What a ripper of a storm! It rained and hailed with thunder and lightning, all night! The little tent was appreciative of dodging that one!
By the morning, the storm had stopped its tantrum and gone off to be angry somewhere else, so we had a clear and muggy morning to ride into. The town of Den Bosch was so quiet and peaceful as we pedalled through the streets and cobbled lane ways. As we headed out of town, we came across the dreaded…roundabout!!! No problem, no worries, this one was the friend of the cyclist, with its separate path, and this wee cyclist didn’t have to interact with that motorised traffic at all! How totally breeyant!
We pedalled on following the cycle network. We’d written down our numbers again, following them in order and waiting for the signs to tell us the direction we needed to go. I had them stuck to my handlebar bag and would call out the next number we needed to look for, as we rode along.
Our route took us along a beautiful path, through a forest and the morning was absolutely steaming. I don’t know what the humidity factor was, but it was high.
As we pedalled along the path, a couple came walking towards us with their two daschunds and spoke to us. “Sorry, ik spreken Engels,” I apologised. They switched to English and asked us about where we’d come from and where we were going. We told them a bit about the trip and I told them we’d fallen in love with their country and how beautiful it was.
“It is very nice,” the lady agreed, “it has a bit of everything – country and beaches.”
“You camp?” the man asked, pointing to our bags.
“When we can, if the weather’s OK” we said.
“You didn’t camp last night!?” he asked with a look of concern, “you stay in a hotel?”
“Yes,” we said, “we were in a hotel.”
“That’s good, it was terrible! Hail like this,” and he made a circle with his fingers the size of a golf ball.
Yep, it was a doozy of a storm! The news even said there were hailstones the size of tennis balls, so it was a biggie!
We told them we were going to come back so we could explore a bit further because we were loving our time here so much. The man pointed beyond the trees and said a large tract of land had just been declared national park and they’re removing the agricultural soil, to enable the native vegetation to regenerate, as well as planting trees to attract birdlife. “It will be a beautiful place for you to see in a couple of years when you come back,” he said. “You’re following a beautiful route today,” he added, “it’s very nice along here. Are you going to Heusden?”
We hadn’t planned to, but they told us it was a nice, old town and well worth a look. We chatted a bit more, said our goodbyes to these lovely, friendly people and set off again, with a new detour to Heusden.
“It’s going to rain again later,” they told us as we left.
Yep, we knew, so we were going to see as much as we could before the next gang of storms arrived.
We rode on and I watched the back of Steve’s shirt getting darker and darker as the damp spread across it. My arms were shimmering and I was wiping the drips out of my eyes. It was hot and humid! We were hot and dripping. It was a scorcher and it was…GREAT! We rode through the town of Drunen and stopped in the quiet town square for elevenses. It was so quiet. Hardly a soul around. I know The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries on Earth, but we don’t get that sense at all. Places have been quiet and open and haven’t felt crowded at all. It’s one of the many things we love.
A short pedal out of Drunen and we rode into Heusden. What a beautiful village. The quiet, cobbled streets welcomed us, as we pedalled sedately around the little town’s lanes, feeling the history and stories in its walls.
A few people were going about their business, collecting their crusty rolls from the bakery, stopping to chat in the street, or enjoying coffee in the street side cafes. It was a charming picture. We’ve been so lucky with the people we’ve met. If we hadn’t met Hank and Trui on the ferry, who suggested routes and places to visit, we would never have spent the time here that we have and discovered the beautiful places that we have. If we hadn’t met the nice couple on the path, we wouldn’t have known about Heusden and would have missed it completely. We’ve been lucky with the local people we’ve come across, who have been friendly and helpful and made such welcome suggestions of places to see and visit. I loved Heusden. Property prices were pretty reasonable too!
Before leaving, I joined the locals and bought some nice artisan rolls from the village Master Baker, so we had some lunch for the road and we continued on our way. We were now following the River Maas and once again, had a beautiful route, with the river giving us a tranquil scene to our right. We wheeled along in the scorcher of a day and the temperature climbed into the high twenties, nudging 30C. Oh what a beautiful morning…Oh, what a beautiful day! We’ve been waiting for this!
We stopped at a bench along the path and enjoyed our master baker standard rolls, soaked up some more sun and I applied another layer of sunscreen, even though it seemed to melt off me straight away. We hadn’t ridden very far, only about 30km by lunch time. We’ve read about other touring cyclists who do 100km days in The Netherlands, because it’s so flat. We are so not part of that team! We have to be the champion slow cyclists at the moment. We’ve given in to the fact that we’re not going to be achieving those mega mileage days. We’ve also decided we have a good reason for that – we just keep seeing so many beautiful and interesting things, that we keep stopping to look or explore or visit places we come across. When we move, we cruise along at 20km/ph, it’s just that we stop a lot. This slows down our progress somewhat. So while we are in the perfect country to clock up long days and chew up the miles on the glorious flat paths we have, we will instead stand alone as the “Champions of Slow”! Given that the slow pace is presenting us with such magic moments and gems to discover, I think we’ll wear that badge with pride!
On we pedalled, along our perfect path, with the glorious scenery all around us. I always think it’s really nice to have a support crew. When I run marathons, it’s so good when there are people along the route cheering and encouraging the runners. It was so nice to have a support crew today, for us cyclists, wheeling along the Dutch paths and roads. We had encouragement and support from none other than the “Moo Crew”! They were there, roaming free range beside the river as we rode past, then they appeared again, roaming freely, just so they could be right by the side of the road to cheer us on as we rode past again.
“Gawd Alwin, cop an eyeful of that! Have you seen anything like it? Such scruffy, fashionably challenged people must surely be in need of some encouragement.”
“Only a mother could love that Frank. We’d better give ‘em a cheer, y’know make ‘em feel good. You can’t smile much if you look like that, bless ‘em.”
“Go you good thing! You’re doin’ amazing.”
“You got this! Yer aaawwwwsome, you pair! Crush those miles.”
The Moo Crew were so supportive, they even helped us out with the traffic. One of the support team stepped into the road, to stop an oncoming car for us. Even though we had our own lane and we could go along the road quite happily, that darling Moo Crew member decided to help us out anyway.
“Quick, Lambert! You’re closest, there’s a car coming! If that poor driver sees what’s comin’ along the road on those two wheels, the shock could cause an accident! Get out there and stop it! Block that driver’s vision. Go Lambert! In the name of road safety and humane behaviour towards unsuspecting members of the driving public, GO! Get out there and stop that car, before that poor driver sees these two! Get out on that road!”
What a team! What a support crew! What nice locals they were to welcome us and help us out and cheer us on.
We arrived in the small town of Waspik and sat on a bench to research some accommodation. As we sat there, the first drops of rain fell and the change was obviously coming. The storm was approaching! Time to find some shelter, STAT! We found a hotel 7km away, so set off in a race to beat the full arrival of that approaching storm front. We made it to Raamsdonk after 55km of riding, still dry, checked into our small hotel and stored the bikes under the eaves around the back.
Time to get supplies in a hurry. We power walked down the street to locate a supermarket, with the rain beginning to fall. After successfully navigating the aisles, we prepared for our walk back, but as we left the store, it was to see that the weather had well and truly turned! It was bucketing down! It was still hot, but it was pouring. Up went our umbrellas and into the puddles we surged.
The thunder growled and roared and then the lightning started. I always feel a wee bit vulnerable carrying an umbrella when there’s lightning around, so I picked up the pace!
We got back to our room, a little soggy, but with smiles on our faces nonetheless. These overnight storms have been really good for riding, because they’re over by morning and then we have nice, clear warm days. They’re no good for camping though and continue to keep us out of our tent. There’s supposed to be a change tomorrow, with some rain during the day and a fine night. We might be able to reacquaint ourselves with our nylon palace tomorrow.
The days just seem to keep getting better. Just when we have a top day, another one tops it! Today we had more beautiful scenery, gorgeous towns and villages, friendly people and steaming hot weather. Simply sensational. This trip is a lot like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – we never know what we’re going to get. Well here, we’re getting non stop caramel whirls and choc fudge cremes! We just want to wrap it up and put a bow on it, every single day!