Day 13 : Levelling out

Just over the road was a backerei, so I was able to have a couple of croissants for breakfast with my coffee.

The morning was filled with hills so was a bit of a workout.

As the day went on, the course flattened out and there was some very pleasant pedalling.

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Cycling through a forest

I wasn’t having any luck in finding anywhere to get lunch, until I found a village with a bar that was open. They didn’t have food on the menu but the lady very kindly made me a sandwich, which was very much appreciated!

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Sandwich and beer €4.50.

Weather was fine all day.

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A village en route

I reached Gemünden am Main in the afternoon, so stopped off for some yogurt and banana nourishment.

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I’m trying not to waste away here

There were a lot of train spotters on a bridge waiting for a certain train to arrive which turned up as I was cycling over the bridge, so I took a picture too. I was expecting a steam train, but this turned up. I am sure it is special somehow…

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The red engine, James

My destination for the evening was a campsite at Karlstadt am Main which was situated next to the river and a short walk from the town centre.

The campsite was only €7, which included free use of the open air pool. As soon as I had got the tent up I went for a swim and must have spent an hour in the pool as the sun was going down, with nice views of the tree lined hills.

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Swimming complex

After the swim I went into the town centre and had dinner – fish and rice, feeling healthy!

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Karlstadt – lively small town

At midnight, the church here sounded 4 bells to signify the hour, then 24 bells for the time. Five minutes later a church with incorrect clock then rang 12.

Mitten to Karlstadt am Main, 84 km. Total so far = 1,131 km.

Day 12 : Rolling hills

After breakfast I headed into Bad Hersfeld town centre, which is a fairly large but pedestrian friendly, modern town centre.

I found a shop that sold me some unpackaged USB cables that they had sitting in a draw, so that was a good result. I found a bike shop and borrowed a track pump to get my tyres back up to 100 psi (they were down to 60).

Then I got back to the business of pootling through the countryside.

Level crossings for cyclists don’t always have barriers so you have to stay alert.

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Level crossing

It didn’t rain today! For the past couple of days I’m cycling into a Southerly wind, but it’s not too bad at all.

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Lots of this kind of thing

Lunch was 5 minute spaghetti bolognase, followed by coffee and biscuits.

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Lunch spot

Lots of tree covered hills side the valleys as I follow the river upstream.

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#underexposed#

The river has certainly narrowed somewhat over the past two days.

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Water nice bike

At 5pm I look for a campsite and find one about 20 km away in the right direction. Just have to head over some hills first.

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Heading to the campsite

This camp site is the best yet. €10 for the night. Very good free facilities and a lake to swim in if it gets hot. It’s not hot, but that hasn’t stopped one guy from going in. Just one other tent here and about 25 caravans.

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There are three sheep in the enclosure behind the tent but they’re camera-shy

There’s an Irish pub next door to the campsite, which is handy.

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Desperately trying to replace lost calories

I thought it was hard work today because I’d done extra miles yesterday, but it looks like it really was uphill pedalling all day:

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Note to self: Padded shorts tomorrow.

Bad Hersfeld to Motten, 89 km. Total so far = 1,047 km.

Day 11 : Lumpy ending

Up early for coffee and porridge and the sun came out.

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Porridge, sunny side up

It’s a great campsite. Small and with everything that’s needed. Recommended! It even comes with a library in a phone box:

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Tiny library

Today’s roads were again mainly following rivers. Quite a few towpath-like surfaces today to keep things interesting.

Had lunch at a place called The Orangery just after passing through Kassel.

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Lunch with a view

The sky gives you an indication of the weather! More showers, but nothing that lasted long. And just lots of nice cycling by the riverside.

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View over the river

Many buildings around here are in this timber-framed style:

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Fancy timber work

An egg-vending machine. Just in case you fancy an egg in the middle of the night. In case you are wondering, the shelf rises up to the level of the eggs, rather than the eggs being dropped to the bottom..

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Eggstraordinary vending machine

This railway bridge was really big in real life:

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An excuse to try a panorama

By the time I reached where I thought I was going to stay the night, Rotenburg, I didn’t really like the look of the campingsite (I couldn’t see a safe place for my bike), so I decided to look elsewhere. The cheapest hotel I could find was £50 and it didn’t look great, so I looked further afield and found a much cheaper one Inc breakfast in a nearby town.

I let my satnav pick my route which was a mistake as it took me up a very long steep hill with many turns. It was a quiet road, but after I had been pedalling up for 30 years minutes I saw a man walking along the road. He had filled a large basket mushroom picking and offered me some. He explained this hill is used every year for a car hill climb event.

When I reached the top I put on my jacket and gilet and began the descent – which was fun!

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Lumpy ending

In another 20 km I had reached the town and my hotel at around 8.30pm. I went out for a walk around the town and found an Italian restaurant open where I replaced those lost calories.

Two of my USB cables aren’t working properly which is making charging my devices very difficult. Will have a look around the town tomorrow to see if I can find replacements.

Hemeln to Bad Hersfeld, 141 km. Total so far 958 km.

Day 10 : Changing tack

A great day’s cycling today. Had breakfast at the hotel then made my way back onto the cycle route.

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Nice skies

Cycling through countryside, national parks and nature reserves gives me great opportunity to see a lot of wildlife, such as the biggest snails I’ve ever seen, the swifts, swallows and martins that play over the farmers fields, chestnut brown squirrels, startled mice and rats, and rabbits.

On several occasions I’ve seen what I’m pretty sure are eagles, and I got my closest encounter today when I was cycling down a country road that was lined with trees on both sides. The bird flew just 10m ahead of me along the road for only 10 seconds or so, before it disappeared off through a gap in the trees. It’s size, and the size of its talons were really impressive.

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Nice cycle track through the trees

I reached Höxter at lunchtime. I came across a decent camping shop (which had a better selection of bike panniers than any bike or camping shop I’ve seen in London), and bought some gas as I’m not sure how much I have left. I found an outdoor hut on the river serving food and had lunch there.

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Höxter town centre

Höxter marks the place on my tour where I stop following the West to be East route and turn off to a cycle route heading South.

And the new route is great so far. It follows the course of the river Hesse, so is nice and flat, and I’ve encountered about 100 other cyclists today – on the previous route I only saw about 5-10 cyclists each day.

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River Hesse – great cycling

Weather has been good today. Only a few showers in the early evening and I found shelter for the worst of it. I found a campsite without needing any diversion, so I’ve checked in and set up camp here for the night. €10 + .5 for a shower – bargain.

The campsite serves hot food so I’ve opted for a currywurst thing (no healthy options on the menu, though I’m craving a salad!).

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Currywurst mit pommes (it’s a savaloy drowning in BBQ/curry sauce)

Bad Meinberg to Hemeln, 100 km. Total so far 817 km.

Day 9 : Introducing hills

Awake! To no rain. Sadly though, whilst I pitched my tent so as to maximise the potential of the sun to dry the tent out in the morning, the sun was stuck behind the clouds.

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Drying the tent

The tent was given a wipe down and I was on my way.

I had to get back onto the cycle route, but didn’t fancy back-tracking 23 km, so instead chose a point where I could join it and headed there.

My Garmin GPS satnav is by turns indispensable and frustrating. Within 5 minutes of leaving the campsite it tried to take me across someone’s land where they had erected a sign saying access was verboten.

Then 15 minutes later it took me on a detour up a very rough and steep track. The back wheel was frequently spinning round trying to get traction, and I was very pleased I had fitted a small chainring in order to get up the hill at all.

Soon after it took me up a big hill for an unexpected sightseeing trip to a castle. I’m glad I did some Swain’s Lane training back in London as some of these slopes were equally steep, if not more so. The descents were also a good exercise in bike control, and a bit of a work out for the brake pads.

I cycled past a backerei that was open on Sundays and bought a coffee and croissant to eat in the adjacent park.

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Schloß

Then a morning of roads – as I was off the quiet cycle route the hi-vis and helmet came back out. There are a lot of big and fast cars over here and the cars behave much as in the UK.

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I reached the house in the picture to find an access verboten sign

Lunch was a burger at the only place that I found open. By afternoon I had met back up with the national cycle route R1. At one point I got interviewed for my feedback on the national cycle route and signposting by someone working for the organisation. It is good to see they are interested in improving an already well implemented and maintained system.

My batteries were running low (literally) – I had only 6% left on my satnav, so I decided to once again use booking.com to find a discounted hotel nearby (£32 inc breakfast) but not before a quick stop off at a tea room for some cherry cake..

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Cherry cake and coffee

Hotel is pretty decent and I had some soup and gnocchi for dinner to recharge my own batteries.

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Hotel has le Petit Prince as bed time reading

Bielefeld to Bad Meinberg, 64 km. Total so far = 717 km.

Day 8 : Long day cycling

Awake! To the sound of rain on the tent.. The rain wasn’t too heavy so after washing I packed up the wet tent and my damp clothes. The t-shirts I had on the line were soaked through so I wrung them out and put them into a dry -bag that I turned inside out (I call this invention a ‘wet bag’). After checking out of the campsite (€13.50 + washing + shower) I got on my way and the weather got better within an hour. Along with fields of sweetcorn I am now seeing a bit of variety.. carrots and potatoes..

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Surrounded by sweetcorn

Quite a nice route today and a good day’s cycling. Had breakfast at a cafe in a small town at around 11. In the afternoon I passed this working water pump so filled my bottles.

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Water top-up station

I found a campsite in the evening that was 23km off my route but in the right general direction, so headed for that, and popped into a supermarket along the way. I reached the campsite just before 6. Whilst putting up the tent the heavens opened. I dived into the tent, battened down the hatches, and made a simple dinner of a sandwich, some fruit, and a cup of tea with milk - luxury!

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Tasted amazing after a day’s cycling

Also staying at the campsite that evening was the only other camper there, Rüdiger, and his dog Jupiter. They arrived by bike with trailer.

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Rüdiger and Jupiter

In the evening we went to the campsite bar and had some beers, which gave both of us the opportunity to practise our English. Rüdiger has got into cycling in the last few years and is planning a cycle touring holiday to London. Sounds like a great idea!

Münster to Bielefeld, 105 km. Total so far = 653 km.

Day 7 : Laundry day

I awoke at 7am and headed over to the owner’s part of the house for breakfast, where I was greeted by this:

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Best breakfast ever

Not bad eh? The basket contains a fresh egg from one of their hens. Their part of the house dates back to the 1300s (if my German is correct..). Look at the size of the stone fireplace and clock:

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Great grandfather clock

The sun was out and I went on my way, out through the countryside towards Münster.

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I didn’t dance around this commemorative pole

Again a mix of roads and paths.

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Horses!

Münster has a great feel to it. It’s not too large, is bursting with history and culture, and feels alive. I’ve added it to the list of places I wouldn’t mind living.

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Münster munch

There are lots of cyclists here, though I notice most of the bikes get locked up.

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A street in the centre of Münster

A kindly bike shop had an automatic pump for passers-by to use, which meant I could give my tyres a quick top-up with minimal effort.

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I can’t say I read the instructions

Münster has the only campsite for miles around, and it’s a monster. I needed to do my laundry so decided to check in in the afternoon, and get that out of the way.

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Grand entrance to the campsite

There are rabbits in the field where I pitched my tent. Fortunately they seem to be respectful of the campers and the area is not awash with droppings!

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Campsite rabbit

Just for a change the sunny day turned to a rainy one. Here is the storm heading over to the campsite:

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Nice gradient effect

By the time my laundry was complete it was pouring with rain. After an hour or two it cleared and I was able to hang up the t-shirts that couldn’t be tumbled dried on my impromptu washing line:

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Laundry day

I went back into Münster in the evening. Unfortunately it started pouring again whilst I was out and by the time I got back I was soaked. Into dry clothes and off to sleep with the sound of the rain on the tent.

Havixbeck to Münster, 42 km. Total so far, 548 km.

Day 6 : Es regnet

After a super fresh egg, and some bread cheese and ham, I packed up and hit the road. The sun was out and Germany was looking good.

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Go to work on an egg

I headed towards Vreden where I joined onto one of the German national cycle routes. The signposting is pretty comprehensive and the route is so well marked, you barely need a map.

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Well signposted

After just over an hour I passed through a town which looked quite inviting but I felt it was too soon to take a break so headed on.

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Into the woods

The cycle route here has a lot more variety than in The Netherlands. There are more twists and turns and when not following roads or cycle paths the tracks can get quite muddy / rocky / gravelly / sandy.

Sometime after 12 it started raining and with heavy grey skies it didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon. When the rain was light I cycled through it but there were a few real downpours with thunder where I looked for cover under various trees or purpose built shelters. It was so bad at one point I wondered if I would have to spend the night in the shelter. I waited a while, made a cup of tea and had some biscuits and the skies cleared a little. The power of a cup of tea!

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Whilst in the shelter I was looking for accommodation options. The nearest campsite I could find in Germany was a long way away – the closest options were back in the Netherlands. I also hadn’t seen anything resembling a guesthouse of even a shop since the town I passed in the morning. Not much option but to keep on pedalling in the rain – my map showed a town wasn’t too much further along my route.

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Drowned rat impersonation

At around 5pm from out of nowhere I saw a cafe with about 30 bikes parked outside (I had only seen a dozen other cyclists all day, and none since it had started raining). More importantly there was a sign outside ‘B&B’. I enquired within.  It looked like there was some kind of cyclists party going on. They had a room but it was €45 not including breakfast. As wet, tired and hungry as I was I didn’t fancy paying that for a B&B! I headed onwards to the next town which was only about 15 mins away. It had two hotels, one of which was closed and the other was €60. I cycled around not finding any B&Bs. There was also really bad phone signal so I couldn’t use bookings.com. Eventually I found somewhere I could get enough signal to access google maps. I noticed a ‘pension’ nearby. Not knowing what that meant exactly I thought I’d give it a try.

I’m very glad I did. It was a large building resembling a farmhouse. I made my way past some ponds and geese and then came a cross a woman tending the garden, who it turned out was one of the owners. She spoke no English whatsoever but was really nice and helpful and with my best bad German I got myself a room for the night with breakfast for a really good rate.

There were two or three long-term lodgers there. I had my own room and bathroom overlooking the ponds.

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Geese! The one on the right was a bit of a character

I headed into the centre of town for dinner. Starter was whatever I fancied from the salad bar. For the main course I opted for beef and mushroom with a kind of potato latke on the side that came highly recommended by a German couple I got talking to.

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Salad mix
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Tasty fuel

I walked around a bit and took a few photos then headed back to get an early night.

Ammeloe to Havixbeck, 86 km. Total so far 506 km.

Day 5 : Into Germany

The sun rises here around 6.30am. Another cold night in the tent but once I’ve had some porridge and coffee and packed everything else up it takes until about 9.30am for the condensation to have mostly dried off the tent so I can pack it away.

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Tent in the morning sun

Once again the LF 4 national long distance cycle route took me across lots of unpaved roads, gravel and dried mud tracks. Other than during Summer you’d probably need a mountain bike for this section.

Lots more pretty scenery. I cycled through a nature reserve and past many fields growing sweet corn.

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Up at the lake

I popped into a supermarket mid-morning for some sustainance. Alas what I thought was a vanilla flavoured milk drink turned out to be custard..

Lunch was a bitterballen sausage on bread and some ham and cheese on bread.

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Pickled carrot on the side

Whilst crossing a bridge I cycled past two teenagers sitting on it on beach towels. When I’d crossed and looked back I saw them jumping in. Easily over 10m – impressive!

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8.5

By mid afternoon I’d reached the end of the route North of Enschede.

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I was keen to push on into Germany. I couldn’t find any campsites so found a discounted B&B and headed for that.

The undramatic crossing into Germany:

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Where did my cycle lane go?

The B&B in Ammeloe is modern and well-appointed. Bed looks comfy! View from my window is sweet corn to the horizon and it is called the star room because it has a view of the sky, which is nice. In the garden are some chickens which I am assured will provide me with a fresh egg in the morning.

At least now in Germany I have a fighting chance of the language basics from my GCSE of over 20 years ago, although almost everyone I talked to in The Netherlands spoke good English. I got some help from Google translate app by looking up ‘I’d like another drink please’ and the lady serving in the pub here in Ammeloe understood completely.

Lochem to Ammeloe via Enschede, 86 km. Total so far = 420 km.

Day 4 : From campsite to campsite

I write this in my tent, feeling sleepy.

As I was packing up at the campsite this morning I had my first bit of kit failure when a hook from one of the rear rack bungee straps broke off. Turns out I can make do without the hook, so that’s 5g weight shaved off.

After leaving the campsite I headed into Arnhem town centre to hunt down some breakfast. I asked the only place I found open for a really big breakfast and was served two medium ones.

I could do with is one of those devices you hang round your neck that takes a picture every minute as I am seeing a lot of nice sights, but not taking many pics. I’ve taken a few today to capture an idea of the current landscape, though sadly I don’t have any pics of all the great architecture that I’m seeing.

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Cycling through a national park

I’m seeing lots of signs but have no idea what any of them mean, although shortly after seeing this one I cycled right by a big bull, when I had been expecting chickens.

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Warning: Wild rooster

A lot of today’s cycling was on unsurfaced roads and paths which means paying extra attention, since breaking and turning gets a bit hazardous with the loaded bike.

The weather was good today. A few showers but mainly sunny. Cycling through forests and in the shade of trees for a lot of it meant it wasn’t too hot.

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A small part of the LF4 Netherland long distance cycle route

A couple of stop offs along the way today for snacks.

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Elevenses

Skies look big here, but the weather has been changing quickly.

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Yeah, your skies are mine
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Selfie, bikie, boatie

This chain ferry cost €2 and made the crossing a lot easier. Note towel on bike. I have to rotate anything I have that’s wet on this prime drying position offered by the front touring bag.

Bit of a wrong turn and the paths got pretty narrow:

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Lost in the woods

Again at around 5pm I looked up nearby campsites and found one not too far away. It’s a large campsite but there’s only about 5 tents in total and just 1 other in my field. As I have the freedom, I’ve pitched my tent in a spot where it will get the sun in the morning. It got a bit cold last night. Need a warmer sleeping bag!

Arnhem to Lochem, 79 km.