We woke up and set off late this morning into an insane headwind. The task for the day was to cross most of Zeeland using the roads over the famous Delta Works, and camp on the most southerly island, Walcheren.
The landscape was flat, the inland areas were all agriculture, near the sea there were lovely wetlands full of reeds and water birds. It was good to see the North Sea again!
Today was all about the wind. We were headed south-west, and the wind was blowing right in our faces all day. It was really strong, especially when we were up on top of the dykes that protect the land from the water, and the dams that cross between the islands. We only had to do 70 km but it was one of the longest days we’ve had for a while. We got to the first sea crossing and slogged across, stopping briefly to admire the view and consume a life-preserving stroopwafel.
The first island we got onto was pretty quiet. There were a few trees which helped to keep us out of the wind. When we got to the dam leading to the second island we found there was a long sandy beach on one side. The wind was so strong it was picking sand up off the beach and sandblasting our bodies and bikes as we crossed the dam about 100 m from the beach. We could see it coming at us in little sandstorms which hit us like a load of tiny pinpricks. On the plus side, the kite surfers were having a great time. We bought some chips and watched them for a while from the shelter of the chip cabin.
The second island was pretty bare and there wasn’t much to stop the wind impeding our progress. We didn’t enjoy it! At one point my super-fashionable sun visor blew off into a ditch. I eventually found it after 5 minutes of frantic searching among the reeds. Honestly it was really windy, look!
The third crossing was hard but pretty awesome. It was across the massive Oosterscheldekering, the biggest and most ambitious part of the Delta works. It is 9 km long, and contains 4 km of sluice gates that are usually open, but can be closed to prevent a storm surge from flooding Zeeland. It also has a completely artificial island in the middle of it, which has now been planted with wind turbines. Pretty amazing and puts the Thames Barrier in perspective!
Once we got to the last island it was a mere 10 km to the campsite. Thankfully the last 5 were with the wind which gave us a much-needed break!
When we got to the site there was a sign on the gate saying “Voll” (Full). Anna refused to believe it though, and was proved right when the site manager came over and told us “there’s always room for bikes”. Music to our ears! Apparently the organisation that runs this group of campsites has decided its unacceptable for cyclists and walkers to arrive at a campsite after a long day to find it full, so they reserve a little area especially for us. So good!
We happily pitched our tent, and we’d managed to have dinner, do laundry and have showers before the rain set in. Anna sat in the tent doing what I imagine was fairly constrained yoga, while I went to the shelter and chatted with a family of Dutch tourers for an hour. The two kids looked about 15 and 13, and they have done 5 tours already, starting when they were 12 and 10! Pretty good way to spend the summer holidays!
We went to bed absolutely knackered, but happy that we only have one more crossing to deal with tomorrow, and IT’S BY FERRY!