I had wanted to go to Texel, an island off the North-West coast of Holland, it was on my list. But the list has been adapting and changing as we get further into our van travels round Europe.
We had had a few problems with the van that meant detours or hanging around in places until things could get fixed. The fridge had not been working, a part of our exhaust fell off whilst driving (it did sound a lot quieter after), and the van had also been leaking oil rather badly for some time.
It took a while to find mechanics for the repairs. Everyone Craig had called was either too busy or decided they didn’t speak any English/just didn’t want to help. We found a guy to fix the fridge who, after we had spent a couple days in the area waiting to be seen, took all of five minutes to blast it with an air compressor to get it working again before lighting up a cigarette and sending us on our way again. But yay for cold gin and tonics again!
We found another mechanic further on who agreed to look at the van for the other repairs. It meant driving past where we’d catch a ferry to Texel. But it had to be done. We had spent a couple nights at a free stop near the garage. The mechanic had seen the van Friday and been so kind to rearrange their schedule and see us the next day. He even lent us a small car on the Saturday to drive around and accomplish a few mundane living tasks; food shopping and finding a laundrette (which is harder than it sounds… 45 minutes of driving in a triangle until we found somewhere).
It was hard waiting to hear from them. Our whole trip depends on the van being able to function. It is our transport and our home. We drove about and hung out in various locations but our thoughts were with the worry of if it could be fixed and how much the bill would be. They had been in touch at lunch with lots of images and what they were doing, great service, but as the hours got later we were worried maybe it would take another day. It was getting to six and we hadn’t heard from them yet so we headed back towards the garage. They were, much to our relief, just finishing up. They had worked so hard and we were so grateful. And the bill was not too bad either!
That night both of us felt a huge relief. A relief that the van might live another few months. A relief it hadn’t cost the earth. And a relief we could get travelling again. So we decided to have a bit of an indulgent day the next day and head to one of the Friesland islands still within our reach. Sunday morning we headed off early to catch the ferry to Schiermonnikoog. The island is home to only 950 residents and you require a permit to have a car on the island. We took our bikes and sunblock.
Everyone spills out the ferry the other side, and you worry it will be crowded, but as everyone goes there own way further and further onto the island, you can easily find solitude. The cycle paths wind their way through marshland and heather in the middle, and past dunes and huge beaches on the farthest side from the mainland.
We stopped near one of the bigger entrances on to the beach along this side. There were so many bikes parked up that again you worried you would be in a crowed area. But, as you stepped onto the beach, you realised there was no worry of this. White sands, dunes, and a sky so huge the clouds looked small in the blue that stretched off in all directions. The sea was off in the distance, like a mirage.
We settled around the dunes at first. Mabel loved climbing and running around, exploring the grasses, looking for bugs, digging in the sand. Just generally having that feeling of freedom that is so wonderful as a child. After a couple hours we wanted to cool down though so headed for the water’s edge. After a long journey (not necessarily because of distance, although it was rather far, but because walking with a toddler you have to stop every few paces to invesitgate a stick or stone or some other unidentifiable object), we were rewarded with the cool waves to run in and out of.
I loved it there, it felt like the perfect place to just be. Unfortunately a sea gull had eaten Mabel’s peanut butter and jam sandwiches while we were in the water so we had set off in search of food. And a nap was very much needed after all that running around (queue toddler tantrum at having a nappy change and being made to do, well, anything). She fell asleep while we cycled into the little town so we settled down in some shade and Craig procured a bottle of beer and small bottle of presecco from the local supermarket.
After some time had passed being idle we realised we were actually running out of time before the ferry to head back left. And we hadn’t seen either of the lighthouses on the island yet (the tourist thing to do). Well, we didn’t find them, we must have taken a wrong turn. But we did find the most incredible landscape before us. It was a beach, but you could not see the sea it was so vast. You could almost pretend you were on the moon with its surreal flat expanse of white powdery chalky sand.
It was a quick stop to drink in this view, we would never make it to the sea here. And then we cycled back to the ferry, back to the van, and got back on the road and back to our journey. Having gained some great memories and a bit of r&r from this amazing place.