We started this section by having a day off in Namur, Belgium. It felt like ages since we’d had one, and it was good just to rest our legs and drink beer without worrying if we’d cycle into the river. Namur is that nice balance of not enough to do to entice tourists, but enough to do for a couple of cyclists taking a day off. We were drinking outside a tavern, when a woman sitting next to us was very insistently trying to talk to us in Flemish, and it took a while to realise that she had served us in a cafe earlier and had recognised us and wanted to say hello. Her companion, with the help of his phone, translated the history of the tavern, how it had been given to the workers who had built the nearby church, and how proud they were of it. They also had an insanely large beer menu, of which we only had four.
We went north out of Belgium, following the EuroVelo 19 route from around Namur to Roermond in The Netherlands. The section up until just outside Huy is lovely and picturesque. After that it becomes a purely industrial landscape, with large sections of the cycle path removed, and the diversions not always obvious. If this section is just utilitarian for you, then it’s fine. It’s mostly flat, save for railway and road bridges. But if you’re planning on using your precious annual leave on a cycling holiday in this area, then avoid it.
Once past Maastricht, the power stations and piles of aggregate eased off, and the scenery was quite pretty, in a canal kind of way. We were riding into the prevailing wind though, and some sections are very open and exposed, plus the industrial dust is much worse in the wind. It was strength sapping and a bit disheartening. We were getting demoralised that so many cyclists were passing us, some of them easily, until we noticed that they all had electric bikes, which we started to eye with envy.
In Ohé en Laak, we met with a friend from home, Paul. It was very kind of him to come out of his way, and good for us to see a friendly face. Unfortunately he confirmed that absolutely everything shuts on Sundays and holidays in Germany, as it had done in Belgium and the Netherlands. Not the best news with a national holiday that weekend and us running short of supplies. We’ve also met some other cyclists at campsites in the Netherlands – a Danish guy who is riding to Spain and back over the summer because he wants to see Andorra, and a Dutch couple heading for a tour in Northern France.
Just past Roermond, we took a turn to the East, and the relief of not having the wind in our faces was instant. A large chunk of that day was spent riding through a nature reserve and forest. It was tough going, but I found it interesting after long days of very open countryside and same-ish scenery. Richard hated it. It had been forecast heavy rain all day, but it only caught us on the very last bit of trail, which was incredibly lucky, as we would have really struggled to get our heavy bikes through wet sand and mud paths.
Our route from here is to get on the Rhein river and start following that South, hopefully leaving the headwinds in the past.
Just a note for anyone visiting the Netherlands outside of the big tourist areas: Visa and Mastercard (either debit or credit cards) are not commonly accepted. The Dutch use the Maestro system almost exclusively, so if you don’t have a card with that symbol on it, you are unlikely to be able to pay by card in shops and restaurants. You will need to use cash (cash machines do accept Visa and Mastercard, though fat chance of finding one.)
Playlist for EuroVelo 19: