Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cycling Europe 2017 Day 7: Middelburg To Rotterdam - The Secret Tunnel

                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Cycling Europe 2017 Day 7: Middelburg To Rotterdam - The Secret Tunnel
United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands & Germany : Day 7 - Sunday, 3rd September - Middelburg to Rotterdam
This is part of cycling tour of Western Europe, covering to Middelburg to Rotterdam:
Cycling Distance - 111.47 km.     Level: Hard.
Cycling Time : 7:30 am to 6:45 pm.
Time Taken : 11hrs 15mins (inclusive of quick prayer at church, stops at dams & bridges, lunch, tea, rests and many, many photo opps).

This is page 6 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D6 Middelburg          |      Go to Other Days     |     Go to D8 Amsterdam 1 >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
        On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is flat but rather long and is hardly shaded so do cover up or apply sun block lotion.
    For planning cycling routes in Europe, Cycle Travel which has a very user-friendly cycle travel trip planner, routes using this planner can be saved and also converted to GPX format for use in GPS devices.  

3. Weather
    The weather was fairly cool with a day-time average of 20°C and a high of 26°CNight temperatures at Rotterdam averaged 17°C. Wind speed was moderate, averaging 18-19 kph with gusts up to 30 kph.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather and Weather Spark.

4. Places of Interest
Long John Tower of Middelburg Abbey (GPS: 51.49959, 3.61478) in Middelburg.
- The Dutch dams of the Deltaworks at Netherlands South-West Delta:
   - Veerse Gatdam (GPS: 51.58874, 3.63781).
   - Oosterscheldekering (GPS: 51.60868, 3.68323(English: Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier).
   - Pijlerdam (GPS: 51.64598, 3.71733).
   - Brouwersdam (GPS: 51.75527, 3.83282).
   - Haringvlietdam (GPS: 51.83182, 4.04864).
- Deltapark Neeltje Jans (GPS: 51.61976, 3.68587).
- Bom Dia Home & Lifestyle (GPS: 51.73058, 3.81641).
- Spijkenisserbrug (Spijkisser Bridge) (GPS: 51.85962, 4.34047) in Rotterdam, a bridge where two of its main spans can be raised vertically for the passage of ships.
- Maastunnel Cyclist Tunnel (GPS: 51.90026, 4.46828) in Rotterdam. Watch a video of this tunnel.

5. Food
Note: On weekends it was rather difficult to find food shops opened during the daytime at smaller villages and town..
Breakfast: Combo meals at McDonald's Middelburg (GPS: 51.48313, 3.62504).
Morning Tea: Pre-packed pastry at rest stop in Lokkershof (GPS: 51.71514, 3.79325).
Lunch: Soup & pastry at Eetcafe 't Ellemeetje (GPS: 51.73046, 3.81654).
Afternoon Tea: Pre-packed milk & pastry at Café Ververs Oudenhoorn (GPS: 51.82979, 4.19314). It was our own pre-packed as they were closed.
Dinner: Mixed western street food & craft beer at Roffa Streetfood Bar (GPS: 51.91036, 4.47781).

6. Accommodations
    We stayed at the Hotel Santa Maria (GPS: 51.9108, 4.47743) in Rotterdam which we had pre-booked online a 5-Pax Family Room @ €129 per day inclusive of breakfast and an en-suite toiletAs it was unclear whether the hostel allowed foldies into the premises, we initially folded and bagged our bikes before taking them in.

7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We got pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three under the All-in-One #15 deal for only £15/= from one of their outlets in Bristol (GPS: 51.45735, -2.59074). This plan lasts for 30 days and allows for 5GB Data, 3,000 minutes of call time & 3,000 text messages within the system. More importantly it has their "Feel At Home" which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countires (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In the Netherlands, almost all the locals can speak English.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
    As Bill had pre-planned the route and had loaded the GPX route file onto his Garmin GPS unit. I was the assistant navigator and had loaded the route maps onto my unit too.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


A day earlier our route took us from Dunkirk to Middelburg, it was suppose to be on of our longest at 120km, but unfourtunately a previously injured knee prevented me from completing the full ride. After 50 km, due to pain I had to seek alternative means of gettng to Middelburg. It was a mini-adventure for Fenn and me as we took a ride on the longest coastal tram line in the world and then rode on buses too.
Today, after applying some ointment, my leg is better and I do hope I can complete the today's 110 km. route.


The day's route will take us through numerous Deltaworks Dams along the Netherlands South-West Delta before heading inland across Zeeland towards Rotterdam. It is a fairly flat route.

7:30am - We started the day looking for breakfast en route. It's a Sunday and all the shops we passed by were not opened.... or perhaps it was too early? As we cycled along the scenic Kanaal door Walcheren, we admired the reflections of the quiet morning trees and boats parked at the piers. The name of this canal literally translates to "Canal Through Walcheren", a rightful name as it cuts through Walcheren, a former island of the Zeeland province. Our stomachs were calling out but no opened shops in sight. It was not that early, but this being a Sunday, there were only a few cyclists around at this early time. Desperate, we stopped one to enquire about a breakfast place. "This early on a Sunday? Hmmm.... there's only a Mcdonald's that's opened!" 

A quick search on Google Maps showed that it was only a 1.5 km. detour from our route. Not that bad, so off we went! They were opened but only had they breakfast menu. But beggars cannot be choosers and soon we were gobbling down a set or two of their combo meals. We even bought take-aways for later on.

After yesterday's ride, Bil had changed our riding positions for today. On account of my poor knee, he had me lead so that I could set the pace to suit my leg's condition. He will be sweeping at the rear, and a the same time help the slower riders pick up their pace. It's a 110 km. journey today, and hopefully this rearrangement would help us complete it "as fast as possible" - meaning there will be minimum stops for rest and hardly any detours to visit interesting places. As we rode back tour our intended route, ahead I saw an eye-catching tower with a very odd name - the Long John Tower

Heading away from the canal, we were onto quite country lanes.... and the Sunday fast pacing riders were out in force. We saw many groups along the way, guess the quite roads were suitable for their fast pace too.

10:00am - It's not time for a rest yet; but here at Gapinge I had to make a stop at their Protestant Church. In I went to say a Sunday prayer while the rest of my buddies waited outside. The congregation were friendly warm and invited me to linger on but I had to cordially decline.

It's a rest day for us human kind but not for the cows in the many barns that we pass by. Most of these barns were modernized ones, not the old wooden ones, and the cows were fed and milked by machines.

The locals too took advantage of this nice warm Sunday, coming out to ride their horses.

10:30am - We catch sight of our first dam - the Veerse Gatdam, it's quite a long dam stretching 1.5 km. across the Veerse Meer (Lake Veere). This dam is one of many that form part of the Deltaworks at Netherlands South-West Delta.

This dam like many others also form a through-way connection between the islands here. On them are roads and more importantly for us, there were also dedicated cycling lanes which are separated from the main traffic.

These towering structures are huge sluice gates that control the water on the landward side (on the right of the photo). On one side is the salty sea while on the other is it's brackish and less salty.

Ahead would be other dams, the biggest is the Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier). As the name implies, the protect the inland from surging tides of the North Sea.

Along this dam, there's even a small island called the Deltapark, with ver6 wide beaches, where many come to enjoy the area in camper-vans and take part in various marine activities.

The girls having fun at the marina of the Deltapark.

12:00 noon - Lunch time and no shops around, so it's time for a picnic at a convenient road side table near the Hof van Renesse. The McD take-aways were soon in our tummies.

We were not the only bikers on the road, these touring bikers went zooming pass us. We were to meet them again later at a lunch joint, they had come from Germany for a weekend trip. When we told them we came from Malaysia, they eyes twinkle with respect, asking "You cycled all the way here?". "No, we rode in from London." Their twinkle faded a bit... Hah hah!

Finally! A place for lunch at Eetcafe 't Ellemeetje cafe. We made our orders and then noticed a colorful garden next door, and went over for a visit. This was the Bom Dia Home & Lifestyle shop, which sells some furniture, clothes, handbags, shoes and knick-knacks. They also sell tropical fruits and smoothies, too bad we had already ordered at the cafe.

As we just had had our picnic, lunch here was a light one of soup and buns. Their tomato soup was very good being made from freshly plucked tomatoes. We also went for some crafted beer; I had their Rose Beer which was refreshing light and also gave a bit of kick.

We went pass two more dams before heading inland towards Zeeland. Here's a panorama photo of the North Sea taken from the Brouwersdam, nice isn't it?

Inland, the scenery was a different one, one of quite canals with wading ducks.

Interesting was the way locals have built their houses into the environment, taking advantage of the greenery of the well planted canals for a water-front home.

Waterfront also meant water activities, but of a quieter type - people fishing... and children on inflatable dinghies slowly paddling around.

And families came out cycling together, some even brought along their dogs. What a good way to bond.

The weather was getting warm, and at Oudenhoorn we saw this place called Café Ververs and thought to stop for a cooling beer. Sorry, it's Sunday and the place was closed; so we improvised and had our take-away milk instead 😋.

Away from the sea, it is through farmland, pastures and meadows. Still it is a nice place to cycle, flat and with some light winds; every once in while sea gulls would come swooping down and fly around us.

Nearer Rotterdam, we rode on this bridge called Spijkenisserbrug (Spijkisser Bridge) which spans over the Oude Maas, a distributary of the Rhine. What's interesting about this bridge is that unlike many river bridges which are drawbridges, this one is a vertical-lift bridge. Two mid-span sections of the bridge sits on tall pillars. When the need arises, the sections are lifted up vertically for ships to pass below; usually only one section of the bridge is opened up; probably they put in two sections just in case of heavier traffic or for alternate maintenance.
Click here to see a video of the bridge raising.

We crossed the bridge while below us a barge sailed through. There was not need to raise the bridge as it had been built with a high clearance to allow barges through so that the bridge does not have to be raised that often.

 We happily continued along, riding pass container wharves, railway tracks; taking in the urban views and noticing their contrast to the rural views.
But there was another surprise in store for us! At the edge of the Nieuwe Maas River, both our GPS indicated a position where we were suppose to cross the river. We went left and right several times to confirm the crossing location. Hey! This is the correct point but where is the bridge? Perturbed, we ask a local. "No bridge." was his reply. Oh dear.... would we have to cycle much further upstream? 
"No BRIDGE.... but there is a tunnel!", and he pointed to a small, inconspicuous building just right in front of us and said, "Enter from there." Huh? No ramps. Patiently, we went into the building, and Lo & Behold - there were special escalators with timber treads for cyclists to go down with their bicycles. GREAT!!!!

The escalator led down to a tunnel which runs parallel to the main vehicular Maastunnel. This smaller tunnel is specially for bicycles only, it is about six hundred meters long and three meters wide and have two lanes. There is a pedestrian tunnel above the cycling tunnel.
Watch a video of this tunnel.

We checked into the Hotel Santa Maria, which is quite nearby the tunnel. Dinner few doors away, at the Roffa Streetfood Bar. The co-owner, Elena, was all smiles and most happy to see us, guests who had come all the way from Malaysia. We did not realize why, until she spoke to us in Bahasa Indonesia. See, she is of mixed Dutch-Indonesia parentage and was most happy to converse in one of her mother tongues.

Selamat Malam!
(That's "Goodnight!" in Indonesia... Haha!)

(For more photos of the Day 7, Click Here)
This is page 6 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D6 Middelburg         |      Go to Other Days     |     Go to D8 Amsterdam 1 > 

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