A new chapter in our adventuring has begun, thanks to the incredible generosity of dear friends who own a holiday home in the rural regions of Switzerland where we have the privilege of basing ourselves for the next couple of months.
We’ve arrived at a junction in our lives and so too the seasons: Autumn is a special time of the year on this planet of ours and no more special than in the incredible beauty of the mountains of Switzerland where the air is cool, without being cold (yet!), the sun is warm, without being hot, the sky is blue and the air is cleaner than clean!
The contrast between where we are now and where we have come from is glaringly obvious on the geographic/altitude level: our beloved NL being the flattest and lowest country in Europe, the antithesis to the Alpine country of Switzerland! This got me thinking back to our last encounter with our oumafiets on a very hot evening – I am still a little reluctant to loosen my grip on these summer days…
The searing heat of the last proper summer days draws one naturally to water and in the case in NL where swimming pools are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth, the sea is the natural source of aquatic cooling. So it was that we decided to bike ourselves to our local beach, some 8 kilometers from our home. Not, as one would in South Africa, for the heat of the day from around 11am until one can no longer take the baking sand and blistering sun at around 2 or 3pm. In NL the afternoons are much hotter later and the evenings are longer than ever, so to set off for a beach swim after 5pm is not considered odd at all since the sun has only just passed it’s zenith around 3pm! (We went for the previous cooling dip after 8pm!)
Armed with a towel and a bottle of water we set off, having indulged in an ice cream treat with the younger members of our newly arrived extended family, and chatting as we pedalled along about how lucky we are that it’s so flat and requires very little exertion to get from A to B (complete opposite to where we are now!) We stopped to add a little air to my back tyre at the free pressure pump on the pavement of one of the bicycle stores in the main street. (an aside: one of the youngsters comments on the fact that this air pump was free and that no one had tried to steal it, as would likely be the case in South Africa!)
Clearly my knowledge of pressure pumps over the regular hand pumps is limited because all of a sudden there was an incredibly loud bang which had us both default to our SA roots and wonder who had been shot, only to discover that it was my back tyre that had blown out!
Darling, ever the gallant, cycled back home to fetch our trusty little 500 whilst I sat on the side of the road in the baking heat of the early evening, sweating like a sweaty old mare trying to find the shadiest part of the hot section of pavement where I waited with my beloved bicycle now looking like a wounded warrior.
Darling arrived and we wrestled the battered bike into the boot and headed home with a large portion of said bike protruding from the rear of the car.
Thankfully we had two spare bicycles for when our daughters are at home, or visitors are staying over, which we then adjusted saddles on and set off undeterred for round number two, two hours after our first attempt!
Arriving at the beach we were not surprised to find it still as busy as it would have been at the start of the day as there were an abundance of German holiday makers all soaking up the long, very hot, sunny Dutch summer holiday days.
The first wave of beach goers give way to the second, those being the clubbers.
Beach clubs are semi permanent buildings that line the beaches and provide food, drinks, toilets, shelter, comfortable seating, respite and shelter from the sun and heat in summer and the cold wind and rain in the winter. (Not all beach clubs are open during the winter months though those that are, provide a super cosy spot for a hot cuppa after a brisk beach walk.)
Pre-covid, these clubs of a summer evening would be heaving with revellers, all willing to pay a small fortune for a “bier, broodjt en borrel”, we’ve learned to take our own bottle of water, apple and crackers!
The North Sea does not inspire me to swim, not only because I’m not really a swimmer, but because it is flat, the water rather dirty and the beach mostly uninspiring, lacking the rock pools, tidal pools and coves that I have grown up with in SA. On a hot summer’s evening, even wading to hip depth provided the desired cooling we had come for and we followed that with a long sit on the sand, chatting, watching the fellow beach goers and enjoying the sight of the sun dipping it’s fiery red ball of self into the ocean for the night, that was after 9pm.
A much cooler ride home by 10pm sealed the end of our somewhat malfunctioning beach adventure with our next aquatic adventure taking place in the crystal clear, chilly waters of Lake Thun, Spiez, Switzerland…
Happy sigh as we add all this to our bulging memory bank!