The DunesI’m starting to get worried. We’ve been peddling for over an hour now. I’m wasted. How far have we gone? I’ve seen a lot of milestones, all in Dutch of course: 3km . . . 5km . . . 8km. Scary numbers. We’re still cycling toward the dunes and ocean, and I’m thinking, wow, how many miles ahead? I’m also thinking, I am going to have to peddle all this distance going back. A rest on the beach will help, if I can make it to the ocean.
Terry’s peddling happily ahead, in his late 30’s and indefatigable. He seems a very source of energy, always in motion . . . seeing things, and doing things that require energy. He paraglides, goes to Columbia every year to train. Becomes almost poetic when he talks about it. Catching thermals, soaring with birds. It has become a fine art, finding thermals, watching birds for clues, which way the weeds are blowing. He’s been saving up to buy an outfit. Wing and harness cost a couple thousand, minimum – more if you can afford it.
I can see a dune. A small one. Minutes later we’re surrounded by a sea of them, most partly covered with a blanket of with tall grass, and brush. This was a battleground in world war two. The Germans were here, and a heroic woman, Hannie Schaaf. ‘De vroun met die rode haar.’ The woman with the red hair. She led some kind of Dutch resistance and they fought here in these dunes. It must have been a fascinating battle – hide and seek, and if I find you I will kill you. Germans found more than 400 of the Dutch . . . and Hannie.
Miles of this stuff, small, gently rolling hills and dips and weeds and brush and sand. Some battlefield.
It’s all uphill now. We have come to a long, upward slope. A very long slope.
“Hey!” I signal terry. “Got to walk up this one,” I dismount, and he gets off his bike. We make our way up to the top, and there’s the ocean. Very cool. And all downhill now.
Terry pulls a bedspread from his pack. We spread it out. He strips down to his bathing suit. “I’m going in.” His housemate challenged him to do this dip. “It’s bloody cold. Want to go with me?”
“I don’t think so.” It feels wonderful to lie here, on this blanket, in the sun.
“Kids do it.” Terry points to one that has been having a great time in the ocean since we spread out here. “Well . . . I’m on my way.” He gets up, and I watch him walking to the ocean, and into the ocean. He does pretty good. Full submersion for an adequate amount of time, eight or ten minutes. He comes back to find me basking peacefully, and happy – painless. Trying not to think of the ride back.
“Why don’t you take your shoes off?” Terry asks. “You’re like an old Chinese man.”
This is kind of funny. I like the idea of an old Chinese man. I don’t want to take my shoes off because I don’t want to get sand in my socks. Sand filled socks inside my ankle high, leather shoes on the ride back –not good. A few minutes later I take ‘em off.
We lay there, nodding off now and again. It’s warm, but not hot, perfect weather. Terry eats some fruit we brought with us, and I consume a couple croissants. Two hours later, we head back. It’s nice to coast down that long slope we walked up coming in, but I’m dreading this ride back. My ass is killing me. I try to shift my left thigh to the seat and then the right, cycling in a skewed, sideways position. I try peddling standing up. No way.
Terry has stopped some fifty yards ahead of me, points to a tulip farm. It’s more or less obligatory for tourists to take at least one photo of tulips, and one of windmills. I did windmills last year.
I’m not into tulips, but it’s nice to stop . . . get off my bike.
Eight minutes later it’s all over. What a wonderful surprise. Some kind of short cut. We are back , the railroad station. I’ve survived. Another hour will find me back in Amsterdam.
Part 4 Next Saturday – The Red Light District