Hello to all from Amsterdamnot,
No we did not mis-spell Amsterdam we simply find ourselves in a town some 40km away from Amsterdam where we were supposed to have spent five nights before flying to Australia. As it turned out the group camped one night, hotelled 2 nights, returned to the camp for 2 nights and are now in a hotel for 1 evening before we bus to Koln. It definitely pays to book rooms in advance of shipping 247 people on an around the world trip and not leave it till the last minute. Since we last wrote some 12 days ago we have covered a great deal of territory and seen a few more countries.
Koblenz to Wintrich Germany, 138kms (we cheated and did 46). We left the hotel under cloudy skies to begin our ride along the beautiful Mosel River valley. We chose the bike route in lieu of the prescribed route, as it seemed it would keep us on relatively flat terrain along the valley. This it did, but at about 30km the skies opened and we were drenched with a cold, cold rain. When Steve and Al drove by at the 46km mark it took little persuasion to hang our bike on the car, shed the wet clothes and accept a warm ride to visit a castle. The castle we chose to visit was a place called Berg Elz, which is perhaps one of the best-preserved castles in Germany and perhaps Europe. The only downside was the fact we had a 45+ minute hike through the woods to get to the place and a similar one to return to the car. The hike was well worth the effort and we quickly forgot about the mud, rocks and rain. The guided tour was very informative as she took the time to translate her message into English. All in all a super place to visit and one those of you planning to visit the region should not miss. We arrived at the campground which was a sports complex, the original had them on a field but the town opened the complex for those camping. The major complaint we heard from those who chose to sleep in the complex was the volume of the snoring etc. Apparently it made for a poor sleep night. We returned to the camp for dinner and it was an average meal with a new twist for vegetarians called a cauliflower patty, quite interesting!
Wintrich to Luxembourg, 113km
Following breakfast at the guesthouse it was off for a very pleasant ride along the Mosel River with a small group of riders who chose to ride the bike route. Once again this proved to be a beautiful route as it took us through the vineyards and along the winding river, some climbing but none of the mountain goat variety. This evening our accommodations were at a lovely Novotel hotel on the outskirts of the city. We were reminded on the daily route guide not to expect this quality of rooms, as they were too expensive and not within our budget. Hm!! Supper at the hotel was good but regrettably it was interrupted by one of the most senior of the organizers staff who decided the time was right to yell at the group concerning inappropriate deeds perpetrated by a few of the riders, not a pleasant scene. We have a few riders who insist on hanging their wet tents out hotel windows for drying, not a pleasant or appropriate scene but one that could have been addresses with the couple of offenders and not the total group trying to enjoy dinner. The breakfasts at the Novotel were extremely good and everyone seemed to enjoy the quality, quantity and variety offered by the hotel.
The group was staying for an extra rest day but we along with about 40 others were off to visit Belgium, in particular a little town called Brugge. One of the riders, Fred Sheppard had organized accommodations, a guide, lunch, museum entrances and a canal cruise.
What can we say about this city located in the western reaches of Belgium? It is sometimes called the Venice of Belgium and one can see why as the city has numerous canals winding through the area. The city is undergoing a major facelift as it has been designated the cultural city for Europe in 2002. The city is one big restoration sight but still allows the numerous visitor access to the Michael Angelo sculptures, the Dutch master's paintings and numerous other sights to numerous to catalogue here. This is a must see village and is worth at least three days of your time. The people a re great and if you love chocolate you will think you have gone to chocolate heaven. Our waistlines tell the tale of to many sweets.
The remainder of the group minus our gaggle and numerous others who took the opportunity to do other things in Europe spent the time we were in Brugge bicycling to Barvaux and Mol. We caught up to the group in a place called Kamperland, Netherlands. The bikes routes in Germany, Belgium and Holland make finding an alternate paved, well-marked and safe route a snap. The routes in Holland are particularity well marked and made for a beautiful ride.
We returned to the campground for dinner, which was not bad and included perhaps the biggest meatball we have seen; looked like a cross between a baseball and a soccer ball. Once again it looks like Holland is a spaghetti eating country.
Kamperland to Amsterdamnot, 75km's taking the bike route 170+km's taking the TK&A route,
Once again we chose the bike routes in Holland versus the organized route. There is a beautiful route that runs north along the coast called the North Sea Route, which we chose to take. This avoided the hassle of biking through and around Rotterdam a large sprawling industrial and harbor city.
We took a little side ride into Dan Hauge to have lunch and visit with Helen Hammer the statue of one of her old, old, old relative Johan DeWitt. Finding his statue was not an easy task but it was well worth the effort.
We arrived at the campground as the skies were once again opening up to drench us and the riders still on route, luckily it appears only about 70 riders were on the official route others either doing their own routes or off doing sightseeing. Dinner this evening was a reasonably long walk in the rain to a youth hostel where we were served soup and pasta.
The following morning, actually between the hours of 1:00PM and 3:00PM it was off to a hotel some 5km's away to check in for 2 nights accommodations in a nice hotel with only a welcome 2 to a room. The meals were good and the service was excellent. The following evening it was time again for another rare Tim meeting where we learned a little more about what would be happening, or what was being arranged for the Asian portion of the trip. This update included numerous changes in what we thought was a cast in stone itinerary as well as the re introduction of the earlier removed Japan visit. Apparently there is still a significant amount of organizing to complete before we arrive and we all trust we will not pay the ultimate price for this last minute planning. After two pleasant nights in the hotel the group got the opportunity to move back to the campground, we had the opportunity to visit with some friends we had met through business and the International Tandem Rally, which we had attended for the past 4 years. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Frans and Lettie De Vries who offered us a place to stay and some spectacular meals to eat for two days. Mary got a taste of what was to come in Asia thanks to a lovely Chinese Fondue meal prepared by Lettie.
Following our visit it was back to the hotel for one nights stay before we head off to Koln where we are scheduled to take a 12:30AM flight on 16th for a 22 hour flight to Canberra Australia. This is to be on a DC10 charter flight the name of which no one seems to know, lets hope it is not Aeroflot's charter division!!
There are a number of people with serious reservations about the next leg of the trip, some due to the culture and some the uncertainty of the organization. Let us hope all the concerns are for naught.
We have enjoyed the stay in Europe but are anxious to be on our way to experience the Australian and Asian cultures. The next leg should be a refreshing change for us all.
Our next update will be from down under.
Love, Dave & Mary