Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Return to Drenthe II - Drents-Friese Woud

"I'll make you a good breakfast," Ron had told me. But it was not good: a few slices of bread, pre-sliced cheese, some kind of poultry cold cut which I declined, weak coffee with powdered milk, the obligatory hard-boiled egg in a cup, and a little cup of yogurt with a cloying pink flavoring. But at least he sat down and chatted with me.
(original date of this entry: June 2, 2016)
Ron is from Rotterdam but somehow ended up in this corner of Friesland--just 400m from the border of Drenthe. He has worked to educate immigrants to enter the workforce, though I haven't seen any swarthy types around here. He was clearly against the 'Arabs.' "Soon they will outnumber us," he complained. They come here but don't work, he went on, just live off the generous social welfare system. But he doesn't mind the Syrians, who he believes have an education system that is up to Euro standards. Ron's been around: Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand. Also America, which he likes. "Why?" "Because people work for a living."

kp 83 -> 85
Overcast and cool today, and I loitered. Purchased an AGU cycling jacket and rain pants at a bike shop. Went looking for a supermarket. Finally I'm at the threshold of the Drents-Friese Wold route (so named as the national park straddles the border of the two provinces), though so far just hanging at the visitor center drinking coffee. Again my planned route is not too ambitious, it's less than 20km to my destination, Dwingeloo.

Dutch wildlife
Now out on the heath observing the Dutch wildlife, which generally consists of older specimens, in male-famale pairs of roughly equal age. They are usually silent unless in two pairs, in which case the males pair off in front, the females taking the rear, and converse robustly. Couples generally ride identical model bikes.

After a brief stretch over a gravel path through dense forest, I emerge on the open heath but this looks different from yesterday's: rolling green hills dotted with pine trees. A very nice ride. Aside from the odd couple rolling through it feels pleasingly empty.

kp 85 -> 88
Ah, now this is very nice: the Boswachterij Appelscha. At kp 85, the route (LF-9a) cuts abruptly left and goes through low forest on a slender packed-dirt path, then the trees look taller and older. A right turn, over a cattle grate, and there's a swamp. A sign informs us that sheep tend to their young here and should not be disturbed.

Very peaceful and remote. I take a bench in front of another swamp, surface gently rippling. Now I get the notice about the sheep. Lots of the critters chomping on the grass beneath the trees. They seem content. One lets out a bleat that sounds eerily like a human complaint.

kp 88 -> 82
The high heath flattens out and there's a lookout tower. Also populated by many sheep. A pair of them came over to interrogate me and one bleated loudly and repeately. Clearly she objected to my presence.

Here they come. 
I climbed the tower and observed the landscape. High dunes, a lake, a vast flat field, then woods. From the dunes emerged a big group of seniors, all on foot. Not two of them would've been under 70. Then I realized they were making for the tower, just as I was about to descend, and I had to await the slow migration upwards before I could manage a descent.

kp 82 -> 23 -> 21 -> 12
The ride continues to be very fine, and again I'm glad I don't have too much ground to cover. Here at Doldersum (kp 12) it is very still and practically deserted. It is another case of land being overgrazed, then replanted and left alone. Fairly dense woods, a pleasure to cycle through. 

Between kp 82 and 21 I pass through the town of Zorgvliet, small and dull, more of that soul-crushing brownish-yellow brick architecture. I love cycling the woods but find I'm invariably brought down by the complacent reality of the Dutch hinterlands.

Appelscha - Dwingeloo via Drents-Friese Wold National Park

kp 14 -> 59 -> 68
Another lookout is a 200m hike from the fietspad through woods--this one more solitary--and it looks out over a vast flat field dotted with just a few trees. I guess patches like this were left unplanted to preserve a bit of that 'ruined' landscape, as it is an ecosystem unto itself with its own unique weeds--herbs I mean--and bugs. Also, it says somewhere, to give us a glimpse of what this all looked like in the past. 

An informative board on the swath known as the Doldersummerveld gets more specific: Plant enthusiasts will discover such endangered specimens as pink-blooming lousewort and spotted orchids in the damp habitat, not to mention weeds left over from the area's farming past such as cornflower and marigolds. And sharp-eyed birdwatchers can spot stonechat, meadow pipit and curlews (waterfowl with extended beaks). 

A similar break up ahead but here the fields are greener and interspersed with yellow and purple vegetation, and a creek runs through it. This has been recently outfitted for recreation. A narrow little bridge goes over the creek, and at the moment I choose to leave, a huge tour bus rolls over it, like a lumbering beast amid the otherwise empty vista. It is filled with very old people. A white-haired woman grins, at the view of the creek perhaps. By the bridge a still pool is covered with white flowers.                              

Then it's back into the woods. Now heading back north on the LF-9, rolling on and on through woods, then open fields, birds twittering in the trees.  

Frank & Hannie, friends of the cyclist in Dwingeloo
kp 61 -> 53 -> 70 -> 76
The last bit of today's fietstocht was magic: a packed dirt trail through dense desterted forest and the occasional swamp or small lake. By the time I reached Geeuwenbrug at the east end of the park, though, I was tiring, and the fietspad had changed to a butt-punishing brick surface which traversed farming communities and freshly planted fields. When I arrived in Dwingeloo it was almost 8 pm. I easily found my vrienden op de fiets, Hannie & Frank, a friendly retired couple with a large, simply furnished house backing on fields where horses graze. A youthful white-haired woman who spoke mostly Dutch to me, Hannie made me feel quite welcome. Their home is actually set up as a B&B. The couple is from Groningen and they moved here two years ago.

I had a quick shower and went looking for supper. It was past 8:30 and all the kitchens had stopped serving. Even the pizzeria was shut. So I went back to Hannie and Frank's and had the last of my sandwiches along with a beer that Frank provided. Nice people. Continued ...


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