Without-a-map: Maastricht to Mt Blanc and back. Pt. 4, passes and following signs

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The las two weeks I’ve been cycling continuesly. Nothing happened except for rolling the wheels and going from here to there, trying to find my way without a map. In the other hand, so many things happened!

After following Iris her map to the Mt Blanc tunnel I realized it might not be possible to hitchhike with a bike and pannierbags… 4 hours passed while I stood at the beginning of the tunnel with my thumb up. Some people stopped, looked at my bike, and drove on. But just when I abandoned all hope, getting soaked by the rain and the local policeman told me they would bring me back to chamonix, a car stopped. My saviours! Within minutes my bike was on the top of the car and we left for Aosta, where the start of the Great St Bernards pass is.

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From now on it was climbing. And climbing. And after that a little more climbing! During this climb I met Renee and Laurent. We cycled a little together and after a drink went our seperate ways to the top. Just before the top we met again and did the last hundreds meters together. It was a joy to be all the way up there and although we went our seperate ways it was a pleasure to celebrate the triomph of the pass with them! A celebration is always better togher. Later that day I found something that made me think about the goodness of some people, I just could’nt believe it:

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And just like that I was in Switzerland! Now the following of the signs started. Route nr. 1, the Rhone route (totally awesome route!) route nr. 5 and nr.8 Just follow the signs. It made me feel a little bored and stuck in the pre made routes. Thinking for yourself becomes less important and arrows left or right became my map. Don’t get me wrong, they were some great and beautifull routes, but isn’t making your own route way more rewarding?

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After a rainy day, where good people in Aarau took care of me and gave me dry clothers and a sofa for the night I lost the trail of arrows. I found a new and way more interesting trail, one that ends in Rotterdam, the Rhine!

But I don’t need to go to Rotterdam, I need to go to Maastricht…

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Without-A-map: Maastricht – Mt Blanc and back, Pt3

 

I’ve been cycling trough fields, forrest and hills. Rain, sun and fog. Now it’s time for mountains and thunderstorms. Climbing for 14 kilometers straight, small mountain towns and no more use of the compass. I’ve reached the 1000 km mark, and all without a map.

By now I started to get into the Jura mountain area. A real beautiful area with tiny villages where there are no maps for me to stare at and try to draw my own maps. But here and there I was able to find a lost map, while I was eating in a restaurant for example. But now the choice of taking a bigger road, or a smaller tiny road was harder. The bigger roads had certainty of getting where I wanted, the smaller roads got me through beautiful areas, but I would not be sure if I would end up at the place I wanted. It was a risk I had to take, with the chance to get lost. The other side was that I would drive over beautiful little mountain roads. I took the risk. And the most beautiful mountain roads I could imagine! Sometimes you just need to take a little risk to enjoy life to the fullest.

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In Bescancon I found a map of France. When I found it I was happy as a child on Christmas! I drew myself a map and followed it. But when I was getting quite close to  Chamonix (and the Mt Blanc) I was looking at a map when a man asked me where I needed to go. I told him my route and he laughed at me… Hahaha, nooo my friend, you’re  taking the wrong way! The Mt Blanc is in the north! The route you want to take is at least 200 km longer. Hmm. Ok. I took his advise and went a little north again. Advise from locals is worth gold.

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The maps I’ve drawn before where worthless once again. He made a map for me, and while he got it clear in his head, for me it was hard to figure out. It was this day where I made my best detour yet. It was the day where I cycled 60 kilometers and just moved 40 kilometers. Yes, a 20 kilometer detour, uphill… Part of cycling without a map I guess… Also I noticed that cycling without a maps in the mountains is way harder. The compass is useless, since the roads zigzag through the landscape and when you’re off the map, its hard to find a bigger village again. Most places I’ve passed had maps of the village and 10 km around. Not helpful…

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But I was getting closer. Just 95 kilometers trough the mountains until Chamonix! At a rainy Friday morning I had a look at my map and knew I would be there in the end of the day. I’ve passed a 1500 meter high pass in a thunderstorm, went down in the rain and cycled on, and on, and on and on. Just when I thought I was close by, somebody told me it was at least 1 hour cycling…

But the signs where good, a mountain with a white top was showing off.

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Yeah, I was getting there! And finally at 9:30 in the evening I was in Chamonix. The town closest to the Mt Blanc. I arranged a place to stay through Warmshowers and had an amazing weekend with my host and their friends. Late night parties, hiking trough the mountains, good food and nice conversations. Just what I needed after 20 days in the forrest. And a great view of the Mt Blanc glacier.wpid-dsc_0368.jpg

But this is just the middle of my trip. Now its time to return to Maastricht, over the “Great St Bernard Pass”. It will be tough, 40 kilometers of climbing. Then trough Italy, Switzerland and Germany to return to the flat meadows of the Netherlands.

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Thanks Iris, Marty, Stef and their friends for hosting me, the good company, laughs and awesome time!

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Without-a-map: Maastricht – Mt Blanc, part 2

It was hot, very hot. I just kept sweating like never before, and I’ve done bikram yoga, so I know what sweating is. While I was sweating my ass off, I had to find my way to the Mt Blanc, with my own doodles.

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Every day I’ve made maps from the maps I came across in villages or cities. But now my map stopped… I couldn’t find any maps on my way, so I ended up riding on my compass. A whole day was spent just cycling south, the right direction. When the destiny is just south, there is no wrong, this was nice for a while. I just followed my compass and put my hope on signs of cities about 50 km’s away. They must be big, otherwise there is no sign.

And still it became hotter. By now I was kind of used to sweat the whole day, but when tar from the road starts to melt at 11 in the morning and it’s 44C in the sun, what is there left to do? Yes, cycling. And trying to cool off by dropping my tshirt in every fountain I could find. At least this way.I was fresh for 10 minutes.

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What you should’nt do is eat a huge hamburger with fries and then cycle uphill. It was maybe the most stupid and hard thing I did in my cycling life… The food came up, time and time again and I couldn’t drink because I was so full. Going through a medow, I couldn’t even breathe normally, it was more panting and sighing. But I survived and was not hungry untill the next morning.

This hot day was also the day when I met a guy at the trainstation who showed me a map of france. And yes, the Mt Blanc was on there! After this I decided I needed a celebration. A hostel, with a shower.

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The next day would be thunderstorms so i decided to stay and chill out. See the city, go to a metalbar and get pretty drunk with the awesome metallocals. They even paid my drinks, thanks guys!

But after fun in bars comes the hangover, especially at 8 in the morning. But nothing that a bikeride up into the start of the jura mountaims can’t fix. Now I was getting into the real moumtains. Beautifull tiny roads where 45 km/h downhill is normal. Fog, so you cant see anything around you and pine forrests to play with a tarp for the night.

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My tarp building skills where getting better, but the mapping skills I’ve learned myself in the flat or hilly country are no good in the mountains. A day will come where I would cycle 1/3 of my day around mostly uphill, to search for places on my own maps. If I would guess that would be near the Mt Blanc…

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Without-a-map: Maastricht – Mt Blanc and back

I’m cycling around 2000 kilometers through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. All without paper maps, GPS or digital maps. Only a compass and own drawn maps should lead me to the highest mountain in France. And back to the Netherlands again.

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Dave and mirte gave me a touristic route trough Maastricht before letting me go towards the south. They drew me a map how to get to Belgium and from there on I was on my own. It was quite easy because I did a simular trip last year. The kilometers went fast and before I knew it I was in the beautiful Belgium ardennes, where the real adventure started.

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Cycling trough rain I made my first mistake. Making crappy, non detailled maps. It made me cycle 10 kilometers uphill before I realized  I had to go back down. This also made me very insecure about the way I found my way down south. Also the constant rain didn’t help but when I finally was on the right road my eye spotted 4 cans of perfectly good food in a trashcan! My spirits where up again!

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I’ve learned the food was there for a reason. The company who makes this food is helping on the downfall of humanity. Beans ‘n sauce that tastes of dogfood… White cabbage ‘n saussage with the taste of stale pudding. Aweful! Why do they make this trash?? But the food didn’t change my mood too bad. Or my maps. They got a little better, but it was still hard to find nice and not too buisy roads. Every time I’ve made a map it seemed I went wrong and this frustrated me time and time again. I had to trust my own mapping skills.

The more I made maps, the more I’ve trusted myself. My maps where getting more detailled but at some point my map ended. All the maps I came across stopped at the border of belgium, so when I entered France I had to ride on my compass. From village to village I went, without knowing where I actually whas or went. It made me a bit nervous, not knowing if I was on the right way, but I’ve learnt to trust my compass and the sun. It should he on the right side. And hopefully I would find a tiny map somewhere.

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Of course I came across a map a day later. It was a huge woldmap! But it kinda helped me, since I knew around what area the Mt Blanc was. If I knew the big cities around it, for sure I could get there. Next to this I found a detailled map, so I was good for at least 100 kilometers. I just had to follow the meuse rivers, giving me nice oppertunities to swim, cool down and perfect places to set my tarp.

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When sleeping under a tarp I’ve encountered the nature around me way more intense. I felt the wind blowing, heared tiny critters and other animals crawl trough the leaves and even had a nightly encounter with a wild pig.

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But also the change in weather was more appearent. It became hot. Like sauna hot, and I was dripping of sweat. By now I was quite on my way towards this big mountain and a day of rest sounded good to me. A day full of fishing, reading, writing and chilling. It was good to do this because it prepared me for the next couple of sauna days where it would be 44 dagrees in the shade. I’ve never cycled uphill in such hot weather and it would be a good but energy-eating exerience…

For more updates and pics check out my facebook page!

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Without-a-map: Maastricht – Mt Blanc and back

I’m cycling around 2000 kilometers through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. All without paper maps, GPS or digital maps. Only a compass and own drawn maps should lead me to the highest mountain in France. And back to the Netherlands again.

image

Dave and mirte gave me a touristic route trough Maastricht before letting me go towards the south. They drew me a map how to get to Belgium and from there on I was on my own. It was quite easy because I did a simular trip last year. The kilometers went fast and before I knew it I was in the beautiful Belgium ardennes, where the real adventure started.

image

Cycling trough rain I made my first mistake. Making crappy, non detailled maps. It made me cycle 10 kilometers uphill before I realized  I had to go back down. This also made me very insecure about the way I found my way down south. Also the constant rain didn’t help but when I finally was on the right road my eye spotted 4 cans of perfectly good food in a trashcan! My spirits where up again!

image

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I’ve learned the food was there for a reason. The company who makes this food is helping on the downfall of humanity. Beans ‘n sauce that tastes of dogfood… White cabbage ‘n saussage with the taste of stale pudding. Aweful! Why do they make this trash?? But the food didn’t change my mood too bad. Or my maps. They got a little better, but it was still hard to find nice and not too buisy roads. Every time I’ve made a map it seemed I went wrong and this frustrated me time and time again. I had to trust my own mapping skills.

The more I made maps, the more I’ve trusted myself. My maps where getting more detailled but at some point my map ended. All the maps I came across stopped at the border of belgium, so when I entered France I had to ride on my compass. From village to village I went, without knowing where I actually whas or went. It made me a bit nervous, not knowing if I was on the right way, but I’ve learnt to trust my compass and the sun. It should he on the right side. And hopefully I would find a tiny map somewhere.

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Of course I came across a map a day later. It was a huge woldmap! But it kinda helped me, since I knew around what area the Mt Blanc was. If I knew the big cities around it, for sure I could get there. Next to this I found a detailled map, so I was good for at least 100 kilometers. I just had to follow the meuse rivers, giving me nice oppertunities to swim, cool down and perfect places to set my tarp.

image

When sleeping under a tarp I’ve encountered the nature around me way more intense. I felt the wind blowing, heared tiny critters and other animals crawl trough the leaves and even had a nightly encounter with a wild pig.

image

But also the change in weather was more appearent. It became hot. Like sauna hot, and I was dripping of sweat. By now I was quite on my way towards this big mountain and a day of rest sounded good to me. A day full of fishing, reading, writing and chilling. It was good to do this because it prepared me for the next couple of sauna days where it would be 44 dagrees in the shade. I’ve never cycled uphill in such hot weather and it would be a good but energy-eating exerience…

For more updates and pics check out my facebook page!

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