The morning after. Everything soaked.

The morning after. Tent still upright.

The weather has improved. This is good news. Even better is that my camera battery survived the storm in the night, wrapped up in a ziplock bag. My shoes didn’t do so well though: despite being wrapped thoroughly in a large rubbish bag, my shoes feel suspiciously heavy and before putting them on I pour enough water out to make a small puddle on the floor. Squelch to the unheated shower hoping that’s not the way the day will continue.

Dyke racing.

Dyke racing.

We leave a bit earlier than the previous day, in sunshine, and with a strong tail wind. Everything looks great although we all know we’ll probably get at least one soaking by lunchtime. We’re following dykes again. I’m fascinated by these as they are almost unheard of in the south, certainly on this scale. They provide a dual purpose of protection against the river and a flat means of communication between villages, and all we have to do is stay on the top and they bring us where we need to go. Or that’s what we think until the road stops abruptly in a farm. We see a group of walkers appear from behind a woodland, and the path they are using appears to be bikable . More to the point no-one wants to ride against the wind so we manhandle the bikes straight down the bank -I’ll say this for the Bakfiets, it has good brakes- squeeze through a wood, and find ourselves under a signpost for the Rhine bike way. Unfortunately we annoy the walkers who don’t hear the bike bells, and shout at us that we should whistle. That’s a new one.

Soaked again.

Soaked again.

We cross flat countryside and roll through small villages with brick built houses which still remind me of the UK. We’ve learned that the showers are short lived, and we’ve been soaked and dried off so many times in three days that no-one even mentions it when a particulairly violent squall hits when we are about a kilometre away from the nearest cover. True to form, the sun emerges straight after the rain and we’re dry in minutes. I suggest to Alex I could have saved myself a shower if I’d known. He grins.
„I’m sharing a tent with you, so I’m glad you didn’t know“

Fair comment.

Blast furnace as village ornament

Blast furnace as village ornament

Duisburg creeps up on us. We’re riding through a picturesque village when we turn a corner and there is a blast furnace at the end of the street. A few kilometres later we reach the river once more and suddenly we’re in one of the centres of German heavy industry. Duisburg exists by an accident of geography. It’s where the Ruhr meets the Rhine.The Ruhr isn’t the biggest tributary of the Rhine, in fact it’s the 6th largest, but when the only option was hordes over some pretty steep hills, it made a handy route across the north of the country. The fact this link also led directly to the longest river in Western Europe, giving access to the sea and the cities to the south was an even greater bon us, so so there has been a harbour in Duisburg since records began, and probably long before. In the 19th century someone a few kilometres along the Rhur noticed that if they dug down a bit, there was lots of coal for the asking. Coal is heavy stuff, so this would have been of limited use, but with a but with a nice big river to take it away on, there was money to be made: the Rhine/Ruhr area became the centre of German heavy industry, and Duisburg, at the junction of the rivers, thrived.

Why Duisburg exists Ship followin Rhine, Ruhr joining in centre.

Why Duisburg exists. Rhur meets Rhine.

More recently the city has become known for its enlightened approach to cycling infrastructure, as we cross the Rhine into the city we find ourselves on the sort of infrastructure that you dream about when following narrow painted ‘bike lanes’ through the door zone: segregated from traffic, bright red, wide and clean. Even better, we get a great view of the point where the Rhine and Rhur meet, so we stop for a few minutes to look at the meeting point of these two rivers which have affected the history of Germany so much.

A real bike lane. Alex ignores it.

A real bike lane being ignored by Alex.

A few minutes later I lose a foot. Not personally you understand, but from the Bakfiets. I stop to take a photo, and when I lift the stand the foot falls off onto the road. On closer examination it looks like the bolt holding the foot was overtightened and split the rubber. The bike wobbles a bit on its stand without the foot but that’s the only difference, well, that and the fact that for the rest of the journey my progress will be shown by small scratch marks wherever I stop. I’m literally making a mark wherever I go.

Edge of the Rhineland

Edge of the Rhineland

We get a lot of time to appreciate the infrastructure in Duisburg, mainly because we get lost. I don’t know what it is with cities on this trip, we don’t seem to be able to leave without making a grand tour. After following the road we think is correct for several kilometres, we stop to ask for directions. The pedestrian we meet is helpful and gives detailed advice, but clearly can’t understand the map we’re using, which leaves us none the wiser. Finally after some more asking around we meet a restraunt owner who not only tells us where we are (on the Rhine cycleway) but also how to get out of this maze of streets and south. It doesn’t look promising. We end up on a road bordered by some pretty shabby apartments on one side and a massive steelworks on the other, but then we cross the railway, go through some woodland, and suddenly we’re in fields again. Duisburg has stopped as suddenly as it started.

And out in the fields again... Long way to Düsseldorf though.

And out in the fields again... Long way to Düsseldorf though.

However, all this getting lost and then finding the way means it’s now mid-afternoon and we’re a long way north of Düsseldorf, which itself is north of our campsite on the banks of the Rhine. Either we have to ride through one of the biggest cities in Germany in a few hours, or we have to try some wild camping.

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