Friday, September 24, 2010

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 1

This being blogged *on the trail* from a public library in Bathmen, just east of Deventer. What's next? Twitter tweeting? The library is in the little town center, with a cafe and some closed shops. It's Monday afternoon.

For this trip to Overijssel, in the Netherlands' eastern heartland, I got a new notebook: a pseudo-Moleskin. Now I can be a pseudo-Hemingway or, probably more accurate, like the Spider character played by Ralph Fiennes in that David Cronenberg film. Always feverishly scribbling matters of great importance in his little notebook.

Nevertheless, I am genuinely excited to embark on another korte fietsvakantie, the Rondje Salland en Vechtdal in the Overijssel region.
Rondje Salland en Vechtal - Day 1 (ANWB map)

For some reason, Deventer has seemed like an attractive destination to me. When I mentioned to Max Huwae yesterday that I was going there, he wheeled off some facts about the place: important medieval city, etc. He also demonstrated the correct pronunciation of Overijssel (over-ICE-sel). The name is derived from the major river, the Ijssel, which extends south to north from Deventer to Zwolle, which happens to be the precise route of the first day of my journey, along the LF3. There are low white clouds hovering in the blue sky but it feels more clear than cloudy today. Temperatures in the high 50s - summer's almost gone.

Industrial zone, south of Zwolle
Unlike previous cycling routes I've taken from the ANWB guides, this one follows LF - long distance - routes rather than knooppunten (numbered points). Today it's the LF3b north. Using my ANWB Overijssel map (6), I annotated each day of the journey with the corresponding knooppunten which I can use as a guide. (Not really necessary it turns out, since the LF signs are clearly and strategically posted.)

Anyway, the route looks to be a winning combination of river valleys and woods, through a part of the country that few outsiders - or even Randstaad dwellers - dare to explore. In fact, the train from Utrecht is practically empty.

I think I am well prepared this time. I have a pump, patch kit, compass, pocket knife, cash, vrienden op de fiets guide, rain pants (recently purchased), route guide, map, phone, binoculars, camera, pseudo-moleskin notebook, plus something to read, Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.

I don't think Paul Theroux could write about traveling in the Netherlands. Too easy, too convenient, no challange to travel here -- though no doubt he could find plenty to gripe about.

Elly's 50th must've been a bang-up affair
From the train: purple heather on the embankment, the sky now clouds over and turns ominous. Tonight I am staying in a town called Dalfsen, in the home of the Coenen family. I had some trouble booking a vriend in Dalfsen. Either they didn't answer the phone or if they did were unable or unwilling to communicate in English but didn't have anything. Mr Coenen seemed kinder than the rest.

Deventer was busy when I arrived, celebrating something or other. Brass bands, fishing for gifts in the canal which runs through a beautiful central park. I rode around town trying to get my bearings, got shouted at as I rode hesitantly around a traffic circle. Finally found the great Ijssel and followed that north, with the traffic. Rain sprinkling on my head. North of town the path leaves the road and cuts through farmland, then a little town called Diepenveen, a boring looking place but fortunately there is a newly landscaped park at the edge where I stop for refreshments. Let the journey begin!

Deventer: A bike can be a dolly too
North of Diepenveen, I ride down a cobblestoned tree-lined road with nil traffic (everyone takes the interstate). Clouds hang over the scene, making it cool and damp. Then around the time I reach Olst the sun starts breaking through though there is an autumn nip. Olst was celebrating something, too, and the streets were lined with stands, with people selling the stuff from their attics. On a plaza crowds were gathered to drink Heineken and bounce around with the DJ (oompah soul, U2). What were they celebrating? I asked a middle-aged woman who had china and tea sets on her table. She did not understand my English, as few oldsters in the Netherlands do. "Special day?" I managed in Dutch. "Ja, it's the kermesse." Didn't that refer to the type of festivity rather than the holiday itself? I could not get an answer.
Oldies but goofies at Olst street fair

Another person, a man in his 60s, had a stack of goofy LPs. Special day? Yes, every third Saturday in September. Oh, never mind.

The crowds of big Dutch were putting away their Heinekens ("tap closes today at 5 pm") and making loud, boisterous conversation. At a standup table off to the side, four little Indonesian women decked out in Euro fashion were chatting. I had grilled ham on a bun and a beer and mingled - or moved around anyway - and watched these good people. When I went to buy a token, "for one beer," the balding, spectacled token seller insisted on going to get the beer for me. These were the one who stayed put in the hinterlands.

Now a big flock of geese bolt from the lake beside which I am seated. The LF3b is quite easy to follow. North of Olst, the path turns west (to point 38) through very green pasturelands cut through by lakes and canals.

The trail now goes though some of the most captivating countryside I've yet seen in Holland, a strip of concrete along a ridge or dike-top (12 -> 11). Below to the west marshlands or savannah with cows grazing, a variety of waterfowl. Pure rural joy. A flash shower soaks me. Beyond the clouds, it is calm and sunny and a factory looms out of the distance, on Fabrieksweg. Many kilometers to go - will probably arrive in darkness.
A ride through the IJssel valley

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