Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rondje Gelders Rivierengebied - Day 3

Through the Maas & Waal heartland.

Breakfast with Ricky Rieter, my cycling friend in Megen. Like many people in this part of Holland, Ricky is a serious walker. (Nijmegen's biggest event is a four-day walking marathon, held in mid-July). A small woman in her 70s, Ricky just got back from an aborted hike from Salamanca to Santiago de Compostela, along the Ruta de Santiago--after 300 km, her sister's knees gave out. But Ricky has already walked from Megen to Santiago and wrote a book about her pilgrimage: Pelgrimeren, lopend stilstaanall. She's also walked all over Holland, including along the entire borders with Germany and Belgium.

Ricky Rieter, walker and author.

Ricky's book is not so much a blow-by-blow description of her experiences but is arranged by topic, mostly related to spiritual concerns, and it includes her poetry and drawings. Ricky is a highly spiritual person. As a young woman, she spent three years in a Clarissan convent, then left to marry and had three children. Her husband died young and she had to raise the kids herself, an experience that provided material for another book, Een breuk in de dagwhich she wrote under the pseudonym, Fransje Ingenriet. She also makes scrapbooks, using her Mac, that are quite similar to this blog, except they're about walking and praying.

Some of Ricky's books--all of a spiritual nature. 

I found the ferry on the north end of Megen (€0.70) and took that across the Meuse/Maas to Gelderland. (The Meuse is the border between the provinces of Gelderland and Noord-Brabant.) This path puts me right at the bottom of the Gouden Ham, a half-moon shaped lake and "watersports paradise." It certainly feels paradisiacal today: clear skies, bright sun, cool breeze, mid 60s. A more perfect day could not be wished for. The route has me skirting the lake, then heading north to the Waal river and east to Nijmegen for the conclusion of the three-day loop.

Lakefront houses on the Gouden Ham.
On the far side of De Gouden Ham, I saw some lakefront houses with cool decks along the waterfront and had to check it out, so I'm sitting on a wicker chair on the deck of one that's for sale. Toward Maasbommel, on the southwest corner of the crescent, there is a series of marinas crammed with big-ticket yachts.

Point 26, my last view of the Maas. 

At point 26: last look at the Maas before striking north through the Maas-Waal heartland to the "northern coast": the Waal, at point 81. To me, the Meuse is a southern river, as it borders on Noord-Brabant, the gateway to Belgium, and is thus a more Catholic land.

Maas to Waal - Day 3 route

It took no more than half an hour from "coast to coast," a luxuriant ride through rolling farmlands, corridors of eucalyptus rustling like a waterfall. So now I'm at the west end of my Waal journey. Practically no one rides through here on a Monday afternoon (just as I wrote that, along comes a cycling geezer). Yet this sunny day merits celebrating.

Barging out. 
The first section of the Waal has been magnificent. A generally broad path alternates between skirting the river and weaving through countryside along a raised dike, ancient brick farm buildings alongside. The river traffic is almost constant, generally long barges moving soundlessly save for a distant clank. I seem to be following the progress of a tugboat pushing two long rusted flat boats emblazoned with the word "Espera." A few mostly elderly cyclists and some walkers ply this route. At Druten, there's a ferry over to Dodewaard, which runs only weekends outside of summer.

Woudenberg: yacht & boat builder
East of Druten (point 13) the path veers away from the river though you can still see the barges moving behind the trees. It runs parallel to the N322, separated from it by a lagoon. This is a wonderfully serene, seemingly remote stretch with good views of the surrounding pasturelands from up on the dike. At point 15, past Deest, the path returns to the riverside. The whole region is an ecological treasure yet no one seems to know anything about it. 

Another flock on the Waal. 
The thing is, everyone rides bikes here: geezers, punk kids, wannabe babes, serious racers, the occasional middle-aged foreigner with headphones on. (I've been listening to the Meat Puppets. The gentle, pastoral vibe of Up on the Sun is very appropriate out here). 

Seniors going steady.

I can hardly believe I'm only 9 km from Nijmegen--nor that it's already 5 pm. This means 50 km is no longer a big thing for me. Of course the wind has been marginal and it's like a summer day. Anyway, I would recommend this cycling route to anyone, whether or not they believe in a higher power. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great ride! It has it all: nice scenery, friends, places to eat, and places to be by yourself. :)