Up early fortunately. I am excited about this cycling journey. The weather forecast is unrelentingly good. Nothing's going to stop me now...
|Getting out of Tiel|
It's very hot as I sit in front of a section of the river called the Waalproject, just east of IJzendoorn. It's an "overnight port."
"The Waal is the busiest river in Western Europe, the main artery to the port of Rotterdam. Each year 150 million tons of goods are transported across the Waal. Two-thirds of the imports coming from Germany into the country arrive via the Waal. Here at IJzendoorn, 175,000 ships pass per year. That's 20 to 30 ships per hour."
Sitting at the rear of this ice cream stand, looking south across the river, those figures ring true. The Waal is a veritable highway of barges and tankers, which roll swiftly down the muddy river, today catching a glint from the powerful sun rays beaming down. A strong breeze rustles the trees. It's a pretty nice spot to hang out, as a bunch of slackers occupying a nearby multi-level trailer dwelling seem to know. Perhaps they are crew of the little circus that stands just below this observation deck, with five white "little tops," colored flags flapping on their tippy tops.
|North bank of the River Waal|
Continuing east above the river, it is still tough going but the landscape is pretty, overlooking the broad north bank of the river, where cattle and horses graze in the background and ducks forage in the foreground. Just like on the south side of the river, which i covered last year during my Gelderland tour. Back then I passed Druten, where a ferry crosses over to Dodewaard, which I'm west of now. The south side is more rural though. The dike I've been riding along is a busy road with trucks and mega-tractors pushing past me periodically. Swamplands to the north.
|Rondje Betuwe - Day 1|
Earlier I had been concerned about covering the distance to Rhenen by nightfall. Now I think it'll be alright. I have only to reach the Neder-Rijn ("northern boundary of the Betuwe region"), follow it west a bit, then cross over to Rhenen where I'll spend the night. I had reserved a vriend op de fiets on the south bank of the river (the actual destination for Day 1 is Ingen, a bit further west), then contacted Jan van den Brandhof, who I knew from volunteering at Veko kitchen in Amsterdam. He told me I could stay at this place, which means I might get a decent veggie meal for a change.
At Opheusden, I stop at stone tables overlooking some kind of recreation area at an estuary of the Neder-Rijn. Very nice, except the road is behind me and the traffic here is constant. In fact, almost the entire way I've had to share the road with motor vehicles.
|Ferry cross the Neder-Rijn|
On a whim, I decided to leave the route along the south bank of the Neder-Rijn and cross to a zone called De Blauwe Kamer (blue room) on the north side. This turned out to be a good move. Descending to the river i found a "fiets info point," an attractive cafe overlooking the river and a little car and bike ferry (€0.75 per fiets). The north side was far more rural, with a delightful stretch of old road flanked by tall trees. This exits on a road, then a short distance west is the entrance to De Grebbeberg, a protected area with a wonderful sandy path that skirts the reserve's southern edge. Woods on the right, creek on the left with the Neder-Rijn behind it. Definitely the highlight of today's highly varied journey.
|Jan van den Brandhof in Rhen|
Spent a pleasant evening at Jan's place. He lives in a little suburban apartment complex near Rhenen's train station. A true "stereo-type," Jan has a great audio system and a wall of CDs of all types of music. Jan is a vegan and works part-time at a local natural foods shop. We had a couple of witte Grolsch beers at a café by a busy intersection above the train station and had a long conversation touching on many subjects, including the issue of transport: cars vs bicycles. Jan does not have a car but he has three bikes, including a folding bike which he takes along on his frequent trips to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nijmegen and elsewhere. He's lived in Rhenen for over a decade (though he hails originally from Venendaal, north of Rhenen), migrated here a while back to live with a girlfriend and then decided to stick around. We listened to a great LP of African and American music of the 1930s culled from the 78s collection of a DJ that Jan knows.