D8 Saturday 16 June Raeren. 57km (= 463) to Butgenbach

Didn’t roll out of campground till 9.30 this morning. Then was a 20km grind ever so gently UPHILL!! That old steam train must have blown some black smoke!! The route is fabulous. Through beautiful tall forests. The high fels national park on the German/Belgium border.

The only trouble with this route that runs up along the ridgeline, the villages are way down in the valley and there is almost no place to buy food, let alone a coffee!! Surprising, since there are plenty of weekend Lycra warriors and heaps of other riders on the trail.

Around 4pm I got to where I leave the vennbahn, and saw there was a Carrefore (supermarket) in the village ahead. But then worried that in this sparsely populated rural region the shops would have closed early being Saturday and would most probably be closed tomorrow (Sunday). But I was lucky. Open. Got some supplies and went to a big campground by a lake.

Got nice grassy patch with power lead to recharge. However I also have two competing rage parties. Super loud music coming from two directions. It’s 9pm. I’m hoping there is a curfew.

Advertisements

Day 7: Gasthuis, thru Aachen- to Raeren 66(406) fri 15/6

Was up and gone from the mown paddock by 7.30am. Never saw anyone to pay. Was a delightful mornings ride. Bike path away from traffic. Only noise is birds chattering and cows munching.

Aachen was another big city. The seat of Charlemagne. He had built a magnificent cathedral which is UNESCO declared.

Actually not the cathedral, town hall or…

Heard about a rail trail (Venndahn) that goes south so bought MORE maps. Aachen reputedly has the best book shop in Germany. So luckily I was in the right spot. Ran into Keen, an Australian guy from the Maastricht hostel two days ago. What are the chances?! Also spoke to two German touring cyclists (credit card tourers) who suggested I try their route. Down vennbahn to Butgenbach, east to Stalkyll on kyll river. Up kyll to near trier, down Moselle (most beautiful ride in Germany) to Koblenz, then up Danube to Basel. Why not?? I need a plan.

Had trouble leaving the city- again. Tried to follow vennbahn signs but inevitably they gallantly direct me this way then that, then nothing!! Ended up 10km in wrong direction and was 9pm before I finally got back on track and to a campground. Unfortunately my gps gave up today which is a shame. I wanted to see my route!! So their will be no more maps of my track.

Aachen, Germany

Day 6. Thursday 14 June 2018. Maarstricht to Gasthuis 18 km = 340

Spent a couple of hours in a good bookshop in Maarstricht this morning. Trying to decide which way to go. South through Belgium, Luxembourg, france. This is very hilly but scenic. Or east over to Koln and up the Rhine. Would love to see Koln and the other cities and castles along the Rhine but it is also very built up and the route, while well marked generally, is flat. And flat beside a canal/river can sometimes get tedious. I’ll have plenty of river scenery going down the Danube. But after Netherlands and its bike paths, route maps and signposted routes, I’m reluctant to just head off south into unknown territory. Thus the pouring over maps. Trying to find rivers, routes, a map that might cover both options. In the end just got a small map with a marked trail to Aachen in Germany. From Aachen I can still go either east or south. Had a nice ride around Maastricht, took a tour of Sint Pietres fort then headed east in gentle rain. Met a man cycling to Spain with a dog. He was going to a campsite nearby so despite only 18 km, I decided to head there. He didn’t get to the campsite. Was just some mown grass in a paddock and an amenities block. 3-4 Itinerant workers in a small compound and no one else. Not even someone to pay.

Day 5: We’d 13 June. Grathem to Maastricht 57km (322 total)

01959AD1-61D8-44AE-9C65-26C2B1D39F5E

00A37152-0562-49ED-BAA9-B0932361EFC1

Wild horses in RivierPark Maasvallei

794B577F-2230-4ED6-8D78-1402C3306363

Grathem to Maastricht. Mostly on dykes beside Maars River

52B424A7-45CE-4D26-AE43-4915EBF9C35D

Used google translate to find out what this sign means as I see it all over the place: “healthy”!! Tried again a bit later.  It means “excepted”… bicycles can travel on the service road.  Don’t always trust google translate. 

Had a very leisurely start to the day. Tried to sort out a few WordPress issues and enjoyed just sitting in the garden of the lady who owns the farm. She was telling me about her father who rode dressage (think I mentioned that in yesterday’s blog). She also grows white asparagus- grown under rows of white plastic to keep out light. She has to dig it out from deep in the soil. To be honest, they don’t look as tasty as the green shoots that I remember from Grannies garden. I didn’t try the white shoots.

So I didn’t wobble off down the country road past the turret castle till almost 11.30. The feel of the area is changing now. Firstly cars pass the bike fast and close (that never happens further north). There are German flags about.  The region is still going through transition from old farms to modern transformations.

Mostly the route was along the Maars River dike. Wild horses roamed the grasslands and woods.  Don’t know what breed they are, but quite pretty, and inquisitive.

I wanted some salt and a dish rag. Seemed the only way to do it was buy 500g container of salt and a small plastic container (the only one I could find was full of toothpicks). I negotiated with a kind elderly couple that they could have the toothpicks and the rest of the salt after I filled the plastic container with 50g of salt!! They also took the 4 other dish wipes as I only wanted one. They must be thinking that was all a bit crazy.

Maarstricht is an amazing old city. I was feeling I was leaving Netherlands without really seeing much history, yet as I cycled into Maastricht there was an amazing huge old building, old curved streets lined with (renovated) old buildings and cobbled streets. Remains of an old city wall.  But very trendy and touristy. All the old buildings converted to modern retail shops. All the usual brands. Shoppers paradise. But it was already 5.30 and I needed to find a map as my bike route (and map) finishes here. But two shops and no maps found by 6pm closing. So I took a room at a hostel (Stayokay). Shared room with 3 men!  One snored loudly all night. The hostel is in a great location overlooking the river, but is full of a noisy school group. Tomorrow I’ll look around a bit and hopefully find a map.

DAy 4: Tues 12 June 2018: Eindhoven to Grathem. (Between Germany and Belgium)

Mierlo (near Eindhoven) to Grathem 67km total 265km

 

another perfect day riding. Very little wind. Not as hot. Still FLAT!! so the kms just slid away today. Through forest a lot of the way, plus extensive, intensive farming. Vegetables, corn, barley, wheat.  Houses and gardens and farmyards all immaculate. Hedges clipped.  Apparently people from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other middle eastern countries keep stables of horses here to ride the European competitions. No wonder the horses and stables I have passed have been so fabulous.

Googled campsites later in the day and the only likely place was a few kms back, so decided to backtrack to it. Passed a rather grand manor house with turrets and extensive gardens. At end of road was a farm which offered places to camp. I was the only camper.  It was perfect. Nice green lawn.  River and woodland alongside.  The lady who runs it was very successful at dressage.  Her father was 8 th in the world and travelled to australia to do dressage there. Back in the 50’s or 60’s I think.

She said some beavers had been busy building a holt(?) on the river, so I walked down in the evening to look for them. Walking in undergrowth full of nettles wasn’t a good idea whilst wearing thongs. Ouch!! I heard a big splash but didn’t see any beavers. 113D0434-E14C-4849-9283-47B12EE14596

5963CFB8-D2F5-4F30-9D73-938379785873

Campsite house

On my way: Amsterdam to near Eindhoven 9-11 June 2018

Saturday 9 June. Amsterdam to Utrecht 59km

C0DF0B8F-73F4-4797-82DF-D1A5B9BE2952

Start from Bicycle Hotel Amsterdam. I don’t look too excited!!

E7184CE6-D5F3-4C7C-994C-AA819DA66A67

Map: Amsterdam to ultrecht. Day 1

957AA7C5-5E01-4011-ACA4-0D1215AF0E40

The Amstel River

5586EE70-9FE8-4AD7-83B8-7C05935DAC3E

Pass through these villages. Upmarket. Note gantry over road, lifts road to allow boats to pass underneath

EF34DE09-8B05-45BE-95FE-07EA8116494F

Eefje and Jacob and son, 8 months, on their house-Boat (ark). Warmshowers hosts. Utrecht

I made an easy exit from Amsterdam following a decent map (6 rides around Amsterdam) which miraculously matched the signs on the street poles. Follows the Amstel River upstream. Passed through a very celubrious region with grand house and everyone out in smart boats or eating at waterside restaurants. It’s Saturday, so everyone is outside enjoying the warm sunny weather. The spring is lush with greenery.  Magnificent tall trees. Must also be very pretty in autumn.

My Warmshowers hosts (Eefje and Jacob) were really hospitable.  They live in a house which floats on the river.  Beautiful views to woodland opposite and views up and downstream from their position on a bend in the river.  They are connected to water/ waste/ other services through flexible pipes, cos the boat does go up and down.  They do have to be careful of water leaks (say, from bath or tap) Cos if water fills their concrete tub base, they sink!! There is some electronic device that turns off water at mains if water detected.  Phew!,

day 2: Utrecht to Nederhem 60km (total 119km)

5614DA8E-0435-479C-8863-35E6C6AA6369

923F2CB3-5FDB-4409-8914-34B663FBB325

Historic town of vianen

95E2685B-5B94-49ED-A622-0BE7EEB490E6

EVERYONE is out cycling,!

6811BFA8-1B6A-4317-A1B3-375C84A96C74

Four barge crossings of rivers today (and tomorrow!)

Had an almost bottom-lip quiver when I gallantly headed off from the houseboat (after Dutch breakfast of bacon pancake followed by apple pancake, all with syrup from silver beet), and promptly got lost in Utrecht!!  My green square “LF7a ouverlanndt route” just vanished. Google maps will show me where I am and the LF site will provide gps route, but I can’t match up the two. I can’t find a way to import a gps route onto a map on my phone. I think you’ve got to do it on a computer. So after cursing and blithering about and wringing my hands and asking numerous cyclists- I eventually found route as it left the city. Unfortunately I had missed seeing anything of this old city.

The cycle infrastructure here in the Netherlands is totally amazing. The cycle route is paved, about 3 metres wide, totally separate from the road.  And everyone is out cycling. Old, young, groups, couples, day trippers, longer travellers.  There are seats and picnic tables, info maps and every intersection numbered. Unbelievable. Cyclists must hate cycling in australia.

Camped beside a waterway in a commercial campground. Pretty basic with Sus people about. Security impossible in a tent. Ate deep fried chicken from the cafe (best choice!) and chatted to a couple who have a cabin here.

 

Day 3 ; campground to near Eindhoven.

Out of time – see next Blog  – well actually, I think it’s easier to revisit this (from day 5)

i’ve already forgotten what happened on day three,! I do remember I started off cycling with Jan, who turned out to be retired head of science directorate (?) at La Hague.  Pretty amazing. He directed me through the large city of ‘S-Hertogenbosch with his GpS (very grateful after my mishap in Utrecht) then he pedalled off. He was in a rush to get to Maastricht.  Doing 100+ km/day.  It wasn’t till I looked back over my shoulder and saw the fabulous cathedral that I realised I have been so intent on following the LF signs that I am passing by things I should be exploring.

It was also a day of struggling to keep riding the 60km. Just on the 60km mark,I reached Eindhoven, but nowhere to camp.  After another 20km I found a cabin park.  They said I could put my tent up but no facilities.  Was just wondering what to do when Peter and his two young children came past.  He said come and sleep at their cabin. He and his wife Petra just returned this week from riding Vancouver to Mexico. With the two children (about 3 & 5yo). Took 1.5 years. Awesome!! So ended up with dinner , bed, Electricity to recharge, and wifi!

It is these random encounters which make the journey so interesting. Like the older man i met at the Rijksmuseum.  He and his family hid in Amsterdam during WW2, like Anne Frank, he was 14, luckily they all survived and moved to America. L

 

 

Fluffing About 5-8 June 2018

wow, Amsterdam has just been so amazing!! Bikes, canals, boats, history and water. Water everywhere.

the flight from Melbourne with Emirates was just the usual tedious. Thanks to Douglas who elected to drive bike and me to airport at 2AM!!  The early start was certainly needed. First the Tullamarine freeway had extensive roadworks which reduced speed to 40kph for most of its length. Then at checkin, Emirates inflexible on my box weighing 34.8kg (30kg total for one piece of checked baggage only)  so threw away trolley and woollen jumper (had holes!) and redistributed the rest into carryon pannier    Apart from being a real pest cos no wheels (and no trolleys allowed past security) eventually it was stowed overhead and away we went.

05F68A14-F01A-4FF9-8506-E89DAA8B1C1F

Departure

One hour in Dubai in transit passed quickly as I got talking to neighbour who told me WAY TOO MUCH about her profession as a dominatrix!! Of course, on ones way to Amsterdam where “anything goes “, what would one expect!

arrived Amsterdam 8 pm  box arrived worse for wear  tapes all broken, holes bashed in sides and corner of box broken off

7a446d75-b2d6-464f-83d0-548e3ba18356

On arrival!!

Arriving is always fraught I reckon   Language, currency, following different signage, which visa, which queue, which carousel etc etc  with no wheels and heavy carryon luggage I decided to put bike back together at airport .  Riviera cycles in bairnsdale, who had packed up the bike had done an extreme job.  Everything was in bits.  Even the handlebars had been removed, not just turned which would be normal.. took 2 hours!!

finally onto train.  But where to go? I don’t have a SIM card so can’t “google it”.  The map is either large enough to show the hotel street but doesn’t show airport, or shows all of Amsterdam but not small streets!!  However, as usual, people are incredibly helpful.  Advise me get off the train and  head in THAT direction.  Of course it’s now well after 10pm, fortunately it’s still quite light, and eventually, after about 5 km including a delightful ride through a beautiful park, I arrive at the Bicycle Hotel.  3 mins till it closes at 11p. Sign in window says “full- no beds” and the delightful young student / receptionist says “but you have arrived a day EARLY”!!  But, despite the sign, she has one bed (up 4 flights of ladder-steep stairs), and bike is nestled safely in bike garage.  Whew.  We are here!

The next couple of days are spent getting stuff for trip which meant cycling all around this amazing city.  I had never understood that it is built over water.  There is the most incredible network of curved canals, lined with old Amsterdam 3-5 story brick terrace houses, magnificent trees, cobbled streets and narrow bars, cafes and shops.  On the water is a myriad of boats, house barges, tourist vessels, working barges, taxis. Everything.

7D8D9EC7-5D7A-42AB-ACC4-4CF9286F6F74

typical canal scene

So getting around town is crazy mad with cyclists WHO RULE!!  Straight through pedestrians even if they are on zebra crossing or have green light. There are 8 lanes of moving things that is complicated by traffic being on “wrong” side of road.  There is a pedestrian walkway (usually full of a jumble of parked bicycles), then a designated wide cycle lane (one way, but bikes go BOTH ways), then a car lane, then a tramway!! But cars and taxis travel in tramways and trams and taxis go straight through green light (that is, you can have a green bike/pedestrian light to cross the road, but a tram or taxi will cross straight over you.  Especially complicated cos they come from the “wrong” direction.  Of course, all this is done while cyclists have small children in bike seats, riders on phone, and nobody wears a helmet!! And there are 1 million cyclists in a population of 1.2 million.

2EC3CE7A-999E-4141-B8A0-973FD0B4B92E

My “Bicycle Hotel”

8204E2BE-3F77-4A39-A01F-FA8EB42F2A29

Traffic!