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Eef & Nanda's Great Adventure

by Nanda Wijngaarden

Reading the report by Fred & Doris Birden published in October's Buzzing reminded me of our own moped holiday in 1995, 30 years after Fred & Doris came over to Holland.  Sadly a lot has changed since then; although Holland still has many road users of the two-wheeled variety, the cycleways have already started making way for the ever-increasing number of cars on our roads. This has resulted in confusing signposts (sudden restriction on mopeds without an alternative route) or simply missing altogether.  The authorities cannot decide which side of the road a two-way cyclepath should go, so you end up crossing the road over and over again, neither safe nor practical for anyone.

On the 30th July 1995 we headed for the south of England, but first we had to find our way from Zutphen, in eastern Holland, to Vlissingen in the far south-west.  A challenging task.  Eef had plenty of experience as he had ridden a moped for over 18 years but I was still relatively new to it.  The first few kilometres with a fully-laden moped were pretty scary.  Our bikes were both Puch VS50L two-speeds, Eef's from 1962, mine from 1969, and they did us proud.  Mine attracted a lot of attention as it is bright pink!  It had been used as a clothes-shop window display and they'd painted it a really lurid pink colour.  Not exactly the pink of my dreams but, with adding on some of the character from Winnie the Pooh, it became my very own Pooh-Puch.

Eef takes a cup of tea.
First day, Eef takes a cup of tea.  Life is good. (Photo: Nanda Wijngaarden)

We'd booked our ferry to Sheerness on 2nd August so we were not in a hurry; just as well, as finding our way through the labyrinth we call Holland was not as easy as we had hoped.  Still, it was an interesting experience.  We crossed the 4 main rivers (Ijssel, Maas, Waal & Rijn) using great big scary bridges and once by means of a lovely small ferry.

The middle of Holland, also known as "de Betuwe", has beautiful scenery to offer: lots of water, fruit-trees and quaint houses.  In Breda we got stuck in a one-way system due to missing sign-posts, but after a few futile attempts we managed to find our way out and to the first camp-site.

The following day we arrived in Zeeland, home to long, straight and very windy roads.  We tried to find lanes running along canals, which are usually more interesting, but these tended to be suddenly blocked or turn into a muddy track.  Oh well, at least we tried.  We had better luck next day, with lovely country lanes and views, and eventually found a campsite at Middelburg, not far from Vlissingen.  The mopeds had behaved very well, only a few broken spokes - we found a garage/repair shop where the owner provided us with some spare ones, this taught us to never leave home without a few spokes.

Getting on & off the ferry was a bit nerve-wracking; lined up between all those cars and trucks, having to use horrible flimsy-looking ramps and trying to find a place to park.  I was scared I would end up in the water.  On board we secured our mopeds as best we could with the ropes and blocks of wood we were given - they were obviously intended for much larger vehicles.

Eef and Nanda's Puchs on the ferry
Eef and Nanda's Puchs secured on board the ferry (Photo: Nanda Wijngaarden)

After a pleasant crossing we arrived in Sheerness where, after disembarking, we were stopped by Customs who had clearly never seen a pair of dishevelled-looking Dutch travellers on old Puchs before.  We were asked a lot of questions: "how long are you over for; what is your home address; what are your jobs; do you use any substance that might influence your riding ability?".  We managed to give the appropriate answers and convinced them we were not dope-smoking, homeless layabouts, but two seemingly sane people who actually enjoyed riding these strange contraptions, so we were allowed to enter the UK!

Later on the tour

(Part two of Eef & Nanda's Great Adventure was scheduled for publication in the April 2007 edition of Buzzing - but the editor lost it and it never appeared.)

First published, February 2007

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