A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: darrenhough1974

The End

Limmen to IJmuiden

sunny 10 °C
View Tandem tales on darrenhough1974's travel map.

It's still dark when Kim gets up. She goes to the bathroom during which there is a little tap on the door. When she opens the door both Myer and Noah are standing outside looking up and inviting her into their rooms. First into Myers and then Noahs. They show her their toys and potential Halloween outfits. Noah even gives Kim a few of his stickers. Seems she is a hit with them.

Enjoy a coffee with Nic before she leaves for work. It has been a fun 24 hours and we are so happy we could spend it with friends. It delays the sadness we feel creeping in as the end of our cycle adventure approaches.

Gareth takes Nelson for his morning walk and we join him and then continue into their local village which is very cute. Lots of lovely shops - delis, an artisan bakery, cheese shop, boutiques and cafes. One could easily while away an afternoon here. We buy food for the ferry and have one last coffee with Gareth before we leave.

Today's cycle is 10kms to ferry. The sky is clear and a beautiful blue but it is cold! We really don't want our adventure to end but as they say all good things must come to an end. Why is that? Very pessimistic...I don't know an equivalent saying for bad things.

In no time we are at the ferry terminal. Customs and check in is quick and seamless. We are on the ferry before we know it. So fast that we didn't have a chance to take a photo of us next to the boat. We lock Polly on the bike rack and take Pacman in the lift to our cabin. We are one of the first to board. It's much more modern and cleaner than our ferry from Albania to Italy, and we have a cabin instead of a seat. The cabin has a comfortable double bed and an ensuite. Nice!
Find a table with a view of the harbour to each lunch and contemplate the end of our adventure. We have loved every minute.

Final stats

29 weeks, 130 cycle days, 66 rest days, 14 countries
Cycled 6,427kms (All our rides on Komoot)
57,270m incline and decline as we started and finish at sea-level
Spent $23,988 AUD

What did we lose

3 hex keys and 1 bag of M&Ms

What did we need to replace

1 chain, 1 front tyre, 2 back tyres, 3 inner tubes, 9 brake pads, an axle on pacman (trailer), a rear freehub, a 3-gear crank, 3 spokes, 1 bike bag for our valuables, our petrol stove to a gas stove.


0 crashes, 5 close calls - from a truck taking up the whole road coming the other way forcing us off the road, 3 trucks overtaking uncomfortably close, and hitting a kamikaze cat that jumped in front of us.


- The freedom of being on the road with everything we needed.
- The generosity, curiosity and friendliness of the people of the Balkans, as well as their openness to discuss their painful recent history of war and genocide.
- Meeting and staying with Warmshowers hosts through Western Europe. Making new friends. Meeting up with old and new friends.
- Our longest cycle day of 102kms testing our endurance and resilience.
- Hiking up the ladder of Kotor a 942m uphill climb with stunning scenery. Swimming in the Bay of Kotor
- Cycling through the Southern Albanian Alps feeling like the only people and certainly tourists for miles.
- Camping and swimming in the Albanian, North Macedonian, Italian, Swiss, French and German lakes.
- parkruns in Italy, Germany and Holland.
- Watching the opera Tosca at Verona arena.
- Cycling over the Gotthard pass.
- Enjoying a "nearly" Michelin star 6 course degustation meal in Holland.
- Finishing the Amsterdam marathon.
- And, of course the unlimited acts of kindness.

An adventure of a lifetime, yes, but not our last.

Would we do it again - 100% yes in a heartbeat.


Posted by darrenhough1974 00:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (5)

Broken bodies

Limmen to Bloemendaal

overcast 9 °C
View Tandem tales on darrenhough1974's travel map.

We are sore and it's cold. We're snuggled up in bed and don't want to move. I woke several times during the night and tried to stretch. Kim woke at 2am hungry but was too sore to get out of bed. She's famished now so we need to get up.

Gingerly potter around to try to slowly loosen up. Coffee, cereal and start to pack. I need to adjust the gears - I think the cable has stretched to the gears on the front crank. My adjustments are not having much impact...I might need to take some slack out of the cable, but I'll look at that another time, we need to get going. Today is flat so we won't need to change the front gears. We leave just after 11:15am. It's a 1.5 hour ride and we retrace much of our route from Friday. It's cold, but thankfully there's no wind.

Arrive at Gareth’s just after 1pm. I used to surf with Gareth in Sydney. Gareth, his wife Nic and daughter Myer moved to Holland years ago. On arrival we meet Nelson their 7 year old dog, Kim falls in love immediately!

We have a quick coffee and change clothes to warm us up and then we drive into Harlem for a late lunch. We haven’t been to Harlem yet so we get a little tour of the city as this is where Gareth and Nic lived when they first arrived in Holland. Settle into a local cafe on the square and enjoy a beer and burger.
Back to Gareth's place as he needs to pick up the kids from school. Meanwhile we hang out with Nelson and try to decide on how we are getting to Aberdeen. Kim's been watching the weather. It's going to be a lot colder and wetter than Holland. That puts the kibosh on camping. Other accommodation on the route is very limited. We decide to book a night in Newcastle then we'll catch a train to Aberdeen the next day. The cycle trip is coming to an end faster than I am prepared for. We are both a little sad and disappointed but feel like it's the right choice.

Gareth returns with Myer and Noah. It's a whirlwind of bathtime and dinner before Nic gets home. Kids in bed, Gareth makes dinner and we crack open a bottle of red. Spend the evening chatting away like we saw each other yesterday even though it was the first time Kim and Nic have ever met. Before we know it it’s 11pm. Time for bed!

Posted by darrenhough1974 00:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Race day

Limmen - Amsterdam marathon

all seasons in one day 10 °C

The forecast for today is rain, wind and cold. We are woken at 5am by the rain and wind...we stay snuggled in bed until our alarm goes off at 6am.

Time for coffee then porridge with banana, another pre race favourite that's has worked for us. Kim is nervous. She has been nervous for the last week because we have done no running training. A few 5kms parkruns don't really count when your about to do 42.2km. She is worried about blisters on her feet (she has her hiking shoes and socks not running kit), then there's her knee which always gives her grief on long runs. She hopes they both hold up until at least 30kms which would make the last 12.2kms of walking more doable/bearable. She's also been hoping for dry weather as none of her long races have been in the wet. I don't think she'll get a dry day today.

Fed, waterered, and toilet visit successful, we cycle to Castricum train station 4kms away. There are no buses this early on Sunday morning. It's still dark, and cold, but it's dry. Lock Polly outside the station and hope she will still be here when we return tonight. Buy train tickets and get to the platform 15 minutes early. We would rather be early than late. The sun tries to rise on our train journey into Amsterdam. It does momentarily before the clouds close in and the heavens open. It's an easy transfer to the metro. Now we are surrounded by hundreds of runners - all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities. I think we are wearing the most amount of clothes though!

We alight in a throng of runners and walk to towards the Olympic Station where the race starts and ends. No marshals around so we ask a random person speaking English if they know where the bag drop is. They point us in the right direction. Strip down to our running gear - long leggings, t-shirt, merino long sleeve top, buff, merino beanie and gloves - handover our bag and head into the stadium. It's super crowded and doesn't feel very organised. Totally opposite to any other race we have done before.

We enter the stadium and the atmosphere is electric. We move straight to our wave area and within minutes we are moving towards the start line. Today's theme is "Run your masterpiece". Neither of us feel this will be our masterpiece due to the lack of running training. Finishing before the cut-off will a successful run for us. That means crossing the finish before the 6 hour cut off time or there will be no bling for us!
The countdown starts and then we are off just shy of 9:30am. The rain starts again just as we exit the stadium. Regardless we both feel good and start off faster than we planned as its crowded and we are carried along with the pack. The crowd of spectators is a few people deep and cheering everyone on. So much energy in the air. We run past canals and through the botanical gardens which provides a wider path. People have signs with "Tap here for energy" and "Pain is just bread in France". Kids have their hands out for high fives and we take every opportunity to high five them. Spectators read a runners name on their bib and shout it out as they pass. This continues right through the race.

First 10kms done and we are still feeling good. Then we hit the 20kms and Kim is starting to slow with a niggle in her left knee and blisters forming on both her big toes. We slow the pace to see if she can settle into a slower pace and help reduce the pain. We reach halfway... Kim needs to stop running as her knee is too painful. She thinks its muscular so no permanent damage if she continues with a fast walk / slow jog. It's cold, wet and windy but I can't get her running again. We have done 22kms in 2.5 hours. We have 20.2km left and 3.5 hours. We are now worried we will be cut off. Even if we don't it will be very very close. We both want to finish so need to dig deep.

We have never been this far back in the pack and we see the same faces as we pass and then they pass us. We develop a comradery, encouraging each to other on. What doesn't help is the 1/2 marathon runners start to come past at their 8km mark, there are thousands of them and they are impatient. We experience more jostling and a few bump into us as they try to get past. In Australia if someone nearly cuts you off they apologise but not once in this race. At one stage I have to walk behind Kim to ensure she is safe.

As we pass the 40kms sign Kim tries to run but cries out in pain. She looks at her watch knowing if we doesn't run soon we won't make it. Our shuffling pace quickens. At the 41km sign Kim starts to run. We are holding hands. She's crying in pain but she knows we are so close. It's raining again and cold but Kim is determined to finish. We run into the Olympic stadium and the atmosphere is pumping. We have our own marathon lane and people we are cheering us on. We are running, Kim is crying. The last 200 meters there are signs every 50 meters telling us how close we are to the end. We see the finish line and Kim gives it her all. We cross the line just before cut-off - 5 hours 59 minutes and 27 seconds. We did it! We hug and high five. We receive our medals, get a picture with the selfie frame and soak up the atmosphere. Kim can't stop crying!
It takes 30 minutes to wade through a crowd of runners and spectators before we can make it to bag pick up (again very poor planning). Change into clean tops and our puffer jackets and then hobble 1.5km to the metro - the one 300m away is is closed for works. Bad timing! At least the rain has stopped. We pass the Olympic hotel ...we wish we were staying there!

It takes us 1 hour 45 to get home - metro, then train, and finally cycle the last 4kms home. By the time we arrive at our Airbnb the sun is going down, we are freezing and hungry! Hope into a very hot shower and reflect on the day. I make spaghetti bolognese and Kim cracks open the prosecco. Bed by 8:30pm as stiffness takes hold!


Days cycled - 128
Rest days - 66 (No really a rest day but not a cycle day either)
Distance cycled - km (6284.6km)
Ascent - 0m (Total 54500m)
Descent - 0m (Total 54500m)
Money Spent - $200 AUD (Total $23895 AUD)

Posted by darrenhough1974 00:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (3)

Marathon ready... Cycling counts as training right?

Noordwijk to Limmen

overcast 11 °C
View Tandem tales on darrenhough1974's travel map.

Friday 13 - Noordwijk to Limmen

We wake to an overcast and damp morning but at least it is not overly cold. Nel our Airbnb host sees us off and wishes us well for the marathon and our trip to Scotland.
The wind is picking up today with gusts of 50kmph... lucky they are tailwinds! We cycle along the North Sea coast and it's pure joy. Great bike paths and signage. In no time we hit the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen national park containing many animals including deer, horses, and oddly Scottish highland cows (coos)... so Kim is excited to see the coos.
The terrain changes from sand dunes to forest to wetlands then back. The path is undulating. Towards the end of the park we spot a herd of coos, they are huge and on either side of the path. We have never been so close and their horns are massive but they don't seem to pay much attention to us at all. We stop to admire them. We are not the only ones.
We are literally blown into IJmuiden. It's cold so we stop for a coffee, toilet stop and for me to check out the gears as I can't seem to change through the range we have. I do the best I can without getting out our tools but decide to keep in 3rd gear on the front for the rest of the day. Lucky its flat and less than 20kms to go!

Back on the bike we catch a ferry which is free for pedestrians and cyclists. It's not until we take off we realise its electric because it's so quiet - very cool! From the ferry its an easy 10km to our Airbnb in Limmen for the next 3 nights. We decided not to stay in Amsterdam as we wanted to store Polly and Pacman safely, and stay in a place with a kitchen so we can control what we eat before the 42.2km. That criteria was not easy to find but Kim found this one that ticked all of those boxes.

It takes us awhile to find where it is. It is number 31a. Google says that it is next to number 1 which is odd and Kim doesn't believe it, so we go down the road to number 31 to ask. they direct us back to next to number 1. We were only 15m away from it before but looking in every direction except where it is! Unpack, ride down the rode the buy groceries and then when we get back we close the blinds and put on the heater and get cosy.

Saturday 14 - Limmen - rest day - morning in Alkmaar

Turns out there is a parkrun in the next town less than 9kms away so of course we need to go! This will be Kim's 24th different parkun.
Coffee and banana and then we leave just before 8am. The remains of a pink sunrise grace the sky as we take off. It's a nice distraction from the cold! No surprise we are the first non-volunteers there! We chat to the Run Director as others arrive. It's an intimate event of 18. This parkrun only launched in June so their numbers are still small. It's nice as it's easier to chat with the locals, for us parkrun tourists. We are not the only tourists though, several from the UK including Simon from Aberdeen. Kim befriends him instantly and we agree to exchange details after the run at coffee. Since we are running the marathon tomorrow we have no intention of doing anything but walk today. Kim walks with the tailwalker who is also the Co Event Director, I join one of the other regular walkers.
It's a pretty course with 3 laps of the park. There's a little man made hill in the middle, so it's not a completely flat course. The locals who pass us all greet us warmly. Afterwards everyone goes for coffee at the local coffee shop. We spend the next nearly 2 hours chatting with our new parkrun friends! We plan to meet up with Simon at a parkrun in Aberdeen on the 4 November. We look forward to it!
We are one of the last to leave at 11:45am. Tim an expat from the UK is going our way so he cycles with us into Alkmaar. He heads home and we wander around the town. Alkmaar is famous for its cheese market which unfortunately finished last week for the year. Another good reason to return in warmer months! It's market day so people are everywhere but the town is lovely and we would love to wander more but it's too windy and cold. Buy a meat pie from the pieman for me and Kim gets some local cheese and then we cycle to Aldi before riding home.
Spend the afternoon in our cocoon resting, keeping warm and enjoying an early spaghetti bolognese for dinner - this is our standard pre-race dinner. It has always worked for us so don't plan to change it now! Lay out our clothes for the morning and we are in bed before 9pm.


Days cycled - 128
Rest days - 65
Distance cycled - 52.1km (6284.6km)
Ascent - 390m (Total 54500m)
Descent - 390m (Total 54500m)
Money Spent - $205 + $ 201 AUD (Total $23695 AUD)

Posted by darrenhough1974 00:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Rest days and a day trip

Noordwijk and a trip to Amsterdam

overcast 13 °C

Tuesday 10 - Noordwijk - rest day

Lazy morning reading then catching up on our blog. At lunchtime we venture out to the beach to make the most of the afternoon sunshine. Make sandwiches, then enjoy a long walk on the beach. It’s really windy and it has washed up several big blue jellyfish. We can't see the windfarms offshore today and so we wouldn't know they were there if we hadn't already seen them. One girl has braved the water. She barely makes it to her thighs before she turns around. I don’t think it counts as a swim since her head didn't get wet. Kim says it does. here are hundreds of people walking on the beach and in the cafes on the dunes. We later ask our host and she tells us as school holidays in Germany so it’s always this busy.
Find a place in the sun but out of the wind at one of the cafes on the beach for a beer and wine. As the sun starts to dip we wander back to our Airbnb. Spend the evening resting and reading.

Wednesday 11 - Noordwijk - rest day

Not a lot to report. We have midweek lazy Sunday. We brave the wind and walk to the beach. Enjoy some local fish before we are blown home again. The rest of the day we spent resting, drinking tea, blogging and reading.

Thursday 12 - Noordwijk - rest day - day trip into Amsterdam

Exciting day today. We are collecting our bib for Sunday's Amsterdam marathon! We registered back in May when Kim thought it would be a memorable way to end our Western European leg of our journey. She also thought once we crossed the Alps we would have more time and energy to train. It's certainly iconic, but I think she was delirious to think we would have time or energy to train for a marathon. This is why we have been having a lot of rest days this past week!

It is a 20 minute bus trip to Leiden. Its cold and raining outside but we are cosy on the bus. It's an easy transfer to the train to Amsterdam. We arrive into Amsterdam Central station at 10am. As we exit the station there are people everywhere and more people speaking English than we have heard in months. It's quite a shock to the system.

We've got plenty of time to wonder about the old town. Need a decent coffee before the expo opens. Kim has already researched her caffeine fix. As we track down the cafe we walk straight through the red light district - Kim had no idea! We nab the last table. The coffee lives up to our expectations plus they have banana bread which we share. Reminds us of home.
It's now raining outside, put on our wet weather gear to continue wandering along the canals and through the Botanical gardens. We discuss how different Amsterdam is to the rest of Holland. It's grungy and in need of a good scrub. Reminds Kim of Camden Town in London! As we walk through the gardens hundreds of people, walk, run or cycle past us even though the weather is more conducive to being inside with a cup of tea and a good book. It's just past of their culture and we like it.
We find a local vegetarian cafe for warm soup and a wrap. Both delicious and exactly what we need. It is after 1pm and the marathon expo has opened. When we arrive we notice there is a big hotel outside named the Olympic Hotel and wonder if we should have booked to stay there the night after the marathon. The expo is huge covering three sports halls. There are lots of very fit people inside. We don't feel like one of them! Find our queue to collect our bib, pick up a map for Sunday, collect our marathon t-shirt, then find our name on the runners wall! Kim is stoked - she hasn't had her name on a wall before like this. Wander through the rest of the expo, there's lots of great gear but can't buy anything as it's just more to carry! Plus the gear we have, is tried and tested even if only for a few parkruns. You should never change your gear or diet for a race!
It's still pouring when we leave the expo but we don't mind. Retrace our steps through the gardens and stop for a hot chocolate to warm ourselves up near the train station. Kim loves quaint pubs and she found one a block from the train station with over 150 beers to choose from. Would be rude not to go. We sit at the bar. The barman asks what are we after - a dark beer we reply. He recommends a trappist beer - we order two. Kim asks the percentage as those monks are known for strong beer. 10% the barman replies and Kim nearly reconsiders but its only 250ml so she agrees on just one!
After finish the first beer we decide to share another beer and ask what we should have next. A dark IPA. Another good recommendation, a little less alcoholic. Decide on one last beer to share. The barman says he has just the thing. An extra Stout. Kim is not sure about a Stout, so I suggest that I'll have the whole thing if she doesn't like it. She is pleasantly surprised. A couple of regulars are sitting next to us, and we have been chatting away with them. They order a spirit of some kind. We ask what it is. Instead of explaining he just offers to get us a short each for us. Shots are out of Kim's comfort zone but I whisper "use your Yes muscle" to her. We gratefully accept. It's a licorice liqueur. Pretty good considering I'm not a fan of licorice.
Time to go. We are hungry and a bit tipsy. Kim has found a highly rated Falafel bar not far away. There is a line out the door. When we walk in she says it reminds her of being in Israel over 20 years ago! We get a wrap each and share some hot chips. The wraps are huge and delicious.
Train and bus and bed way after Kim’s bedtime


Days cycled - 127
Rest days - 64
Distance cycled - 0km (6232.5km)
Ascent - 0m (Total 54110m)
Descent - 0m (Total 54110m)
Money Spent - $154 + $124 + $335 AUD (Total $23289 AUD)

Posted by darrenhough1974 00:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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