Time: 3h 25m
Average speed: 19.2 kph
Song of the day: The 59th Straat Bridge Song
We liked Delft very much – after enjoying the boat trip yesterday we resolved to wander through the Markt area en-route to our chosen restaurant, and we arrived just as the last of the evening sun was illuminating the buildings in the square.
We ate a simple Italian meal on Voldersgracht before heading back to the hotel, early-ish as usual, and no sooner had our heads hit the pillows… (a small digestif may have assisted the process slightly).
We awoke to clear blue skies for our last full day of cycling, definitely the least we deserved! So after a swift breakfast we retrieved the tandem from storage and headed for the first node of the day. Getting out of cities can be trying, and today was no exception, as within a few hundred yards our chosen route was blocked by roadworks. After some head-scratching we found an alternative route and headed off, enjoying the warmth and the bright colours.
Our aim today was to reach Numansdorp, and then Willemstad, while avoiding as much as possible of the port of Rotterdam. Ports tend not to be very pleasant places through which to travel, and Rotterdam is the busiest port in the world, so avoiding it completely was going to be impossible. We headed south, initially through the suburbs of Delft, then through beautiful parklands, towards Schiedam, to the west of Rotterdam. Soon the cranes became visible as we approached the Nieuwe Maas.
There was a certain industrial majesty to it all, though this palled after a while – there was so much of it. We started to look for the bridge we assumed would carry us across the water, but as we approached we became puzzled, as no bridge was apparent. We were taken through a complicated series of manoeuvres, which led instead to the entrance of a tunnel. That couldn’t be right, surely? It was though, as we realised it was a tunnel dedicated entirely to cyclists.
The descent into the tunnel was fast and exhilarating, the ascent out of it slow and laboured. We haven’t had to tackle many hills on this trip, and it showed! Still, we emerged, breathing heavily, at the other end, and saw much more industrial scenery. This continued for a little while until we turned right into a small idyllic rural enclave, sheltered by a dyke which also hid all of the industrial landscape.
We continued our journey south through Rhoon, approaching our second body of water, the Oude Maas. Bypassing a golf course and a branch of IKEA we enjoyed the more rural surroundings, and were somewhat less surprised this time when the anticipated bridge also turned out to be a dedicated cyclist’s tunnel. With a dedicated cyclist’s lift to lower us to the tunnel level, and another one at the other end to return us to path level. Such luxury…
Only twenty or so kilometres now remained, at least to our first stop, Numansdorp. The surroundings were green and pleasant, and the distance was soon achieved.
On planning today’s route we had originally wanted to stay in Willemstad – a village entirely enclosed by a ‘star fort’. The hotels there, though, were few in number and fully booked, so we opted instead to stay in Numansdorp. So, on arrival there, we grabbed a quick late lunch before checking into a very nice boutique hotel (yes, we’re still slumming it 😉). We off-loaded all of our panniers, and headed out towards Willemstad.
The first part of the route involved the use of a ferry – called ‘Anna’, she took visitors from Numansdorp harbour to Willemstad once every two hours. The tandem just fitted on the deck, and we enjoyed a leisurely journey across Hollands Diep into North Brabant, chatting all the while with a friendly Dutchman who lives mainly in Edinburgh.
We disembarked in Willemstad, which looks like this from the air:
Military engineer Adriaen Anthonisz designed it in the 16th century, and Napoleon Bonaparte added a powder magazine in the 18th century. Today it is still impressive – seven bastions protect the points of the star, and the entire town rests within the walls.
We cycled around the perimeter for a while, then to the centre, where we climbed to the highest point of the central tower to see some spectacular views, including this one, down the Main Street, looking north towards Numansdorp across the water.
Finally, we enjoyed a drink in one of the bars surrounding the busy yacht harbour, before remounting the tandem and cycling back to Numansdorp over the nearby lifting bridge, which, inevitably, was lifted as we arrived.
Tomorrow we return to Breda, completing our loop of The Netherlands. We hope to find our car awaiting us in the car park!