Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rondje Gelders Rivierengebied - Day 2

Groesbeek is unusual for a town in the Netherlands: it's hilly. The highest point is 90 m above sea level, no big deal but for Holland that's significant. Excavations show that Groesbeek (GROOZ-bake) has been inhabited since Roman times--according to the text on the knooppunt marker board, which also tells me that wild orchids bloom around here in June, turning the fields pink.

Had breakfast with Ingrid and Rob, walkers from Leiden, also staying at Mevrouw Janssen's place. It was raining so they decided to call off their walk back to Nijmegen (4 to 5 hours, they said). But it's stopped and now the sun is out as I sit here in the woods west of Groesbeek listening to the birds. This Sunday morning the forest is lousy with racing cyclists, also runners and one horse rider galloping along. Have that lovely feeling now: Sunday morning, bike journey ahead, no hurry.

Woods west of Groesbeek. 

Conversed with Mevrouw Anna Janssen, a 70ish woman with dyed hair, friendly and chatty. Her late husband, 15 years her senior, constructed a series of sheds in the rear garden where Anna now deposits her stuff. "People say that's where I make my hashish." She says it was the Belgians who started the idea of the knooppunten system, but the Dutch rode with it. 

Rondje Gelders Rivierengebied - Day 2 (ANWB map)

Rode down through the woods from Groesbeek. Quite lovely though also very busy and the trail is narrow. I found myself amongst a group of seniors. They moved briskly enough but slower than the norm. From the opposite direction came groups of racers at top speed. (The racers ride through the woods on mountain bikes and get splashed in mud.) We emerged at a valley down to the River Maas with relatively spectacular views. Then it was a precipitous descent behind the seniors ending up in the hamlet of Plasmolen: groups of holiday makers in matching track suits. 

Cuijk skyline
Crossing the Maas at Cuijk.
At Middelar, I lose the seniors and follow a sunny country road toward Cuijk (sounds like cowk). I reach the big river and take the ferry across (€0.60), then find the continuation to pt 72 is blocked by construction so take the footpath past it. A museum in Cuijk, the Museum Ceuclum, "housed in a 500 year old tower, presents the history of Cuijk based on archaeological finds, documents, photographs and drawings." More evidence of Roman occupation here.

De naam Ceuclum is ontleend aan een Romeinse wegenkaart. 

Defending his turf. 

Here's one of the hallelujah bits: west of Cuijk along the Maas river. Serene. Pastures and fields form the banks. Goats graze along the bike trail. One is coming toward me now--he just stood before me and began to complain in a low moan. Sounds of DJs wafting across the river from some community--70s disco, the gold standard of coolness among that lot.

Industrial interlude. 

Outstanding apple pancakes at appropriately named Herberg De Pannenkoeken, a cafe in Linden. This is the gateway to the Kraaijenbergse Plassen, a series of lakes from which sand is dredged. The day has become schizoid, an alternating litany of overcast cool breeze and bright warm sunshine. Ingrid and Rob should've reconsidered their walk. Ingrid seemed like the kind of person who makes a decision about something -- for example, that she dislikes New York -- and sticks to it. What's funny is that when I told them I came from New York, Rob commented that Ingrid "likes New York." Perhaps he has heard her views about it so many times he decided to present it ironically as a change of pace. Boston she likes though. And they've been to Linden, the little Dutch community north of Bellingham, Washington. Is this village the namesake? But there must be hundreds of Lindens, named after a deciduous tree with fragrant yellow blossoms. There's one in New Jersey too, isn't there?

Welcome to Linden.
Cycled by the lakes to point 66, then headed back over to the Meuse/Maas, a peaceful stretch with a steady wind rustling the reeds and riverbank trees. Well, it's delightful! And practically deserted-- occasional group of six or eight oldsters in V&D jackets, all riding top-of-the-line Gazelles. I nod to them. They may disapprove of my headphones which I put on at the previous urbanized zone. I'd rather hear music than car engines.

Dutch cyclists tend to travel in large groups. You rarely see a solo cyclist unless s/he's been dislodged from the group. A pack of motorized bicycles just buzzed by me. These black monstrosities have an engine upon the front fender. The riders wear a joyless expression.

I thought I had read that Grave had some nice historic buildings so I ventured off the knooppunten route (en route to pt 3 which didn't show up on my map). It wasn't that interesting so i kept going, following the signs, not to a specific point but the "fiets netwerk." I figured this meant it would direct me back to the numbered points. Instead it directed me to the village of Velp, which I couldn't seem to get out of. Finally, after maybe an hour of wandering, I found a town map and with the aid of my trusty compass, got back on the route, toward point 19. The wind had picked up a lot and it took a considerable effort to climb up to a dike, which shot like an arrow through fields of grain.

A bend in the Meuse. 
Now I seem to be back at the Meuse, looking at a sort of sand extracting contraption as the wind buffets me. There's a lot of sand around here, and it's good sand--it can be used to make quality concrete. At Ravenstein, where the highway crosses the Meuse, there was a big outdoor party going on, with a band playing contemporary rock covers, for some kind of marathon that had taken place earlier.

Approaching Megen.

The wind has dropped considerably, and the fietspad again skirts the river. At Denem, there's a ferry across the Meuse to Batenberg. Not much else to say as I approach Megen, my destination for the evening, except that the last bit was really nice. As usual, nothing spectacular but so serene. I like that the fietspad is separated from the road by a row of trees. To the right, newly planted fields descend to the blue strip of river. It goes on this way from Ravenstein to Megen. It's pure pleasure.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful ride. Its great to see your photo's which allow us to see this part of the world. ..It may not be the same as being there, but it definitely allows the reader to imagine they are. Such nice roads and bike paths to travel on.