Nijmegen – Escaping Holland

Emily Woodhouse Adventure Stories, Big Adventures, Cambridge to Plymouth via Switzerland

You get here when?”

“About lunchtime…” I felt like a schoolgirl trying to dodge a telling off.

“When you make your lunch?” Teacher was having none of it.

“About 1-ish… 1 o’clock.”

The middle-aged Dutch lady with ashen blonde hair and a dark tan frowned archly, “Hmmm I was here then.”

“We came and there was no one here, so we went again.”

This was completely true. We’d arrived earlier in the day, probably a bit early than 1 o’clock… maybe an hour earlier. But the campsite was completely empty. There were tents and caravans, but no one to be seen.

“Yes, but I live in – you see house over there?” She made a knocking gesture, “When you come – if you make stay again, you…” She trailed off as she realised just how unlikely this was to happen

“… We’ll come knock on the door and let you know,” I assured her, using an earnestness I usually reserved for hassled parents at university open days.

It had been quite a day and I felt as drained as if I’d been up since 5:30am being ridiculously enthusiastic about university life and trying to appease every whim and apologise for even the most minute problem – whilst taking campus tour groups until my feet hurt. We’d arrived at the campsite early, so that we could pitch the tent and leave our belongings somewhere, before riding into Nijmegen. Much easier said than done, of course. The campsite had been desolate – regardless of what the landlady said and on the way to Nijmegen we’d accidentally strayed into Germany. As soon as we crossed the border, all dutch cycle network signs stopped and we found ourselves on the equivalent of a dual carriageway, cycling on what we hoped wasn’t a pavement. Luckily this took us past a large “Wilkomen” sign, so we were back in the Netherlands before we reached Nijmegen.

We did try some sight seeing, but our sights consisted mostly of the inside of two disconcertingly fancy mini-marts, the contents of the fruit basket and the carbohydrate aisle and then several hours locating and disseminating a map shop. We had, if you remember, embarked on this trip with a pack of maps for Holland and a ferry ticket. That was it. Neither of us had a smart phone nor a GPS nor, for that matter, any other navigational aid. The intention was to buy maps of the next country as we reached the border – and here we were already.

It was a long game of dot-to-dot before we found a shop with any maps in it. From the town centre, we found a shop that looked outdoors-y and asked for directions to the next best guess and the next… until we eventually ended up in an ANWB shop that seemed to be a cross between WH Smiths and Halfords. In the back corner, behind the shelf of travel guidebooks, there was a small selection of maps. Not, unfortunately, anything of a useful scale or of a useful area combined. There were plenty of road atlases, a selection of the Dutch cycling network maps and loads of country size maps. But nothing like an OS map which, really, is what we were hoping for.