Monday, December 1, 2014

Rondje Zijpe

The Sand: Callantsoog beach
A week later I'm trying another ride from the "rivers, lakes and coast" guide: Rondje Zijpe, named for the reclaimed farmlands north of Alkmaar. The route goes through these polder-lands, devoted primarily to flower production, then jogs west to the low-key coastal resort of Callantsoog, continues south through the coastal dunes to the village of Petten and finally loops back through some old farmsteads dotted with windmills.

(original date of this entry: July 2, 2014)

De Zijpe polder
These polder-lands were constructed in the 16th century by draining a tidal inlet and went on to become a big flower producer: tulips, crocuses and daffodils in the spring,  gladioli and dahlias in the late summer. I saw only one field of flowers in broad bands of red, purple and yellow--in between the two growing seasons I guess. The fields are table flat with only the occasional dike or tree-lined road to break the monotony. Those long corridors of tall trees that are so pleasant to ride along are there for a reason: as windbreaks for the fields, presumably so the crops will grow better. These are intensively farmed lands; I shared the road with many tractors.

I took the train to Schagen, about 15 minutes north of Alkmaar. The only thing worth noting about Schagen is how busy the little town is, a veritable hive. I grabbed a well-made espresso there, then headed northwest 't Buurtje where the route begins. The weather is nice and summery, albeit a trace windy.

Rondje Zijpe
Heading for kp 81 I went through a bit of an obstacle course as they were laying new tar on the road, so I had to walk or ride along the thin dirt track on the shoulder for 1 km or so. I ended up in a place prosaically named 't Zand -- The Sand -- which my guidebook says prospered when they constructed the North Holland Canal, linking this northwestern corner of the country to Amsterdam via Alkmaar and Purmerend. That is the same canal that I skirted nearer Amsterdam a few years ago on my way south from Ilpendam, there traversed by several "raft bridges."

Later I am on the beach of Callantsoog. Perfect day for sunbathing, absolutely clear and now quite warm.

The last section of the fietstocht was indeed grueling, a long stretch along the Grote Sloot (kp 80 -> 42 -> 35), approximately 8 km, but it's a lovely narrow strip that skirts the lily pad-strewn canal the whole way. A sign at a wooden bridge/birding lookout at Sint Maartensbrug said the Grote Sloot connects the North Holland Canal to the Oude Veer, a finger lake to the northeast giving access to the IJsselmeer.

Approaching Petten
In fact, much of the route beyond Callantsoog was thrilling though I was getting pretty tired by the time I hit Petten, a strange old beach community of small brick houses. It is at the bottom of the Pettemer dunes which the LF1 cuts through like a roller coaster over a packed sand surface. All along the way are turnoffs for beaches. Some of the climbs/descents are quite steep and I had just one gear. As you approach Petten the trail traverses a beautiful old dune forest.

I couldn't find kp 88 in Petten, then returned to 33 (where Petten meets the coast) and followed the sign to kp 39 which goes down an old road with damaged surface at the base of the sea wall. The stretch between kp 22 and 73 is very nice, an ancient rural area laced with swamps, with windmills popping up at every turn, lots of cattle and horses. Though I get easily bored by vast rectilinear crop fields, these older farmlands form a gentler, more undulating landscape. A pleasurable ride, though as I say, I felt exhausted through the best part of it.

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