This is already my 50th blog on this website, an appropriate anniversary edition to finish it off. In my previous blog, I wrote that we changed places from Southern-Spain to Northern-Spain. Tom’s uncle and aunt have a beautiful house here on a golf resort that we could use. After a train journey through Spain’s countryside that lasted more than 12 hours, we finally arrived in the village close to the golf resort. We hope to do the same trip by bike in the future.
At the moment of our arrival, we were still very optimistic (or naïve) about a rapid continuation of our trip. They had declared an emergency state that would last until the 8th of April and we thought that we could start after that. We were very close to the foot of the Pyrenees so we were looking forward to this first challenge.
You have all the possibilities in the world to cook whatever you want, so what do you cook? Pasta with tomato sauce, of course!
Soon, we realized that it would all take much longer than we thought. The emergency state was extended and it was very likely that Spain would extend it again (which it eventually did). There was no point in waiting there forever without knowing when we could start. We decided to cancel our trip and try to go home.
This was easier said than done. Spain had closed its borders with France and the Netherlands blocked all flights from Spain since it was one of the countries with the most cases. We registered ourselves online at a special page of the ministry of foreign affairs to let them know that we want to go home. The communication with the ministry was not very smooth and we had to wait for many days before they finally called us to tell us that they are not organizing any flights from Spain to the Netherlands yet. I imagine that most Dutch people were in the South. There is a Dutch population of retirees that have holiday homes in the sunny South, but I guess that we were one of the few in this region. Most people had already left.
Luckily, we were in a very nice place to wait and we had more freedom of movement than most Spaniards. We could play football on the golf pitch, we could play darts or table football downstairs, take a swim in the swimming pool on sunny days or get a little bit of exercise by going to the village nearby to get some groceries.
View from the balcony on the garden
Flat tire... we had to walk back. I didn't forget how to patch it, haha
With our mindsets focused on going back to the Netherlands, we had a new logistical issue that had to be fixed. It was impossible for us to transfer our bicycles on the plane, because there was no way for us to find a bike box since all stores were closed. This problem basically solved itself.
On my previous blog, I received a message from Cees Zeeman, a father of a friend that has been following me for a while. He read that we were stuck in Spain and wrote that it was a weird situation for everybody. He’s a truck driver for GAM Bakker, a logistical company that transports plants/flowers. He wrote that he was still happily driving around in France and a colleague of him was still working in Spain. I asked him whether it was possible to transport the bikes from there to the Netherlands. This company is really close to our home town, so that would be ideal. That’s how the bike-transport-ball started to roll.
In exchange for some pastries 😊, they were willing to help us out with the transportation of our bikes. That seemd more than fair. Eventually, truck driver Marco picked up our bicycles at a distribution center that was located right next to the golf resort. What are the odds… We put the bikes in the truck and he brought them back to the Netherlands.
There they go
Meanwhile, we were still trying to get ourselves back to the Netherlands as well. I had given up on our ministry of foreign affairs and to make a long story short: I found a way to get back by ourselves. I found a regular flight connection from Barcelona to the giant German city Frankfurt. From there, it’s not very hard to get back by train.
After leaving everything behind the same way that we found it, we took a taxi, train, another taxi, a plane, more trains and busses to get back home. We left the golf resort at 05:30 AM, and arrived in Schagen on 20:15 PM. Not really the way I wanted to arrive, but we were happy to be home.
Waiting on our flight from Barcelona
that would bring us to Frankfurt
The airport was pretty empty
Vueling's parking place
Our parents and my sister were waiting for us at the train station. Because we were coming from a risk area, I couldn’t even give them a hug. I wouldn’t want to be the one to contaminate my parents (or other people of course). So I kept my distance during the first two weeks after our arrival, which proved to be quite challenging within the house, but we did a pretty good job. I didn’t meet friends or family but we did pay off our debts by bringing a cake and pastries to Cees Zeeman and to GAM Bakker.
It feels strange to be back. I find it hard to make a good description of how it really feels to be back, because I haven’t really ‘landed’ here yet. I’ve lived for over two years with all the freedom in the world. Ushuaia was always that dot on the horizon where I (often unconsciously) worked towards, just like my hometown would be the dot on the horizon when I would cycle from Spain. Now that I suddenly returned back home, such a goal or dot on the horizon is suddenly gone. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, but it certainly feels strange. A bit like a hole that still has to be filled with something new.
At the same time, everything feels really comfortable and familiar. It is as if time stood still here. The weather has been incredibly good over the last two weeks, and Tom and I certainly made the most of this by cycling around our city. Our so-called polder landscape is pretty unique I would say, and it looks pretty nice right now with the flourishing tulips all over the place. And the bicycle infrastructure is just spectacular… You only realize what you miss if you don’t have it anymore. My father is also biking around a lot, seems like he’s got the bicycle virus too! He told me that our trip together is still the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up. Well, we can shake on that! Oh, we can’t right now…
The province is looking pretty colorful in this season
Creating this typical flat, Dutch, landscape, under sea level
Picture from the dike that is holding back the sea
And why not construct a bike path on top of the dike?
I hadn't seen our new cat, Karel
This is where my story ends for now. The ‘real’ life is starting again. I want to do a master’s degree, starting in September (probably in Rotterdam), I will have to find a way to make money and I hope to find a place to live for myself, hopefully within biking distance of Rotterdam (but I guess that will not be a problem haha). Enough things to look forward to.
I still have some ideas for the website, like a photo collage with short (untold) stories, so this is probably not the last post from me.
Oh and I’m learning French for my future trip through Africa.
Again, thanks for following me.