Monday, September 2, 2013

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 1

Now heading southeast, destination Roermond. A warm sunny day and in that part of Limburg province the forecast is for the high 70s -- real summer weather. Seems like a miracle when it first arrives. (May was generally wet and cold.)

This is my second trip to Limburg province; the first was one of my first extended fiets tours in Holland. That two-part trip took in the Maas river valley north of Venlo and the plateau east of Maastricht, this one is between those two and goes from Roermond to Weert, then loops back through a forested area called De Peel, then down along the Maas back to Roermond.

 (note: original date of this entry: June 7, 2013)


Easy to navigate Roermond, thanks to the various tools I've loaded on my iPod, including a cycling map of central Roermond from The town looks typical of Dutch mid-sized cities with two ancient churches, each on its own square with plenty of terrace cafes. I guess I was seeing the town at its best as the weather could not have been finer. I rode slowly down the shopping thoroughfare with all the same shops you see elsewhere in Holland, then found the river Maas. I rode to the north side of the bridge and found a ferry landing, which seemed a nice alternative, then realized the ferry doesn't start running till June 10, three days from now. I looked up at the bridge and saw a few cyclists pedaling alongside the cars. It was easy to ride over the bridge, with a pleasant breeze and good views of the Maas. The trail then heads west, skirting a series of excavated gravel ditches, now small lakes outfitted for recreation and boating. At point 93, a left takes you to a rather exclusive looking marina (gated) where there is a small ferry (this one operating, €2 return) to the Oolderplas, a nice undeveloped park around a lake. I skirted the lake to the west and soon found a little beach where I sit now by the bank. It is a perfect day for sunbathing but I won't linger long. The lake looks much like Gaasperplas or other plassen in Holland, a greenish expanse surrounded by trees, a few swans floating. Guess I'll move on.

Fun with gravel: south of Roermond
Later I realize that these gravel pit/lakes extend for miles to the southwest, forming an intricate network of waterways with towns like Horn, Beegden, Heel and Maasbracht taking up little peninsulas hemmed in by the lakes. The LF5 threads through this area, here and there crossing a bridge or a lock. There is a major lock/sluice gate arrangement between 84 and 35 (that being the Linne-Buggeman canal). A group of black students watching a ship being channeled through. "At least you understand the principle," said their escort.

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 1

I took a break from the heat beneath the shade of a copse in the peaceful community of Heel (pronounced hail)--peaceful except for the passing truck or motorcycle, the latter like sentinels from a grim future. There where I sat a middle-aged Dutch man, one of a two-couple quartet, approached me to chat but we only managed "what beautiful weather" in Dutch, though I hold my own. They are on their way to Maastricht.

Fluffy bikeways
Then it's under the highway and out to the Maas at Wessem. The river is broad here by a major branch, cooling towers in the background. Excavations around here unearthed evidence of Roman settlement. Then flat farmland, peaceful homesteads, asparagus farms to point 33, at a highly bucolic crossing. Groups of elderly people out riding on high-end Gazelles, including some electric-powered versions. The route now switches from the LF-5b to 7b, the Oeverland route (from Maastricht to Alkmaar!). This is the closest I will get to Thorn but I'll give it a miss. Down a poplar-lined straight lane, fluffy seeds drifting like snowflakes. Then back at the highway, skirting it for 300m, and a hairpin turn underneath, emerging at a broad canal just below the Sluis Panheel. The sluice gate functions as a bridge. Big barge/houseboats along the canal, ducks pecking at the accumulated fluff. It's like a snowstorm!

The path narrows to a sliver skirting the high barbed-wire fence of Fun Beach, as if the kids playing there need protection. Where do they think they are, Venezuela? Then a delightful turn along a lazy brook where I stop for a moment.

Next left
Then it's up through flat farm fields, ultra-modern greenhouses stinking of shit and chemicals, flabby golf course suburbia, and the sun keeps rising in a clear sky till it is hotter than Cádiz: 27 degrees C in fact. And I think of returning to this morning's beach.

I'm on the edge of Nederweert around seven. I just went through a pretty forested bit (48 -> 03) but the trail seemed made more for horses than bikes, sandy and pebbly, not much fun to ride on. The last part of today's journey had too many sections of suburban roads, not too exciting. At least I've now reached a peaceful canal, where I sit at a picnic table and observe one of those weird wormy twig-like insects that move by forming a U and pushing itself forward. It is now simply stopped in mid-air as if it can't decide whether to move ahead. I watched it moving along my map. It has rather hideous little claws that latch onto objects securely, about three at a time.

That canal somewhat redeemed the humdrum ending of today's tour. It is a broad, still waterway and the LF-7 parallels it for quite a ways north, all the way to Nederweert.

Nederweert's main street is torn up and they've erected fences around the construction so you must walk your bike on the sidewalk. It's a bland, modern community. Using the google map I'd printed plus a little help from City Maps 2 Go, I easily located Tjeu and Mia Kessels' place, a typical middle-class home. Tjeu had a bakery for many years but he sold it. He's a wizened, tough but friendly character who smokes too many roll-yer-owns. His lungs are shot. I sat with him and the unassuming Mia. Tjeu brought me a bottle of Brand, a Limburger pilsener which I polished off in a minute. It was a hot day. They have a daughter who just got back from a four-year stay in New Zealand. She now works for the ANWB (like the AAA of Holland) in Venlo. The girl's husband is a New Zealander who moved here with her.

I had dinner at Cafe De Kleine Winst with a busy terrace: beef carpaccio with arugula and parmesan plus three Lindebloms. After all that beer I was well-zonked and went to bed around 11. Continued ...

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