Wednesday, October 24, 2018

LF-1 Hoek van Holland to Voorne

Maasvlakte 2, west edge
"bicycle street ... cars are guests"
On the beach, Hoek van Holland. About 500m north of the main beach and easily reached by fietspad, following the signs toward Den Haag. A sand corral for bikes, no parking lot. An idyllic stretch of white powdery sand. Eolic windmills and cranes of the port take up a strip to the southwest. Just a smattering of people this Sunday perhaps because conditions aren't ideal for sunbathing. It's warm enough when the sun is out–around 20-1 C degrees–but large clouds pass over periodically, blocking the sun and cooling off considerably, and there's a stiff wind from the south. You need a screen of some kind to enjoy it, as a group just below me has set up: an elaborate partition of fiber propped up by poles. The sea is a little rough, sailboats zipping by not far from the shore.

Greenhouses of Hoek van Holland

(original date of this entry: Aug 6, 2017)
It was easy to get here from 's-Gravenzand, just follow signs to the strand, then take the LF-1 south, a sunny jaunt between long rows of greenhouses. Then, once you've entered Hoek van Holland, follow the fiets signs to the strand. 

If it weren't for the wind and clouds, I'd find it hard to leave. But I do have an agenda: Maasvlakte 2 and Voorne. 

Rounding the southern tip of the coastline, I reach kp 94, departure point for the ferry across the waterway known as the Nieuwe Waterweg (which leads straight east to Rotterdam) to Maasvlakte 2. This is an "expansion of the port of Rotterdam," an industrial park on an artificially produced peninsula cut through by shipping lanes which was reclaimed from the sea–with sustainability in mind of course. Besides serving an economic function there is also a recreational component, mainly the strip of beach that fringes its western edge–reachable by bike naturally.

Maasvlakte 2, industrial zone with beaches.
The ferry dock is on Maasvlakte 2's north side. I ride west, admiring the freighters and industrial landscape. By around 6pm, I reach the beach. The wind has attenuated and it's still warm and sunny. Almost everyone has left. The beach is like other Dutch beaches –flat, undeveloped, dunes along the rear fronted by little corrals with low fences for bathers– but is perhaps more featureless, as it is artificially propagated. It feels natural. The sand is littered with shells and the sea is now flat and calm. I swam in it when I arrived. Rather cold but lovely to ride the waves.

I then headed south along the edge of Maasvlakte 2 with fine views of the North Sea. At the bottom end was the Slufter, a sort of reservoir for contaminated dredge sludge. Not far beyond is the land bridge to the island of Voorne, gateway to Zeeland.

De Slufter: contaminated dredge goes here

Joop Pennings, Rockanje
I followed the LF-1 through dune forest to the little resort town of Rockanje, which I'd visited three years earlier. Vriend op de Fiets Joop Pennings had a house on the Heemraadlaan near the center of town. When I arrived Joop was not there but I met a young Spanish couple seeking the same address. They had high-end racing bikes, as did the two Amazonic Belgian women who later showed up. Joop appeared suddenly and ushered us into his home. He reminded me of Mr Natural, a kindly geezer with a twinkle in his eye. We all spent the evening chatting in his living room. The Belgian women were long-distance cyclists, not content unless they'd done at least 100km per day.

(Aug 7, 2017)
Rockanje beach, as I remember it: flat white sands stretching to the horizon with grassy hillocks which make good shelters or perches. Practically deserted this Monday. The day started overcast and cool but now, around 3:45, the sun is out and hot. Glad I came out here to spend the day. I've decided to head home this evening though. Rainstorms forecast from around noon tomorrow (Tuesday), more rain till Thursday. So I plan to head to Maasluis in a little while.

The journey home was eventful, as I'll relate here. I spent much of the day on the beach, then fetched my bike from the paddenstoel–mushroom-shaped snack bar by the lot beside several low-key cafes– and headed south, having fashioned a route: south to the historic town of Hellvoetsluis, then a straight line northeast to Rozenburg, departure point for the ferry to Maasluis and my train home.

Hoek van Holland to Voorn

From Rockanje beach I rolled down the LF-1 (kp 14-15-20-21), then went under the N-57. A little after kp 22 I reached a meadow with a herd of cows lounging and had a late lunch. This land of swampy pastures, roamed by wild horses and barnacle geese, is called the Quackjeswater. Bucolic splendor. In fact the entire west coast of Voorne is wonderful.


Then, across a pond graced by a windmill, the old brick walls of Hellevoetsluis come into view. The "oldest dry dock in Holland, Hellevoetsluis harbored the war fleet (against Spain and England)" during the Eighty Years War.

Rounding the bend, I glimpsed a small beach on a point. I proceeded up the west side of the grand canal which segues into a marina brimming with yachts. At the top of the town I found enticing parklands but I had to keep moving.

kp 19 -> 47 -> 33 -> 34 -> 30
After the neighboring village of Nieuwenhorn, I reach a significant forest reserve, the Bosobjecten Voorne (at kp 47). After that it's a succession of mega farms, vast fields of crops and hangars. It's not an especially attractive landscape but it's fun to ride hard and straight for 15km or so. There's one other town, Vierpolders.

At kp 29, I get a glimpse of the dramatic Brielse Meer, then climb up to the big bridge over that waterway. The ramp up has a peaceful vibe overlooking an old house amid woods, and I take a break. Just as I get ready to leave a bunch of mad mountain bikers careen down the steep slope from the bridge access road to the ramp. It's a wonder none of them breaks his neck in the process.

Bridge over the Brielse Meer
I then proceeded over the first bridge with an elaborate, very long down-ramp at the far end of the fietspad, then over two more bridges, the second over the Calandkanaal, finally ending up in Rozenburg, then a straight shot across the town (kp 98-63-64), left to the ferry dock at kp 28. The giant green boat floated over in minutes, its steel ramp descended, and cars, trucks, scooters and bikes spilled out. The ferry (€1.30) conveyed us across the Nieuwe Waterweg, an extension of the Niuewe Maas, to Maasluis. The train station a few blocks further. Arriving at the station, I saw that it was fenced off, the tracks under renovation. WTF? I could see in an instant that I would not be catching a train home from here.

Nieuwe Maas by night
But ... I went into the little convenience store, which mysteriously remained open despite the station closure (well, it was also a bus station), and asked the young North African clerk, No service? He solemnly shook his head. Crestfallen, I asked, in English, But how will I get to Rotterdam? The man uttered not a word but pointed out the direction to the city —I could see on the fiets sign that it was 20km east. And that was that. I thanked him and he gave me one of those Muslim gestures, humbly covering his heart with his hand.

I followed the Rotterdam fiets arrow, leaving aside the knooppunt network for the moment. (The town signs indicate the most direct route.) Though this was an alarming development at 8:30 pm, I actually didn't mind riding. As always it was interesting and invigorating. I headed east. Before long I was paralleling a major waterway and I noticed a knooppunt sign by the bank, so I jogged over. The sign pointed east to kp 75, the LF-12, and I was riding along the Scheur (or Nieuwe Maas) at dusk. The weather was cool and pleasant and I donned my jacket and replaced my sandals with shoes. On the opposite side stood lit-up factories, and huge freighters moved silently west. It was a rather enchanting scene and totally deserted. It was all mine. Later I spotted a few individuals —some boys sitting on a bench and a solitary nerd on a bike. This took me to the sprawling communities of west Rotterdam, and I realized there must be a station at Schiedam, a major suburb of the city. Signs indicated it was 3-4 km from there but Schiedam proved elusive.

I saw signs pointing toward 'Centrum,' but center of what? Rotterdam? Instead I continued to follow signs to Schiedam and Rotterdam. Now I was going through a practically deserted office park. I spotted a train station, also shut, but there was a small bus station in front of it, and a solitary, hefty young black woman stood there. I asked her how to get to the nearest functional train station. Perhaps she noted a shade of desperation in my voice. Where ya goin'? she asked in a slightly British accent. Amsterdam. 

"You want to go to the metro and take that to Schiedam station. It's just down that road."

She pointed to the right. I was grateful for this info and asked her her name. Cedra, she said. She was a tall heavyset woman swathed in dark clothing. She was standing there all alone, in a dark deserted station, presumably waiting for a bus, though there were none in sight.

But she hastened to add, "I'm not Dutch."

"Where are you from?"

"Africa," she answered, perhaps assuming a white person would be unable to distinguish between different countries on that continent.

"What country," I asked.


I marveled at this and told her. I thought it was great that a woman from Somalia was showing me the way in this unknown city. And I was off. It took a few minutes to reach the metro station which stood alone on a lot.

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