|When we said we were cycling up the Rhine I didn’t mean literally|
We cross over the Rhein in search of a campsite that may or may not exist, and stumble across a stony beach. Lying our washing out to dry, we put on crocks and swimming costumes and wade in. Stuart first, into the wide murky freshwater. “Ouch!” he stubs his toe on something in the depths. A brief exploration pulls up two handlebars, followed by a bicycle frame complete with rusty chain and buckled tyres. He hops on to the bike and tries to pedal into the current. The kids all take a turn at posing with the bikes before a quick swim.
The party ends with a clap of thunder. “Let’s carry on up the Rhein,” says Stuart. “I don’t want to go up the Rhein,” says Cameron, a phrase he has been repeating for days. We quickly dress and pedal into the next village, which seems to be hosting a battle of the brass bands. Thunder competes with horns and drums as we push on, in search of the mythical campsite. Behind us, menacing clouds paint the sky. The horizon resembles a frozen tornado. ‘Boom, pedal, boom, pedal, boom boom boom,’ Lightening flashes in every direction, adrenalin pushes through our systems and our pulses seem to beat in time with the constant thunder. Still no rain, but no campsite either.
|Darkness descends in the afternoon and it can mean only one thing…|
Heading for the only road to have a halo of light around it in the black gloom, we pass through a nondescript industrial town. As waves of rain head towards our backs, we race on, into the trees. With seconds to go before the deluge, we pull the tent out of the bag. As Stuart puts the pegs into the ground and we grab the guy ropes, lightening flashes directly above us. The thunder almost bursts our ears as we pull Hannah out of the buggy and rush into the tent. Outside Stuart is caught in the monsoon, his clothes sticking to his body as he drips onto the tent.
|Once inside, calm descends while Stuart gets an unwelcome shower|
Inside, we calm a panicked Hannah, listen to the thunder, and eat chocolate while Stuart tries not to drip onto the sleeping bags. We laugh about Dad getting wet again. “I told you I was going to cycle up the Rhein,” he says. “But you haven’t,” says Cameron, reminding everyone that he has no intentions of doing such a thing. But soon the penny drops. “Oh, is the Rhein a river? I thought it was a mountain range,” he confesses, snuggling down into his sleeping bag. “I don’t mind cycling up the Rhein with you after all Dad. I like that river.”