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Well this is certainly a rather late blog post. I’ve neglected these posts due to a particularly busy period at work but I finally decided to get off my backside and catch up on some writing. Before jumping into the write up of my latest excursion I’ll give a quick update on one of my long term projects…

I’ve successfully gained Irish citizenship and gotten myself a lovely new passport! Whilst I’ve done this for numerous reasons it does, within the context of this blog, re-open the doors to one of my favourite countries, Iran. For the last year the restrictions on British tourists has been ramping up and up but now I may be able to make a return trip some time. I plan to do a big write up of all the ins and outs of claiming your Irish citizenship, based on having an Irish grandparent, but will leave that for another day.

In my last post I mentioned my intention to longboard from Paris to London. In the end I changed my plans and ended up moving the trip to the much more suitable cycling infrastructure of Belgium and the Netherlands…

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After spending the best part of 12 hours squeezed into a bus from London to Antwerp, courtesy of a £10 ticket, I pushed off North East on my way towards the curious town of Baarle-Hertog. Due to a dispute between two lords many a year a go the town of Baarle-Hertog has fallen foul to the unusual problem having international borders zig zagging all over the place.

There are even instances of the borders running through houses and bars resulting in Patrons having to finish their drinks on one side of the premises due to differant alcohol licensing hours.

My first encounter of this circumstance caught my by surprise. After stopping to take a photo of the border, as I crossed from Belgium into the Netherlands, I realised that I must’ve already crossed in as I was now in fact entering Belgium again and leaving the Netherlands…

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As I skated the next 10km into town I genuinely lost count of how many times I crossed the border back and forth. This was not helped by having decided to attempt 50km on my first day and I ended up taking very regular breaks as the soles of my feet began to suffer.

I’d done a decent amount of training for this trip (including a 50km day) but nothing prepares you for the real challenge of carrying a decent pack on your back. I’ve got some big ambitions regarding my longboarding (more details later) and will certainly need to put more hours in!

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In the end I just brought a light weight running back pack, the Haglof Gram comp 25, filled with a couple of sets of clothes, a rain jacket and some other bits and bobs. The pack is lovely and light and will come in useful on a few running adventures I am currently planning. I had intended to bring camping gear but decided against it due to a poor weather forecast for most of the trip and also not having trained enough with a pack on.

After a few more km I rolled into Baarle-Hertog, crossed the border a few more times, and checked myself into a B&B. I almost had nostalgia to the days I cycled across China with my friend Stephen Cunningham. I hadn’t felt the fatigue like we had done averaging 100 miles a day in Western China until I lay there in bed having just skated all day. I managed to drag myself to a nearby supermarket to pick up some supplies and treated myself to one of my favourite beers which I also hadn’t seen since the fancy bars of Shanghai…

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The crazy borders were even visible from my room. You can make out a dotted white line in the picture below which moves out into the centre of the road before abruptly turning 90 degrees and storming off down the middle of the street. The walk to the supermarket had me cross the border 3 times, hell if I was keeping count I could now claim to of visited Belgium nearly 50 times!

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The following morning my legs were feeling dreadful, but with the familiarity of 300 mornings on the bike trip, I pushed off down the road on legs made of rubber. The cycle paths in this part of the world truly are amazing, I hardly spent any time sharing space with cars and certainly got some rather scenic routes…

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I’ve no photos from the next couples of days as I passed through the city of Breda as the forecast rain materialised and came down hard preventing me from taking my camera out. After arriving in the city soaked I was dismayed to find the hostel didn’t open for another 5 hours and ended having to go way over budget on a hotel so that I could get myself dried out. I had slightly better luck the next day as I headed towards Dordrecht passing by the countries famous windmills, both old and new along the way…

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If you’ve been thinking about taking a cycling holiday, but have concerns about the safety of such a trip, then I can’t urge you enough to consider the Netherlands. In my week of long-boarding there this was probably the “worst” cycling infrastructure I went along and it was absolutely fantastic…

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I was glad to find that this short little jaunt across the Netherlands retained many of my favourite things about the big bike trip to China last year. All to often do we plan our holidays as whistle stop tours of the finest sights of a country without taking the time to see what the rest of the place is like. You’d be forgiven for thinking Amsterdam was the only city in the Netherlands filled with canals, but as Dordrecht will testify, there are dozens of towns dotted across the whole country with picturesque town houses gently leaning over the waterways…

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Whilst planning the trip I’d marked a few cycling oddities on my map such as this dedicated cycling tunnel spanning the full width of the river through Rotterdam…

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As well as various other cool installations such as this large convex mirror on the outskirts of the city…

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I arrived in Rotterdam with every intention of taking in everything the city had to offer but had succumbed to fatigue by this point and settled for a stroll around the city and a slap up meal in a cafe with a few more lovely Belgian beers.

It dawned on me that I hand’t actually worked out how far the ferry port was from the centre of the city and was shocked to find I had another 35km to go in the morning to catch my ferry. A perfect cycle path stretches the whole way flittering back and forth through forests and along the waterfront. I won’t lie, this sounds like a lovely end to the trip, but by this point my feet were on fire with the punishment they’d taken over the last five days and I was glad to roll onto the ferry.

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After a slight delay, due to the passenger in front of me being arrested due to a false passport, I was checked into my deluxe cabin. I’d splashed out a bit as it would be my birthday in the morning and I’d wanted my own TV to try and follow a bit of the UK election.

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If you plan to take the ferry over to the continent I highly recommend taking the sleeper ferry between Harwich and Hoek van Holland. Worth every penny.

So all in all would I recommended longboard touring as a way to travel? I reckon so. It offers a nice halfway house between hiking and cycling. It’s far more physically gruelling than cycling but getting yourself up to a decent speed on a longboard and keeping it going for several hours is significantly more satisfying.

So what else do I have in works? On the endurance front I’ve caved in to the trends and signed myself up for a triathlon this September as well as the Windsor half marathon (which I hope to complete in 1 hour 45 minutes). I’ve found a bit of a new passion in running which has been fortunate as it seems to help and not hinder the ongoing Aductor Tendinopathy issues I’ve been having which are nearly completely mended.

I’m still keeping up the cycling and have signed myself up for a 24 hour cycling challenge on the iconic Brands Hatch race track in September. I’ve got 24 hours to cover as much distance as I can and I’m setting myself the goal of covering at least 400km. My personal best is 250km when I was in China so hopefully this will be achievable! I plan to make the 24 hour challenges a bit of a theme and have my eyes set on a 24 hours longboarding event on the summer solstice of 2016 in Amsterdam.

On more of a travel note I have a trip planned to Romania this year which will result in blog post about what is a rather misunderstood country, particularly here in the UK. It may seem like I’ve reigned myself in a little bit on the scope of my adventures but I’ve got a big plan coming together for early 2016 that will involve a bit of a long run…

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