Of all the potential homecoming scenarios I had imagined the one that actually happened isn’t one I expected. I wasn’t even close really.
The trip in total was just over 2 years. That gives you lots of time to think about how things might go when you eventually get home. It changed all the time of course. When we started the trip we were only supposed to be away for 1 year anyway. The whole trip in fact has been a lesson in expecting the unexpected, taking things as they come and rolling with the constant changes. Nothing ever really worked out how we thought it would so why would it end that way?
In an ideal fantasy world it would have been lovely if all the family and friends we have missed over the last 2 years were waiting for us in our house in Amsterdam. If we were dealing in the realms of fantasy then it would be even better if all the wonderful people we’ve met along the way were also somehow there too. All the people who brightened our spirits for just a moment and those we got to know much better, like the friends we made in Athens. All the people who made our trip what it was. They’d all be there.
Those kind of romantic and egotistical thoughts were dismissed ever since Covid-19 turned up though. As we started cycling again in Greece after being in lockdown for 2 months we knew that we’d be lucky to get home without borders being closed in front of us and that the chances of seeing anyone, other than our family (if we were lucky) on our return, were slim at best. Still it was hard not to daydream about happy endings to our trip.
On Tuesday 22nd September we boarded the ferry from Harwich, UK to Hoek van Holland, Netherlands. Hoek van Holland is about 90km from our house in Amsterdam. The ferry from the UK arrived at 5:30pm. The plan was to cycle to a friends house in Delft, about 20km, stay the night there and then the next morning do the final 60-70km to our home in Amsterdam. It would be a very relaxed couple of days. It would have been a relaxed couple of days.
The day before we got on the ferry I could tell I was becoming a little unwell. I had a sore throat and a cough. I also had a runny nose. I didn’t feel ill and the runny nose meant I wasn’t really displaying coronavirus symptoms but it was a little worrying. The next day and during the ferry ride I kind of felt the same so we decided we would contact our friend in Delft. The outcome of the phone call was that we would not stay at her place when we arrived in the Netherlands. There was no point in taking any risks and anyway, one more night of camping wouldn’t be a problem for us, we’d done it almost every night for the past 3 months. The new plan was to arrive in Hoek van Holland, get a beer somewhere to celebrate being in the Netherlands, get some food and find a place to camp somewhere nearby. The next morning cycle the final 70-80km to our home in Amsterdam. It would be a fairly relaxed couple of days. It would have been a fairly relaxed couple of days.
As you can see from the picture we managed the celebratory beer part of the plan. After that we went to find some food. We went for some classic Dutch food. Surinamese food! Surinam was a former Dutch colony so the lucky Dutch people get to eat lots of great dishes from that country. As we waited for our food a lady noticed our bikes and asked us what we were doing. She said she used to do cycle touring in the past so always likes to talk to other cycle tourers. She then went on to tell us that her first cycle tour was in England and that while there she worked in a terrible hotel in Torquay. Later she found out that John Cleese had stayed in the same hotel and based the sitcom Fawlty towers on it! Slightly less interesting but more useful, she told us that we could try and camp in the park around the corner. We went there to eat our food and see if it could be a place to camp. It was full of dogs. Lots of them. I guess this park was where people took their dogs to do a shit at night. While we were eating dogs kept coming up to us and looking at us. Wanting some of our tasty roti and hoping they would get some by giving some sad face dog eyes. It didn’t work. One dog jumped up from behind the bench we were sat at and, at the same time, threw up a load of sand/soil into my tasty food. After that my food had an extra crunch to it. I also thought that maybe since this was a dog shit park that maybe there might be dog shit in my food. I stopped eating the crunchy food and we looked to see if there could be a place to camp here. It was getting dark by now. It was way too busy in this park though. Too many dogs and too many dog owners. There was another park nearby which looked much bigger so we thought we’d go there and find a camping spot.
We arrived at a park which was apparently much bigger. I say apparently because by now, it was so dark, I couldn’t see anything. We rode around the park for about 10 minutes looking for a place where we could place the tent and be a little bit away from the main paths but it was too dark to really see much. It was around 9pm now and we were not any closer to finding a place to stay so Frouke decided to make a small joke…
“If it carries on like this we might as well just cycle all the way home”
“Errr… well… actually I’d be up for that. It might be funny”
5 minutes later after a brief discussion into the merits and stupidity of cycling 80km home in the middle of the night we were err… cycling 80km home in the middle of the night.
It was a peaceful cycle through the sand dunes along the western Dutch coastline. We were almost totally alone cycling through the night with only the stars, the moon, our bike lights and, in one part of the route, some deer for company. The weather was perfect for cycling and we even had a slight tail wind pushing us home. It was beautiful. As we got closer to Amsterdam and the early hours of the morning we entered small villages and towns and then eventually the outskirts of the city. Everything was deserted except for the occasional cyclists, dog walker or late night drinker. There were barely any cars on the road. During the last 2 years it never occurred to us to cycle at night. It was always something we actively avoided and here we were on our final cycle doing exactly that.
At around 2:30am in the morning we arrive exhausted at our house. We quietly let ourselves in and looked around. Slowly familiarising ourselves with the place we used to call home and would be calling home again. For whatever reason it was probably the most tired I’ve felt in the whole trip. I guess that was it. We were home. We hugged in the kitchen and I shed a few tears, both happy and sad. Frouke, without tears, looked at me.
“I’m too tired to cry. Maybe I’ll cry tomorrow”.
And with that we went to sleep.
Our trip is over but we still need to continue raising money for the 26 Burmese refugee children so that they can go to school, have a place to sleep and food to eat. Please help us if you can