Day 354 – THE NETHERLANDS and BELGIUM: From Aezee to near St. Leenard

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 60.5km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.4km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 4h 46m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 612.38km (plus 428.5km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km

Sleeping spot in the woods on soft leaves near Deurne, The Netherlands

My sleep on the soft leaves was sweet. I woke to the sun shining through the leaves and birds chirping. Perfect.

The scenery for the most part of today was quintessential Holland.

Old windmill in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands Thatched roof in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands

Skating can be tough however in the villages. Annoying paving stones that look pretty, are not much fun for skating on. At times like this, it is neccesary to just knuckle down and trudge onwards at a slower pace.

And I suppose it is time to intorduce some of my new favourite foods, courtesy of this wonderful country.

Yummy apple spread in The Netherlands Caramel Stroopwafels from The Netherlands - far too moreish!

On the left is Apple Spread. On its own it tastes somewhat like malt molasses, but spread on bread, it is a moreish delight. I can easily polish off a whole loaf of bread if I have this wonderful goop to plaster on it.

On the right is something that I first experienced in Switzerland when working at the international outdoor education camps. Some teachers from The Netherlands brought some of these waffle things for us staff to taste, and I was hooked. They come in packs of 10. A small, heavy package filled with waffley caramelly wonder. It is extremely difficult not to eat more than three or four waffles in one go. Extreme self discipline is required not to over indulge.

As soon as I entered Belgium the rain started. It rained on and off all afternoon. Not nice.

Entering Belgium near Eersel, The Netherlands

Once again the border was a non-event. Non-existant even. The generous cycle paths disappeared also. The contrast between Belgium and The Netherlands was stark. Whereas the homes in The Netherlands were well kept and neat, the houses in Belgium were tatty. The roads were less cycle friendly. It was raining.

At Turnhout, I decided to get off the roads and head along the Dessel-Schoten Canal, a small canal leading west towards The Netherlands. Basically, this route is a direct route west that cuts across the north of Belgium.

Rain along the Dessel-Schoten Canal, Belgium

Towards early evening, the rain go worse, and just as I thought that I would be rained out, I spied an old building. That would be my shelter for the night.

On the phsycological warfare of human powered travel, I have made some adjustments. I no longer measure progress by distance. I now measure my progress by time. My daily goal now is to skate for five and a half hours. If I skate for more, good. Just so long as I make that time. Usually, this equates to at least 60km covered.

Thinking in terms of time rather than distance is a big advantage metally. To tell myself ‘I need to do 10km more’, is quite a big burden. But to tell myself to skate for another 1 hour, at whatever pace, slow or fast, carries much less burden.

So today I didn’t quite make my goal of five and a half hours. But I can live with that.

By 8pm I was cold, so got into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep. Sleep was long in coming, and when I eventually woke up at 5am the nex morning, I was ready to leave the cold empty building.

Day 353 – GERMANY and THE NETHERLANDS: From Viersen to Aezee

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 80.4km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.4km/h
Time on skateboard / 走行時間: 6h 28m
Total skateboarding distance to date / 今までスケボで走った距離: 547.35km (plus 428.5km)
Total cycling distance to date / 今まで自転車で走った距離: 11,800km

It was a great sleep last night. Sleeping on hay is just as comfy as any mattress…

This morning was a morning of great anticipation for The Netherlands. The Netherlands will be the last country I travel through on the Eurasian continent on my way to England. This is it. This is the last country!

Church in Nettetal, Germany

I entered The Netherlands with little fanfare however. My visions of joyfully handing my passport over to the border control for my last stamp of the continent were not fulfilled. The only evidence of a border was a sign indicating that I was now in The Netherlands. Talk about boring.

Nonetheless, The Netherlands has a great feeling about it. Smooth cycle paths, ordered and neat villages, fine clipped front yards, lowlying swamps and flat, flat, flat roads.

Swamp near Griendstveen, The Netherlands

I did discover however that the rumour that The Netherlands is windy is indeed true. For most of the afternoon I battled a stiff westerly in my face. This would become a common thing as I travelled across the country.

The wind died down however in the evening, allowing me to make good progress through the countryside, meeting some of the natives.

Horse near Deurne, The Netherlands

The last few kilometers of the day was on one of the smoothest, hardest surfaces I have skated on to date. A runway-grade concrete cycle path projected me onwards to a nice thicket where I slept under a tree for the night, after a big six and a half hour day.

Smooth, smooth cycle path near Deurne, The Netherlands