Day 9-3. Højer to Esbjerg contd.
We then pushed on North towards Esbjerg. We realised that we were not making such good progress as before lunch. It was not just down to a post lunch dip but due to the fact that the wind was changing direction. At the same time the cycle track was changing direction. The coast turns to the West as it approaches Esbjerg and the wind was turning from a Southerly to a Westerly. To add to our difficulties, showers kept on overtaking us. Some were very light others brought driving torrential rain. A half hour after leaving the restaurant, in the middle of a heavier shower Damae suffered a puncture in her rear tyre. A small piece of flint penetrated the supposedly puncture proof Smart Sam. I muttered about there being some sort of puncture guarantee on these tyres and grumbled a bit. As it was raining it took a little longer than normal to find and fix the hole. Damae was happy to accept my offer to fix her puncture this time, usually we fix our own. Even so, it took fifteen minutes before we were on our way again.
Most of the time we had a little bit of shelter because the cycle path was behind the dyke. A couple of occasions we had to cycle up to the top of the dyke and experienced the full force of the wind. This wasn't fun any more as the wind was now buffeting us from the side, but there was nothing to do but carry on towards Esbjerg. An hour after Damae's puncture, during another heavy shower, I noticed that my steering suddenly got much heavier. In the few seconds it took for me to stop, my front tyre had deflated. "Ho hum" I said (or possibly something a bit more colourful) and started removing my Ortliebs from my bike. Of course, just as I finished the repair and had put my bags back on my bike the sun came out.
Our spirits were raised a little as we enjoyed the warmth that came with the sun. Which was good as at Store Darum we turned West, into the headwind and started the final push into Esbjerg. Along the way we passed 'villages' of holiday homes next to man made lakes. The surface of the water was dark and agitated. Damae was struggling a little this afternoon and I waited for her to catch up a couple of times.
Apart from two short sections where the cyclepath went North we had little respite from the gale. There was no escaping the fact that the rest of our day would be spent cycling into a storm force headwind. At ten past four we climbed to the top of the dyke for the last time. I stopped to take a photo of the view and struggled to keep myself and the bike upright whilst using the camera. I was glad to get off the dyke and out of the wind, even if it didn't make cycling much easier.
Our average speed had plummeted since lunch. Near Tjæreborg we popped out on to the main road and encountered a dour Dutch couple on bikes both with a full set of yellow Ortlieb bags. Neither of them said anything audible in way of a greeting when we said hello so we carried on our way. We had enough to do without trying to make polite conversation with fellow cyclists who were not the least bit interested.
We crossed another road to find a sign telling us that Esbjerg was nine kilometres away. It was a hard slog. The NSCR goes up round the North side of Esbjerg on some rather uninteresting urban roads and progress is punctuated by slow traffic lights which didn't help us today. Damae was struggling quite a lot by now so it was a bit of a relief when we stumbled upon a Nettorama supermarket. We did some groceries, we needed food and it was a good way for Damae to warm up a bit and take a break from being blown about in the wind.
The next section, which turned out to be the last push of the day, was very slow. There was no way of reducing the effect of the wind by sitting behind each other as the wind was just too strong. It was like a long climb in Norway, and we struggled to maintain eight kilometres an hour. The bigger gusts of wind knocked our speed below five kilometres an hour and made it difficult to stay upright. We'd left Kammerluse at two o'clock and according to the cycle sign Esbjerg was less than thirty kilometres away. At ten to six we passed the large sculptures "Mennesket ved havet" which meant we'd averaged around eight kilometres an hour during the afternoon session. This was partly due to the headwind, and partly due to the two punctures.
Even after doing groceries we'd still entertained the vague idea of trying do a few kilometres more up to the free camping spot at Broeng. But by the time we reached the sign pointing to Ådalens Campsite that wish seemed like a stupid idea. It was now past six in the evening and the weather was not improving. It was time to stop. All we wanted now was a quiet sheltered campsite with a kitchen and warm showers.