Here comes our last blog entry relating to our current project for the time being (with a flu-induced three-week delay). On Saturday, 12 September 2015 – it was one of the last splendid summer days – sponsors, friends and family came to Hof Narr. We took the opportunity to thank all our supporters for their fabulous help, to look back on our trip with a slide show in the hayloft and to answer questions. The day also offered the welcome occasion to meet all two- and four-legged inhabitants of Hof Narr from close up.
Ever since Rotterdam we want to get on board one of the freighters and travel upstream for a while. However, the opportunity never arises as it is not so easy to get close to these ships. This is why we use the last possible opportunity and get on board your average passenger ship, which takes us the roughly 20 kilometres from Basel to Rheinfelden. We pass two locks (a real experience for the passengers) and the chemical plants Schweizerhalle.
Strasbourg is great. We behave like proper tourists, ask for vegan food everywhere and take pictures of foie gras and chicken with their heads still on in shop displays. There is a square called «Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait», the «Suckling Pigs Square», which of course does not refer to Flying Piglets. Despite such irritations the city exudes both a wonderfully relaxed and stimulating atmosphere, a place to live.
On our way upstream we come past the chemical plant Dormagen, the former Bayer plant. Since 1917 chemical factories have established themselves there and nowadays 10’500 people work in some 60 companies on an area of 360 hectares. We immediately think of the thousands upon thousands of laboratory animals, dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, mice amongst others who suffer in the labs of the chemical industry.
Ever since our departure from Ambleside (cf. picture above) we’ve had a bird in our luggage whom we are getting out now – with a fair bit of nostalgic memory of the beautiful landscapes and the wonderful encounters with animals and humans – as a little quizz. Who knows what this talented bird is called? If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to post it as a comment below. The first three to get it right will get an extra chocolate muffin on 12 September on Hof Narr… ;-)!
After England and Holland the change in the communicative climate in Germany is rather noticeable to us. Never since the beginning of our trip in the Lake District have we come across so many grumpy faces. People tend to be curt and our smiles are seldom returned. On the big square in the town of Rees an elderly couple crosses our path. Hinting at our loaded bicycles they enquire about where we’re heading. Both of them have travelled to Switzerland before. The man remembers an episode on Lake Geneva: At Chateau de Chillon an American apparently declared, shaking his head, that he really could not understand why they would have built the beautiful castle so close to the motorway. Some Germans do have a sense of humour after all…
After our arrival at the port of Amsterdam we make our way out of the belly of the ferry amongst huge juggernauts, cycle on past halls in which fish is traded. Later on we fly through peaceful, partly wooded dunescape. On our way, we come across a herd of highland cattle freely walking the paths and grazing on the surrounding fields. On the horizon, a westerly wind sweeps the sand across the dunes.
The last leg on the Coast to Coast Route takes us from the hamlet of Rookhope in the North Pennines up a steep hill to Stanhope Moor and past the sparse remains of the highest ever railway in the UK which, from 1846 to 1923, transported lead from the local mines to the Tyne river, amongst other things. The tracks have long been removed and the former line now provides a superb gravel cycling path.
We want to spare you all the cycling nerd’s talk, but nevertheless share some of our impressions over the last few days with you.
We set off from Ambleside at the northern end of Lake Windermere and, after tackling the most challenging ascent yet, Kirkstone Pass, left the Lake District heading for Penrith.
Along the way we admire a herd of young, black and white speckled bulls. After a little hesitation, on of them dares to approach and sucks on Gabrielle’s hand. It appears that they are being fattened for meat. Opposite their field we discover the vehicle fleet of a livestock haulier’s company…