Imagine: you have no map but you need to go south. There is a river going south, but the road just stops and ends up in a garden. You bike back. No, now you go north. Trying numerous ways to go south, but the road only leads you north or east. You have no map, and the only guideline you have is the river, but there is no way to follow it… And then…?
The weather was good, the autumn is coming so I decided to squeeze in a small adventure before its too cold or rainy to sleep outside. I had the idea to travel Without-a-map. Why? You can read that here. After 4 and a half hour ride to the Limburg (Maastricht to be precisely) I arrived at the train station around 16:30, armed with a compass, a book and some pencils. Just 3 hours before the sun would set and darkness would kick in. Walking around the station I quickly found a map of the area, and made my own little drawing of it. The city was devided by a big river, “The Maas” and I saw it went south. That’s where I needed to go! So I followed the river, after taking care my (waaay to heavy, who packed all that food?) wouldn’t fall of my bike every 20 meters, and quickly found myself in Belgium. It was relative easy till this point. Just 100 meters into Belgium me and my bike came across a huge highway with a cycling path next to it. Is this the right way? Left or right? This would be a moment one would look on a map to know where to go, but instead I looked at my own made drawing.
It told me nothing, but my compass told me to go right. There was the river again, with a bridge, so I crossed it and was on my way again. After following the river for some kilometers the path ended, and I had to go into a village. Dusk fell over Belgium and still no place found to make my camp, or a useful way to make a map for myself. Just at the moment that I thought: “shit, I’m never getting out of this village, a bus shelter popped up with a map of the area! Woohoo! With a smile on my face, and renewed energy I quickly found a way to make myself a map.
My objective for the day was done, making a map that I could use to get to Coo. Now to find a place to make camp for the night. Most of the times the map would provide me with green spots, and I would check it out if its camp-able. In this case it meant biking around till I found a place somewhere. But I had to be a bit quick because it was already getting dark. After biking around for some time (crossing the same bridge 4 times) I found a place next to a construction site. It was a nature area, where lots of beavers also making their camp for the night. Without a map this place was a true discovery. A small lagoon on a place where I already saw myself sleeping on the side of the road…
In the Beginning of the trip I really felt lost. The uncertainty of not having a map or a orientation point was a bit frightening as well as exciting. The first hours were just about finding orientation points, to see where I actually am, and where I would have to go, to go more south. I was so happy when the map with my beginning point and Coo on it was in the bus shelter! Traveling without a map creates the sense of adventure I’m looking for, the appreciation of small things(like a map in a bus shelter), the uncertainty of where to end up, and how to deal with these kind of situations. Because how do you get to point B when you have no idea where point A is?
The next days were easier because I made a good drawing, but now the area became really hilly, and there was even an nightly encounter with a curios red deer… But this you can read here!