck, as the sun was setting, watching party groups cruising the canals, and being entertained by the adventurous few diving in for a swim, hoping to impress their buddies. Haarlem is quieter than Amsterdam, more laid back, but equally as pretty. The secret to visiting the capital is to stay in Haarlem, only 15 minutes away by train, which is cheaper and more relaxing. Our overnight on the boat, including a very generous breakfast, was only €18 each.