17 November 2008

Holland ante India

It is pure bliss after the B-Country. The cycling path winds through a vast landscape of dunes shimmering in all colours. There aren't too many tall trees, mostly scrub and grassy vegetation with flowers and occasionally patches of sand. There are cyclists everywhere in Holland! Hence there are cycle paths everywhere in Holland. Attentive white signs in the shape of an arrow with a small bicycle icon and destination printed on it guide the way. Ahhhhh.
I admit, here and there you find some ugly beach resorts. But hey, I just pretend it's a spill over effect from some sick Belgian investors who couldn't find more nature to plaster away with cement blocks in their own country. There would have been that one place back in Belgium where there are still dunes left. About 500 meters of them. But then again that spot was dotted with ex-German bunkers from WWII and thus turned into a war memorial... pity to get rid of that, no?

Alright, back in Holland. Or, back in the Netherlands. I never figured out what to say: Holland or The Netherlands? Some have told me that Holland is just a part of The Netherlands. And then as a people they call themselves the Dutch... grrrrrrr - can it be more complicated?
I cycle along the coast to Rotterdam, the biggest container harbour of this planet. Under a burning summer sun with almost no wind, it takes me something like two endless hours in an industrial Mad-Max like scenery along incountable amounts of massive reservoir tanks, pipelines, barbed wire fences, a refinery and what not – but the path is always nicely marked with a white sign in the shape of an arrow with a small bicycle (and ferry) icon printed on it saying „Hoek van Holland“. And hurray! - at the end I reach the tiny ferry that takes me across the Maas to – guess where? - Hoek van Holland.

I enjoy the summer on the beach. Every evening I pull my bike on a sandy trail up the deich and down the other side and camp in the dunes. Camping on the beach is forbidden. What did the instructor use to say again when I did my driving license? „Right, Tim, the speed limit here is 60. However, you can always run as fast as you feel like. Just don't get busted!“ Camping on th beach is just great: big ships passing by, birds screeching, the constant sound of the waves, the sunset, the salty smell in the air and a permanent warm breeze on my skin...

After three days I arrive in Amsterdam. Time to relay with my friends from Medecins Sans Frontieres and a fat spliff. By coincidence, my friend Tamara has everything prepared; a friend of hers invites us for a boat ride in his small motorboat on the „Grachten“ (=small waterways everywhere in Amsterdam). We pack a bottle of rosé and join into a happy go lucky group of strangers all high on mild summer nights, wine and whatever was in those cigarettes...
We follow a few other boats to the outskirts of Amsterdam and soon find ourselves inmidst a crowd of boats all moored together next to a big green where a group of Techno DJs spin their records and another group sells Heineken from the tap. Lovely – I mean two hours ago I sat sweating on my ride...!

The next day I pass by the Headquarters of the Dutch section of Medecins SansFrontieres to say „hello“ to a couple of old friends and colleagues...

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