Monthly Archives: July 2016

Cycle tour around Twente (NL)

Twente-14

Nie lull’n moar poets’n (Twente quote ~ make it happen)

Well, I did make it happen! A cycle tour in Twente, it was on my to-do-list for a while. Just 3 days of cycling, 180 km according to the information leaflet I found on the internet. In the end I cycled over 210. No clue if it was due to my navigation skills or the cosy little villages I passed. The extra 30 km were fun as well.

day 1: Delden – Lemele

In Delden I drive off. My bike is loaded, I really took everything. After many years I notice I have to get used to cycling with the packs again. I have more than enough gear, but what to take when the nights are still rather chilly and I do not want to eat in restaurants all the time. In the end I always take too much, as I did now. Anyway, I just loaded everything on the bike and take off in a very good mood. Goal of the day is Lemele, a small village some 65 km away. I follow the signs of the long distance cycle tour LF15(b) – farmers route (Boerenlandroute), and later the LF8(b). My first stop is already after a few kilometers, Twickel estate and castle. An impressive historic estate from the 14th century, situated in a beautiful park. A good start I would say!

Happily I move on, cycling through nice scenery. Sometimes mainly agricultural with a lot of meadows, farms, cows, sheep, lama’s and sometimes more woody. Over sandy tracks and gravel, through heathland, over streams and rivers, through forrest. All very beautiful and with so many birds singing lovely songs. I spot a bird of prey who wants to land on my path but is scared of at the last minute and a small stone marten. I cycle alone for large parts… where is everybody? Are there people living here? Am I really such a townie? But when I am enjoying some traditional Twente raisin bread (krentenwegge) at a picnic spot, a couple decides to stop here as well and we have a lovely chat. They speak the Twente dialect to which I just have to get used to a bit. After an hour we go our separate ways again.

All of a sudden I see a commemorative plate with a garlant around it. I stop and read it. It is a reminder of an aircraft crash during the 2nd World War. Part of a project called ‘Opdat niet wordt vergeten’ (Lest one should not forget) crash sites are marked. Gosh, this is quite a different viewpoint on this lovely day.

Impressed by a very nice day I arrive in the little village of Lemele. I am tired but have to find some dinner in the local supermarket and proceed to the small nature campsite ‘De Olde Lucashoeve’. A very hospitable location where I am happy to pitch my tent for the night.

day 2: Lemele – Beuningen

After a good night sleep in a very quiet area, I am awakened by many birds and loud bangs in the distance. Are there hunters in this area? I pack my stuff and jump on my bike again. This will be the longest cycling day of this weekend, so I better start early. And what a start. Just after I leave the campsite the road climbs. In the Netherlands? Yes. I am on the Sallandse Heuvelrug (ridge) en just next to the Lemeler ‘Mountain’. This is a moraine from the last ice age and is roughly 60 meters high. It does not sound very impressive, but with the extra 10+ kgs I do feel it. Nice start of the day. After an hour I reach Ommen… coffee! I find a pleasant terrace in the historic centre and enjoy a good cup of coffee and a nice conversation with a rock ‘n roll lover. I enjoy meeting people, even though I will probably never meet them again.

After the coffee I cycle part of the LF16(a) – Vecht valley route (Vechtdalroute), along the river Vecht. Beautiful nature again. It is not a very sunny day, but that does not matter. I pass a lot of meadows again, find some sand dunes in the forrest and all of a sudden I see a small farm/brewery ‘De Pauw’. A real surprise I would say. After a while I switch to the LF14(a) – Saxony route (Saksenroute). I pass a few nice towns and villages today. After Ommen I cycle through Vroomshoop, Tubbergen, Ootmarsum and a bit of Denekamp. Especially Ootmarsum is a lively little town. Many art shops and pleasant terraces. I would love to stay, but I can see it coming. A dark cloud is moving my way. As I still have to cover another 10 km to the destination of today, I decide to speed up a bit.

Just below Denekamp is the little town of Beuningen. It is small and has a nice nature campsite called ‘Olde Kottink’. This is a true discovery, where I am welcomed with a very good cup of coffee. In the mean time a lot of fun is going around in the yard. Kids are baking some bread-on-a-stick above a small fire, grown ups are sitting at large picnic tables with a glas of wine or a beer. Rapidly I pitch my tent and return for my own glass of wine. After dinner I decide to go for a small walk. I spot a deer with 2 calfs. Being a townie I do not see nature like this too often and after the long cycle trip of today (~ 76 km) I enjoy it a lot!

day 3: Beuningen – Delden

Last day already. I wake up from the small pitter-patter of rain on my tent. Not a very annoying sound, but the idea to cycle in the rain is not appealing. I decide to just relax some more, for I only have to cycle around 60 km today. I am in no hurry. When I finally get up and walk to the sanitary building I spot something nice. Fresh slices of the Twente raisin bread for the guests. I decide this will be my breakfast, hmmm…

The sun breaks through, I wait for the tent to dry, talk a bit with other cyclists and at around 11 am I hop on my bike. Today I cycle in the direction of the large city of Enschede. The route officially goes straight through town, but I like cycling in nature so I decide to take the LF4(a) Centre of Netherlands route (Midden-Nederland route), passing just above Enschede. Along the way I pass a ‘Klopkeshoes’. A very tiny house showing how single women in the past were living, serving the landlord and God. Gosh.

In the village De Lutte I drink a cup of coffee and spot a statue of a hellhound (hellehond), a mythological figure which mainly was ‘spotted’ here. In folk tales, the hellhound was bringer of imminent disaster. I don’t want to think, just cycle. I pass a colorful field of sunflowers, dark forrest, muddy paths, a few small chapels and again beautiful landscapes. Close to Enschede the environment is more urbane. The route runs through an area with a mental institution, crosses the campus of the University and passes the football stadium of FC Twente. It is Sunday and Summer holidays, so everywhere I go it is quiet, hardly any people on the streets and for the first time I think the route is a bit boring. Until I reach Boekelo. A small village, known for the salt industry in the past. Along the road many small huts can be found. End of the 19th century a salt layer was discovered and from within these small huts people started producing the salt. They are everywhere. I need to find the story behind this when I get home.

After more than 65 km I am back in Delden. I have missed the route a few times in the last part, mostly because some signs were missing. That explains the extra kilometers I would say. This was a very beautiful cycle tour through a wonderful part of The Netherlands. I enjoyed the landscape, the hospitality, the lovely people I met on the way and the delicious raisin bread. Should do this more often!

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Scuba diving in The Netherlands


The sea, once it casts it’s spell, holds one in it’s net of wonder forever – Jacques Ives Cousteau

Diving in The Netherlands. I can hear you thinking. What? Where? Is there anything there? Yes, we have our lovely pea soup as we call it. Cold, dark, green waters, full of algae and thus life. There is a rather large diving community. Mostly Dutch and Belgian, sometimes even a few Germans. And me. How come?

Once upon a long long time ago. I was traveling in East Africa, Malawi to be precise, where somebody told me it was cheap to get my PADI certification. I am Dutch, so why not. I did my training in the large Lake Malawi and logged a few dives at Zanzibar some weeks later. And that was it. Years later, at the Poor Knight Islands in New Zealand, I went diving again. After being close to panic, I realized that without practice I would not enjoy diving. So I decided to go for my advanced certification close to home in a sand pit. Guess what, I got infected by the scuba virus. I was amazed by the many life forms I found under water, even with our mostly poor visibility. I kept on diving, became a Dive Master, attended some biology trainings and I started to check off as many creatures as possible, enjoying almost every dive I did. Almost, because diving in The Netherlands is not easy. Sometimes the waters were so murky that I lost my buddy, or weather was too bad to enter the waters safely. But, to be honest, I logged hundreds of dives in these waters. There surely are some really nice places for diving, each with their specific life forms.

Fresh water

The Netherlands has many lakes, all basically divable, but some have special facilities available. Think: toilets, parking, easy shore access, scaffolding and sometimes ladders, but most important food and beverages. I have been diving in some lakes like Oostvoorne, Vinkeveen & Spiegelplas. Especially in Spring, when the water is too cold for the algae to bloom, visibility is acceptable and you can see many animals waking up. Small Crayfish, Eals, Perch and small, but also very big Pike. Fresh water diving is not so much the flora and fauna as it is what we humans have dumped in the waters. Boats, tires, busses, construction waste. A lot of pollution, but also hiding places for fish. It is always a pleasure to explore. And difficult, for the compass cannot handle all the iron under water very well. Navigation skills are key in our country.

Grevelingen lake

The Grevelingen Lake is a large water area just south of Rotterdam. It used to be a sidearm of the North Sea, but due to the damming activities (Delta Works) for protecting our land, it was closed with two dams in 1965 and 1971. The largest salt water lake in Europe was born. Locks in both the Grevelingen dam and the Brouwers dam manage the salt level. Even though man intervened, the underwater flora and fauna found it’s way to flourish. It is an easy place to dive, even though navigation skills are still necessary and waters can be murky and dark. Maximum depths at dives are up to around 30 meters, but below 15-20 meters life is scarce. Some of the nice things to see are huge lobsters, crabs, all kinds of small fish, jelly fish, anemone, sponges, algae and some nudibranches. Very rarely there are sightings of porpoise and seals. In some locations artificial reefs have been placed to create hiding places for wildlife, and thus can be very interesting for divers. Even though divers have to climb with all their gear over the dikes which are protecting the land, the dives usually are very rewarding and facilities at the dive sites are great. Surely a good dive does not stand without some after dive drinks and food at one of the nice restaurants in the small, mostly pictureque towns around.

Oosterschelde

For me personally the nicest dive spots are in the Oosterschelde. Again a closed sea arm of the North Sea, closed by a storm surge barrier in 1986. It is not completely closed, the dam has sluice gate type doors which let water flow freely, until a storm and extreme high tides are predicted and the doors are closed. The flora and fauna can enter any time, making the diversity somewhat larger compared to the Grevelingen lake. Seals, dogfish even porpoise can been seen under water, but there is much more. In some areas large groups of sponges are making colourful scenes, more than 50 species of nudibranch can be found, large groups of sea bass and mullet are roaming the pillars of bridges and, my personal favourite, cuddlefish and squid are mating and reproducing in Spring. Every season has its active species ready to be found and admired. There are some hanging mussels which are accessible for divers. Amazing how good visibility is around these large numbers of ‘filters’.

Diving in these waters always depends on season, temperatures of the water, weather, tides, currents and number of divers. Anything can influence the conditions and visibility. But once I knew how it worked, I really loved diving here.

Diving: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles.