the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (amazing race from cuba to holland) - fast forward to the following trip (arriving in London)
Day 21 - AmsterHoof
Arriving in Schipol we had to make like backpackers and find the train. The trip through Dutch immigration was very quick and easy, obviously looking at Hoof's dutch passport and seeing a fellow dutchy they waved us through. On the other side there was no welcoming committee, no parental units waiting... why not? Probably because I had the great idea to surprise them and they weren't expecting us for at least another day! The idea was to knock on their door and give them mini heart attacks from the surprise. Cause now we were in Holland, and we had to get from the big smoke of Amsterdam to little old Zwolle, a smaller city about an hour and a half east of Amsterdam. The train was the plan, so once we figured out where and how then off we went. It was only 7:30am and already we were weaving our way to Zwolle. It will be a relatively early surprise for the senior Hoof's.
Nothing too difficult happened on the trip and then we finally got to Zwolle, a smaller city which still has a big old church in the middle of the town centre, the central city area has no high rise buildings but is still true to how the town would have looked back in the 1700's - including a canal around the central town. Zwolle even has a market in the town square and around the church on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. It's a classic place and much more laid back than the more coastal cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
At 9:00am we arrived in Zwolle central station, disembarking and preparing for the hike to the senior Hoof's house - about 30 min's walk with our packs. Then after a few breaks for the Hoof'ess to get her pack off for a moment we got to 86 Forelkolk. Remembering that the senior Hoof's were not aware of our arrival we looked through the window to see any movement... nothing. We pressed the door bell and waited... nothing. So pressed the bell again and waited. We started to worry a little that they may be out... and the back up plan B was pretty average. It involved sitting in the back yard until they got home. Luckily it wasn't raining otherwise we'd have to formulate a plan C. Then we saw movement... sweet somebody was home. Mother Hoof came to the door with a surprised look on her face. "You're early". After welcomes she proceeded to inform us that because we were soo early she hadn't had a chance to tidy and organise herself.
After all catching up for a while we dumped our gear upstairs and sorted our stuff out... finally a real washing machine among other things. The Hoof'ess had a wee kip while the Hoof caught up with the family.
The travelling Hoof's on the left, the senior Hoof's on the right, and Hoofy in the middle
The day was pretty quiet, mainly catching up with each other. That evening my cousin Charisa turned up with her boyfriend. Given the Hoof lives in New Zealand, and all the family live in Holland this was only the 4th trip where I've caught up Charisa over the last 20+ years. Good to catch up.
Day 22 to 28 - Tales from a flat country.
The next seven days in Holland were going to be quality family time - with mum and dad Hoof, and all the rest of the family. Over these days there was plenty of sleeping in, talking, catching up, eating, drinking, and general chilling out. Needless to say there was much biking around Zwolle, a little shopping and general leisure. The joys of being unemployed and homeless, plenty of time to bike!
Another bike trip in Holland - no gears on the Hoof's racing bike, lucky there is no Mt Everest in Holland
Day 24 - It's a lot cooler here than Cuba! And where's the sun?
After a quiet day yesterday we now had a car, and were going on the hunt for Abel Tasmans home up north Holland. But first we went through a couple of towns which were only about 20 minutes drive north of Zwolle. These towns are certainly not on the main road, and 99.9% of traffic dodge these towns. They are kind like the Amish people in America, still living in a relatively old fashioned style. Since we were driving through the towns on a Sunday we were hoping to see them in their Sunday best coming home from Church - and our timing was spot on!
Traditional attire... the Hoof'ess was keen to check out the local shops for clothing trends
Having checked out some local dutchies in their Sunday attire we continued north to Lutjegast - Abel Tasman's home town. A quick translation - Lutje = Little. So this was going to be a little town. The place was in the middle of nowhere, and Holland ain't that big. After a little tiki touring it became clear this town lives for Abel Tasman, its not on the entry sign but that's about it. There was a large monument in the middle of town, and just down the road a plaque from New Zealand. There is the path to Abel Tasman Pad, the Abel Tasman Cafe, the local Church with various Abel Tasman related bit 'n' bobs, and the list goes on.
Welkom to Lutjegast... don't blink or you may miss it!
Hoofy was excited by all this Abel Tasman stuff
And a monument from New Zealand for the 350th anniversary of Abel finding NZ
After a full day at Lutjegast, or perhaps more like 45 minutes, we were off again looping around to the west so we can check out the Ijsselmeer and head down to Lelystad, a relatively new city built on a man made island developed in the 70's - however you wouldn't know it now as its packed with dutchies. After another 45 minutes of driving along the motorway we came to an abrupt stop at the beginning of the bridge. Gotta love Holland and its draw bridges, even on motorways. After waiting a while the traffic started moving again and the Hoof went on the hunt to see what had required the motorway to be lifted up... but couldn't see anything. The tallest thing sailing anywhere near the bridge was a small sailing boat... surely they didn't open it up for them?
One thing about this "new" island, its bloody windy...
These are along one dyke protecting the island, and many more in the other direction
Once we got to Lelystad the senior Hoofs were taking us to an outlet shopping mall... kool Hoof'ess thought... getting a bit sick of the few clothes that fits in her pack. However when we arrived it was smaller than we imagined, thinking that a country with around 18 million people, and given the large nearby city of Amsterdam, we imagined that the regions major outlet shopping mall would have much to offer! However we had been around the place within an hour, with the Hoof'ess only carrying one bag. We didn't have much funds anyway so was probably a good thing! The bag did contain a Ralph Lauren jersey which the Hoof'ess was very happy with.
Then the plan was to go to a pancake restaurant. Mother Hoof had a pancake restuarant in mind but was struggling to remember how to get there. She said "if we on the bikes it would be fine, but don't know how to get there in a car". Must be in Holland... bikes, bikes and even more bikes. While driving back trying to figure out where we were going we saw a sign on the side of the road...
A random sign in the middle of nowhere, all there was around were fields and trees
As you can see this looked like an interesting pancake house, with dwarfs and mushrooms on the sign. This wasn't any normal pancake restaurant, but a kids pancake house. Kids... this could be fun thought the car full of Hoof's. So down we went, the tarseal finished and we drove down a increasingly narrow gravel road. Leaving the paddocks and entering an area of trees, a nice small nature research and in the middle, the dwarfs house! Driving up to it, the place could be nothing else but a kids restaurant - built to resemble Goldilock's cottage. Just didn't see the three bears with porridge. Inside lived up to outer buildings expectations... there was a model train racing around the ceiling, dwarfs everywhere and a huge playground out the back.
Goldilock's cottage... Hoofy was too afraid of possible Bears to come out of the car - so just us
Day 26 - Surprise Oma!
Today is Hoof's Oma's 83rd birthday - so we were taking the car down to Rotterdam and decided on a detour to check out Rotterdam port and go a wee boat trip. Rotterdam is a relatively new city as it was all but flattened during WWII - and its port is massive. We boarded the boat in the centre of Rotterdam, and the tour took us 8 kilometres through the port towards the coast past various different port facilities including massive container piers, ship yards, dry docks, a dock where they are restoring an old dutch cutter ship, past the Maas tunnel and Euromast and then turned around and came back. The amazing thing is we travelled 8 km past continuous port facilities, and when we turned around we were still 25km away from the coast and the port covers the entire stretch to the coast. There is 5 oil refineries, acres of containers and oil/chemical tanks, and more ships than you can poke a stick at. In comparison Auckland airport looks like a lego playset.
Best to see the port from the water - Hoofy put his life jacket on as cows aren't great swimmers
Hoofy checking out the Erasmus Bridge with the draw bridge up
There are sooo many containers here at Rotterdam, and they expect volume to double over the next 20 years - Hoofy just couldn't figure out where they will all go! Maybe they can make another new island!
After the trip around Rotterdam port we continued to the town of Oud Beijerland which is where Oma lives, about another 30 minutes south of Rotterdam on another man made island. Oma did not actually know that I was coming so we stopped by one of my Uncles and caught with him and a couple of my cousins before it was times to head out to the Pancake restaurant which was fully booked out to fit the family. In fact the place was going to be full even though not everyone was going to be there!
We turned up just before the car with Oma drove up and parked. Hoof loitered in the carpark with about 10 uncles/aunts/cousins and greeted, hugged and chatted as most I hadn't seen for 5 years. Then Oma got out and gave my father a big hug. She didn't really see me initially. Rather she actually thought I was one of my uncles who wasn't going to be there. Then I stepped up and Oma suddenly realised who was there... I don't think I've seen someone as surprised ever in my life! Happy birthday Oma.
Hoof and Oma at her 83rd Birthday. And this was the first time Hoofy had met Oma!
This is the the majority of Oma's family, booked out the entire restaurant to fit them all in and there were even more who couldn't make it!
It was a great night catching up with family and didn't hit the road back to Zwolle until about 11:30pm - after plenty of hours of trying to understand dutch, and translate various conversations for the Hoof'ess. We got back to Zwolle at about 2am and crashed.
Day 29 - Planes, trains and automobiles.
Early train into Schipol meant an early get up, 6am may not be early for workers but it was early for backpackers. Easy run into Schipol and we were right on time for the start of check in at Easyjet. Yip, that right - the old favourite budget airline as seen on tv - aka Hardjet. Having secured a good spot in the queue we waited for the check in counters to open. The weird thing with Easyjet is that despite having about 6 check out people standing there doing nothing, they wouldn't start checking people in until an exact time. So we waited, then when the time came up everyone rushed forward. With a little shuffle and twisting we managed to be in front of a check in counter with only 2 people in front. Then nothing... we all just stood there. Apparently the computers went down... sounds like the 'Airport' tv program. Eventually (25 mins) they got it going and we were checked in as group A. The next interesting piece for Easyjet is you don't get an allocated seat, rather a boarding group A/B/C/D. Being A group we'd get first dibs on seats in the plane... sweet! If you were in group D you could end up in different places in the plane, one seated in the front and one in the back! Fun. Also they don't give you a gate number until 30 minutes before departure. You have to wait in the main duty free area until the gate number is announced, then you can hoof it down to the budget airline pier to your gate, better described as a holding pen.
Anyway, with 30 minutes to go before departure the gate number came up. We weren't keeping a close eye on it so was running a little late and had to go a long way to get to the budget pier - it was in the far corner, stuck right down the back of the airport. Obviously the second class of the airport. The computers being down earlier had a greater effect than we thought - it had taken down Luton where the plane was coming from and caused about a 30 minute delay.
Once everyone had boarded the pilot proceeded to inform us of why the plane was late in a typical english accent. The plane was running 30 minutes late and he mentioned its impossible to catch up that much time on such a short flight but also said "we'll be spanking the plane all the way back to England to catch up time". Spanking the plane... half the plane cracked up and the other half sat shocked not knowing what to say or think. A little humour certainly eased the mood!
Soon after we were up in the air and off towards the UK... London baby!
Off to London!