Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spoilt rotten in Holland

 It was quite surreal landing at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam.  Flying over Europe from Dubai we kept saying to each other that we couldn’t believe our African leg of our trip was over.  Africa was awesome filled with special people and amazing landscapes.  There is a real freedom travelling in Africa, and we never felt threatened during our journey.  There is still so much to see and do that we will definitely make a few trips back to those brilliant places!
Anne, the persistent and ever cheerful Dutch lady we had met in Nairobi, came to fetch us from the airport. We caught a train into the centre of Amsterdam and walked through to her house to meet up with Renier.  Nick and I were both pretty tired, and Nick still wasn’t 100%, so after a short catch up we went through to Merijn and Els place, and to the house we were going to be staying at.  It was so great to see them all again and we shared stories about our experiences on the great Moyale Road, Ethiopia, Sudan and then their journey through Egypt. 
The next morning Merijn and Els were off to a family function, Anne and Renier texted us and asked if we felt like joining them to visit a friend about 30km outside of Amsterdam. They picked us up about an hour later and went straight into tour guide mode! It was brilliant, we drove the scenic route out of Amsterdam onto Volendam, climbed the dyke and watched all the sailors on the big dam, ate herring with loads of onion before heading through to their friends for a late afternoon lunch.  The weather was perfect, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were!
Teeny had received an email from Mario during Sunday, he said that the bikes had been put on the plane and would be in Holland the next day.  Being Monday we decided to head through to the airport to find out the process for getting our bikes.  Turns out the bikes would only be available the next morning from 6am once they had cleared customs, and been transported to the Skylink Cargo hold area outside the airport.  With not much left to do at the airport we went back to Amsterdam and started to tour the fascinating city.  We ate loads of cheese at the ‘kaashuis’, watched all the people in the ‘Dam square’ and searched for a sticker of the Dutch flag for our bikes.
The next morning we were up super early.  The day before we had been told that we would need a clearing agent to handle the paperwork to get our bikes cleared for customs.  Quite confused we had called a contact and received quote of 360 Euros!  He hadn’t got back to us in the afternoon, so Tuesday morning we were up early to see if we could get our bikes ourselves! We caught the train to Schipol and then got on the wrong bus towards the cargo hold area. Woops – everything moves so quickly in the first world that it takes some getting used to! When we got to Skylink Cargo they told us we could try at customs but they did not think it was going to be allowed and we would have to contact the clearing agent again.  So we jumped on the bus again and managed to find the customs office.  We got all our paperwork together (registration papers, green card insurance, paperwork from Skylink) and handed it over to the official.  He smiled, walked behind the wall to talk to his boss and 5 min later came back with the paperwork stamped! Excellent, now we could get our bikes and only have to pay the 120 Euros handling charges for Skylink!
Back at Skylink offices, we handed the papers over (quite proud that we had done it ourselves) and asked if it would be possible for us to reassemble the motorbikes in big parking area.  Thankfully they agreed and even lent us a crowbar! It was so exciting to see our great machines again, they really do become your home and we had felt quite lost without them!  We reassembled the motorbikes and started our first ride in Europe back to Els and Merijn’s place.  That night we met a couple who had been following Merijn and Els’s blog and were planning on completing their trip through Africa in the new year.  A delicious dinner and lots of laughs, we all shared stories of experiences riding on motorbikes which was loads of fun!
The next day Els and Merijn took us on a bicycle tour of Amsterdam.  We rode past the major museums in Amsterdam, onto the big, beautiful parks, through to a market in the north of Amsterdam, onto the windmill brewery and back again.  We ate a roti in the park lapping up the sunshine, amazed by how lucky we were with the amazing weather!
We decided to explore Amsterdam a bit more, and went looking for the Oude Kerk, Niewe market and just generally wandering the small streets of Amsterdam.  We also went into the Amsterdam Dungeon which is filled with history about the nasties from the 1800’s, it was rather interesting and made fun with all the little tricks and scares that they try pull on you along the way.

cycling around amsterdam


This shop had some thing like 600 differant types of beer from all over the world

cheese cheese cheese !!

5 differant types of beer to try :)


Electric car charging

Huge chinese building in Amsterdam

Queens palace
Later that day we met Reinier along one of the canals and jumped onto the boat with him and Anne and Merijn and Els and we had a wonderful tour of the canals, looking at all the beautiful old buildings along the way.

Anne and Els

Eeveryone enjoying the amazing sun

The following morning we packed up the bikes, and started to navigate our way through Holland to Marko and Kiem`s place in Arnhem.  And we were greeted with a bottle of champagne and a lovely banner with our logo on it made it really easy to find their house! We had a few snacks with them and some drinks then we went for a ride on the bicycles to a lovely restaurant where we were spoilt with lots of very tasty foods.


Loads of jet streems all the time !
Next morning we got up early, packed up and headed for Friesland where we were going to be staying on a house boat, another lovely treat organised by Marko and Kiem.  We arrived in Friesland parked the car and unpacked all our goods into a little row boat and made our way across to the house boat where we were staying.  After that, yet another treat in store, we went to Idskenhuizen  and got onto a small yacht and spent the rest of the day riding through the canals (unfortunately there wasn’t too much wind to sail), enjoying the lovely sights that Friesland had to offer.  We docked in Langmeer harbour where we walked around the town before having a few beers and dutch treats at a restaurant there.  Back at the houseboat we got dinner ready, a good old South African braai with a few Dutch extras.  It was such a brilliant day!
Our house boat

Row boat to the house boat

Our yacht for the day

After a slow start to Sunday morning, watching the locals travelling up the canal to church, we headed back to Marko and Kiems house.  That evening was the annual ‘Harvesting Dinner’ at Marko’s parents house. We took the motorbikes and the four of us travelled along the dyke to where they live.  The family gathering was so homely and friendly and really reminded us of family gatherings we have at home.  We tucked into a fantastic dinner, trying to understand all the Dutch being spoken but also enjoying meeting Marko’s family.

Marko`s father

Marko`s nephews

Marko`s Mom, Dad Keim, Nick and Marko

We relaxed for the next few days at Marko’s and Kiems, enjoying some time to be able to catch up on emails and the blog!   On one afternoon we went to the open air museum or the ‘openluchtmuseum’ a museum filled with old buildings and history on how people used to live in ‘them days’!  Nick wasn’t feeling too good this day and had an excruciating headache, which carried on until the next morning.  Worried that it could be something he caught during our travels so far, we went to the hospital to have him checked out.  Thank goodness it wasn’t anything major and was linked to hypertension in his shoulders/neck. After a few good days rest and some pills from the doctor he was feeling well again!  We decided to head across to Teeny’s uncle, Onno, in Den Haag.  Kiem rode with us on the bikes across to Den Haag, and treated us one more time! This time to a bit of snowboarding in a place called Snoworld! Wow! It was So much fun! We can’t wait to try get across for a snow session during this winter!!

Nice shoes Marko !!

This takes a bit of skill trust me !!

Snow world


We arrived with Onno late afternoon and managed to find his house easy too because he had put colourful flags and a welcome sign up for us! It was so great to see him again! He had cooked a delicious meal for us, and we sat chatting and catching up about our trip through Africa.  He then fetched Rose from the airport, and we relaxed in the lounge together.
The next morning we went through to Den Haag to wander the sites.  Rose and Onno were excellent tour guides taking us to the interesting spots in the city before treating us to a fantastic Indonesian meal!  Rose left later that evening suggesting that we visit Delft the next day.

Welcome from Onno

Nick, Onno and Rose

Onno cooked us a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast in the morning.  We then went out to explore Delft.  There are two big, old churches in this town dating back to the 1600’s. We walked inside amazed by the stained glass windows, history and beauty of the churches and Delft itself.  When we got back to Onno’s he suggested we visit the beach at Scheveningen.  The wind was blowing pretty strong, but this didn’t stop the activities on the beach.  There were loads of windsurfers, kite-surfers and surfers enjoying the afternoon at the beach!  We had a burger and chips watching all the activity before heading back to pack up and go to Hoek van Holland where were catching the Stena line ferry to England!
The ferry ride across was super easy and comfortable.  Nick even won a few Euros playing Black Jack on board which meant we could enjoy a few beers on the ride!
We would like to thank everyone for spoiling us so much while we were in Holland!! It was fantastic to see everyone again, and such a surprise to get to experience everything we did!
First time we seen the beach since Zanzibaar !!

Onto the ferry we go

Strapping the bikes down

Our cabin

Sunrise in England woohoo !!