Sunday, Sunday, so good to me …

We had a blissfully relaxing evening at our campsite (Allure Camping De Zeven Linden), we felt amongst nature as the rabbits hopped about, birds sang and despite the actual site being relatively large, it was extremely quiet in our secluded spot. The facilities were plentiful and spotless, and after a refreshing shower, we set to cobbling together some supper with our now dwindling rations. We had hoped to stop by a supermarket on route (our favourite being Jumbo), however the only town we passed through was more of a pretty tourist one, and the eateries there looked like they would not be enamoured with a couple of dusty Lycra clad travellers. We did not go hungry though as our instant noodles and roggebrood (rye bread) were augmented by some cheese purchased at the reception shop, and of course we still had a heft of the date slice to work through.

We slept fairly well, but were awake soon after the sunrise given there are no blackout blinds in a tent. We soon carried out our morning routines and were on our way through the leafy cycle route, that led out into what is clearly a very affluent area, judging by the size of the houses lining the avenues. Our route though took us out into open countryside and along the LF9 which is one of the long distance cycleways. This ran along the top of a dyke for many a mile, though it was exposed the sun did not feel too hot as there was a cooling sidewind, which though it made pedalling a little harder, the benefits outweighed this. We were a little crestfallen to find a detour along the way as they are clearly carrying out major works to the dyke, and our tracking/navigation app really does not like it if you go off course. Fortunately the detour did not take us too far out of our way and concluded in the charming town of Bunschoten-Spakenburg, from where we picked up the LF again following the course of the Eemmeer, meeting a few other bike tourers along the way.

Eventually we left the LF and headed towards Putten, a relatively large town, which offered us the opportunity to do a little shopping for provisions. The town sits adjacent to an expanse of forest which is part of the Veluwe, it was lovely to be riding through the dappled shade as the heat of the day was building. We stopped at a convenient bench and enjoyed a lunch of fresh spelt bread and cheese with salad, and a couple of Dutch apples, which we could barely finish, such was their girth.

The rest of the afternoon was spent riding through the expanse of forest towards Epe, these are no muddy forest tracks though, as we had found on previous visits, they are either concrete or hardcore pathways allowing for access to nature by all. In addition, many of the tracks had a wider sandy track running alongside to accommodate horse riders. It really has been so well thought out and implemented.

We arrived in Epe, where we had identified a mini-camping site which the reviews said is not suitable for children as it is too quiet, so it was for Camp Pollen that we headed! The only disappointment was that the area earmarked for small tent camping was in full sun, and the sun was full at this point, so we were somewhat frazzled by the time we had pitched the tent. We freshened up with lovely cool showers and identified an area the other side of the hedge from our tent that we could take our chairs and enjoy our supper of lovely fresh salads followed by a little doze in the warm late afternoon. We did have neighbours to our field, a harras of horses, who provided much entertainment as there was clearly a lot of posturing, flirting and jostling for head horse status. Indeed this went on much of the night, as when I awoke for my nightly trek to the lavatory, there were clearly galloping displays going on judging by the sounds of hoofs.

We knew the next day was going to be very hot, so decided that we would make a quick getaway as early as possible. Aiming to be on the road by 07.00, foregoing our usual breakfast for a hastily munched banana, we were actually packed up and on our way before 06.30. It was glorious in the cool of the morning, riding as the sun was coming up. By about 08.00 though we were craving a cup of coffee, but being out in the open countryside, the cafe opportunities were non-existent. We decided therefore to stop at a wayside picnic table and crack out the stove to make one ourselves. Fortified we moved onwards, clocking off the miles whilst the day was still relatively cool. After another couple of hours though, Mr V was feeling very empty, as he does not have the stout build that I do and being lean means he does not have the same reserves. We were on the outskirts of Hasselt by this time and so took a right turn into the town and immediately stumbled upon the Cafe de Compangie. The affable host fulfilled our request for cold Radlers, warm apple pie, and hot tea. It was all like sweet nectar as we slaked our thirst and filled our bellies – Mr V having a large portion of cream (slaag) with his apple pie to better fuel the tanks.

Early morning sunshine

Fortified we travelled on heading for the town of Meppel, where we had identified a couple of mini-campsites the other side. It was getting hotter, and by the time we reached the outskirts of the town it was just passed midday and our early start was catching up with us so we stopped in a shady park to plot our route to the actual campsite. I confess my eyes were struggling to stay open at this point, and the cool lush grass beneath a tree looked too inviting not to have a little lie down. The next thing I knew Mr V was waking me from a sound slumber! To be honest, the little ‘power nap’ did me the world of good and I was re-energised to pedal the final leg. We found Theehouis easily as it was right on the main cycle path, this was a mini-campsite which had a cafe/bar as an added bonus, with the aid of google translate, I requested a cool shady pitch, which when I resorted to the speech facility, raised a laugh from the owner and customers; I gather that although it was understandable, it was perhaps grammatically naive. Nevertheless we secured a lovely spot in the little orchard which we initially had to ourselves, but were later joined by a couple of young German women who were hiking, and whilst we dined on shop bought ready made salad, they had pizza delivered. Modern technology at its finest!

The forecast for the night was rain, with this lingering on in the morning, and we certainly felt the change in the weather, as the evening drew in the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. We retired to our tent after moving Talula and our chairs to a small covered area in the corner, and snuggled down for for the night. We both slept extremely soundly, and indeed had a positive lie-in as we did not wake up until 07.00. We set to our morning routines, I opted to get dressed in the lovely warm ablution block, before finishing off the packing up and having breakfast. We bid farewell to our young neighbours who were just breaking camp, and were on our way heading mainly northwards on LF9 & 14 heading towards Assen, these are again the long straight long distance routes.

We have been looking for the last couple of days for a camping supplies shop, as our gas canister, though not empty, is running low, so we have been trying to preserve what is left by limiting hot drinks, therefore we had thought we would just stop for coffee at a cafe this morning on route, and as it was the special Sunday of Father’s Day, I would treat Mr V to a nice cake with his coffee. Alas even after 10.00, every cafe along the route was still closed. By about 11.30 we were in need of a break from the saddle and came across a bank of shops in the small town of Smilde. Hopping off the bike and into an Aldi, I bought some pastries and a couple of juice smoothies, thinking that we could perhaps pedal on and find a seat. When I got outside though Mr V thought that given the nature of the route, finding a pleasant seat was unlikely, so we just sat down where we were and enjoyed our refreshments and chatted to an elderly gentleman who was also cycle touring. When we asked where he was headed, he replied ‘wherever’; it transpired that he had been on a trip to Santiago de Compostela, and had reached Paris, when the frame of his bike had broken, so he had had to return home and wait about eight weeks for a replacement bike, so he is now heading off wherever the wind takes him. We bid him safe travels and he wished us a good life.

We pedalled onwards, and such is the way of things, 5 minutes down the road we come across a cafe, heigh-ho! Though the LF we were travelling along was long and straight, banked as it was for the most part by a main road and also a canal, there were points of interest along the way. I caught in my peripheral vision something running alongside of us, and when we stopped to see what it was, realised that we had come across what was clearly an ostrich farm, and they were as curious of us as we were of them. We stopped and looked around a couple of old lime kilns, that are now protected as national monuments, but judging by the number of cans and bottles inside, used as a party venue despite what must be a crawl through the vent spaces. For a considerable length of the route, the main road ran between the cycle path and the canal, and as cars sped along, we cyclists and boaters take our time and wave at one another as we pass, acknowledging the fellowship of the slow traveller.

As we drew into Assen after 13.00, we felt sure that we would find a nice coffee shop, and although the route took us through the central area, there were many restaurants and bars, but these were mainly for the evening clientele, the one or two cafes that we saw, remained resolutely closed. Disappointed, we pedalled on towards our campsite hoping that there may be something on route but we then found that we were in a predominantly residential area. We decided to stop at a bench that overlooked a small lake to check with google, and I had just found that there was a service station about a mile away, when from my left a lady appeared with a tray containing coffee and cake. I was a little taken aback at first, thinking her a mirage induced by caffeine withdrawal, but she was real live angel. Though she spoke only a little english, we were able to communicate enough to know that her name was Anna (Rosetree/Rosebough) and her daughter is in her 60s and currently walking the Camino. She left us to enjoy the delicious coffee and home made cheesecake, after explaining to us that the naughty duck which was now nipping at our ankles for treats, was alone and is regularly checked on by animal services. We were a little overwhelmed by this act of kindness from a stranger and the food and drink nourished more than our tummies. We returned the tray to Anna, and using google translate, hope we conveyed our heartfelt thanks at such a generous act.

Still glowing with a reiterated faith in humanity, we pressed on to find our next campsite. This is another mini-camping site, we have found that these are generally quiet and offer a lovely personal service, so we are tonight at Ballo where the campsite is part of a farm complex that includes a shop, nursery, ice cream and various small furry animals. There is a TT rally on in the vicinity so it is quite busy, but the other occupants are of similar age and quiet disposition as us, and the facilities are spotless. We have dined on produce from the farm shop and feel relatively rested after what felt like quite an easy day. Tomorrow we are on a quest to replenish our gas supply, so shall be taking a detour from our original route meaning that we may have to re-evaluate our end point, depending on the derrières. But for today, it has been a good Sunday.

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