Day 9-1. Højer to Esbjerg.Distance D 84.9 km Max 30.0 km/h Time 5.50:32 Average 14.5 km/h
Distance S 85.2 km Max 32.5 km/h Time 5.24:41 Average 15.7 km/h
We didn't quite get the good night's sleep we had hoped for. As Damae wrote in her diary " Life started earlier this morning. We both woke up to a thunderstorm at 5am and jumped out of bed to put the guy ropes in. It was a cracking and groaning thunderstorm and it was a bit scary. Fortunately it didn't come our way" Our previous experience with Danish thunderstorms had been of high winds and torrential rain, which is why we got up and pegged out the guy ropes. Our tent was also in the middle of a field, very close to a taller building. We were a little concerned that if the storm hit that we were not in an ideal situation. In the end the worst didn't happen but we didn't get back to sleep.
The upside of this was that by eight thirty we were packed up and ready to go. We left the sports field and retraced our steps to the centre of Højer. At the end of the road we found the toilets next to a car park, which were open and made good use of them. Before we got going I took a look at the junction to check if there were any street signs. There weren't so I took a picture of the junction for future reference and just in case anyone else wanted to know where the free campsite was in Højer.
Now it was time to get going. Our plan for the day was to try and get past Esbjerg. We were not as tired as we expected and as we cycled through the town we realised we had a tailwind again. We stopped to take a photo at the same spot I took a picture in 2006. When I got back I noticed that not much had changed in three years. Now that we'd found a sign is was just a question of following them. A left turn by Højer Saab and shortly after our first bit of gravel road for the day. This was followed by a short section of tarmac before we left the road and picked up another gravel section. As we cycled past farmland the combination of morning sun and clouds lit up crops in the fields and trees in the distance creating a curious effect. This bit of gravel road was not too bad, it was old enough that two lines of hard packed gravel had appeared in the middle of the track. This made life easier although the gravel turned back to tarmac after a couple of kilomtres.
After a short climb and a turn past a large farmhouse we came to a T-junction with a main road and turned right. We passed the Hjerpsted lay-by, (the sign was more picturesque than the parking spot) and carried on up the road to Ballum. At the side of the road we noticed two curious buildings in a state of minor neglect. They reminded me of the natural delapidation that is common in Belgium and France. Those roadside buildings that still serve a purpose but for some reason don't deserve a lick of paint.
With the wind behind us we raced up past Ballum and shortly afterwards picked up the cycle track that nestled behind the dyke. We both remembered this section from 2006. It was a nice flat section with a good surface and several sets of double gates. As in 2006 we had a tailwind and as in 2006 we bemoaned the fact that we had to waste the tailwind and slow down every couple of kilometres. The double gates were more difficult to pass this time as vegetation had grown across some of them. We weren't really worried about the gates though, but behind us there was something that was starting to concern me. A huge grey storm cloud had appeared since we'd started and it was moving North. It looked like one of those storm clouds that would bring torrential rain and worse still it was travelling faster than we were. It would only be a matter of time before it overtook us.
Luck was on our side today as the storm caught up with us just as we reached Ballum Sluse. Here there was a small sluice gate housed in a brick building and we found a spot huddled up against the North facing wall that gave us a lot of protection from the rain. It didn't stop us getting wet but it did prevent us from getting completely soaked. We stood there watching the storm shower build and then die back a little. I hopped out of our shelter to take a picture of the bikes against the backdrop of angry storm clouds. It looked like it was clearing up, but appearances can be deceptive. After ten minutes standing in the rain the storm finally passed over us and headed North.
The good news was that we were not going to catch the storm up, the bad news was it looked like another one would be along sometime soon. For the time being we kept on our rain coats as there was still a stiff breeze and we were a bit wet. We chased after the stormclouds past worried looking sheep. A little later we saw a sign offering lamb for sale. Perhaps that is what made the sheep a little restless.