2013/09/07: 85 km to Fockbek
The rain seemed to be easing as we rode into the centre of town to buy a cycling route map. It is so pleasing to walk into a book shop here in Germany and be faced with an entire rack of maps specifically for touring cyclists.
As we left Flensburg, new map in hand, rain drummed heavily and thundered growled. I suggested we wait out the worst of the weather at a convenient gas station which also sold coffee, but Chris was set on keeping moving — so set, in fact, that I couldn’t be bothered to argue. We’d moved less than a hundred metres when the rain became even more intense and we cowered in the lee of a tree. Seconds after we’d taken cover, there was a loud crack – a jagged bolt of lightning struck ground about 15 metres away from us. It hit the automatic barrier of a parking lot, causing it to short out and flip open. This was the closest either of us has been to being struck by lightning.
“You were right” said Chris. “We would have been better off staying at the gas station.”
We continued south on what was still called the Oxen Route, now known as Ochsenweg, and followed sandy trails we shared with riders out for a gallop through spruce forest. In Fockbek we found a pleasant hotel and fell into bed after eating bowls of pasta.
2013/09/08: 96 km to Glückstadt
We’d had quite a bit of Hærsvejen/Ochsenweg since Frederikshavn, and had decided on an alternative final approach to Hamburg which would give us a straight and simple ride as well as a change of scenery. We made our way to the canal that provides a shipping short-cut across northern Germany from Brunsbuttel on the North Sea to Kiel in the Baltic. Called the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal when it was first built, and later known as the Kiel Kanal, it is now the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal.
There are only a few bridges over it, but lots of small free ferries. We took the latter five times as we made our way to the huge locks that connect it to the Elbe at Brunsbuttel. All shipping traffic seemed to go in one direction; the size of the vessels is such that two cannot safely pass, and there are signal towers along the bank that indicate traffic direction. We assume these change periodically, possibly in time with tides.
After watching huge lock gates open and close in Brunsbuttel, we made our way along the Elbe to Glückstadt, parked ourselves at the hostel, and dove into town for pizza.
2013/09/09: 66 km to Hamburg
We waited till mid-morning at the hostel and eyed the horizontal rain. It was wet and dirty ride along the river dyke path, but at least we had a following wind. We were greeted with a view of the back ends of sheep that like to position themselves bums-to-the-wind.
I mention “dirty” ride. The bike path is smooth asphalt, but it traverses sheep pastures on the grassy levee by way of a series of gates and cattle (sheep) guards. The smooth asphalt is heavily littered with sheep droppings, and these have been softened by the rain into a viscous brown paste that is thrown upward as we ride through it, coating everything it lands on. Lovely stuff.
Many of the cafés are closed on Mondays, but we continued past floodgates and over swing bridges, finding somewhere open for knockwurst mit pommes before entering Hamburg past its fish wholesalers’ warehouses.
We celebrated our arrival with coffee and tiramisu, having closed a 6,400 km loop since leaving here in May. After uncrossing various crossed wires we connected with Carsten, who gave our panniers a brushing off before we brought them into his apartment. We placed them carefully in the bathtub where, after removing contents, they were thoroughly hosed down.