Normally I have to review my website to establish when my previous blog post was written so I can correctly title my post. This time, I remember clearly my last blog post. It was my last day before leaving Asia and taking my boat to Europe, it felt like a very monumental day for me, it was, but today feels much more significant.
After 15 months of travel on this eastern land mass of Europe and Asia, I leave today and return to my own Western Hemisphere. I’m writing from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport awaiting my flight to Argentina. I just concluded a week with my mom in Amsterdam and an emotional goodbye as she returned home on her airplane. Last week was another emotional goodbye as Henry returned home again, this time with no plans to join me again. Now, I head to my final adventure South America.
Tonight my flight will take my to the southernmost city of Argentina, Ushuaia. This is a city from which arctic scientists and explorers sail to Antarctica. I’ll be along the same waters Magellan sailed over in his passage around the world and along the southern tip of South America back in the early 1500’s. Fitting for my bike, Victoria, named after Magellan’s own ship.
That’s my update for what’s to come, now I’ll share my experiences since leaving Turkey.
This last month and a half has not seen to much cycling. A quick overview before I get into the specifics, I took the ferry from Fethiye to Rhodos, Rhodos to Crete, Crete to Athens, cycled the Peloponnese, ferry to Ancona (Italy), train to Zurich, cycled to Freiburg, Germany where I spent two weeks with my friend Mattis, FlixBus to Amsterdam, cycled the Netherlands, picked my mom up from the airport.
So I took the ferry to Rhodos the day after my last blog post, I was intending on staying at a hostel for a few days, but was insulted by the European hostel prices with the Euro inflation and with my standards still being set on Turkish Lira prices. Anyways, the hostel in Rhodos was 19 euro, so instead I cycled the coastline of the Island in search of a place to wild camp for a few nights. I got some spaghetti and a few jars of tomato sauce and left the main city in search of a temporary “home”.
8KM of cycling later, I found a small sea cave in a Mediterranean bay. I removed my panniers and scampered down the volcanic like rock into the cave whilst holding by bike on my back and my panniers in my arms.
I spent a few days alone in this sea cave along the sea, but not totally alone. I was just hidden out of view to the bay and in this bay, the tourist group ships would always stop for a swim. When I saw a ship come in I’d strip down to my underwear and swim out to the ships as I saw the tourists jump in the water. I figured with it being the first stop on these tours that the captain’s would likely not recognize all their passengers and let me on the ship without question. This assumption was correct. I’d climb up the ladders onto these yachts without conflict and use the upper decks as a diving board and then make friends with English speaking tourists and then kind of disappear into my cave as the boat would start reloading passengers. It was the PERFECT way to have a free private stay on the clear Mediterranean and enjoy the yachts
After a few days of spaghetti, sharp rocks and sunburns, I decided it was probably time to leave my Rhodos home, I got my bike out of the cave and started back towards the ferry port to go to Heraklion, Crete.
The ferry was a brutal 12 hours from Rhodos to Heraklion. I read the alchemist in one sitting, and then explored the ferry and admired the small island towns we’d stop in.
We arrived in Heraklion at 1am, and again, I didn’t want to pay for a hostel if it’d only be for half the night, so I went to a construction site along the ferry port and slept there during the dark hours. I got up at sunrise and went to the Heraklion Hostel. After about a week only bathing in salt water, I decided it was probably best to just bite the bullet and pay for a bed and a shower.
The first night at this hostel was really funny, my travel stories spread quickly amongst the guests and I was invited to a dinner with a big group of travelers. I almost felt like a keynote speaker, everyone around the table was asking me all sorts of questions and listening to me so intently.
The majority of that group left the next day, with only a few people left. We all went to the beach and I was swimming with two gap year girls from Vancouver named Anya and Luna, who were planning on going to Amsterdam the same weekend I was supposed to meet Henry. After a few days hanging out with them we decided to share an airbnb in Amsterdam to save money on the ridiculously expensive Dutch hostels. This time, I’m not being dramatic. A hostel in AMS is $50!! My return home to American prices will not be easy…
In my final night in Heraklion, I walked down to a wave break on the sea around 1am. Standing on this break was incredible. The waves were roaring on this night, and the height of the waves mixed with the pitch darkness out to sea made it so hard to see anything. You just had the sensation of the salty sea smell, the wind and the waves crashing over the break right in front of you. With the exhaustion of staying up till the middle of the night, this experience was so surreal it was almost like I was living in a dream.
I left Heraklion on another long ferry, this time to Athens. Luckily, this one was an overnight ferry, so I only had a few conscious hours to kill.
When I got off the ferry, I went west from Athens to the Peloponnese. With one day back on the comfortable EuroVelo routes, I made it onto the Peloponnese peninsula and started my seaside. I spent a few days riding and camping along the beautiful coast, cooking over fires, sleeping beachside under the stars and endless swimming. O
ne night I even had a small earthquake. It was a magnitude 5.2 around 3am, luckily I slept through it. It woke me when it began, but I just felt a bit uncomfortable, not realizing it was an earthquake. If I had recognized it, I would have been terrified. My feet were one meter from the ocean, and if I felt an earthquake I would’ve thought nothing other than “tsunami”. I only found out about it the next day when I met some other cycle tourists who told me it had happened.
My paradise ride was short lived. Now that it’s the final year of my trip and I’m only 19, this is university application time. My deadlines were all around Nov 1, and I wanted to be somewhere with secure internet and free to be able to do these applications. On my paradise ride, I was spending my nights doing my applications in my tent just uncomfortable with unpredictable wifi. This stressed me out a bit too much, so I decided to text some of my European connections to see if I could stay with someone for a while and complete my apps.
Some readers may recall my friend Mattis who I met in Nepal. I described him as a very likeminded person to me. Another big adventure guy, who loves to get out in the world and have raw experiences, like me. I decided to message him to see if I could stay with him. I basically said, “Hey man, if I could get to Freiburg in 3 days could I stay with you for 1-2 weeks?” He responded to me almost immediately and said “Of course, but I don’t start school until Monday, so I haven’t actually moved into my apartment yet, you’re welcome anytime after Monday.”
So Mattis was starting his first year of school in Freiburg and moving into his one room dorm and invited me to move in on the same day as him, most people would be too stressed, but not Mattis! I had such a good time with those two weeks living on the floor of Mattis’ dorm. It was the perfect place to do my university applications too, because I was living in student housing, eating at university cafeterias and hanging out with all these students.
It took me a few days to reach Freiburg from Greece, but the timing worked out perfectly for his move in. I took a 24hr ferry from Patras, GR to Ancona, Italy and then a train from there to Zurich where I started cycling towards Mattis.
On that first night in Zurich, I came off the train at night in a rain storm. And of course, no hostel in Zurich for Adam, because I will do anything except pay for things in a country as expensive as Switzerland. So I found a spot on my map that looked promising for wild camping, but when I arrived, two tents from cycle tourists were already there. I put my bike by theirs and fell asleep under a bench that had good rain cover.
In the morning we shared trip stories. These guys were Taiwanese cyclists who were planning on cycling Europe for a few months, then sending the bikes home and going backpacking in South America. Recently they messaged me and told me that after hearing my story, I inspired them to change their whole trip, and now their. Plan is to cycle all the way home to Taiwan.
Between my applications and Mattis’ classes, we had tons of outdoor excursions, lots of hiking, biking to France a few times, cooking delicious dinners, but my FAVORITE was when Mattis took me mushroom hunting in the black forest. He told me that back when he was at home, he and his dad used to go foraging a lot in the woods near his small town. We hiked up and town forested mountains for hours not finding anything, until the last 15 minutes when Mattis identified two BIG stone mushrooms and I found another BIG sponge looking one.
We got home right around dark and made a mushroom sauce to go with a classic German dish from Mattis’ region called Maultauschen (I do not know how to spell it, but that’s my best guess) and we shared the dinner with our neighbor and friend in the housing named Jakob.
It had been a long time since I’d last seen Mattis in Kathmandu, but we clicked right away again, now hopefully he’ll come visit Minnesota and I can show him our woods.
Did manage to convince Mattis to join me on the Flixbus to Amsterdam where I met Henry, Anya and Luna again. Mattis and I arrived at 9PM the night before we could check into our airbnb and during our time in Freiburg, he became very intrigued in my ability to stealth camp in major cities, so we decided not to book a hostel, and just try to find a place to hide and sleep in Amsterdam.
After getting off the bus, we walked into the city center and checked out the city and bought some Amsterdam goods ;), then we walked until we found a secluded park and hid behind some trees. The plan was to sleep without shelter, but as we were walking it started raining, which obviously, makes stealth camping a lot harder. We had to find a really hidden spot to set up my tent. We ended up on a little peninsula park along a lake that had no lights and we set up the tent there and set our alarms for sunrise, so we could leave before getting spotted.
In the morning, Mattis walked to the train station and I got on my bike to get to our Airbnb. Check in was at 2pm, so we spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach. Spoiler alert, the North Sea is not like the Greek beaches. November in the Netherlands is COLD, and the water in the North Sea is COLD. So in honor of the land of Wim Hoff, we got into the sea, dunked, had our genitals go back into our bodies and then ran as fast as possible to our towels on the shore.
The five of us had a great weekend exploring the Amsterdam area. Com Monday, Anya and Luna continues their travels and flew to the UK and Mattis returned to Freiburg for classes. Henry and I had a few extra days in the city before his flight, so we caught up after our month apart and we got to meet up with our buddy Jelle who we cycled across Europe with last summer.
On the 2nd of November, Henry flew home for good. A bit poetic to be flying home from Amsterdam, since this is the same airport we flew into at the start of our trip together. So after a total of 6 months traveling with Henry between his first leg with me and this one, he has returned home with no intention of returning. Time for him to begin his adult life.
A few minutes after Henry’s departure, I left Amsterdam as well. I had 9 days before my mom was flying out to visit me, so I decided to really see the country my trip began in. I spent those 8 days riding from Amsterdam to Groningen. Before you say, “Adam, Groningen is not that far from Amsterdam that you’d need 8 days.” It was SO WINDY I mean seriously, what the hey Netherlands! I was averaging 30KM per day, because he wind was so STRONG, I was basically just freezing my ass off on my bike and the sun was setting before 5 everyday. Of course, it was a very beautiful country and the flatness helped, I had one hill to go over a highway.
I liked the green-ness of the Netherlands, so many farmlands across this country, most of them being grazing land for cows and horses like the photo above, in the part I saw at least. I also appreciated the fact that in most towns they’d have a forested park just outside of the limits, this is where I slept every night of my NL tour, just these little forest parks. Because of the early sunset, I was getting to camp around 3 every day and just hanging out in my tent or hammock cooking and reading through the evening.
I returned to the Amsterdam area the night before my mom’s arrival. We booked an Airbnb in a medium sized town outside Amsterdam called Haarlem. I picked her up from the Airport on the 11th and we had 6 days to spend together before our flights.
We spent our first day just exploring Haarlem. With my mom’s jetlag on the 7 hour time difference, we decided to have a chill day walking around the city going to shops, catching up and playing our favorite game, Rummikub.
On day 2 we went to Amsterdam and walked the city together for the day. With the suggestion of some other dutch cycle tourist friends who she met on her trip, we went full tourist with our cameras and fanny packs walking Amsterdam going to flea markets, monuments and exploring the recommended neighborhoods from our friends.
On day three, we decided we had to give mom the dutch bike experience, so we rented a tandem. When I as a kid, my family and I would cycle tour and my mom and I always shared a tandem, so it was fun to do that again, but years later. We cycled out to the sea where we were met by a huge crowd of people. Coincidentally, the dutch version of Santa Claus called Sinter Klaas was in the town that day, so all the kids and parents were crowded onto the beach for Sinter Klaas’ arrival.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking the beach and ending with a picnic at the same beach bench that Mattis and I waited on to check into the airbnb a few weeks prior.
Day four with mom was another day in Haarlem. We explored the city center a bit more and did a tour of the medieval church in the square of the old town. In the evening after the 4pm sunset, we played lots of Rummikub. Mom ended up beating me BARELY by 5 points after countless games, when I return home, I’ll have to claim the title.
On day 5, we met Jelle again. Now Jelle is my only travel friend who has met my mom, it was fun to have my travel life and home life collide. We walked around Amsterdam with Jelle, doing a canal boat tour, eating some oriental food and then in the afternoon we decided to go to an ice skating rink and we ended up skating for hours, until it was dark and we had to go home.
When we returned to Haarlem it was time for me to get my bike box for the airplane as we neared our departure date. I went to a bike shop and used their tools to swap out my tires, chain and cassette in their shop. The guys working there loved my story, and they were happy to let me use their tools. They were all really fun guys, I ended up going back a few times and talking with them a bit. To all my dutch readers, if you need repairs near Haarlem, go to Django’s and say Hi for me.
And then it was the last day :(. Neither of us had really packed all week, so we spent this day organizing gear and packing. We finished by the afternoon and spent a few hours in a coffee shop afterwards talking about life. In the evening we did a nice night walk through the canals on Haarlem before playing a last round of Rummikub and heading to bed. And in the evening after finishing Rummikub games, I started applying also to summer jobs back in the states. It’s strange thinking about commitments back home as I continue my travels, but fun.
This morning I dropped her off at the airport, her flight leaves in one hour and I’m waiting in the airport all day for my evening flight to Ushuaia. It was such a good time having her come out here to visit. Seeing her at the airport really made me realize how long I have been away from home. Time goes by fast as you’re on the road, and to have that person from home come out really puts the time in perspective. I’m happy we had that time together, sad it was so short, but now I’m on the last part of my trip, so I’ll see her soon enough.
And now I wait. I leave this part of the world today, said goodbye to my mom today, goodbye to Henry last week. Now the final adventure begins.