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Stockholm to Amsterdam
14 – 25 August 2023
Bike Tour From Stockholm, Sweden to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Day 0 14 August 2023 Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Stockholm
I got up at 03:15 in the morning having had a very restless night. I was so worried about the 2 x 1 1/5-meter box with my bike inside that I had to get to Amsterdam Central Station, a distance of 1.3 kilometers. Too large to get into a car and no busses that time of the morning. I got everything ready and carried the bike box through my house to the front door. My elaborate strap system to carry the box over my shoulder snapped! I fixed it with extra rope and strings. I locked the door behind me and started the slow walk towards the station … step by step losing my balance every so often with a backpack on my back and my other luggage in my other hand. I had 45 minutes before the train would leave. About a quarter of the way and the strap system snapped again! The weight was just too much. I stopped and fixed it again. But then got worried that if it broke again, I might not be able to fix it and I was not sure if I was going to make it to the station, and the airport. Slowly forward, step by step, praying. Got to about halfway. And God sent an ‘angel,’ a young man from Hungary. He was walking past me and asked if he could help. The box was not that heavy, just so big and crazy uncomfortable. And with him picking up the back of the box, we made good strides towards the station with a few stops to change hands. He offered to help me through the station and actually up to the platform and onto the train. He obviously wanted to know where I was going, and I told him the story. He left for his train to Berlin but not before I gave him my card with my website about God. I was so thankful and knew God was in this. But then standing on the train the conductor came up to me and said I could not have such a big box in that area. It was obstructing the passageway for the passengers in case of an emergency. I just stood there not sure what to say and what to do. But then thought if I turned it sideways, it might just allow enough space for passengers to get passed me. And he was happy. Because if I had to get off, I would not have had enough time to get to the airport as I might have had the same problem with the next train. I was just so happy to be on my way to the airport!
Now I would need to find one of these long stepless escalators to get from the train to the level of the airport building. Lo and behold the train door opened exactly at the right spot. I got out, got up the stepless escalator with the bike box over one shoulder, my backpack, and the other luggage in my one free hand. I found a trolley and put my bike with the rest of my luggage on it. I made it by the grace of God! Now, it was plain sailing to the check-in, deliver my bike in at the odd size baggage section. Then to the business lounge (not because I can fly business class ever but because I fly so often!) where I had a good breakfast, and soon sat in the plane with a thankful heart. I was so relieved because I had been worrying, worrying for days about how I would get to the airport.
We landed in Stockholm airport, picked up my bike and luggage, got a SIM card, and then had to get my bike out of the box and assemble it again. Walked out of the terminal building with all my stuff on a trolley. It was an exit to a bus terminal. I found a spot with not too many people and proceeded to get my bike out and ready. I thought I was at the airport near Stockholm City, but it turned out I was 38 kilometers away from the B&B where I was staying the first night. It was just so fortunate that my SIM card, which I realized was not connected to the internet, and not working was not necessary as the route to the BB loaded via the airport Wi-Fi on Google Maps. I was happy for the bike lanes in this area.
And then the worst thing is when you are on a bike using Google Maps and Google Maps tell you your destination is on the left, you have arrived, and there is nothing on the left! I was in the middle of a small forest with trees and grass. The problem now was that my phone was not connected to the internet, so I had no idea in which direction to go. After I approached a number of people, I eventually found the B&B. Tired from the little sleep the previous night and all the anxiety of getting from my home to the airport, I tried to get to bed early. But not before I had to get into town to try and find a cell phone agent to help me activate my phone so that I could have internet connection for the journey ahead. I found several agents of the service that I was using but none of them was interested in helping me. I eventually had to give up. I found some food to buy for the evening and also for the road the next day.
Accommodation: Large Room Kista.
15 August. Stockholm to Sandviken. 185 km. 949m climb 9h33m
Anxious to get on the road knowing I had 185 kilometres ahead of me, I dropped the room keys into the wrong box causing endless problems for the owner to find it again. I felt so bad.
I got away at 07:30. The weather was good, around 23 C˚, and as expected the wind from behind. I was cycling north from Stockholm and the prevailing winds at that time of the year were southwest. It took a long time to get out of the city. But once I was out in the open it went quite smooth. I was surprised at the large stretches of gravel road that Google Maps took me on, probably about 25% but with the gravel bike it was not too bad as my bike is designed for these roads. It was amazing how the motorists in Sweden would slow down and stop without an exception when they see a cyclist who wants to cross the road. Also, when passing a cyclist on the road, they would slow down and not pass unless it is clear from the front that it is safe to do so and then by at least 1 ½ to 2 meters. I bought a baguette the previous night and ate it half with my coffee, which I always have with me, at about 11:00 and the other half at 14:00. With the protein shake for muscle recovery that I would take every evening and morning I felt quite well the whole day. I carry 4 liters of water with electrolytes that I drink during the day.
Late afternoon I encountered a really bad gravel road and I had to negotiate the many potholes, but one big one I failed to avoid, and it broke my one saddlebag bracket. I had to improvise with the elastic straps I had with me. I appreciated the car that stopped, and the driver asked if I was OK. But while I was fixing the bracket, it started raining. Soon I was on the road again. I managed a good speed but about 5 kilometres from my overnight stop it was raining so much that my cell phone was reacting to the water on the surface and stopped working. Everything was wet and I could not dry the phone. Eventually, I found a bike road that was running through underneath the motor road, and I stopped to get the phone screen dry. Could see Google Maps again and put the phone into my watertight phone holder. I arrived at the B&B 11 hours after I left that morning. I unpacked, had a shower, and walked to a nearby shop, bought a large salad, yogurt, and some nuts. My wet phone cable just would not work to charge my phone and the friendly owner of the B&B offered an extra one that he had when I asked him where I could buy one the next day. I fixed my bag and retired, already quite late, 23:00. I had a solid night’s sleep till 06:00 the next morning. Had a wonderful breakfast and ate much more than usual to pack calories in! I had some sandwiches for the day that I bought the previous night. And my coffee in a flask!
Accommodation: Norrgården 50
16 August Sandviken to Ramsberg. 166 km 1430m climb 10h0m
This was probably one of the most brutal days on a bicycle that I have ever experienced. I was travelling in a south-westerly direction towards Gutenberg against the wind but that was not the big problem. Google Maps took me on gravel roads for most of the day, up and down, up, and down with total climbs of 1430 meters on very challenging gravel roads with big stones covering the road. At least four times I had to stop and pull my bike uphill as it was simply not possible to cycle and stay upright. I slowly worked my way kilometer by kilometer through forests, down hills, and up hills. I was hoping to arrive at my next stop by 16:00 or maybe 17:00 but only got there just before 20:00 hours. It was a nice wooden cabin on a farm. The owner was Dutch who had married a Swedish lady. He has been living there for 16 years and was very happy to hear that I had connections with the Netherlands and insisted on speaking Dutch to me all the time. During the day at one of my stops, I phoned the internet provider and asked about the internet on my phone that was not working. We then realized that the phone that I put the sim card in, the same one I used for my navigation, was just too old to read the card. I changed the sim card to the other phone, and it worked perfectly! Now I could also listen to podcasts, RSG (South African Radio in Afrikaans!) and Christian Life Radio (a US Christian Radio Broadcast). There was no food shop nearby this evening where I could buy anything, but I was prepared for days like this. I got my noodles out, oats, and instant soup. After a shower that I had to use the shower in the main house, I could retire and have my meal. Every evening, one of the first things I had to do was to connect my two phones to electricity, my power banks, my bike front and rear lights, and my sound system, to be sure all are fully charged by the time I leave the next morning. I was so exhausted from the day’s cycling that I decided I would sleep in the next morning, leave later, and do a shorter day. I only woke up at 8:30 and in a relaxed manner, started preparing for the day's journey and had some breakfast. I also carried Muesli with me for days like these. I left at about 11:00 but decided not to go on Google Maps bike roads but simply take the motorways which made the next day much easier.
Accommodation: Country cabin Bergslagen stuga 46 (kabouterhut)
17 August. Ramsberg to Mulhyttan to 96 km 671m climb 5h2m
Day three of any endurance activity is usually the most difficult day. To have chosen the motorway was a good decision, it was much much easier. During the day, a Swedish man came up cycling in the opposite direction. When he saw me, he stopped and came up to me. He was 81 years old but really looked like a very fit 65-year-old. He said that he was racing with bicycles from the age of 14 to 24 years, and he still loves keeping fit by cycling. He looked amazingly fit, and I told him! With the wind from behind I was moving at a speed through the 96 kilometres. Still, it took longer than I hoped for, maybe I was too relaxed! In Sweden and Denmark, I noticed a lot of mushrooms growing next to the road and often saw people collecting them in baskets. I arrived at my destination at 18:00. Initially I thought the house looked a little bit like a ghost house, but the people were very friendly. There was a grocery store nearby and I could buy some food for the next day and also had a pizza across the street. The area looked surprisingly poor and not well kept but the B&B was good at the end. I had a good night's rest and the next morning as I was eating my breakfast, set, and prepared for me earlier than usual, one of the other guests came into the kitchen and started talking to me. He and his wife were from New Zealand and friends with the owners of the guesthouse. It then turned out to be that his wife applied to work with Mercy Ships as a nurse! The required periods for service were just too long. They are now financial supporters of Mercy Ships and she is working with YWAM Ships in the South Atlantic islands. They are committed Christians. It was so refreshing to talk to them. He was intrigued by my life story, went on my website, and signed up for the newsletters. The owners of the B&B, their friends, were also Christians and prayed about acquiring this guesthouse. They only started taking guests in a month earlier and have already met many interesting people staying with them
Accommodation: Skogstorp Hvilohem (Africa Room) 74
18 August Mulhyttan to Larv. 159 km 854m climb 7h37m
After a very good breakfast, I left at 08:45. I had a very good day cycling with the wind from behind on the main roads! There were certainly one or two areas where the roads were very narrow and big trucks coming very close to me. At some point, I was going downhill at a speed close to 40 kilometers an hour. There was a guard rail on my right, very close, and a rail in the middle of the road separating it from the traffic in the opposite direction. A large truck at high speed came past me, very close as it could not move to the middle of the road because of the rail in the middle. The truck’s turbulence almost shook me off balance. My bike shook violently from side to side, and I held on for dear life. I realized that if I would fall there was only one possibility and that was into the way of the traffic because of the rail on my right side! I knew was in a serious life-threatening situation and thanked God with a thankful heart that I survived that situation. I then decided that I would, whenever in that situation, just go much, much slower. The rest of the day I made good times I arrived at 1700 at the B&B on a horse farm. Again, there was no food, but the lady was good enough when I asked her, she had some cold pasta salad with meat and other dressings, for travelers like me! I really enjoyed it I got to bed early, for the next day’s travel to the Stena Line ferry at Göteborg.
Accommodation: Sjötorp Säteri B&B 32 (Perdeplaas)
19 August. Larv to Göteborg. 118 km 606m climb 5h34m
After an early and really good breakfast, I got on the road again not following Google Maps bike roads but Google Maps car roads. The wind was again from behind and I went at speed making good times and not worrying that I might not be in time for the 15:45 ferry from Göteborg, Sweden to Frederikshavn, Denmark. I did a distance of about 50 kilometers when I suddenly heard sirens behind me, and the police pulled in next to me. I stopped … obviously! The police lady in the car asked me if I realized that I was not allowed on this road as it was a highway. I said no, I did not know but I am trying to make good time to be in time for the ferry to Frederikshavn. She then, still very friendly said that I was not allowed on this road and would have to get off the road at the next turn-off. When I asked her what the easiest way would be then to get to Göteborg in good time she told me that route 190. (this was very unlike my experience when I cycled across the US from New York to San Francisco. I was picked up by the cops on the Interstate that I inadvertently ended up on. 'I found the white individual male ' I heard him announce over the two-way radio from where I was sitting in the van behind the bars! He dropped me off a few miles further on at a turn-off and said. 'Go and get a coffee, I will not fine you today!) Back in Sweden, it was still another 10 kilometers to the next turn-off and I was happy that I could still get some kilometers at speed. I got off the highway but then quite a frustration to find this route 190. I asked around in the little village, but nobody knew. I cycled in circles trying to keep going southwest as per the compass on my bike but eventually put the bike roads again on Google Maps. After cycling another 45 minutes I suddenly realized I was now on route not 190 and switched Google Maps off! Now making speed again towards Göteborg. I did not want to stop to eat anything in order to make sure that I would be at the ferry in good time. I arrived in Göteborg14:00 hours, found a spot next to the harbor, and overlooking the waters I got my coffee and sandwiches out and relaxed a bit. By 15:00 I found the Stena Line ferry but had no idea where exactly to go with the bike. There were no signposts. I eventually took my bike inside the building, went upstairs, and asked them where to go. Very friendly they told me to go a further 500 metres up the road where the cars and busses enter. After the passport check and in the correct lane, there was an hour wait. Soon enough with at least 7 or 8 other cyclists we tied our bike to a steal structure inside the ferry, took the most important belongings with us, and got up the stairs to the different levels of the ferry: shops, restaurants, play area for kids, and more. I went to sit outside on the upper deck. It was a three hours and 15-minute sail across the Kattegat Sea (Danish for Cat’s Gate) linking the two seas - the Baltic Sea to the south and the sea area in the north, the continuation of the Skagerrak and may be seen as a bay of the North Sea). I had a light meal and lots to drink and arrived in Frederikshavn at 19:00. The B&B for the night, very impersonal, was just two kilometers away. There was no food, but I had something to eat on the ferry and also bought sandwiches for the next day.
Accommodation: aday Frederikshavn 53
20 August. Frederikshavn to Viborg. 164 km 623m climb 9h22m
Muesli and protein shake and left Frederikshavn at about 8:00. A good day's cycling on good bike roads in contrast to Sweden especially from Sandvikn to Göteborg with no bike lanes. Denmark has very good bike lanes and hardly ever any gravel roads. There were still a fair number of ups and downs but the cycling surfaces were good. I enjoyed the cycling with my normal stops. My routine was usually to cycle for 30 kilometers, a short stop staying on the bike, have a drink of water with electrolytes, have a protein bar to eat and maybe an apple, and then we do another 20 to 30 kilometers before I would stop for 15 minutes for coffee and a sandwich. Then another 30 kilometers for a short stop staying on the bike and usually around about 100 kilometers I would take a half an hour stop, get off the bike, get my gear off, and have the rest of my sandwiches and coffee. Then push for the last 50 or 60 kilometres to make up the 160 kilometres with one further short stop. On my first stop for a sandwich and coffee that morning, it was on a fairly steep uphill in a forest but good roads and I pulled off and put my bike against the tree, and sat on the ground eating my sandwich. Another cyclist came up the mountain road and saw me, he pulled over and came to talk to me. He was a Dutch guy who was also cycling from Stockholm to the Netherlands and was doing an average of 80 kilometers a day. We had a nice chat also about places to stay and apps one can use as well as navigation apps which I would properly use in the future. He left a little before me and in about half an hour I passed him as I had a much longer distance to do. I cycled through the beautiful city of Aalborg and arrived at Viborg Motel which was a nice hotel next to the road, very comfortable and clean with a restaurant across the street. I unpacked and had a shower and a Chinese meal at the restaurant. Again I could order a breakfast that was put in my fridge in the room so I could enjoy that early morning before I left. There was enough bread, cheese, and some cold meat with tomato to make two sandwiches for the day. As a rule, I do not eat meat but on such long and intense bike rides, it is a real problem to get enough proteins on board, also to get just enough calories in to sustain one during the long day. I made good progress and arrived around 19:00 hours at my next stop.
Accommodation: Motel Viborg 67
21 August. Viborg to Haderslev. 159 km 1153m climb 9h21m
I left on time and followed Google Maps bike route for the initial part of the journey. I soon ended up on country roads with very steep climbs and was looking forward to the downhill! However, when I finally got to the top, the downhill path was a very narrow, a two-wheel track with large stones again and I had to go downhill with my hands on both brakes being forced to not more than 10 kilometers per hour. That really frustrated me and wasted a lot of time but after an hour or I got onto good surface roads again and could start making up time. Again, a day of climbing to a total of 1153 meters and the 15 kg luggage in my bike bags do put a lot of strain on the legs on the uphills. I arrived at a farm estate, a beautiful place, by 19:00, wonderful place to spend the night. To my frustration, I always find that European buildings are designed for protection against cold and the night was rather hot with windows that could only open a few centimeters! There was a young Dutch couple on a tandem bike staying at the same facility. We had long chats and they told me they were doing about 40 to 50 kilometres a day. Typical for their generation, he held 5 different jobs! They were on vacation and not in a hurry! I got to bed later than I wanted because of all the talk. I could get breakfast earlier than the others, at 7:00 the next morning which suited me fine so I could be back on the road by 8:00. I get up at 06:00 every morning and it takes 2 hours to have breakfast, mix, and have the protein supplement, pack my bags and fit them on the bike, get the water bottles prepared, fit all the electronics on the bike, work out the route for the day and prepare my coffee flask and sandwiches for the stops. I got on the road again at 08:00 for yet an easier day.
Accommodation: Louiselund B&B 64 (Plaas)
22 August. Haderslev to Burg. 165 km 661m climb 9h4m
As I got fitter every day the days became easier and easier as well as the hills became less, only 661 meters climbing on this day and the roads were really good. During the day I crossed into Germany and to my surprise there was not the slightest of signs when one crosses from Denmark to Germany. The only way I realized that I was in Germany was when I saw the street names and recognized the German language. I soon stopped next to a lake under trees where I had my morning coffee and bread. I started cycling uphill from the lake, rather steep and I was in the lowest gear to get to the top. A young man came cycling down towards me and suddenly turned straight into me looking at people that he was greeting on that side of the road. Not looking where he was going! I was going very slow so I could stop but he rammed into me and landed on the tarmac. He obviously apologized and fortunately was not hurt, and I was still up straight. But now it was too steep with my bike and the weight of my bags to get paddling again and I had to push the bike up to the top. The rest of the day I made good progress to my next stop which was a pleasant surprise again on a form staying in wine barrel-shaped cabins. There was one other couple with their daughter staying in the other two cabins. I could stop earlier in the day and buy some food for the evening, as well as for my breakfast and food for the road. Right in front of our cabins were a natural pond, beautiful and clear. I certainly do not know why people would do that but this couple and their daughter jumped in the icy water just after 06:00 in the morning. I will not do that!
Accommodation: Gemütliches Schlaffass 65 (Vaatjie)
23 August. Burg to Bremen. 132 km 271m climb 7h47m
When I entered my desired route on Google Maps to Bremen, I saw to my shock it was taking me back north for the first 30 kilometers and then turned south again adding 60 km to my expected distance! I thought it impossible but there was a river between me and the route to Bremen. I probably spent an hour trying to work out what the problem was. Eventually entered it on the other phone and then it showed me where I could cross the river close by. I realized that on the one phone that I was using for navigation, for some reason, it was set to not using ferries, the reason why it took me back up north to a bridge over the river. When I changed the setting, the distance was suddenly much more acceptable! The ferry was a mere 5 kilometers from where I was staying. I came cycling down the road and saw the ferry boom starting to come down. I had no idea how long it would be before the next ferry would be available so I waved and shouted, and the guy in control kindly lifted the boom again so that I could get onto it! We crossed the river with more cycles and some cars. A much shorter day this day. Not long after I had to cross major a central European river, the Elbe River - a ferry sail of about 20 minutes. Dr Lür Küper invited me to stay with them in Bremen after he saw my route on Facebook. I adjusted my distances to make it possible and was hosted by them for the night. I told him I would be there around about 17:00 and it just worked out that I was there within the minute! I took the day slow and relaxed as I knew I had a couple of hours before I needed to be there. I was welcomed in the street in front of their house by him, his wife, Christiana, as well as the chairman of Mercy Ships Board Germany who ‘just happened' to be there the same evening. No coincidences in the life God's people! I had a shower they offered me some cake and tea. I had a couple of cups of tea and a wonderful cream cake! That is one of the great things about a bike ride like this, one can eat whatever you like and as much as you like. I still lost 2.5 kg in the 11 days on the bike! We talked about Mercy Ships and about the years past. I met Dr Lür, a maxillofacial surgeon, on the Anastasis, on my first Mercy Ships visit in 2000. I have often served with him on the ship in the ensuing years. We had a wonderful meal and more chats. A reporter from the local newspaper also came and took notes on my life story and took some pictures. I retired to bed at about 10:00 – I was honored to stay in the same room where Dr Gary has stayed before! I was up again at 06:00 before the rest of the household and started to prepare my day. We all sat down for breakfast at 07:00, had a good meal and I made some sandwiches for the road and left by 8:30. I knew it was going to be a long day because of the previous day’s shorter distance.
Accommodation: Dr Lür Küper
24 August Bremen to Eexterveen. 171 km 242m climb 9h10m
Travelling through Germany is always more difficult with a bicycle. They have cycle roads everywhere, but the surfaces are sometimes notoriously bad in many areas. So bad that I sometimes would go onto the road if it would look safe to avoid bumping up and down on my saddle. Also, the drivers are much more aggressive and when car roads cross cycle paths the drivers would not look out for cyclists like in Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. At some point, I was cycling around about 20 kilometers per hour just looking in front on the bike path and suddenly hit a van on the side at speed. An instant intense stop and I was on my back on the tarmac. Lying with my eyes closed I had flashbacks of my accident in 2015 when I ended up in surgery but this time just scratches and bruises on the right side of my body but also an injury to my left ankle that was bleeding. The guy got out of the van speaking in German at first. I do not know if he did apologize or not but then I told him I was not fluent in German, and it would be easier for me to speak in English. He helped me up. A lady who saw the accident came up and asked if everything was OK. The fender around the front of his vehicle came loose with the impact but did not look like it was broken. They helped me up from the tarmac, and then to keep my bike upright so I could put my chain on again that came off with the impact and within a couple of minutes, I was on my way.
In the afternoon I was looking for a place to stop for my afternoon eat, drink, and 20-minute rest. Soon enough I saw an ideal place and pulled off the road. It was a nice bench to sit on and a large tree for shade. A cross with a Jesus figure on it was next to me. I was sitting and eating looking at the beautiful tender green leaves in the bright sun growing from the ground under the tree and thought about the fragility and beauty of these leaves and how the God of love created each of these. Then I looked at all the trees around me and remembered that in this world that we live in there are a 100 billion trees, all created by God. In our universe, the Milky Way, are 100 billion stars, and in the universe 100 billion galaxies like our Milky Way. And in my brain, 80 billion neurons that give me the ability to be alive and able to observe my environment and be who I am, all created by God. I look at the Christ figure on the cross hanging in front of me – ‘for through Him, Christ, God created everything in the heaven and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see… Everything was created through Him and for Him’. Colossians 1:16.and the thought came up ‘What is God doing on a cross? The Creator of the universe, Creator of the tiniest tender leaf to the vastness of our universe and He hangs on the cross! He became part of our suffering in this world, suffering because we all are choosing our own way and not living to the love of the perfect God. He is a God of love that is reaching out to each of us and all we have to do is to reach out to Him with a repentant heart and become part of His grand plan for humanity - the reason why He created us in love. That is too big for me to comprehend and I am intensely thankful that I may know my God and to know that He loves me that much. ‘As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is His love for those who honor Him’. Psalm 103:11
Though day was a 171-kilometer day, it was relatively easy because the roads were getting better, and the wind was from behind. I was still getting stronger every day. I arrived at an Airbnb which was a wonderful tent with all the amenities even if stove and fridge. Because by now I had crossed back into the Netherlands I knew the shops and stopped an hour earlier at one of the shops familiar to me and bought wonderful food that I could enjoy that evening as well as breakfast for the next day and bread for the road!
Accommodation: Pyramidetent Eexterveen 55
24 August. Eexterveen to Amsterdam. 191 km 246m climb 9h58m
On the road by 08:00. I was dreading this 190-kilometre trip. I know that this time of the year the prevailing winds were in a south-westerly direction which meant I would be cycling into the wind the whole day, but God has been good and the wind on this day was north-westerly and light. It makes a huge difference having had the wind from behind, and I was cycling at a good speed. Halfway through the day, I was in familiar areas again and now it was just a question of paddling and paddling until I could get home. I arrived home earlier than I thought I would, and at 19:00 I was standing in front of my door looking forward to a shower and my own bed! Just short of 1 800 km.
God is good!