Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 3

Can't seem to get the name of this town into my head. It's Nijverdal, but it comes out of my head garbled into Narvidal or Nimajay or something. Don't know why. I had no trouble with Olst and Dalfsen. More phonological-sociolinguistic research is needed.

English breakfast in Nijverdal
Mevrouw Olthuis pulled out all the stops and made me an "English breakfast" - that is, the usual breads and cheeses and fruit plus a greasy omelet with bacon. She sat with me and had her toast and tea. She is such a vital woman, doesn't miss a thing.

One of the things Jos Coenen had said: "I am from the south but I prefer the people up here." He was referring to the people of Overijssel, who were perhaps more Germanic than Limburg's inhabitants. "Here they leave you alone. If you want to make contact with them, you can reach out. If you'd rather not, they'll leave you be. In Limburg, you don't have that choice; you're unavoidably tangled in the web."

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 3 (ANWB map)

Mevrouw Olthuis is that way. She is perfectly open to conversing on whatever subject (her grandchildren, computers, birds, Canadian war veterans), but she respects your space as well, and doesn't mind sitting there saying nothing. She lives alone, it appears, but one of her granddaughters lives just down the street.

Wilde paddenstolen: "The dwarves' squat houses"

After my enormous breakfast, I took off, heading down past the bistro/camping where I dined last night and right into the woods: the Sallandse Heuvelrug. A wet, dripping morning, probably the usual state of things out here, judging by the enormous variety of mushrooms sprouting along the strip of grass that edges the woods.

Forecast called for 90 percent chance of rain but here in the woods it's let up. Junipers are a staple; I also noticed some birch trees. The path went through the forest, then emerged on heath, then penetrated deeper woods interspersed with hiking trails, though few people are out here this Monday morning, and the damp, unpopulated woods possess some mystery.

Long-distance routes and knooppunten ...
Emerged from the forest into neat farmlands with horses, cows and chickens. Stood for a while by a field deciphering an informative board about immigrants to the Netherlands. Now at a point between highways, the N350 and the A1, occupied by farmsteads and cornfields. The sun has burst through the cloud cover and it's almost warm. Today again I am supremely content to be riding through the countryside with no concern except the long-distance route markers, which are copiously placed.

... and plain old distance markers.
Just went over the big highway, the A1, chock-full of trucks and cars. The path paralleled the A1 on the north side at a distance of a quarter kilometer -- close enough to hear the highway drone -- then gently climbed over the freeway to a half kilometer south. Now I head west paralleling (but not yet seeing) an old ship canal, all the way to Deventer, which is just 17 km away, at 12:47 pm. Perhaps I've been a bit too efficient today. I can still hear the highway but also birds twittering from the branches. Lots of small, delicate birds flitting between cornfield and woods, thrushes maybe.

Next the path crosses back under the freeway, through a menacing graffiti-strewn tunnel, to follow the Beekwal, the same old shipping canal as it branches northwest. Black heron flapping up the canal. middle-aged babe in leather jacket takes her dog up the trail.

Beekwal - an old shipping canal
Then the trail traverses the canal to skirt its north side. It is broad and murky here and flanked by big spreading trees that may be elms. (It would be wonderful to take a kayak down.) The A1 is still within earshot but now seems pleasantly distant -- almost soothing -- a blur of continuous movement beyond some broad fields.

I come to the town of Bathmen (other town names in the vicinity: Look, Enter), and lo and behold found a public library that a) was open, b) had internet access, c) had no one using a computer. Just one message: from Angelo Young, talking about starting a bike shop in New Orleans. Then I gathered some food from the Stunt supermarket and rode over here to the next stretch of the canal. Here the banks sprout tall reeds with purple tassels. Little piles of flotsam float down the canal and the coots float with them, pecking at their contents.

Supermarket parking in Bathmen
I sit here on a bench by the canal and listen to the highway droning to the south and the reeds rustling in front of me. Clouds fill the sky. There's little wind. I look forward to going into Deventer, orienting myself in the town and finding my residence. I'm glad I've left plenty of time to do this. Well, there's nothing I'd rather be doing than unraveling Deventer this afternoon. Dweeb that I am, I love working out routes into towns I don't know; I find it really fun to interpret maps into reality.

Alas, the best laid plans go awry. Coming into Deventer, I see that the path along the canal is blocked and I have to divert to the right. I follow Oerdijk west until I reach a plaza in front of a supermarket. Deventer feels surprisingly urban -- Turks, Moroccans, Indians and one incredibly beautiful Asian woman unloading her groceries into her bike saddlebags whom I ask for directions to the park. She pleads ignorance.
Belligerent swans: Rijsterborgherpark, Deventer
Deventer cycles.
Then I ask a scruffy looking Indian or Sri Lankan fellow. He doesn't know the park but then I realize it's near the station and he gives me exhaustive directions to the station. Within moments, I'm riding along the beautiful Rijsterborgherpark, stopping to take photos of the canal that runs through it. When I'm done some aggressive swans block my path. A big gray one actually makes menacing noises in my direction. When I see it pecking at the elongated neck of another swan, I decide not to move: I didn't want to get nipped by the belligerent gray swan. Belying their romantic image, swans are actually nasty, pushy creatures. I recall the same behavior by swans in Austin's Town Lake as I floated past them on my kayak. Presently the gray swan lost interest in me and took his webbed feet up the slope to rummage through the grass. I proceeded up the trail and soon found Boedekkerstraat in a lovely zone of stately homes.

My digs at the Bovencamp residence
My vriend, Mevrouw Bovenkamp, welcomes me. She's a feisty woman of around 60. She starts right in chatting me up in Dutch, saying something in a scolding manner, which I interpret as, "You're in Holland now. How are you going to learn Dutch if you keep speaking English to people?" Good question. She shows me where to put my bike, then takes me to my room. It's like a small apartment with kitchen and garden: perfect. Mevrouw B switches to English for my benefit. I tell her I now live in Amsterdam and that I intend to settle in the Netherlands. And then she asks me, "And you like being in Holland?"

"Yes, very much."

"But there are some things you don't like?"

"Well, I guess, but more things that I like."

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