Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Road To Terschelling (The Netherlands [5] )

The world is all islands, each with its own quality and character. This island ambience ranges from the luxuriant, dusky, tropical, lagoon paradise with coconut trees swaying in the trade winds - a lazy place of swimming and sunbathing - to the rugged, lonely, windswept, sand dune, slow motion tussock grass blowing, bleak, cold surf breaking on barren shores, collar turned up, hunkering down ambience.
Terschelling is a hunkering down island - Its sublties glow under the sunlight which make this place a delight, golden tussock waving in slow motion to the hungry wind - surf, rocks, dunes, little forests, bird life under a big sky forever changing. When the sun shines it seems a wild but friendly to the soul place - when the sun falls back into a bleak North Sea sky it becomes a place forlorn, wild, untameable, a place of roaring wind, driven rain - misty, lonely - during this weather Terschelling seems to be saying, "Don't look at me, look at the elemental forces that have shaped me. I am wild and moody, but with good reason."

A country lane close to Den Over before the crossing of the 40km dyke across the IJesselmeer to Harlingin which is the port where the ferry leaves for Terschelling in the Frisian Islands.

The van on the left had passed me in a very fast and furious manner 5 minutes earlier on the narrow country road to Den Over. When I came upon this crash it was apparent by the tone of voice and the body language that the young man in the van was to blame. The front of the station wagon on the right was completely ripped off. Luckily no one was injured.

Typical Dutch house on the highways and byways of country lanes close to Den Over.

The dyke across the IJesselmeer. 40km of straight flat road. Noisy, monotonous riding and a huge challenge on this trip on the way back to Nord Holland, as I was riding into failing light in a head wind all the way from Harlingin. You cannot camp on the dyke.

This statue is a tribute to the hard working Dutch dyke builders - When it comes to building the geography of a country the Dutch are the true sub creators - God created planet Earth, the Dutch created The Netherlands.

The only other place I have ever seen such a forest of wooden masts is in old black and white photographs of the golden age of sail. Here at Harlingin the harbour is thick with masts and all the boats are authentic working boats - authenticity in The Netherlands is picturesque and enchanting.The bowels of the good ship Friesland is entered by the bow. The trip to Terschelling takes over two hours.
Leaving Harlingins marine forests for Terschelling.

Bicycles arriving at the port at West Terschelling.

The tenting lifestyle has shown me that fundamental needs are relatively simple - food, a dry bed and the hope that tomorrow will as interesting as today - I haven't been disappointed yet.

These are the conning towers of two WW2 British submarines - They have survived the years because they are made of bronze plate and haven't rusted at all. I was unable to understand the story of these old artifacts written on the information boards. As with everything in a foreign country, Johnny Foreigner is at a disadvantage unless he can read and talk the language.

Quaint village streets - Terschelling.

I wondered why there was a windmill on Terschelling as there is no reclaimed land and the island is above sea level - perhaps its a mill for grinding wheat? or maybe the house of a Dutch eccentric who likes windmills - just the sort of house I am going to build for myself when I get back to New Zealand.

Terschelling garden. Hands up those that love The Netherlands - both my hands were up when I took this photo.
If you want to have your photograph taken with a photoframe that looks like you are appearing on the cover of National Geographic magazine then stand in the frame and smile.

Quiet country lane North Eastern Terschelling.

Much of my time here was amongst the moody mistiness of the place.

There are two methods I use in attempting to have a significant conversation when I am travelling alone. The first is to get lost or pretend to be lost and ask for directions (don't ask me to define 'pretend' you bloody well know it means lost) - the Kiwi accent then takes its usual conversational catalystic path. The other is to ask a couple taking photographs of each other if they would like a photograph taken together, this also works very well. This is Hans from Hanover in Germany. In this conversational case I simply asked him if I could take a photo of him with the Kinderen trailer - a good conversation ensured with the usual gasps of amazement that I would come from New Zealand to bike in such an out of the way place.

The north side of Terschelling is a vast beach bordering the North Sea. The structure to the left in the distance is something that is a feature of Dutch beach life - it is a temporary restuarant assembled each summer on poles fixed in the sand - these restuarants are very popular as summer meeting places. In the late Autumn they are disassembled before the winter storms and assemble again in the spring.

What sort of trip back to the mainland would it be if the Dutch didn't take the time to show off their beautiful traditional craft especially for me? Well I will tell you, it would have been dull and boring but they turned out in force and the trip back was a delight!

The Netherlands is a country of 16 million people in a landmass the size of Canterbury, New Zealand - despite this small size it is impossible to see everything in an indepth way in a 6 week holiday. I have seen much of the province of Nord Holland and will soon move south to the namesake of my own country New Zealand. This Dutch province is Zeeland, a place of islands and dykes and windmills - the place where the land was inundated with water during the 1954 collapse of the dykes. This had catastropic consequences and is the subject of a current film in The Netherlands called 'The Storm' - I am on my way there now - there is still much to see and experience - I shall keep you posted :-)


Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, Alden, for this post. I read it with interest all the way through. This sort of holiday would be completely fun for me too what with all the bikes and boats and water. Keep pedaling and posting, Pal; I 'preciate it.

Katherine said...

Wonderful! What a super hol you're having Auden. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Ben Bongers said...

Alden, I like reading your stories. Your creative use of language is a delight to the soul. The light on the wadden islands like Terschelling can be very special indeed. Being bike tourers (my wife and I), your enjoying of the Netherlands renews my positive view of biking here. One remark: do the Afsluitdijk only with a tail wind.
You made beautiful sailing pictures.
For the complete story of the 1953 flood of Zeeland do not forget to go to the "Neeltje Jans" island exibition. It is the modern version of the Duch reclaiming land spirit of the old days.
I am curious for your posts on Zeeland and Begium.

Kathryn said...

Great photos, Pal, and I'm really enjoying the story of your trip. It sounds wonderful.

Alden Smith said...

Dan,I am really sure that you would really enjoy this sort of holiday, as you say, bikes, water and boats - good combination :-)

Alden Smith said...

Katherine, thankyou for your comments, as it is hard for me to get to a computer consistently you will have to bear with me until I get back to New Zealand to start looking and commenting on yours and other peoples Blogspots - by the way - if you need an Eye Candy picture anytime, feel free to use a picture of me, but don't give my address please, I don't want hordes of women camping on my doorstep - or do I ?

Alden Smith said...

Ben, thankyou for your nice comments on my writing and on my Blog. I went and saw the Dutch film 'De Storm' about the 1953 breaching of the Dykes in Zeeland where I am now biking too - I highly recommend this film - poigniant, dramatic and truthful. I will try and get to the exhibition you recommend - where do I go to, to see this??\

Alden Smith said...

Kathryn, I am glad you are enjoying reading about my trip, I am certainly having an adventureous time, with all this biking I think I might be fit enough for the Tour De France next year!

VenDr said...

You seem to be having a life changing mind expanding spirit growing time. How much longer to go?

Alden Smith said...

Hi Kelvin I return on October 26th. I am in Zeeland at the moment. Its a pretty place where you ride much of the time on the tops of the old earthern dykes looking down onto fields and house. Its a place of the usual Dutch highways and byways - very quaint villages, canals, lakes, sluice gates, boat locks, little harbours, country lanes, people on bicycles everywhere and now the landscape is painted with Autumn colours, crows cawing as large flocks of smaller birds wheel in the big sky gathering in their migratory flocks - times of mists as well as sun, and ice forming inside the tent at night. Like the birds that are collecting their bearings to head south following the sun, I too are coming to the end of this sojourn. Its been an interesting journey, paradoxically ordinary and extraordinary.

Ben Bongers said...

Hi Alden, my reaction is probably too late, but anyway:
Neeltje Jans is an artificial island, belonging to Vrouwenpolder, North of Middelburg, on the southernmost peninsula of Zeeland.
The exibition is called Delta Park, and on the island all the big elements were constructed for the Oosterschelde "Kering" = Combination of lockdoors and Dams.

VenDr said...

It's been an interesting few weeks for me also in the life changing mind expanding spirit growing sort of way. We'll talk sometime.

Ben Bongers said...

Hi Alden, have a save trip back to home.
I assume you will be picking up sailing again in New Zealand, now spring is progressing overthere.
Keep on blogging!

Alden Smith said...

Thanks Ben, its a pity we never met up, but maybe next time I am in the Netherlands - I appreciate your interest in my blog.

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