De Pontjesroute

During my last week in the Netherlands, my Swedish friend and colleague Jakob came to visit. Of course we went to Amsterdam, but I also wanted to show him the “real” Netherlands – part of the country that I find really beautiful, which looks very very Dutch, which is actually the part you can rightfully call Holland ๐Ÿ˜‰ but perhaps best of all, without hordes of tourists! And of course this had to be done by bike ๐Ÿ™‚

We took the train to Uitgeest and started cycling from there. The route we followed most of the way is called “de pontjesroute” or the “ferry route”, as you use 4 ferries – one big one that you share with cars, one small one just for bikes, and (extra fun!) two self-service ferries ๐Ÿ™‚ (For a map of our route, and a link to the official map – scroll down to the bottom)

It didn’t take long until we spotted the first windmill…

The first windmill of the day, on the way out of Uitgeest

We cycled on a very narrow path next to the lake (barely wide enough for two bikes next to each other). We watched a sailing school with many sailing boats on a canal.

Sailing boats

And we cycled past another windmill, with a small bridge and sluice next to it. The windmill was in use, and the sluice also opened by appointment, for canoes and small boats.

Windmill panorama

Mill & bridge

Not long after that, we took the first self-service ferry. There is a cable running over the bottom and you can wind it by turning a wheel. It’s quite hard work actually!

One of the self-service ferries

A nice old cafe next to the bike ferry at Spijkerboor.

Nice old cafe next to the ferry at Spijkerboor

The bike ferry called Jan Hop, where we paid a small fee for the crossing.

The bike ferry Jan Hop

In this region of the Netherlands there are a lot of wooden houses with this characteristic green colour.

The typical green wooden houses of this region

De Rijp, which I think is the prettiest small town in the Netherlands. I once stayed there in winter, in an amazingly pretty B&B, click here for photos of that trip.

De Rijp, one of my favourite places in the Netherlands

A small and narrow (one person wide) bridge in De Rijp.

One of the many canals and bridges in De Rijp

The very pretty town hall and bridge in De Rijp.

The town hall and the bridge at De Rijp

Ice cream time! We spent a lot of time in De Rijp, visiting the town hall and the church famous for its collection of stained-glass windows. If anyone is interested, here is a videoย I found on youtube, showing the inside of the church. We donated our last coins to the church, as it looked like it badly needed renovation!

Ice cream time!

We went for a walk around the many pretty streets of the town. There are many canals – must be fun to grow up here and play with boats ๐Ÿ™‚

Boys playing with a boat, must be so much fun to grow up here

We bought a picnic lunch from the supermarket here, hoping to find a nice place to stop and eat it. Just outside de Rijp however, we had to cycle through a very open area, against the wind, and partly next to a busy road. The views were still great though: flat fields with grass, water, farms and a big big sky ๐Ÿ™‚

A very Dutch panorama

Oh and cows of course!

Cows and a very pretty sky

We actually cycled all the way to Akersloot where we finally found a really nice place to stop by the lake.ย Very good, as I think we couldn’t have cycled much further, we were starving!

A bench by the lake

It was such a nice day and it was great to lie in the grass for a while.

Falling asleep by the lake, such a nice place

When we got to Castricum, we had to decide whether we would take the train from there, or finish the circle by continuing to Uitgeest. In the end we decided to do neither of this: instead we cycled to the beach at Castricum aan Zee (Castricum by the Sea).

Jakob on the beach

I loved the skies that day! We stayed at the beach for a long time, almost staying for the sunset, until we remembered that we still had some distance to bike to get to the train station in Castricum.

The beach, dunes and a very pretty sky at Castricum

Here is a map of the route we cycled, which was almost 50 km in total. The official map of the pontjesroute can be found here

Map of our cycling trip

From Castricum we took the train back home again. We were exhausted after a long day of cycling (much of it against the wind, as it always seems to be in the Netherlands), but what a fun day!

The Netherlands: dunes & beaches

I spent two weeks in the Netherlands in July (more photos to come soon!), and of course I visited the dunes and the beach several times. I grew up with this National Park Zuid-Kennemerland in my backyard, and I love this area!

One sunny Sunday afternoon I went to the beach with my mum.

Beach panorama - I loved the clouds!

It was windy, but warm, and I enjoyed a refreshing swim!

Relaxed Sunday afternoon at the beach

A rare selfie with my mum…

Selfie with my mum :)

The dunes are constantly changing, and they have now let some of the dunes “free”, meaning the sand can move with the wind and at times cross the cycle path.

At this cycle path there is a sign that warns for dunes crossing the road ;)

This sign is new, I love it! The text says: “Healthy: nice outside”. Doesn’t really work in English I guess…

I love this new sign they put up!

Later in the week I took a friend on an evening bike ride, and this is the view we had at het Vogelmeer (the bird lake) – so pretty!

Het Vogelmeer, or bird lake, on a really nice evening

There’s a bird hide there, and we watched lots of bird, included this great crested grebe (fuut in Dutch) feeding its young.

We watched this great crested grebe (fuut in Dutch) feed its young

On one of my last nights in the Netherlands I went for a last swim at the beach. The one time I didn’t take my camera (only my mobile), and we got such a fantastic sunset…

Sunset from the beach

Relaxing in the sand after going for a swim…

Relaxing after a swim

And a panorama of the sunset:

Sunset panorama taken with my phone - wish I had brought my camera that night!

I also saw lots of wildlife during these visits: several foxes and deer, the Scottish Highlanders and horses that are grazing in the park, rabbits. You’ll have to take my word for it though, as I didn’t mention to take photos of that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dordrecht & de Hollandse Biesbosch

Earlier in July I went to the Netherlands to attend the wedding of a high school friend. It finished early in the evening, and I made plans with my sister to go camping and visit an area neither of us had ever been: National Park De Biesbosch, a freshwater tidal wetlands area. We found a nature camping called De Kleine Rug, located on a peninsula that could only be reached by boat. So when we arrived at the parking lot, we called them up, and they came to pick us up by boat – so cool ๐Ÿ˜€

The jetty where we waited with our luggage for the boat to take us to the campsite

My sister on the boat

The campsite was really nice, and we made hamburgers and drank wine ๐Ÿ™‚ the only thing we hadn’t counted on: MOSQUITOS. Hmm yes, should have guess they like wetlands. They drove us a bit crazy. We went for a short walk in the evening, but quite quickly decided it was better to retreat to the tent ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next morning we took the boat back to the parking lot. The boat was called Heen en Weer Wolf, after a character from a famous Dutch children’s book that I love. A direct translation would be There and Back Wolf, but in the English translation he’s called Tell me Wherewoulf which works better as it keeps the joke about the werewolf ๐Ÿ˜‰

Laura getting on board the next morning. The boat is called Heen en Weer Wolf, a character from a children's book. In English the character is called Tell me Wherewoulf

We drove to the visitor center of the National Park and had breakfast there. Then we paid to take a solar powered ferry to the other side, where we went for a nice walk.

The solar powered ferry that took us to the start of our walk (for a small fee)

Nice views along the way… we could have gone kayaking or canoeing here, but we had booked a beaver safari (by boat) for late in the evening, so we would see the area from the water later.

Pretty views on the walk

We did a walk that was partly like an open air museum. This area was used for willow cultivation, and we saw several huts, houses and boats used by willow workers in those days. Must have been a hard life, especially since they mainly worked in the cold and wet winter when the willows didn’t have leaves. It was hard work and they stayed in the area for a week, only going home for the weekends.

Example of a primitive hut used by willow workers

Inside a typical boat used by the willow workers - two people could sleep here, even though it's tiny!

A willow toilet, flushed twice a day by the tides...

At some point the government decided the circumstances for the willow workers were too primitive, and they built stone houses for them to use.

A house used by the willow workers, after the government decided the primitive huts they used before were not suitable

After this nice (but slightly muddy) walk we took the ferry back to the visitor’s center, and we drove to Dordrecht to explore the city. It’s a very old city, and really nice to visit ๐Ÿ™‚

The town hall in Dordrecht

Outside cafe in Dordrecht

The market in Dordrecht

The church and part of the harbour in Dordrecht

We had dinner outside on one of the squares, until it was time to drive back to the visitor center for our “beaver safari” ๐Ÿ˜€ We first went for a walk with a guide, who told us all about beavers, also because they don’t want to shout those stories while on the boat (better to be quiet while on a wildlife safari ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). It was a really calm evening, and the boat trip by itself was really nice!

Views from our beaver safari in the evening

With pretty views in the soft evening light…

A reflected windmill

Soft evening colours

But it didn’t take long before we actually saw a beaver swimming near the shore! We ended up seeing three, though we were on the wrong side of the boat for one of them. I took a photo, but without a good zoom it’s hardly worth showing. So instead a photo of the beaver cookie they served us with a hot chocolate – much easier to photograph ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cookies and hot chocolate - this beaver was easier to photograph than the real one!

We drove back home after the boat tour, as my sister had a race to run the next day. We both really enjoyed being tourists in our own country, and decided to do trips like this more often! ๐Ÿ™‚

Midsummer Night Ride

Last weekend I did something crazy: I took the train to Grua and cycled all the way back to Oslo through the forest, nearly 60 km – in the middle of the night! It was beautiful: sunset at nearly 23:00, an orange moon rising, a sunset melting into sunrise, with beautiful twilight colours. I hardly saw anyone (except for a few people camping in the forest), but I did meet two big moose and heard the eerie call of the loon echoing overย mirror-calm lakes. Oh and a billion annoying little flies, but let’s forget about that ๐Ÿ˜‰

From Grua I cycled a long uphill to Mylla, where I took a short break to enjoy the views…

Evening views at Mylla

Perfect reflections

Mylla panorama

I cycled along the south side of the lake (Mylla), never far from the shore and pretty views…

A rowing boat in the forest

After leaving the lake and climbing up through the forest, this view suddenly opened up – magical!

Suddenly this view opened up - magical!

Moody skies around midnight. There was a lot of rain on the way, and I kept thinking it would start to cloud over, but it actually cleared up after this ๐Ÿ™‚

Moody skies around midnight

I stopped very often, as I couldn’t resist taking photos of views like this…

The skies kept changing, but the colours were beautiful all night

The whole route was along forest (dirt) roads, but one small part went on a narrow track with boardwalks through the forest – fun ๐Ÿ™‚

I mostly cycled on dirt roads, but there was a short part that went through the forest on a narrow path with boardwalks

At the end of that path I reached Gjerdingen Dam…

Gjerdingen

There were a couple of cabins here, and the light was on in the house. There were also two tents used by cyclists at the shore of the lake.

A couple of cabins at Gjerdingen Dam, and if you look closely there are two tents in use by cyclists

More pretty views…

Such fantastic views...

And some really magical views at Hakkloa. If the little flies weren’t driving me crazy, I would have stayed here much longer!

Magical moments at Hakkloa

After that there were some gruelling climbs up from Bjรธrnsjรธen (I skipped Kikutstua as I was getting tired by now and wanted to get home), but after that it was mainly downhill all the way home. I finally got home at 4 in the morning. I met a lot of people on their way home from a night out, which is always surreal when you’ve been in the quiet forest for hours.

If anyone is interested in this route, it’s described here: Til byen fra Grua.ย Recommended! You need to book and pay to take your bike on the train from Oslo to Grua, but this is easily done online, even last minute.