East 2 West, Rollerblading the Netherlands in the winter. (Part 3 of 3)

It’s becoming spring right now. Temperatures are getting higher and so about time to go out and go camping again! But nearly two months ago it was cold, dark and even a little snowy. In this cold and dark times I went on an adventure; rollerblading 450 kilometers trough the Netherlands, with my backpack and my tent. This is part 3 of my journey, here you can read part one and part two or join the Facebook page. 

Schermafbeelding 2015-02-18 om 17.25.30

Day 10, February 11th: Casa Peetzak (Hilversum) – Linschoten
And there I am again, resting in the woods overlooking the meadows. I have reached the busiest part of the country. When I first arrived (I even had to look it up on Google Maps) I tried to take in the surroundings while sitting under a tree. High voltage towers are running through the fields and I hear speeding cars passing by on the highway 100 meters further on. The car lights resemble fireflies all flying orderly in a row. Witnessing this spectacle sooths me. I’m relaxed by nature, but the combination of highway and meadow really contrast the busy and crowded with the peace and void.

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So, the busy part of the land. Lots of roads and between the towns, small meadows with lots of water. Incredible to see a country change this much in only 50 kilometers. 50 kilometers behind me there were rugged woods and wild boars! All in all, today was a hard day. Not because the roads were bad, not because of wind or rain. I think it is because I took a break. Apparently, my body has switched into chill-out mode. After only 2 days! It could also be the special beers I drank the day before. I’m counting down the kilometers and when I look on the map it seems I’m almost there. Obviously I know better. Western Zeeland is nowhere near Hilversum! The notion of covering kilometers seems to change, skating on the stretched roads passing meadows on both sides. The monotonous roads make my thoughts shift continuously and when I look back, it seems time stood still and I suddenly reached the next town. Enjoying some fresh air, as the Dutch call it?

Day 11, February 12th: Linschoten – N480, 2nd windmill on the left12This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.

As difficult as it was yesterday, as smooth it went today! It wasn’t the wind that got me going, but it did help a bit. I have entered the ‘authentic’ Dutch landscape. Canals, meadow, sheep and yes, windmills. I started on a small road along a canal this morning. There was nobody, maybe 3 cars within 6 kilometers. Following was a country road along a canal with 5 cars in total. A small town with canals, old houses and typical Dutch knotted willows. The small town revealed another small road with….well, you get the picture. When I looked at the map yesterday, I wasn’t expecting this! A lot of nothing! Farming fields with occasionally a farm or a small town, where the villagers get together and chatter at the local supermarket. Every town I visit I’m being watched with suspicion. It beats Eastern Groningen! Now I can finally rebuttal, when people dare to say we, up in the north, are peasants.This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.

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This district does have a certain beauty. When the sun goes down, it’s like you are watching a postcard. Too bad it’s clouded, but anyone with a vivid imagination can paint his own picture. Long stretching roads through green fields with hundreds of chirping birds adding a soundtrack. You can still connect to nature in such a busy district.
To end this story in a nice way, I will be sleeping in a meadow, and yes, next to a windmill. On my journeys I always try to visit beautiful spots to spend the night, and tonight’s dwelling is certainly making up for the swamp I recently visited!

Tomorrow I’m passing (and I really don’t want to go through) the big towns and then it’s up to Zeeland. Bridges, water and a heap of salted herring!

Day 12, February 13th: N480 2nd windmill on the left – Esscheplaat
How in god’s name can you find a place for your tent if there are only fields? Searching, very intensive searching and making compromises. While I’m writing this piece I’m at the Esscheplaat. Google it. It’s pretty close to the middle of nowhere. After I bought my dinner, I found a good place to rest and check the map thoroughly. Meanwhile the sun was going down, so I needed to find a spot soon. 3 kilometers off the route there was a dash of green on the map. While I was skating towards the green spot, the sun slowly set. (foto van kaart)

It’s such a beautiful sight to see the red sun disappear behind the clouds. But this also meant it was going to be dark within half an hour! There is only one thing you can do at such moment. Full speed ahead! Racing through the meadows with a strong headwind isn’t easy when you already have been skating for 7 hours. Only, at such a moment I just don’t feel the pain in my ankles and feet. Everything goes on pure adrenaline. It has to be, because finding a good spot can take up a lot of your time. When I reached the fence of the natural area, I saw a sign that said: “Beware of the cattle, they can be unpredictable towards visitors”. Ehhhh, ok. But I still put up my tent because it was this or the meadows. I really hope they stay away from that interesting piece of fabric I’m sleeping under!Schermafbeelding 2015-02-18 om 17.45.17

I think today is a small indication of what lies ahead of me the next couple of days. Long stretching roads through meadows with a hard headwind and few options for setting up my tent. This is new for me and I secretly look back with grief, thinking about my time in Drenthe, where the woods were dense and campable! But on the contrary, I’m nearing the most westword point of The Netherlands! Kapow!

Day 13, February 14th: Esscheplaat – Kranendijk (Oud-tongere)
Today I had a smooth start. When I woke up I saw some people in the natural park where I had put up my tent. I immediately assumed they were from Forestry Commision, so it seemed a good idea to get out of the tent and drink some coffee sitting on a nearby bench. Once I sat down a herd of Scottish Highland cattle came hurtling at me! That’s a nice way of waking up, drinking coffee amid some 20 huge beasts.

After the first bridges connecting the islands I arrived tiredly in Oud-Tongere. A place where a nice egg-sandwich was waiting for me in snackbar/café ‘t Vosje. Meanwhile it was already passed 4 o’clock and it was time for me to find a place to sleep. I asked the other customers if they knew a good spot for me to camp. The lady behind the counter asked someone, and I immediately heard: “he can sleep at my place, with the chickens!”. Haha, nice. After a minute, someone walked out of the café and asked me if I needed a place to sleep. I could set up a tent where he lived. Chill! So after I finished my sandwich, I drank a couple of beers with Rik (that was his name) in the very cosy local pub and we went to his place. I took a lovely shower, washed my clothes and ate some toast with filet. A tiny and unexpected paradise.13

These are the things that make my journey such a cool experience. Unexpected encounters and the kindness of strangers. It is beautiful to see the goodness of people you have never met before. But what can I give in return to show my appreciation? Leave 10 euro’s on the table? Or shall I pay it forward, showing a stranger the same goodness, that was given me tonight? This seems the best thing to do. The help I received this evening, will be passed on. Maybe tomorrow I will give 1 euro to a homeless person, or by returning a found mobile to its owner. Someone once told me: “The more you give, the more you get”.

Day 14, February 15th: Kranendijk (Oud-tongere) – Veerse Meer
I had the wind at my back today! Literary and figuratively. After a nice warm bed and a breakfast I was ready to cover some serious ground! But first I needed to do some filming, because after all, I am making a film about this journey. With the help of Elanda we shot some beautiful imagery. Only it was time for me to get those 8 wheels rolling again towards Zeeland. I immediately noticed the wind at my back and I don’t think I ever reached such speed on my skates. It must have been 30 kilometers per hour. You can imagine with this speed I covered around 55 kilometers. And I also went across a 6 kilometer long bridge crossing the Oosterschelde, and this was very cool.

Schermafbeelding 2015-03-25 om 23.06.40

The entire journey I was fortunate to have the wind at my back. This is very nice, so I don’t have to drag myself forward on my skates. On the other side, it does take away some of the suffering, and therefore some of the victory. I had to think about a well known adventurer who experienced headwind for two weeks in a row. This will drive you mad and after a week you can only dream about tailwind. I must say, I did learn to appreciate the wind at my back, because there are plenty of other elements making this journey a real challenge. For example dragging 15 kilos in your backpack or enduring the freezing cold. And I can’t help feeling that it’s going to be freezing cold again tonight!

The original concept was to cover 450 kilometers in 14 days. Tomorrow it’s Monday and I still have 42 kilometers to go before I reach my final goal. The wind plays an important part and can really influence the outcome. In the end it isn’t a choice of reaching your goal. I just won’t give up, even if it would take all of my strength to get there!

Day 15, February 16th: Veerse Meer – St. Anna Ter Muiden15
Today started like any other day. But it was cold, very cold! This was to be suspected, seeing that I noticed a layer of ice on the inside of my tent at 20:30 yesterday. So after a night of waking up a lot from the cold, it finally got light outside. I got out of my igloo and made me some breakfast on the field next to the water. During eating my breakfast it started to get really misty and this persisted the entire day. It looked like I was on an entire different planet! Who knows what creatures were hiding behind the clouds… And there I was, racing on my skates through an extra-terrestrial world, finding the next town on my journey. I arrived at Middelburg, a town nearby Vlissingen, where I’m going to take the ferry and only 20 kilometres to go!

The last 20 kilometres didn’t go easy, though. Headwind. Only headwind. So in retrospect, regarding the piece I wrote yesterday, I can say this wasn’t easy. And still I arrived at the village of sluis with only 3 kilometres to my final destination; the sign that says BELGIUM. The road that leads to the sign was torture. Headwind and paving stones! Who is responsible for this? Skating for 450 kilometres to reach my destination, to be confronted with paving stones on the home stretch! Something with the last straw is breaking the camel’s back…

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Man, I couldn’t be happier seeing the much awaited sign! I took some pictures, shot some film and well…walked back to the village (yes, this time I walked) to find myself a place to sleep. This is difficult considering the desolate surroundings. A sign, a busy road and a tiny restaurant. The objective was only a figment of my imagination. It is on the map, but there is nothing to be found. Now you can find a blister bandage stuck to the sign with a bit of writing on it. A bandage used for blisters is appropriate, I think.

Meanwhile writing this story, I’m in my tent, illegally set up on camping grounds. I snuck it in through the back entrance, after which I made myself a well-earned festive meal. Because what better way is there to celebrate a personal victory? Correct, with a can of pea soup and a can of Schultenbrau beer.

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If you liked this rollerblading winter adventure and would like to keep up with my other adventures or shenanigans you can like my facebook page here. (hint: there are more adventures to come…)

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