Day 8

The day's route (49 miles):

And the ride to date (414 miles):

Today was the first real test of my German. Over breakfast, I looked on for a place to stay that night. Nothing seemed to be available quite where we wanted it, but I found a small hotel a bit further inland that would do the job.

You could book it online, but it didn't take payment. As far as I know, when you book in that way, all it actually does is send an email to the hotel or guesthouse. I don't entirely trust that system when no money has changed hands, so wanted to call them to confirm that the booking was in their system, and to check they could find garage space for our bikes.

The guy who answered the phone claimed to speak no English at all, so the entire conversation was conducted in my comical broken German. It's amazing how much you can communicate with a tiny vocabulary if you try hard, and how much you can comprehend when understanding only one word in four of the response. Mission accomplished.

We also plotted our route. Basecamp didn't believe in the existence of the Glückstadt-Wishhaven ferry, where we planned to cross the Elb, and wanted instead to take us on a 100-mile detour to cross it much further upstream. No problem: I would put a waypoint on one side of the river and create a route to that, and a waypoint on the other side and create a second route from that to our hotel.

As soon as I put the first waypoint in, however, Basecamp looked at it and went 'Hey! I've just seen there's a ferry there! Let's use it!'. It still wanted to take us 56 miles instead of Eric's cycle route of 45 miles, but it was an improvement.

Since we were now running around a day ahead of schedule, and we would on a later day be cycling past a series of islands and one barrier island, I thought it would be fun to find out whether there were any options for a spot of island-hopping. I enquired at reception, and was told there was a ferry to one of the islands, but as far as they knew it wasn't possible to get to any others from there, and the strip of land leading to the barrier island had no road or cycle path but had a train and we could take our bikes on it (not that he'd seen mine ...). That sounded like a reasonable plan.

We checked out. The hotel and dinner had been our most expensive of the trip, at €130 each, but it wasn't bad value with the excellent food and wine.

We'd cycled downhill to the hotel last night, so I assumed we'd have to cycle back up again tonight as it had appeared to be close to the end of the road, but both GPS units said to turn right and carry on down the hill, so we trusted them and did.

We were soon continuing through greenery.

The route took us alongside the Hadelner canal. I fully approve of routes that follow canals, as they very rarely head uphill.

It was a very pleasant route.

For a while. The surface then deteriorated.

So things got rather slower for a mile or two.

For anyone travelling by boat instead of bicycle, there was a handy tip showing the wrong way up for an anchor.

But finally it came to and end, and we found a stretch of road with a decently-surfaced cycle path alongside it.

Leading to some equally nice roads that could have passed for a Dutch cycle path.

All very scenic.

Eric's GPS told us to turn left, through the forest. This was very pretty indeed.

Unfortunately, the route was paved with more evil bricks.

I suggested to Eric that as well as programming his GPS to avoid highways, he should also tick 'Avoid brick' and 'Avoid fields'. I later added a request for 'Avoid headwinds'.

Much of my spine still functioned at the end of the forest.

We hadn't seen much in the way of tea emporia of late, and we could see some somewhat ominous-looking clouds.

We turned our attention to looking for a tea-stop. We found one snack hut, but it turned out to have no tea! This was the first crisis of the holiday. We had a coffee, then headed on.

The clouds grew darker and closer. We were about to bypass a tiny village when some drops of rain fell. The village looked like an unlikely place to find anywhere, but we decided to look anyway. I spotted a tiny sign to a cafe, which led us to this.

Within a minute or two, the heavens opened.

We were glad to be inside looking out at it. And this was a civilised place, with both tea and cake.

The clouds moved on, as did we, taking care not to catch up with them.

We passed quite a few barns and farm buildings with solar panels covering the entire south-facing roofs.

We timed our arrival at the ferry perfectly, boarding within a couple of minutes of arrival.

The ferries do an impressive dance. We think there are four in total, and one arrives as the other is leaving, each doing a 180-degree piroutte in the process.

The ferry journey was windy! We decided a bit of shelter and tea was in order on the far side.

Ok, and a snack.

Then it was back onto a decent cycle path - but with a headwind. I don't like headwinds: they are a very ill-considered invention.

More impressive solar panel acreage.

And the usual collection of pretty houses.

That's not very welcoming:

Lots of wind-turbines.

Sited there for very good reason.

But eventually the road turned right and we got a quartering tailwind for the last little stretch to the hotel.

And while the search for a hotel with space for us had taken us slightly off-route, the mileage was pretty much bang-on for our target of 50 miles a day.

It seemed my German had worked: the receptionist said I'd spoken with her father, and he had said we could use one of the garages for our bikes. She didn't know which one, but he would be back later and in the meantime they'd be safe parked behind the hotel. Which appeared to be the case as I left my GPS on the trike and it was still there when I went back for it half an hour later.

The room was basic but clean and comfortable - more the guesthouse standard we were generally aiming for. The shower had plenty of hot water.

Our snack on the far side of the ferry meant we wanted to eat a little later than usual, and the receptionist assured us that while it was a small town, this was not a problem. We opted for a nearby Italian.

The owner did see us coming, managing to sell us two of his expensive specials of the day, and a bottle of red that was twice the price of anything on the (modest) wine list. However, the wine was extremely good. Can any of my Italian friends tell me more about it? For some odd reason, it comes in a hugely thick bottle, making it seem much larger than a standard bottle of wine, but is in fact the usual 75cl.

Our 414 miles total meant we were roughly two-thirds of the way there. :-) With our accommodation-mandated detours, we were no longer a day ahead, but still looking comfortably on-track.

On to day 9