'I didn't know you could rollerskate?' was the response from most people when I announced that me and Emily were skating across the Netherlands. Well, actually, I can't really skate! I dabbled in it about twenty years ago, but not recently. Emily had gone to a roller disco for her daughter's birthday party but nothing more than that.
While preparing for my run across Africa, me and my bessie buddy Emily figured it would be a fun idea to attempt a challenge which we both had no experience of. People often get the idea that doing physical challenges or adventures are activities for hardcore athletes or the Bear Grylls types. We wanted to disprove this...
I don't know if this was a truly genius way of planning things or a ridiculously stupid way to do it... but we basically just threw some thoughts together. Skating. Netherlands. DONE.
If you want to see how my first attempt at rollerskating went and the progress I made after a month of skating... here it is . You CAN achieve anything if you WANT to!
So, with our lack of skating prowess and shortage of funding, the beginnings of our adventure was decided. We were very lucky to secure sponsorship of the skates and safety kit from Shiner Dist. So the cost of our trip was instantly reduced.
After spending the least amount of time imaginable planning the trip and doing some training on the skates (one half of the team doing more than the other!), we set off. We drove to the eastern border of the Netherlands with a fully loaded little car and our one man support team. And we were off.
One thing we really wanted to show is that you do not have to be the most athletic person in the world to conquer a country-crossing adventure. We actually did get overtaken by the man on the scooter in the photo above!!
On May 22nd 2015, we began our journey starting in the border town of Overdinkle, purely chosen as the name makes us giggle. We quickly learnt various lessons about which road type is best to skate on and how it is represented on a map (learning by skating on gravel tracks!!). We were very fortunate to have chosen the Netherlands as they have an admirable system of cycle lanes.
The incredible thing about our spontaneous planning strategy was visiting and learning about a country that I would have never been to otherwise. I also tried out a new sport which I would never have ventured into. Along with exploring a new culture, we tasted new delicacies, one of my favourite aspects of travelling. You have to try stroopwaffles!!!!
Everything was going surprisingly well. We had set targets of short distances each day as we had no idea how far we could cover with our new activity and not knowing the surface of the roads etc. Setting our days out like this gave us more time to enjoy the country and spend time with our new friends we had made en route. On average we were covering approximately 30kms a day, which turned out to be just right.
We had fantastic weather most of the trip, we even had a trip to a beach. I had no idea that the Netherlands was a secret beach holiday destination. The local people we met were super friendly and welcoming too. I recently found out that this tulip smothered country is in the top ten 'happiest countries in the world' list.
Well... everything was going well until I fell into the road on my skates and seriously hurt my ankle. I don't think I have ever injured myself so badly. Which is pretty surprising considering how clumsy I am.
I was still able to skate, in fact skating was easier than walking as there was less pressure on my ankle joint. Not wanting to end the trip I continued skating with Emily but applying ice to my ankle at every opportunity.
(A quick trip to A & E when I got back to Manchester showed that I hadn't broken my ankle but had seriously sprained it which it turns out can be much worse than a break.)
Aside from falling in the road, physical conditions to be expected from a roller-skate adventure include sore butt-muscles, tingly feet and legs from the vibrations of your wheels, and an array of blisters. But these pains are balanced out by the joy of gliding along smooth flat roads with the wind in your hair and eating lots of stroopwaffles!
Through the whole trip we spend zero pennies on accommodation, and at no point did we have to rough-it in the elements. We used 'couch surfers' and social media to find beds each night. This was a great way to get a feel for the country and its people. With our hosts we went to parties, art galleries, beaches, had meals with families, and so much more. We became part of their lives. I would recommend couch surfing to everyone.
The only money we spent on this trip was for food and transport. We found lots of cheap supermarkets to buy our food at, we booked our ferry tickets well in advance and we didn't have to drive too far as the Netherlands is pretty close. Thinking creatively, you could make your own adventure on a very small shoe string!
After seven days we had skated 210kms from Overdinkle (he he he) to Ijmuiden. As with all trips, there were easy bits and hard bits but we achieved what we set out to do and hopefully inspired others to take on their own adventure.
If you want to take on your own challenge but have doubts of your strength/endurance, or you are worried about finance or logistics, I really hope you can see from this trip that you CAN do it. If you have any questions feel free to contact me, I'm happy to help out.
What an awesome adventure!