An unforgettable day!
Our final day of cycling from Haarlem to Amsterdam happened to fall on King’s Day when the Dutch let down their hair with National fervour throughout the country from the tiniest village to the large towns.
The day boded poorly with rain, strong winds and a temperature of just 13 forecast. The only saving grace was the wind was to be a tail wind or a cross wind. Only 8 of our intrepid riders, (which included us!) took to their steeds for this final ride of the tour. The forecast was accurate although the rain held off until Amsterdam and was only heavy for the last 5 minutes before rejoining the barge.
Setting off from the Elodie for our final ride. I was the sweep that day, hence the green vest.,
All the small towns we rode through on our 30km route were busy preparing for the celebrations with stalls for food and beer. Part of the tradition is to set up sidewalk stalls for families and children to sell pre loved goods. The day/night before they mark out their territory with tape or chalk. Just before Amsterdam the local community had taken over the bike path for their stalls and it was impossible to get through. Our guide Nina used local knowledge to find our way around. About 1230 we arrived on the outskirts of the city to find the party was well underway with crowds of people adorned in some form orange, the national colour, jamming the roads and waterways. Heineken appeared to be the preferred drink with beer stalls and loud music everywhere. The canal boats were overflowing with revellers drinking and singing and the canals were overflowing with boats. Boat jams were occurring at every tunnel under the numerous bridges. The street where we stayed on arrival in Amsterdam had turned into one long party street, with food stalls and people selling all sorts of orange items to wear.
Anyone for an oyster?
Or perhaps an orange wig?
Although it was bitterly cold with intermittent showers, we were anxious to get out and experience this special day in the Netherlands that we had heard so much about, especially as we were at its epicentre in Amsterdam. So, about 4 o'clock, 7 of us braved the elements to go out and experience King’s Day as only the Dutch in Amsterdam could celebrate it. I think the pictures tell the story. In some locations around the canal bridges it was almost impossible to get through the throngs. However, at one particularly heavy partying area, we just held onto each other’s coats and were carried along by the crowd. Everyone was in a jovial mood, but it was pleasing to see was how well behaved and friendly the people were. It was such a fun filled atmosphere, if not a little crazy. Despite the weather, the crowds and the alcohol, everybody was just out there to have a good time.
Boat jam on the canal
People jam in the streets
We managed to all stay together despite the crowds, and after wandering through some of the streets and canalsides, we sought refuge for a drink and pizza before making our way back through the crowed streets for some peace at the Elodie.
However the night was not yet over as we had an unexpected visitor about 9pm. A highly intoxicated young man rolled on board adamant that this was his boat and he had a cabin for the night. Nothing we could do would persuade him otherwise and he was getting quite belligerent. Fortunately the river police were passing by and they came to our aid. However, after they thought they’d dealt with him and got him off our boat, the intruder proceeded to board an adjoining barge, before we managed to get the retreating police back again. This time they determined that he had cabin number 410 on a cruise liner about 1km away and eventually steered him in the right direction.
Not long after, Chango arrived back from his expedition to the town with one of the guests and, after explaining why all the doors were locked and why he couldn’t get in, he had an even better story to tell as he had rescued a young lady who fell into the canal while having a pee. She protested he couldn't help her out as her knickers were down around her ankles, but this did not deter him from his chivalry.
What an unforgettable day and what better way to end our wonderful barge and bike tour! We’ve had such a fun week with a really great group of people.
Tomorrow the next adventure begins.