I’ve finally finished my trip through Europe, while climbing some hellish mountains, learning a bit of French and experiencing the full gamut of Dutch rage on the way. Now I am settled in London and have packed up my tent, stored my opinel knife and swapped my tourer for a fixie. (I still use the compass though).
My crowning glory was climbing Col de I’Isearn – the highest mountain pass in Europe. It was a killer and I had to listen to my ipod to distract myself from the pain of it. (Disco did the trick) At the top I bought several stickers that I plan to conspicuously stick on everything I own and use so that for the rest of my life I can boast about my achievement.
After Spain, Andorra, France and Switzerland, we then rode through Belgium, Germany Luxemburg and Finally the Netherlands- the last of which I would not recommend.
Holland is often described as a cycling paradise. This wasn’t the case for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is bike infrastructure over there that Australians can only dream of. Cycling is a part of life there and during peak hour I experienced cycling gridlock amongst all kinds of practical Dutch bikes. However, the dedicated bike paths are so convoluted that covering any kind of distance is near impossible.
Frustrated that we weren’t going anywhere, Marc and I took to the roads. Here we both received a constant stream of abuse from motorists with some leaving their palm on the car horn for minutes as they passed us.
I have never experienced so much pure motorist hate directed at me. I was reduced to tears in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t get out of Holland fast enough, however the bike paths meant that this was going to take significantly longer than we had hoped.
My continental European adventure ended when I took the ferry from Amsterdam to Northern England and Marc and I went our separate ways. Unfortunately my first port of call was a particularly depressing one: Hartlepool. Hartlepool’s main claim to fame is that the town’s people hanged a monkey, believing it was a Napoleonic spy.
Unfortunately in Hartlepool there were very few campsites that catered to tents. Many were “caravan only” so finding somewhere to stay was a challenge. Locals also told me that it wasn’t safe to bush camp solo (however one I spoke to was also highly suspicious of the Spanish). I’d often ride past groups of bored, spotty, overweight teenagers in grey tracksuits who would yell “Wanna fook?” as I passed. Laughable though the prospect was, the idea of being harassed by Hartlepool youth was not an attractive one. I realised that this was a particularly un glamorous end to an otherwise awesome experience.
I’m now in London and my tour is officially over and although I miss the stress free existence, I am enjoying drinking wine out of a glass, sleeping in a bed and sometimes wearing makeup. I rode more than I thought possible and (for some parts) by myself. I would recommend going it alone to any girls who are contemplating taking the dive. You’re always welcome to contact me for advice or moral support (I can’t guarantee how good the advice will be though). On a sappy note, thanks to all the reader’s comments and support. I’d also like to thank Meg for allowing me to brag about my holiday and cycling achievements to a much wider audience than I could have reached alone. So, one more look at the sticker.