Monday, October 28, 2013

Groningen / Schiermonnikoog - Day 2

View from the hide, Lauwersmeer national park
In the morning, we said goodbye to Dick and Flora and went up the road to Zoutkamp, with a little harbor. From there, we skirted the Lauwersmeer, a man-made lake that's at the center of a national park. Not too spectacular, just a large expanse of grass. We found a bird "hide" and looked at some swallows hopping along the bank of a pond where cows lazed. The hut had wooden boards for shutters and you lift them to open a slit in the structure, presumably unseen by the birds. At the entrance we ran into a Belgian birder who showed videos of an owl that later attacked him. Other solitary men carrying telescopes and cameras wandered past.
(original date of this entry: August 11, 2013)

Brian Jones, waiting for the Rottum

We continued alongside the reserve, found a little beach and relaxed there for a bit. The trail narrowed to go through some low vegetation (to point 6), then it was a short sprint to the ferry. As we'd arrived early, we climbed up on a berm and looked at the Waddenzee. The Rottum departed at 12:30. On the boat, we sat with four cheerful Dutch tourists. The wind blew strong and I watched some sailboats to port as we approached the island.

Crossing the Waddenzee (Brian Jones photos)

Arriving we rode 3 km west to the burg of Schiermonnikoog. Just two blocks from the center of town were our cycling friends the Stielstras. It was a nondescript house and we got a tiny room, just wide enough for two single mattresses. Unlike Dick and Flora, the Stielstras were not particularly friendly. Give us the cash and have fun; take breakfast in your room. 

Houwerzijl to the isle of Schiermonnikoog

We went out for coffee. There's a lot of activity along the main street: ice cream, fritjes, beer. A big old hotel with a busy terrace cafe. All kinds of people spinning up and down the street on all kinds of bikes, including many tandems and wagons. The sun breaks through the cumulus clouds from time to time, giving hope that it will clear up, then a big cloud rolls by and it's like autumn. The town quite busy with holiday makers but a bit too chilly and windy for the beach.

Fun in Schiermonnikoog town (Brian Jones photo)
We went to a lighthouse just above the town. There was a visitor center beside the grayish tower where Brian got a map of the island. We rode toward the west beach. Schiermonnikoog is a cyclist's dream, paths of packed white gravel winding through low dune forest with turnoffs to the beach. It goes this way round the whole island and one can wander endlessly. On this slightly crisp and windy late summer afternoon, myriad cyclists plied the paths. We rode to the coast and parked, then hiked down to the beach. Here a broad shallow swamp presents a barrier to the sands. Then we got back on our Gazelles and went wandering up round the isle's northeast corner and made for the red lighthouse at the west end of Oosterstrand.

Brian liked listening to his iPhone as he rode and now and then shared his music with me by proffering the earphones. I put them on to hear some cumbias or bossa novas. At one point when we were riding around the island he let the iPhone play through a little speaker. It made him look like the ice cream man, with his Campagnolo riding cap.

We had dinner at a tony restaurant overlooking the lighthouse and beach as afternoon clouds obscured the sunset. The food was nothing special -- a big bucket of mussels in an oily wine sauce, a small bowl of shriveled salad greens and a dish of listless fritjes. Outside it was chilly -- I was in swimming trunks and a flannel shirt -- but it wasn't far to the center of town where we noticed the boisterous dining room of an old hotel. Continued ...

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