Touring the Ijselmeer (NL) in Winter, 2016


Über Member
The Netherlands
Hi All,

This is a record of a short trip undertaken around the Ijselmeer in Holland in February 2016.


I’ve got six whole days off work thanks to the end of a night shift week coinciding with Carnaval - a major party here in the south of the Netherlands. I’m free from Friday at 6 am until Thursday at 2 pm. Since this is a longer time than my usual weekend spin, I can go further afield than normal. I’ll be camping, so a quick look online at open campsites (there ain’t many open in February in NL or Belgium!) suggested a route around the Ijselmeer in the north of the country.

I want to test out my bike, my tent and my gear in winter conditions. This is my chance!


Hobbes on Roccado - As you can see, we don't travel light!^_^

For navigation, I will be using the “knooppunten” network of cycle routes.
For those not familiar with this system, it is simple and ingenious…… when it works! When it doesn’t, you’re lost, generally with no idea where you are! But, hey, when I head off on my bike, being lost with no idea where I am is all part of the fun! :-)

More information here:

The issue that I have with these routes is that planning a long distance route is very difficult without using an online planner. I have yet to use one of these planners that does not make a mistake!

Note: If you want to use these routes it is good to know that you are brought along dedicated cycle only paths or very, very quiet rural roads which is good. These routes are never the shortest distance between 2 points, which is good if that’s what you like! :-)

(There are alternative cycle routes to follow for more direct travel)
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Über Member
The Netherlands
Day 1: Tilburg to Soest (Near Amersfoort) 118 km

I got home from work about 6:30 am, packed a few more items and hit the sack for a few hours sleep. Up about 10:30, but, as always, departure was delayed because it always takes longer to get everything on the bike than I think it will! Departure time was about 13:30, ably demonstrating my optimism in cycling the 100 odd km to my campsite for the night before dark!

If you read my introduction, you’ll know that my faith in the knooppunt planners is not exactly strong. I’m delighted to announce that I was proved right before I had even left the city limits! The second number I was to aim for was not on any sign! Out with my map book, a quick recalculation and I was back on my way. For the first couple of hours or so, these were roads that were familiar to me, but then I moved on to new roads.

The cycling was pleasant and straightforward. Nice, quiet rural routes. Storm Doris had brought havoc the night before and there was a lot of debris on the paths, even a tree or two blown over, but nothing that would impede travel. For the main, the sun was shining, but the temperature never rose above 9C.

I stopped for my lunch of dates and dark chocolate then crossed the provincial border to Gelderland on a ferry.

There was another ferry later on, to cross the river Lek. By now it was dark & getting cold so I had some frietjes and a gehaktbol while waiting for the ferry, and set off on the final leg fuelled up! And was I glad that I did!

Waiting for the ferry

The knooppunten network can be hard to follow at the best of times. Signs change format from being up high on a pole, to being down low on a bollard. They can appear on either side of the road, or be hidden behind other signs, or even parked vans! At night, it becomes more interesting! Cycling into Doorn, I had a prescient moment as my headlight illuminated the sign and I read it as DOOM!

I didn’t realise it then, but Doom was just around the corner - the Utrecht National Park Heuvelrug - because it was here in a forest that I lost the route! Now, it’s lucky that I like forests! I especially like German forests - they are so full of character and so many stories come to life when you recall them in a forest. But cycling in a forest in the dark as the temperature hits zero and it’s not long before the enjoyment falls to the temperature level!


The sun setting just before I enter the forest

I could hear a main road in the distance and headed for that, but had to follow it in parallel until I could find a link road, then turn back and head in the opposite direction to which I had been cycling! By now, the knooppunts were history - I was following the red & white signposts (direct routes) and without too much difficulty rolled up to my campsite in Soest.

I’d had to reserve (and pay) online for this as I knew I’d be arriving outside of reception hours. I don’t like reservations when I’m on the bike - it takes away from the freedom of travel and when I have a place to be it makes me feel lost when I’m not sure how to get there. Had I not had the reservation, I’d have camped out in the forest, but here I was and I desperately wanted a shower to warm up my cold feet.

The campsite was a disappointment, especially given the €16,50 price for the night. The “tent” field was exactly that - a field to one side of the park. No shelter, no furniture, one lonely bin. Thankfully, this was the least windy night of the trip. The nearest wash/bathroom facilities were closed for the winter. The actual showers and bathrooms were 3-400 meters away. The wifi worked, but the password sent with my reservation confirmation didn’t work. I had to go online, to get online if you understand my meaning.

I was glad I had eaten earlier as there was no place that I could set up to cook. I’ve always found a place to prepare my dinner in any campsite I’ve been….. But not here. It was too exposed and too cold to set up my stove on the ground, while there were a couple of open huts, these were filled with furniture.

So, I set up my tent, had a shower (dried myself with a facecloth because it was then I realised I had left my towel at home!) got into bed and slept the sleep of a man who had cycled 115km :-)

Outside the tent the temperature dipped below zero, inside I was warm & toasty.


Über Member
The Netherlands
Day 2 Soest to Amsterdam 60 km

Having spent a week working nights, I’d set my alarm to wake me the following morning, but what woke me was a different sound - rain falling on the tent. Now, there are few sounds as pleasant as that of rain falling a few inches from your head while you’re warm and dry, so I lay there and enjoyed the moment. Eventually, a full bladder made me get up, and while I packed away everything inside the rain stopped. This gave me time for my morning ablutions and to pack up the tent. Donned all my rain gear and hit the road again - sans breakfast. Well, there was no place for dinner, so there was no place to prepare breakfast.

After about an hour the rain stopped so I started looking for a spot to stop and have some breakfast. It was cold, about 5C, and windy, so I was looking for a bit of shelter too. It took about 20 minutes, but I found a reasonably sheltered picnic table, pulled up and cooked my breakfast. Porridge with fruit, coffee and some bread and chorizo. Delicious! And the rain stayed off while I cooked and ate.


A late breakfast. Since I had no hot dinner the night before I went to town - I even made some bread!

Hitting the road again after food is always good and the route was interesting - forest paths, heather filled moor and rural paths between villages. It was hard to believe that I was passing so close to big, busy places such as Hilversum because it was so quiet where I was.

As I got closer to Amsterdam, the water increased. Irrigation canals, lakes, little dykes everywhere. Trees were rarer and wide open space was all around. Beautiful, I’m sure in June, a bit bleak and windy in February :-)

It was my intention to travel on to Hoorn, but as I passed over the bridge at Zeeburg on the edge of Amsterdam and saw the brightly coloured campsite below, I decided, on a whim, to turn around and check in.

And was I glad that I did! For a cycle-tourist this was a fantastic place! It is exposed, so it was windy, and I did have to dig out a few bottle tops before pitching my tent, but…..

The toilets/showers were perfect. There was a sheltered corner with vending machines for snacks and drinks and 4 (free) electric rings for cooking on. Lots of (free) hot water and excellent internet access (free!). With a spring in my step I set my tent up, hung my wet gear up to dry (quickly in the wind!), put on the Ireland v France rugby match on the radio and cooked my dinner.

There were quite a few camper vans present, 1 other tent and the campsite has a large number of chalet type accommodation. Maybe there is a different vibe in peak season, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this campsite. My experience of big-city campsites has not been particularly good.

Payment the next morning was easy & pleasant, and at E8 it was less than half the price of the night before.

Oh! And Ireland won! :-)


Über Member
The Netherlands
Day 3 Amsterdam - Hoorn +/- 50 km

The day started with rain again, and wind, again, so I stayed a bit longer in bed. Then, when my bladder protest reached a peak I was up and packed in record time. Packing up the tent, solo, in high winds can be fun!

Once again, I took advantage of the excellent cooking facilities and made not just my breakfast, but also my lunch for on the road. Quite a few people came over to talk to the mad person touring on a bike in February.

One advantage of staying in this campsite is that your day’s cycling begins with a descent (down the bridge). That’s how I like to start my days.

It was amazing how quickly I was back in a rural landscape despite being so close to such a major city. There was water everywhere, but thankfully not so much from the sky.

I went astray in Purmerend cycling down one bank of a canal when I should have been on the other. A big loop of the town and I discovered my error and got back on track.

The Markermeer was to my east, but I was following an inland route heading north and slightly east, meeting the sea at Hoorn. I arrived in Hoorn early in the afternoon in very high winds and piercing showers.

No such thing as an ugly boat!


Although this one was a bit odd...

Now, every time I go off on the bike it takes a while before I find myself in my “touring” place - that place in my head where the priorities of my usual life recede and the priorities of my touring life come to the fore. That point where there is just the moment, and all I have to do is be in it. Well, I hit that spot in Hoorn. It’s a beautiful old port town with old buildings from its past glory, narrow streets, beautiful boats (I love boats - a boat has to be pretty ugly for me to consider it not beautiful!) and history and character are trickling slowly over the old cobblestones - a bit like the rainwater. So, I dropped my schedule and just wandered around.


There’s a history to these places in NL, a lot of it related to the Dutch East Indies Company that really doesn’t bear dwelling upon, and I really enjoy trying to understand the stories that the buildings, the streets, the numerous little bridges and of course, the boats are trying to tell. There is history everywhere. Literally in every stone. I imagine in summer this place is thronged, but this day, I had it pretty much to myself.

There's a restaurant at the top!

I knew there was an open campsite close by, and with relief a quick search online told me there were no campsites open further up the coast, so I could relax and enjoy the moment.

I treated myself to a big, big kebab, bought a travel towel to replace the one I had left out but forgot to pack and headed out to the campsite. (Drying myself with a microfibre face cloth is not a lot of fun!)

The campsite was south of Hoorn. Straight into a headwind! So this is what it was going to be like in a couple of days when I had crossed the Ijselmeer! Hard, hard work!

The campsite was wonderful, with a canal running right through the middle! I got the tent up just before the rain fell, had a shower, made myself comfortable in my tent and started this journal. After my kebab earlier I wasn’t that hungry, but later snacked on the bread and chorizo I had while drinking tea.

The wind picked up during the night, but I was snug and dry inside.


Über Member
The Netherlands
Day 4 Hoorn - Workum 102 km

I woke again to the sound of rain! And wind! But mainly rain! I waited for a gap, packed up and hit the road. I didn’t bother trying to cook breakfast as it was too wet, cold & windy - but I did have a back-up plan! I did make a pot of coffee, though!

The back-up plan was in Hoorn (again!) where I stopped at Subway and had a big, big sandwich and some double chocolate chip cookies for the road!

Pulling out of Hoorn it was pretty bleak! The wind was blowing the rain almost horizontally, and it was that kind of rain that is not soft, but hard and stingy. Pushing through the wind and the traffic a big shout out to the guys in the rubbish truck who slowed down, blew their horn and yelled encouragement!

My plan was to cross the Ijselmeer by the afsluitdijk, basically a 32km long dyke built across the sea to create an inner sea (Ijselmeer) and an outer see (Waddenzee).

My route took me inland through picturesque villages and pure agricultural lands until I joined up with the sea again at Medemblik. Thereafter, it was a pretty straight road all the way to the dyke.

At times, I was blissfully unaware of the wind as it was directly behind me and all was calm. But a bend in the road and I knew all about it!

I arrived at the dyke in rain which really dampened my appreciation of such a huge structure.

Told you it was windy!

Someone I know told me they had crossed the afsluitdijk in 45 minutes and had challenged me to do the same! The wind for me was more of a cross wind than a tailwind, so his record was safe!

I set off and I have to say that I really enjoyed the ride. Cyclists have their own road parallel to the highway, and since I was the only one fool enough to cross in either direction that day, I had my road all to myself! It’s straight for 25 km, there’s a slight bend and then straight for another 7 km. Since I had the road to myself, I plugged in my i-pod, selected a Springsteen Bootleg (Dallas 2014 if you’re interested) and sang (and played drums!) my way across. Yes! I have an imaginary drumkit attached to the front of my bike!

Two, that’s right 2, that is 1 + 1, trucks blew their horn for me as I went across.

I love that! It’s a great feeling when someone gives you a show of support. A couple of years ago I cycled from NL down to Spain and back and the one thing I noticed was that the further south I was, the more support there was from other road users. A beep of the horn here, a wave there, a HOOPA! from this person a thumbs up from that person. Once, outside Coruna in Spain, a local cycling group swarmed around me as I crossed a bridge, shook my hand, patted me on the bike, fired a load of messages of support in a variety of different languages and sped off again leaving me bemused but enthused!

There was very little of this today. Of course, the number of people busy looking at their phones/tablets as they drove could have played a part and certainly made me glad that I was higher than they were and separated by strong barriers!

There is a museum on the dyke, but it’s on the opposite side of the road. There’s stairs, so taking the bike is not possible. Leaving the bike just felt too vulnerable, so I passed on.

Coming off the afsluitdijk, I took the wrong option and ended up having to do a 10 km loop to get back on my route to the campsite for the night. And of course, by now, I was facing into the wind! Speed dropped to my minimum - 8kph! Oh, and the rain came back! This time it had been passed through a freezer. It really stung! And it was getting darker!

I was following the coast with a large dyke between myself and the sea with occasional villages and practically no traffic. I came to Workum with the last light and in a few minutes located the campsite.

As I turned off the road to the campsite, I cycled past a cosy scene of a family sitting down at their dinner table. The campsite was showing the consequences of the recent bad weather - lots of tree branches all over and the ground was soaking! The sign at the reception said to check in at the house, so back I went past the warm family to knock on their door. The man who answered was very friendly. I was so cold and hungry by that stage that my Dutch deserted me, but English was fine. I paid for the night and he explained to take any spot I wanted, pointing out where it might be a bit drier. Back I went down the muddy road on a quest for the the driest wet patch.

This took a while, and as I was just about to start unpacking, the kindly soul reappeared, wrapped up in his rain gear. “We’ve been talking in the house”, he said, “and we have a trekkers hut that night be more comfortable for you!”

So, no tent for me that night! Instead I was dry & warm! There was a heater so that I could dry all my clothes! And a gas stove for cooking!

The fact that the man left his warm home, put on his rain clothes and wandered down through the rain and the mud is what impressed me the most.

Song for the day: Bruce Springsteen “Badlands”


When the rain is coming down, you’re cold, you’re wet, the road ahead is long….. This song lifts the spirit!


Über Member
The Netherlands
Day 5 Workum - Zwolle - Home 92km

I was awoken during the night by the sound of rain hammering on the roof. I had a little smile to myself because my morning was going to be a whole lot nicer since I didn’t have to worry about packing up the tent.

I made my breakfast in comfort and hit the road. I dropped the keys (as arranged) and an extra tip in his mailbox for which he later contacted me to express his displeasure! The sun was shining but the temperature was just above 2C. And it was windy!

In my planning for this trip, it was at this point that (open) campsites were becoming few and far between. My target for today was 130 km distant - and most of that was into the wind. I could do it, but I really didn’t think I’d enjoy it. Wild camping was really not an option either as the ground was borderline waterlogged - that is, if I could find some land that was sufficiently private - always difficult in NL.

I’d be following the coast and then heading towards Zwolle where a train would take me directly home. If I saw a campsite or a decent camping opportunity I’d take it, but that wasn’t looking likely.

The early part of the day was fresh and relatively dry. I cycled through picture postcard villages, all with harbours containing a variety of boats - working trawlers, pleasure craft, sailing boats of various sizes and vintage, converted barges and the occasional sore-thumb of an uber-modern cruiser which, without fail, looked completely out of place.

I stopped at the (approximately called) Red Cliff for a quick snack of dates & chocolate. A place where the Friesians (the people, not the cows!) gather to celebrate their culture and to remind themselves of their independence. Having not seen a car for an hour, it was the ultimate irony that as I was trying to have a pee behind a big rock, not one, not two, but three cars drove by.



I followed the coast as far as Lemmer where I spent 10 minutes cycling around the beautiful little port town trying to pin down the source of an amazing culinary aroma. Just when I had given up hope, I found the little fish stall at one end of the harbour and enjoyed some delicious calamari, cod and frietjes.

Lunch! It was as good as the aroma suggested! Since I had spent so long "tracking" it, I admit I felt like a hunter :-)

The free Lemmer wifi confirmed that there were no other camping options, so Zwolle it was!

Heading inland now and into Flevoland, the weather turned, and turned wet! Not long rain, but short, intense bursts. It sure kept me awake!

The route now was mainly following secondary roads through farmland. Very quiet, very windy!

But the sky was where all the action was! Since the morning when the sun was shining brightly, the sky had undergone so many changes during the day! The heavy wind on the deck was obviously just as strong up there! When one section was just a wet, grey sponge, another area was vivid blue. When a black storm cloud was hurtling in one direction, just behind it stood clean white wool shining in the sun. Above, the whole day, a battle was raging…. And I was suffering the collateral damage!

An hour from Zwolle the last light faded, and with it, a bit of the strength of the wind. But the temperature was again very low. Cycling here was no problem, back on dedicated cyclepaths beside the road. Arrival into the station at Zwolle was simplicity itself - follow the signs to Centrum until I saw a sign for the station.

I rolled into the station about 19:30 incredibly satisfied that I had reached my destination and that I would not wait long until I was in a comfortable, warm train.

Then I saw the sign! In bright orange letters - No trains to Tilburg/Den Bosch - my line!!

So, now I was taking the long way home via Rotterdam!

It was not long before midnight when I finally hit home again, to be greeted by the zombie like figures of the last of the Carnaval people staggering around the city centre. But I was home!

Pat "5mph"

A kilogrammicaly challenged woman
I need to re-read it, one appreciates such tales more the second time around.
I feel freezing and wet in empathy!
Thanks so much for sharing.


The dogs chew toy
Thanks for sharing Hobbes. Good read.
Crikey you don't half carry a load of stuff!
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