When travelling by bicycle it is the small local unknown places that bear more significance. From the Hoek of Holland to Amsterdam my 2 day journey took me to Ter Hejide, Loosdunen, kukduin, duinsdorp, Den Haag, Nieuw, Wassenaar, Katwijkse Valkenburg, Katwijk, Noordwijk, Noordwijk Aan Zee, Noordzijeder, De Zilk, Vogelenzang, Bennebroek, Meenien Berg , Heemstede, Zwanenburg.
Taking a slightly different path there are probably another 300 equally bizarre named places, each the home, workplace and significant part of a number of individual lives. Locally each place will have its own characteristics, identity and history which unfortunately I can all but attempt to glimpse as I cycle through. The best hope being to try to grasp at some of the bigger generalisations and stereotypes that oversimplify the Dutch.
- Local people do wear Clogs with white socks in the street (Clog count 4)
- Local people don’t wear bicycle helmets and they look at you in an odd fashion if you wear one.
- Everybody cycles everywhere. Which enlightened individual created this?
- Windmills or rather Wind turbines everywhere.
As the outsider the arbitrary marks where one place ends and the next one begin are impossible to fathom. Some places contain seemingly nothing and the size of the font on the map doesn’t necessarily signify the size of a place or amenities it holds.
Both locals & my trusty 1:250,000 scale map are equally unsure of the boundaries of their place names. One house merges into the next, ask one local and you are in De Zilk and then ask another 2 minutes later and you are in Noordzijeder. I guess it does not really matter unless there is some sort of boundary dispute. As for me the conclusion I came to is if my mum calls I will say I am either in Holland or Amsterdam as firstly I’m probably not sure where I am and secondly she wouldn’t be likely to know if I said anything different . This is a fair short cut.
On the point of Navigation; I will for now adopt a more flexible map reading approach. Determined from the outset that I was always going to choose the nostalgia of using maps over the practicalities of GPS technology. Before departing London a friend of mine suggested that there is no need for a compass if you have a map as you will always know exactly where you were on the road. Fortunately I didn’t listen. This method works if firstly you know which way you are facing and secondly if you have a detailed enough map scale. A compass is necessary or an analogue watch.
Following the nostalgia theme I have been looking for some natural and methods for navigation. I have never required the need coloured gloves to depict left and right but remember if the sun sets in the East or the West has been causing some confusion. I have been trying to bear this in mind with my navigation but perhaps the most useful natural tool I have employed is the wind. If I can hear it in both ears and my speedometer says 9.1 mph then I am going in the right direction with the wind coming from a North East bearing. This is no fun and this it is the right direction for the next 200 or so miles. On this thought I felt like I wanted to go a little bit faster so employed a kind of tacking technique heading further north for a couple of hours of course to then turn to a direction where I could benefit from a tail wind. I have no idea if this is sensible but it felt like when you are stuck in a traffic jam and decide to leave and do a 30 mile detour because you think it will save you time.