DAY 5 – We woke up a bit late as we intended to have a day off after four(!) days cycling in a row. Surrounding our tent were a few other tents which belonged to a group of English folk touring in their van. As we lay in our tent, I heard pop and the whole tent moved. I thought someone had tripped over a guy rope on our tent, and thought nothing more of it.
When I got up I saw the front of two tent poles was in a V shape, rather than the rounded shape it should have been. I thought that it may have slipped which would have explained the pop noise we’d heard earlier. I took it our to have a closer look, and found that one of the links had broken off, rendering the tent unusable in it’s present condition, as I feared it would rip the fabric of the tent if left as is. I was pretty pissed off to say the least, especially with it being Sunday, as I didn’t hold much hope of finding a camping shop open.
After a bit of deliberation we decided to postpone the day off and make our way to the larger city of Utrecht and stay there ready for the shops to open Monday morning and buy a replacement pole.
We packed up and cycled the 25km into Utrecht, arriving around 3pm. ON arrival our first task was to find somewhere to stay the night. As luck would have it, as we searched for the Tourist Information office, a passer-by struck up a conversation with Yami.
It turns out that the passerby was Astrid, a keen cycle tourer herself who had travelled in South America by bike in 2007. She asked about our trip and mentioned Warmshowers, (similar idea to Couchsurfing, but for cycle tourists) and straightaway offered us the chance to stay at her house for the night. We gratefully accepted her invitation, and arranged to meet her later on in the day as she was headed to a presentation at that moment.
We passed the time looking for food and appreciating the lovely city of Utrecht, and people-watched as the masses congregated in the bars and restaurants which line the canal in the city centre.
Around five-thirty we met up with Astrid who showed us to her house and made us feel welcome as she cooked us dinner and regaled us with hints and tips for our trip as well as stories from her 11-month 13,000km tour in South America.
Astrid made some phone calls to see if any of her friends along our route could host us for an evening, and even made us some Dutch style pancakes to finish off the night! We were amazed and thankful for her generosity, and delighted that a day which started badly with the tent pole snapping had turned into a day where we received the warm hospitality and generosity of a stranger.
If you are reading this, thanks Astrid!