Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 2

Breakfast at the Kessels: various slices of bread, appelstroop (a thick, viscous black jam made of apples), ham, weak coffee. I joined the son and daughter, who speaks impeccable New Zealand English. She had to get to Venlo, an hour's train ride north, to get to her ANWB gig. Tjeu was up too but took his coffee (and roll-up smoke) in the garden. Not a morning person I guess. The young couple told me they'd expect to see a lot of Germans up in Venlo today, who come to shop an an outlet mall there. "Sounds like New Jersey," I said.

I said goodbye without taking the customary photo of my host. It didn't feel right. Anyway Mia and Tjeu were great hosts, welcoming but kindly unobtrusive. Mia told me she's more of a walker than a cyclist, which seems typical. That generation of Dutch are great walkers.

(note: original date of this entry: June 8, 2013)

I looked at Nederweert's ancient church and hit the trail, easily finding the canal route to point 2, then headed east to 4, direction Ospel. Mostly dull suburbia/farmstead communities with no one to be seen. Then from 4 -> 7 a long tree-lined stretch flanked by vast, utterly flat farm fields. Tractors and everything. I find an isolated picnic table in the sun and write. It is actually nice and peaceful here and wat lekker weer!

Precious peat
Past Ospel I reached De Groote Peel national park, which like many Dutch nature reserves is an example of manmade environmental disaster allowed to heal itself. In fact the area was impenetrable (a rarity in Holland) until the 19th century when they discovered you could use the natural peat that underlies the land as fuel, sorely needed in those industrializing times. This spawned a whole culture of "peat stabbers," a race of strong men who cut the stuff into blocks and hoisted them out. When I arrived this preserve was deserted and I wandered through the woods and over boardwalks through the wasteland, now being replanted with shrubs. Later I observed big school groups hiking through the Peel. At the visitor center I purchased a compass and the ANWB bird guide. Lots of birds in the reserve, which I may now be able to identify.

Then the route skirts the Groote Peel opposite vast tracts of crops. The country road that is here the LF-7b is lined with chirping shade trees all the way. The day is perfect.

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 2

Porcine culture
After many kilometers riding through the intensely farmed heartland of north Limburg (much of it pig farmed and divided up rectilinearly to form an extremely boring landscape), I finally entered the forest (at 98) and it is a blissful transition. A long way left to go -- today's route is 20 or so more kilometers than yesterday's, which I did not expect to be too strenuous. But if I'm going to cycle like mad, today is a good day to be doing it. Cyclists whiz by occasionally, almost always a middle-aged or elderly couple with matching Batavuses or Gazelles. They stick together, these couples.

The ANWB guide says the route goes 10 km through recent-growth forest here. At first the trail is a slender slab of asphalt. Then it crosses a road (pt 97 -> 96) and it turns into a broader sandy path opening on patches of heath with little blue lakes. This is the Strabrechtsche Heide. Only occasional cyclists spotted here (even on a Saturday), those of the elderly couple matching Batavuses variety. Definitely a highlight.

The Strabrechtsche heath has plenty of idyllic lakes. 
Mostly wide-open fields of heath at this point (toward 87), with the occasional deep blue lake. For a while the path had the annoying sandy horse-trail surface, then it switched to a narrower finely packed sand surface -- roller coaster fun for a sunny day. The breeze has kept up at midday with a trace of coolness, creating that perfect northern-Euro climate. The highway drone looms nearer but before emerging from the heath/forest I pass a genuine beach, reeds sporting fluff balls, a highly idyllic spot.
I should emerge at Mierlo, a significant town, then another lengthy bit east. An all-day journey. Fine.

Crossroads: LF-7 meets LF-13
In Lierop. Seems like a crossroads of sorts. The LF-13a goes through the burg, then turns east toward Asten. It's all very pleasant, even the roadside stretches. Coming into Lierop I spotted a softijs cone icon and knew that I must have a 100% artificial vanilla custard followed by a coffee at one of the two facing cafes on Hogeweg. One is a tony terraza where mostly sullen seniors have Saturday lunch, the other, opposite, is a scruffy place called Café De Babbelaar, in front of which sit a group of local yobs, young men up to no good. Which do I choose?

There are about six of these guys sitting in various aspects that say "I don't give a fuck." They drink beer. A kid on a moped drives up and chats. The owner seems like a friendly old biker with braided beard. He brings me a coffee.

It's around 5:30. Many mosquitos annoy as I take a last picnic break before the final stretch south to Meijel. I think I can make it there inside of two hours, barring distractions. This stretch of forest, east of Asten (the Dennen-Dijkse Bossen), is truly uninhabited. Not a single fietser in sight on a delightfully sunny breezy late afternoon. Continued ...

No comments:

Post a Comment