Monday, July 11, 2011

Rondje Veluwe - Day 1

Sunday morning, Deventer. 

Another weekend, another korte fietsvakantie. I am starting from Deventer, from the same stretch of the IJssel I took last time. When I awoke it was raining. I had my breakfast, served by Eva den Hartog, a Russia expert. Then I rode into the center of town in the rain. I headed for De Brink, the main square, hoping to find a cafe open at 9ish on a Sunday morning. But there was nothing except a hotel cafe which didn't appeal to me. The rides from the zomer kermis stood forlornly draped in canvas. I took refuge from the rain beneath the overhanging part of a circular snack stand, now dormant, and surveyed the scene on the plaza. Behind me a group of Moroccan boys were carrying on. The rain let up finally and I headed down to the river. I climbed the ramp to the bridge over the IJssel, and headed for the Veluwe.

Rondje Veluwe - Day 1 (ANWB map)

Now stopped between points 16 and 17, a bit west of the IJssel by a bend in the trail. It's overcast but warm. The fields are twittering with plovers and swallows. I'll head over to Appen, just like last time, but now I'll continue west toward Apeldoorn.

This time I spotted the ruined tower, the Nijenbeek. Despite its formidable stature, I could see how I had missed it on the previous ride in the rain, as it sort of blends into the landscape and there is no sign off the trail indicating its presence. A dirt path winds up to it. I moved to rest my bike against the barbed wire fence ... and got the jolt of my life. A small sign off to the side indicated that it was electrified. I could actually feel my heart skip a beat and my shoulder seemed to want to dislocate. A little bout of electroshock therapy to start the day.

Nijenbeek Castle.
Look out!
The Nijenbeek is a very dramatic looking building standing there by a a still brook that catches the reflection of the faintly illuminated cloud cover. Not a soul around. The ancient structure rises maybe 25 meters, a mass of meticulously placed brickwork. The square tower stands intact; next to it is the lower fragment of the ruined circular turret. Although it was built in the 14th century, the damage dates from the 2nd World War. It is flanked by two mighty oaks, all aflutter with birds now. I was suddenly glad I had retraced this stretch out of Deventer: the Nijenbeek should not be missed. Having rectified that situation, I struck off west, past the Bussloo lake turnoff, past Appen and Bril & Zon Bakkerij (now shut) and further west toward point 76 (Klarenbeek), now covering new ground.

Coming into suburban Apeldoorn (toward pt 91) along the Apeldoorn canal. Pretty, but the road, crammed with SUVs, RVs, station wagons and luxe sedans is just across the canal. Now a flotilla of motorcyclists, all in black helmets and stupid jackets, rumbles past opposite this canal-side nook, a spot strewn with McDonald's trash. Immediately upon emerging from a patch of forest into suburbia, the charm, the mystery of the wilderness evaporates. Still, I am heading for the biggest patch of wilderness yet, the Hoge Veluwe (Badlands). The rain has ceased, glints of sunshine occasionally pierce the cloud cover.

A bit of confusion about transferring the route map in the ANWB guide to reality. This route is not described by knooppunten but by LF routes. The LF signs are not in evidence, however. Using my atlas and the map boards at each knooppunt, and tracing the shape of the route from the guidebook map, I see I need to cross the A1 north to 38, then follow the railroad tracks back across the A1, then head for Kootwijk (pt 81). Anyway, I just traversed a lovely patch of dense, varied woods with shafts of sun beaming through gaps in the trees, going slow uphill or flying down along a concrete path.

Radio Kootwijk

In search of refreshment, I eschewed the fietspad to Kootwijk and Stroe (11km) for point 40 toward "Radio Kootwijk." Here is an art-deco style tower at what appears to be the edge of a valley, and a modern restaurant called "Coffee & Joy," both of which I was after. Weird place. Seems like a fancy restaurant but the kitchen only offers tostis and paninis. No soup, no salad. My vriend in Stroe--my destination for the evening--had mentioned that there was nowhere to eat there. So I figured I'd better get something, since I have no idea if there's anything between here and Stroe. I'm having a salmon panini and a coffee, the latter disappointing for a place that has a beautiful vintage-style espresso machine. I'm sitting outside on the "terrace" (tables on the parking lot). It's gotten quite hot and humid. The place has a rather suburban, exclusive--perhaps "white" is the word I'm looking for--vibe, with middle-aged guys in golf casual outfits sipping beers. Definitely not a gezellig atmosphere. But this could be it till breakfast. I'm in no hurry but this place is not conducive to lingering.

After my salmon panini and mediocre coffee, I had a closer look at the art deco radio tower. A rather grim structure, it was designed by the architect JM Luthmann. Radio Kootwijk was long a telephony and telegraphy center and provided long-distance radio communications with ships and aircraft worldwide until it was superseded by satellite transmission. Now it stands as a monument to something.

Then I went back out of the Radio Kootwijk village--originally built for the radio station workers, it looks like something out of The Prisoner TV series--to return to the fietspad toward Stroe. It took me down a narrow path through the woods to emerge on a typically barren tract of land. The whole area is the result of a manmade ecological disaster that reduced it to heathery sand hills--"one of the largest areas of shifting sand in Europe." Overgrazing and intensive agriculture in the Middle Ages used up this whole area and turned it into a wasteland. Still, it's peaceful and a good place to hang out after my meager repast.

Close to 7 pm and I'm just 4.5 km outside of Stroe. Guess I could've got a lot further today. Perhaps I am getting stronger and underestimating my strength. I must've done 50 km today from Deventer but it didn't feel too strenuous. I've got time to kill. Fortunately the weather is pleasant, warm enough for just a t-shirt. The woods I've passed through on my way to Kootwijk (not the same as Radio Kootwijk) are not especially interesting but pleasant and peaceful. Between the stands of birches and pines are heath fields, not yet in purple flower. Beyond the cheeping from the trees drones the highway, not far north of here, with an occasional passing train. Being in the practically deserted reserve, I feel calm. Too bad I will have no supper tonight.

Nienke Top in her garden in Stroe. 

In fact, there is a McDonald's 1 km from Stroe but thankfully Mevrouw Top, my cycling friend in Stroe, whipped up some fried eggs and lunch meat for me. (I am concerned about my diet during these jaunts. It's hard to get enough fruits and vegetables.) Mevrouw Top and her mate Steven reside in Stroe. Steven, a man of around 70, was born there, Nienke Top, a small perky woman, grew up not 10 km from here. They like to ride bikes and stay at vrienden op de fiets, but only in the Netherlands. They speak no English. It was quite a challenge to communicate with them but I managed to put together enough sentences to maintain a semblance of a conversation. They say the Dutch are a neat and orderly people and in a home like that of the Tops that is apparent. Nothing is out of place, everything diligently scrubbed. Continued ...

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