From London, I took the train to Brugge, in North-east Belgium. The only noticeable change from the last time I was here being the sun to brighten up the dreary clock tower. Down a cobbled street, I found my way to the hostel I stayed at previously by passing the four windmills on the outskirts. I had dinner, and slept. The next morning I set off after talking with four pretty hardcore cyclists, on a long tour as well but much different from mine, their bikes and bags light and their clothes tight, a GPS nearby. They boasted about how far they had came and how many miles they would do that day. They cycle purely for the challenge but sadly miss all the wonderful sights.
I followed my compass north across the border and into the Netherlands, where now all I have to do is follow the red signs next to the silky smooth cycle paths, with my panniers catching the wind, carrying me along effortlessly. I paid 4 Euros to cross to the island of Middelburg by a rather sophisticated ferry, designed purely to carry only cyclists and people.
I marvelled briefly at the beach on the south coast and stocked up on food before crossing the concrete dykes north to the next island, trying to stay with the sun and avoiding the storm cloud that followed close by. I had already cycled over 50km and not been on a road yet. Such are the joys of Holland. Eventually, the time came to camp. On the ‘Goeree-Overflakkee’ island, I found what I thought was a great spot: quiet, hidden and with nice soft ground. Not bad considering I believe the Netherlands to be one of the hardest places to wild camp, because they use every metre of land available. The reality of this spot, however, was horrible. Not long after I started making dinner on my stove (some spaghetti and veg) the mosquitoes (massive) started buzzing around my head and biting my legs. I spilt half my dinner on my trousers trying to waft them away. Then came a storm that insured I wouldn’t sleep.
The following day I rolled into Rotterdam, pleased to be back where my last trip both had begun and ended, a place fondly remembered and I was welcomed by some familiar faces. I began work at the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival the following day, which I had the privilege of working at last time I was here, 2 years ago now. The festival was a great experience, although as I write this much beer and party has slowly chipped away at some of those memories.
The main exhibition wasn’t as good as last time but I did get free access to a lot of ticketed events, including some impressive seminars on cutting edge technology such as the latest advancements to drones (last time it was on little heard of 3D printing), and their availability to the public. Some theories suggest they might be as familiar as seeing a plane in the sky in the not too distant future.
Afterwards, I saw a creative, if not a slightly odd, virtual reality movie, where a bunch of people composed a short film by waving some sensors in the air and recording their movements to create a virtual spaceship, which was then flown around the room (by a stick) whilst a guy at the back made spaceship flying noises into a microphone. Also some guy got naked halfway through. Yes, I am definitely in the Netherlands.
Of course then there was the music, ranging from hardcore electronic to harmonious and unique glass instruments. And how could I forget the free beer.
From here I made way to Amsterdam, purely by following the signs on the cycle paths to the nearest place further north. I met some friends there and relaxed for a few days. Soon, I would go explore elsewhere…