A Wind-Powered Ride

I love biking, which must have been evident from my numerous posts about it. I am not as passionate as professional cyclists, nor do I have a bike with tyres as thin as my thumb. But I do like to explore places around Delft on my cheap touring bike. This passion is shared by a couple of friends here as well with whom I have gone on many trips.

Until last week the most distance I had covered in a day was about 90 km. The 100km milestone still eluded me. I and a couple of friends had beenĀ planning for months to go on a long tour and explore Belgium on our bikes. But the icy winter winds deterred us. Eventually we compromised and decided to ride to Vlissingen, the western-most train station in the Netherlands from where we could return home on the train. But even that had been postponed numerous times. I was busy with my thesis project and thus could not afford to spend a day on my bike.

Last week we decided to do it finally. As it was a long weekend and my circuit simulations now take at least a day to complete, I had some free time in my hands. My friend was smart to plan the trip the other way around. Rather than riding up to Vlissingen we decided to ride the way back as the wind was predicted to flow towards the north-east. That was really helpful as we realised later in the day.

Passing the traffic by the river

A pretty big flag

We took an early train to Vlissingen and reached there in about 2 hours. After having some snacks we started from the little town. It was a holiday, so people were out on their boats and biking in groups. As we made through the rural areas we could see farmlands and villages. Eventually we reached the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier, one of the many storm barriers in the Netherlands facing the North Sea.

So far we had had no problems as the temperature was perfect and the wind was at our back. We could keep a good pace without much effort. We assumed it would be equally easy the whole way. We were not wrong, but not completely right either. As we made our way through Brouwersdam we saw many people doing kitesurfing and windsurfing near the beach. It was a pretty sight with the colourful sails and kites.

At the first bridge

Kitesurfing at the beach

Our path turned inland and we went through some dense vegetation and farms. The sun was now out of the clouds and shining bright. We reached another island through yet another storm surge barrier. The scale of those structures are impressive and a testament to the brilliant engineering capabilities of this tiny country. We had covered more than half of our journey by then and were quite elated upon realising that.

We went through some more farms and villages which reminded me of my own village in India. The smell was familiar too, although I can’t quite describe it. But the heat had now started taking its toll. We were sweating, or rather perspiring (as the saying goes – horses sweat, humans perspire) and thus losing water. We decided to find some place to eat at the next village or town we cross but couldn’t find anything on our route. Luckily I had some nuts and chocolate which helped temporarily. We carried on anyway.

This tree looks happy in the sun!

One of the storm surge barriers

Resting the horses after 100 km

We crossed the Calandbrug which is surrounded by huge but strange structures. From Rozenberg we took a ferry to reach Maassluis. Our water bottles had been emptied by then and we were dehydrated. So we made our way to a Jumbo store and bought some drinks and energy bars. It was a relief to have some fluids back in our system. We had covered almost 100 km by then. But we still had another 15 km to go. So we took some more rest in the shade of some trees and started our last leg of the journey.

Pretty boat at Maassluis

After a while the familiar EWI building came into view, a very reassuring sight. We were almost done, although tired and dehydrated. The wind was still behind us, as had been the whole day. I am not sure whether we would have completed the trip that easily had it not been for the wind pushing us the whole way.

We had covered about 110 km in total in about 8 hours. That is nothing compared to long distance tours that people often undertake. Professional cyclists would easily cover more than twice the distance in perhaps the same amount of time. But for novices like us it was still an achievement. On the way we saw many different sceneries but not very different from one another. Everywhere we saw canals, houses and bridges built in the same fashion. Thanks to the excellent bike paths (‘Fietspad’ in Dutch) we didn’t have to deal with traffic almost anywhere. Google Maps led us into some wrong paths sometimes which was a bit frustrating. Nevertheless it was a great and memorable experience. Perhaps we can plan for longer trips next time!

P.S.- All pictures courtesy of Amitabh Yadav

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