February 3rd was the day of our departure. A 12 day hike, following the border of the province we live in. Walking, to gather stories of the area we both been living in since we’ve been born. February the 6th I couldn’t go any further. This is my story.
~ Day 1: Bad Nieuweschans – Restaurant Westerhuis @ Termunterzijl (27km)
Exactly one year ago i stood on the same place as i find myself now, then with skates and backpack to make a 450 cross country journey. One year later adventure called again. Without skates this time but with a walking partner. Trudy, my upper floor neighbour. It’s 10 o clock and were ready for adventure. Ready for a 300 kilometer journey around the border of groningen.
To walk the exact border Trudy has made some good maps, and armed with a compas and walking sticks we make our first kilometers on paved roads. Eventually we see water on our right. The sea. Now it gets easy! Just 80 kilometers in a straight line from the east to the west with the sea on our right hands. Thats what we thought. Sadly for us it’s storming today. Strong headwinds make sure we dont walk too fast like the countless hares that speed in front of us. But the weather is good for now. Blue skies and sunshine. Trough the wind we hear nothing else; no cars, busses, people or anything. This is true silence with a landscape that only whispers when we look at it.
The road is long and monotone. The only thing we notice are the running hares and the clicking of our sticks. And clouds blocking the sun now and then. But the clouds become more and darker, and soon we find ourselves walking trough the tail of a rainstorm. The sound of the rain on our poncho’s, while the wind is playing with them, breaks the motonomy of the landscape. We decide to walk on the other side of the dyke, away from the hard winds. When we get there we are in for a little surprize.
The landsape has changed! It’s just a little, but it makes us see it with renewed joy. Where the sea was very far away before, now it’s close by and does beautiful things with the shore. The waves break down the sand and this leaves a very specific shoreline, known for this region.
By now the weight of our backpacks played parts on our feet. Just 5 more kilometers to go to the small village of Termunterzijl. Puffing and moaning, but satisfied we enter a well known fish restaurant. Some people drive 27 kilometers to this area to enjoy the nature and eat a fish at this restaurant. We walked it.
After a well deserved fish we discussed our sleeping options. It was dark now and the state of our feet left us with little options. We decided to walk back a little and camp out on the edge of the village when trudy started talking with the owner of a fish selling car from the restaurant. “Can we sleep in your fish vending car?” she joked. “Hahaha, nooo, sorry but i have an extra room on the attic if you like!”
Of course this was an offer we could’t refuse! The hospitallity warmed our bodies, as well as the heater in the attic did. A night in a tent during a storm is great, but meeting the local people is as nice. Even if you’re just 45 kilometers away from your birthplace.
Now it’s time for our feet to heal, to make 27 kilometers next to the windy shore again. Just 273 kilometers to go in 11 days.
~ Day 2: Termunterzijl – Oudeschip (30km)
The radioman woke us up this morning. We had an appointment for a live interview quite early in the morning. After the interview we started walking to our next destination about 10 kilometer further. It was poring with rain and by the time we got to the next town we felt like wet dogs. Walking 2 hours with nothing more then rain, wind, grass and dikes, made our moods heavy. It made us more so relieved when we finished the 10 kilometers and directly jumped into a cafe with the promise of fresh coffee. But we still had 20 kilometers to go, and this would be an interesting walk.
Before there was a dike on one side and meadows with some houses on the other. Now there was nothing. No houses, no benches, no trees or even hares that jumped before us the previous days. Just rain and wind. When we saw a house halfway we were excited to be out of the weather so we approached it. We askes for a place to sit and got a hot drink to warm our bodies. Soon we got on our feet again to do the last strech of this days trip.
But blisters were now evident and walking became harder and harder. Looking at the deep an tough clay in the meadows next to us it dawned to us what we were really doing. There is no way we can walk the exact border of the province in this strech of time. It takes biggest part of the day to walk 30 kilometers on the road, so we changed our plan a little. We will take roads when possible, but 30 kilometers trough meadows is impossible in 12 days. We feel we have to make this consession to finish the trip in time.
While the sun was going down we approached the village of oudeschip. A village founded by sailors. In the old time they called this place “the godless village”. Prostitution and divebars where the main sorce of pleasure here for the villagers. This changed of course, but still the village is known as the godless one.
We were looking for a garden to put our tent in, and when we rang the bell at Lucinda and Rene their house. She was surpised to see 2 travellers that might come from an exotic place. No, we where groningers, on an adventure in our own backyard.
Bags were put down, hands were shaked and fresh coffee was poured. We were invited for a great dutch dinner and we had great coversations along with a beer.
Adventure is found in many ways. This a whole new level of adventure to me. Staying with local people from my own province. Exchanging stories, talking about our lives and the area. Collecting stories from the people we meet.
My feet have 3 huge blisters now and i hope i can continue without too much pain. If we want to make it we have to keep the 30 kilometer target in our heads, but blisters and painfull legs make this journey tough. But the hospitallity of the people we meet make it beareable. Soon other people will join us in our walk, then the tent will be popped up, but for now we sleep cosy and warm in a bed with new made friends
~ Day 3: Oudeschip – Noordpolderzijl (17km)
We woke up in a nice and warm bed, our hosts pointed out to us the night before. Now Lucinda is a pedicure and before we left, she offered us a foot massage. This is the best offer a wanderer can get, when walking 27 kilometers a day. After a breakfast with coffee we waved goodbye and started our day. Walking trough the small village we saw beautiful tiny houses, in all shapes and sizes.
We heard about a tiny bar, in the middle of nowhere; Noordpolderzijl. This bar is the sanctuary of sailers and skippers in the area. For kilometers around there is nothing, except this bar. This is prone to have some good stories!
The bar was 20 kilometers from the place we started, so we started walking trough the empty landscape. The last 2 days we’ve been going to places where we thought there was nothing. Just a road, a dike and different type of meadows. Take away the different type of meadows, add a bunch of windmills (the new type, not the old dutch ones) and fog and you got yourself an alien planet. It felt like being in war of the worlds. Green grass fields as far as the eye can see, together with this huge structures makes everything feel like on a different planet, made by robot like creatures.
While we were walking I felt a little pain in my right knee. I encountered this pain before, but nothing to worry about. The rhythm of our sticks led us towards the lonely bar, and half way the bar we decided to have a little rest. The moment I got up I realized the pain in my knee was more evident, and slowly started going down towards my achilles tendon. I started to worry a little. I remember these pains from 2 years ago, when I walked the entire west coast of the Netherlands.
But for now we had to go on, because we were in the middle of nowhere. Sea and dike on our right side, on our left meadows as far as the eye could see. We continued and my knee and achilles tendon kept getting worse and worse. The sound of my sticks kept me going, but the experience from two years ago hunted my head. That time I pushed myself, and I pushed myself too far. I know the journeys I make are not easy, but in comparisment with, for example walking 1000 miles trough the desert, this is peanuts.
Peanuts or not, my knee hurt badly and by now I was pretty much limping. The last one and a half kilometers to the bar I was dragging myself towards the chairs that were waiting for us inside. Once we were inside I knew for sure. This is not responsible to keep on going. Last time I felt these pains I kept on going and that drove me straight into the arms of the doctor and physiotherapist.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I feel my knees are worth more then a good story, and this journey. Walking the border was a method to gather the stories, there are more methods then walking. The journey for now has ended, but the project is still alive. Now lets have a look how this can be continued.
I’ve never ended a journey in this way before, this is the first time I had to call quits. I feel quite disappointed towards myself, but also towards Trudy and all the other people who helped us with this journey. But in the end a journey should be fun, otherwise I’m not able to inspire, inform or just amuse people with the stories I write.
Sadly this journey has ended for now, but this is not the end of the journeys! Like my Facebook page for updates on other journeys and cool adventure stuff.