Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kromme-Rijn Route Oost

A mid-summer ride. Overcast but quite warm, another day in a European heat wave. I rode the train to Utrecht, then changed for Houten, just east. Then I realized it might be easier to access the route from Culemborg so continued another 10 minutes. From Culemborg station I headed north to the Lek river (the western continuation of the Nederrijn, itself an extension of the Rhine river). A barge-like ferry went across to the north bank, carrying a handful of helmeted cyclists. On the other side they all headed east, wind at their backs. I went west, under the railroad tracks toward Houten. This is a swampy area with lots of ducks in stagnant pools. The route follows a narrow road with views of the river, then branches off along a narrow track through swampy fields (to point 64). A horse-drawn cart clops up the trail, then a Sprinter train darts by behind me. It's the middle of nowhere (actually just outside Houten) and I like it.

(note: original date of this entry: July 31, 2013)

Culemborg station
Later, I am on the trek east across farmlands to Wijk bij Duurstede (where the Lek branches off the Nederrijn). East of 't Goy, I reached the Rijnkanaal, where a marker for point 58 appeared, and I went north. The clouds have settled in and a mist descends periodically, lapping at my face with increased persistence, then letting up again, fortunately just as a picnic table comes into view: paté sandwich from Hartog Volkoren. The landscape is not inspiring but as long as the damp wind does not precipitate, it's pleasant and cooling, nicer than riding under the hot sun.

Kromme Rijn-route oost

This isn't so much an exploration as a jaunt. My old Gazelle is still holding up strong, a mileage machine. I have an appointment this evening so going fast though the pleasure is not diminished. The rain has held off, gracias a dios. I was going along a busy road toward point 9, thinking it was no fun mixing it up with BMWs and mini-vans, then mercifully the route to 9 turned north and I was on a carless road to the castle zone, I went into damp dark woods with tweeting birds. I am pleased to be out here with the groaning engines of the freeway at a tolerable distance.

Riding through the castle district south of Doorn.There are at least seven castles in this area, such as Sterkenburg, Hardenbroek and Hindersteijn, all huddling around the village of Langbroek. Started by noble houses in the 12th century as fortifications, they later lost their defensive function to become vast private estates.

Sandenberg castle

At the east end I went past the "Italianate" Sandenberg castle, which stands on a 600-acre estate, and down into Wijk bij Duurstede (with its own medieval relic of a castle). The town has been here since at least the 12th century when it was a thriving Rhine port.

The day has cleared a bit and it is nice and warm; I changed into my shorts at a little park where frogs croak in a bog. A pair of Arab-speaking men sauntered over and greeted me: a grizzled dude in baseball cap and his blacker young companion. They then moved over to a bench on the other side of the bog and chatted quietly in Arabic.

From Wijk bij Duurstede I crossed the Nederrijn, then once again reached the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal. I decided to cross over to the south side of the canal so as to get the crossing done. Now I get to follow the Lek all the way to Culemborg, a distance of 11 kilometers. How fast can I do it?

The final stretch along the Lek was blissfully peaceful most of the way and the temperature remained just right: warm enough to relax but not too warm. Sections of this stretch were quite pastoral, brown cows grazing, ducks plying the swampy ditches, rays of sun beaming down through the clouds. This is the Betuwe region, a sort of island between the Lek and Waal rivers, noted for its fruit production. I stopped at a farm for cherries, plump and juicy and oh so sweet.

It took me an hour to Culemborg station, and a train to Utrecht arrived in a few minutes. Today's lesson: always look for a lift before schlepping your bike up to the platform; there's likely to be one.

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