Categories
2019 Kyrgyzstan

Crashed in Kyrgyzstan

In July, Rudi and I want to cycle in Kyrgyzstan for a month. The road leads from the capital through a hot valley over an obsolete pass, through a wonderful valley, and over a plateau and gorge to a pass. In the descent to Son-Kul, Rudi falls unluckily, marking the end of the cycling vacation. In five days, we cover 245 kilometers and climb 5,300 meters.

Before: Flight > Acclimatize in Bishkek

After a successful flight to Istanbul’s brand-new airport, we land in Bishkek early in the morning. While we are waiting for the hotel cab at the exit, many other cab drivers try to grab our attention. Because the hotel cab is not showing up, we take another cab and accept an overpriced fee. This one brings us with high speed and Modern Talking on the speakers to the city center. Our driver still has to search for the right location, because the capital has an ridiculous address system.

After sleeping for half a day we explore the hot (38 °C) capital. With almost 1 million inhabitants, Bishkek is by far the largest city in the country. In the center are some large boulevards, with wide sidewalks, monuments, statues, an old MiG jet fighter, modernist Soviet architecture and parks. But besides that, it is gray and cars dominate. The Muslim population seems to be tolerant: alcohol is available everywhere and going out half-dressed seems accepted. We buy gas tanks, do our shopping, withdraw cash, and buy a 20gb SIM card.

Day 1: Bishkek > Datsi Kegeti (79 km)

We start from the low-lying Bishkek (850 m) eastwards. The first section is partly on the main road, and partly on parallel country roads. Everywhere we pass today (and the next few days) people are friendly, and the children shout “Hello!” to us. Dogs bark every now and then, but never become annoying, like in Peru. From the small town of Kant we cycle through the wide valley for kilometers on straight roads to the mountains in the southeast.

It is 36 °C in the shade, but there is hardly any shade, and the sun shines almost the entire day. We drink a lot of water. At the entrance of the valley of the Kegety river we refill our water supply at a group of beekeepers, and they give us bottles of delicious honey water. There is also an older, rather eccentric man walking around in a special outfit. He shouts “Allah Akbar” all the time and wants to be photographed with us. After this intermezzo we continue on an unpaved road.

Finding a camping spot in the Kegety valley is difficult. The best spots are packed with Kyrgyz people who are enjoying a day out to the mountains. So we cycle further and further… Finally we find a nice flat spot next to the Kegety river just after passing a waterfall. Unfortunately the meadow is littered with plastic plates, vodka bottles, plastic bottles, bags et cetera. Why don’t the day tourists take their garbage back in the car?

Day 2: Datsi Kegeti > Kegeti Passroad (18 km)

Today we wake up early, and after having spaghetti with “bami” herbs for breakfast we leave at 8.30 am. It is already nice and warm by then. The road is usually of a reasonable quality and not too steep (8%), although sometimes we have to walk through parts of dry riverbed, or when it suddenly gets a bit steeper.

For a while we cycle behind a large herd of sheep that blocks our way. Then a local arrives in a jeep who honks his way through the flock, and we can take advantage of that by following him. Besides sheep we also encounter herds of horses and cows. They are guided by two shepherds –one at the front and one at the back of a horse– and a few dogs.

Unfortunately I don’t feel fit: I’ve had a sore throat for four days now, feel cramps coming up in my belly and don’t have a lot of energy. Therefore, we stop at 15 pm to camp at an altitude of 3,200 m. We are standing next to the road by the mountain stream, with a nice view on the mountains, and we can even see the main valley in the distance. We encounter only one jeep coming down the pass road, but after that it’s quiet.

Day 3: Kegeti Passroad > Ak-Uchuk (64 km)

We climb the last 600 meters to the pass height through a beautiful alpine mountain landscape. In the time when the Russians were still in charge of the country, this was a well-maintained main road. But nowadays it is said that the other side is hardly passable, and certainly not with a car. A Dutch cyclist who was there recently told me that we can only descend on a mountain bike. Of course, we are going to try it!

Only a hundred meters below the pass height the road gets very bad. Just before the very last turn a landslide and snow obstruct the road. We remove the bags from the bikes and walk back and forth over the snow a couple of times. We had just put sunscreen on, but now it starts raining and the temperature drops to 5 °C. So we put on a rain suit.

On top of the Kegety Pass (3,769 m) we enjoy a beautiful view of the snowy mountains and green hills on the other side of the valley, despite the rain and cold wind. The road on the south side of the pass is partly impassable due to many landslides, but we manage to get down without problems. After about 75 minutes walking (and occasionally cycling) we reach the bridge over the Kochkor river.

The descent goes southeast through a lovely valley, through which the Kochkor river is first streaming quite rapidly, and next meandering more quietly. Occasionally we see fishermen wearing white hats. Further on in the ever widening valley there are irrigation canals on both sides of the river, and there are cattle and farmland. At a village we do some shopping and cycle a bit with a group of enthusiastic children.

Wild camping is not such a good idea in this inhabited valley. That’s why we look for shelter. But we don’t have internet, because my SIM card is already useless – apparently I’ve been swindled in Bishkek.  Eventually we find –hidden behind a wall– Guesthouse Highway Mirbek. The hostess is super friendly, serves us tea, bread, cookies and sweets right away, and in the evening she serves us a big meal. We watch a performance of a Central Asian singing group on TV.

Day 4: Ak-Uchuk > Davlet-Arik (67 km)

After a good breakfast we head west. The surroundings are pretty nice, with funny molehill-shaped hills with green mountain pastures above them and snowy peaks on top. The road climbs very gradually for several tens of kilometers. In the beginning this is easy because of the asphalt and the tailwind. But from halfway up the climb there is sand on the road, because they are going to renovate the road surface.

At the pass height (2,665 m) we eat fish from Son Kul and drink some tea in an old cart. The descent goes fast through a narrower valley with several yurts that look quite shabby. I see a young horse being trained. A boy is holding it on a rope, while his father, sitting on a big horse, aggressively approaches the poor horse. It falls and struggles, but quickly gets up and then completely stands still. Thumbs up!

We buy some soda in Davlet-Arik and at the last blue village pump we get almost ten liters of water: enough for cycling this afternoon and tomorrow morning, two meals, broth and some coffee. We divide the weight and climb for kilometers in the burning sun over the wide plateau southwards. We camp on an idyllic spot with 270 degree views of striking mountains.

Day 5: Davlet-Arik > Son-Kul (17 km)

Today we cycle to Son Kul, the high altitude freshwater lake (287 km2). Son Kul is the pride of Kyrgyzstan, and is in summer a popular camping place for locals and foreign tourists. The lake is situated between high mountains, and can be reached by car from five directions via mountain passes. We take the relatively unknown western route, over the Pereval Chil’bel’ pass road, which is only accessible for jeeps. This climb averages 7.1%.

We start early, because we cycle through a gorge and as soon as the sun starts shining in there it will become an oven. It is really super nice cycling along the ever narrowing stream and between the high mountains. The first part is still pretty easy, but between kilometers 8 and 12 we have to climb at a gradient of more than 11% on average on a poor road surface. Still, we manage to get to the top around noon.

After we’ve enjoyed the panoramic view at the pass height (3,250 m) we start the descent to Son Kul. On unpaved roads Rudi always descends much more carefully than I do, so soon I don’t see him anymore when I look over my shoulder. At a ford I wait for him, but he doesn’t show up. First I think he is taking pictures of the flock of sheep on the hill next to us. But after five minutes of waiting I go back in case he is in trouble.

A kilometer back I see Rudi sitting on the side. So what’s up? Rudi hit the high shoulder (on which he is now sitting) with his right front pannier, which blocked his handlebar making him steer the bike into a mud hole in the middle of the jeep track and hit and fall over the handlebar. He has tremendous pain in his groin and can barely stand – let alone walk or cycle. Rudi needs to get to the hospital in the nearest larger town (Naryn) as soon as possible for a check-up.

While we are considering our options, a shepherd on his horse comes down the hill to see what is the problem. Communicating is difficult because we don’t speak Russian and he doesn’t speak English. He points to the ridge of the hill over which a jeep is passing at that moment: apparently that is the main road, and we are literally on a sidetrack; so there is little chance that we can hitchhike from here.

An then, by sheer luck, a van comes along! The driver actually has to pick up a group of French tourists from Son Kul at the end of the afternoon, but if we pay him many dollars he is willing to take us to Naryn first. After an unnecessary and bumpy shortcut through the swampy mountain meadows, he drives south through the many hairpin bends of the impressive Moldo Ashuu pass road. From Ak-Tal we follow the Naryn River upstream to Naryn.

After we have withdrawn cash and paid the driver, he drops us off at the cab station. There his boss gets very angry with him because he has made the French tourists wait. Someone else on the square calls, unsolicited, an ambulance, but I send it back. Our priority is to find a hotel with functioning Wi-Fi and an English-speaking reception, so we can start arranging things. And that turns out to be Hotel Khan Tengri on the east side of the city.

Day 6: Naryn

Rudi has much more pain today than yesterday. So it was wise to get off the mountain as soon as possible. Today’s goal is to arrange two doctor’s certificates: one with the diagnosis, and the other stating that Rudi is allowed to fly to the Netherlands. Only after we have mailed these declarations to Rudi’s insurer, they can arrange the return flight. In addition, we will have to arrange painkillers and crutches.

Thanks to Nargiza from the hotel reception, an ambulance will pick us up. To get Rudi out of the hotel room on the stretcher, we have to keep him very tilted. “Ouch!” The old ambulance lacks suspension; at every bump in the road Rudi gets a pain shot. “Ouch!” The Naryn Trauma Hospital with its narrow doors, corridors and stairs is not built for walking with stretchers. “Ouch!” Anyway, we eventually reach the room with the X-ray equipment.

None of the medical staff speaks English, although we can understand basic words like “doctor”, “checkout” and “dollar”. Fortunately, we get help from Bakyt, who is visiting the hospital with his wife and sick daughter. After looking at the blurred X-ray photos, the doctor is in doubt: is there (because of the smack on the stem) a fracture in the pelvis? She advises Rudi to be admitted to the local hospital for a month at a daily rate of 50 dollars. Not a good plan!

We go with the doctor’s certificate to the cash register (“касса”, very similar to the Dutch word “kassa”) and pay the bill. Meanwhile, the stretcher is being reclaimed, as the hospital apparently only has one. After this we arrange a travel statement with another doctor. We also buy heavy painkillers, and at one of the many pharmacies in the city I find nice shoulder crutches. Bakyt drives us in his well-suspended car to the hotel. He absolutely doesn’t want any compensation for his help – he is a Christian and is happy to help people in need. Wow!

Next: Taxi > Flight > Rehabilitation

It takes some time for the insurance company to find a translator who can decipher the doctor’s written statements. Only then will they book the return flight. To pass the time, Rudi watches Netflix series. I arrange a cab to Bishkek. Adilet drives us, the bicycles, and the panniers to the capital. Receptionist Nargyza also goes along to do some shopping. In the back of the car it is cramped but cozy.

The flight to Istanbul goes fine, but because of the poorly coordinated help at the brand new airport we miss the connecting flight to Amsterdam. Once at home, Rudi will stay with his parents for a few weeks. He doesn’t have a bone fracture, but “only” a damaged muscle attachment to his groin, and because of the many sitting, he suffers from thrombosis. Fortunately, his rehabilitation is going well: two months after the accident, Rudi can even go on a cycling vacation!

Statistics

– Day 1: Bishkek > Datsi Kegeti (79 km; 1.250 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Datsi Kegeti > Kegeti Passroad (18 km; 1.400 alt.m)
– Day 3: Kegeti Passroad > Ak-Uchuk (64 km; 700 alt.m)
– Day 4: Ak-Uchuk > Davlet-Arik (67 km; 950 alt.m)
– Day 5: Davlet-Arik > Son-Kul (17 km; 1.000 alt.m)

Categories
2019 Germany The Netherlands

Osnabrück to Venlo

In the late summer, I cycle in Germany for four days. From Osnabrück the route goes over and parallel to the long stretched ridge of the Teutoburger Forest to the southeast, to cross the Ruhrgebiet from east to west after Paderborn. It is a very varied tour, with lots of nature, of course also the city jungle, and between Dortmund and Duisburg regularly striking industrial buildings in sight. I ride 450 kilometers and climb almost 4,500 meters.

Day 1: Osnabrück > Kempen (114 km)

Very early this morning I take the train to Deventer, and from there to Osnabrück. Excited I start cycling from the Hauptbahnhof. I immediately feel and hear an annoying rattling noise in the drivetrain (at the moment I suspect the front chain ring, but when I get home it turns out to be a worn-out rear chain ring), with the result that I am stuck with a rattling bike for four days. But who cares; with a bike equipped with a Rohloff hub I’m used to irritating noises.

The first part of today’s route is very diverse. I often ride on narrow asphalted roads, and now and then I take bits of gravel roads and forest paths. There are many climbs, though not long (I stay between 125 and 225 m) or steep. It is familiar terrain: I have been here three times with the Tecklenburger Rundfahrt, and recognize a beautifully situated forest path from a preparation ride on the TBR last spring.

Halfway through the day I want to see what’s true about the Bielefeldverschwörung: a conspiracy theory claiming that the allegedly nearby town of Bielefeld doesn’t exist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bielefeld_Conspiracy). And damn it: after I have cycled over the ridge of the hill on a boring road especially for this city, I don’t manage to catch even one glimpse of Bielefeld. From now on I will take conspiracy theories seriously!

Finally, north of Paderborn, I cycle fifteen kilometers on cobblestone strips through a wooded and heathland area–an army exercise site. After a calorific intermezzo in Schlangen, I climb 250 meters to the highest point of the day and reach Camping Eggewald. This is a fine place: not too big and nicely situated, and in the old stables is a museum where an old tractor and agricultural machinery can be admired.

Day 2: Kempen > Allagen (103 km)

After I’ve taken a picture of the camping boss sawing wood, I’m on my way. The first part I cycle on paths and gravel roads through the forest, followed by a few kilometers on the main road. In Neuenbeken I turn left, cross the railroad and start some climbing (and descending) over narrow asphalted roads through a area full of wind turbines. On the right behind me, I can clearly see the long-stretched ridge of the Teutoburger Forest.

From Grundsteinheim I ride a whole stretch unpaved through the deserted forest of the Sauertal. Occasionally the road becomes a bit worse and overgrown, but I can keep on cycling. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve mounted slicks (Schwalbe Supreme) just before this trip. These “cozy socks” tires filter out unevenness particularly well and perform superbly on asphalt and even on dry gravel roads. Only once, in this Sauertal, I almost crash after slipping on a piece of clayey mud.

After 35 kilometers I take a break at the Rewe in Atteln. For holiday cyclists like me this supermarket chain offers an attractive formula: the bakery and coffee machine are always located at the front of the shop, with a place to sit; this way, you can take a break and still keep an eye on your bike and luggage. And today, the Rewe comes at the right time: the energy of the pasta pesto from early this morning has been consumed, while I still have almost 70 hilly kilometers to go.

From the little town I cut off over a steep and bad path to the main road, which I soon leave for a stage through a second wind turbine area. Via the picturesque Fürstenberg I climb over a wide road to the Albachstausee, and then through the forest to the third wind turbine area of the day. On small roads I cycle to the larger town of Brilon, by me a Fanta to get some extra energy, and continue along the main road to Altenbühren.

The highest point of the day is the Warsteiner Kopf in the Arnsberg Forest. In this area I ride, mostly on gravel roads, for an hour between 480 and 560 m. In the descent, I pass the huge Warsteiner Brauerei. Via Hirschberg I finally reach the camping site, where I pitch my tent next to the playground. A very cute little white fluffy dog is running around, and I consider smuggling it back home.

Day 3: Allagen > Werden (124 km)

On today’s program are far fewer hills. I’m going to the Ruhrgebiet. After a short descent to the Möhnesee I cycle along this lake for a long time. I see lots of e-bikers, among them regularly obese men of 30 to 40 years old on e-MTBs. After a crossing to the Hevesee I climb in the forest over gravel roads. I descend to Neheim where I reach the Ruhr river. After the climb on the other side of the valley, the landscape widens up.

After having cycled some 60 kilometers I sneak into the Ruhrgebiet southeast of Dortmund. From Haus Rodenberg in Stadtbezirk Do-Aplerbeck, where a couple gets married, I follow the Emscher Radweg for a while, and consume an apple turnover and coffee at the Rewe. From the smooth cycle path at the Phönixsee I can see the Hochofen and Gasometer of the Hörder Bergwerks- und Hütten-Verein (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B6rder_Bergwerks-_und_H%C3%BCtten-Verein) in the distance.

Via car-free roads and bike paths, sometimes through pieces of forest, I arrive at the huge campus of the Technical University Dortmund, where I cycle under the H-Bahn (unmanned monorail). About ten kilometers further on I reach the Zeche Zollern coal mine and industrial complex in Do-Bövinghausen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zollern_II/IV_Colliery). It looks beautiful and impressive here, but unfortunately I don’t have time for a visit.

I’m glad that I’ve planned the route in advance, as sometimes I get disoriented in this disorganized looking urban jungle of highways, railways, bike paths and forests. As a surprise, I suddenly end up in Bochum near a beautiful park with leafy avenues and stately houses. Here one can find the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Mining_Museum), the world’s largest mining museum. Next, I ride for a long time on a cycle path over a former railway line.

In Dahlhausen I cross the Ruhr via the narrow Schwimmbrücke. On the other side, at the top of the climb, I have a beautiful, panoramic view of the Ruhrgebiet. Down again I cycle for a while with a young lady on a fitness bike along Lake Baldeneysee. She tells about the Krupp family, who had their own station built on the other side next to Villa Hügel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_H%C3%BCgel), allowing the German emperor to come for a visit. I end this inspiring cycling day on a somewhat massive campsite at the waterfront.

Day 4: Werden > Venlo (107 km)

This day consists of two parts: in the morning I ride crisscross through the Ruhrgebiet, followed by the last part to Venlo this afternoon. But first things first. From the campsite, I climb underneath Villa Hügel to Essen. I pass the Hauptbahnhof underneath to the big city center of Essen, and from there to the huge Zeche Zollverein (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zollverein_Coal_Mine_Industrial_Complex), which has been an Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001. Image that some hundred years ago, the whole Ruhr area was scattered with coalmines and industrial complexes like this.

After this, I continue to the former Zeche Nordstern (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordsternpark) in Gelsenkirchen, which is located on the Rhein-Herne-Kanal. In the vicinity of the Nordstern Park are several interesting objects, including a huge, naked Herkules von Gelsenkirchen (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herkules_von_Gelsenkirchen), standing impressively on top of an old mine tower. I would like to stay here longer, but I have to move on!

The next ‘highlight’ of my cycling trip is the Tetraeder (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahedron_in_Bottrop), a pyramid-shaped watchtower, based on a mathematical quadrilateral, on top of an ember waste mountain in Bottrop. As far as I am concerned, this is the best viewpoint of the entire Ruhrgebiet. I cycle further between the canal and the Emscher, see on my left the Gasometer of Oberhausen, and arrive at the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landschaftspark_Duisburg-Nord) where a former blast furnace complex is located.

A few kilometers further on I arrive at the Rhine. Before crossing it, I cycle along the Innenhafen of Duisburg and then through the center of this ugly town. Via the Brücke Der Solidarität I reach the west bank of the Rhine and complete the remaining 45 kilometers to the Netherlands. The only positive element of this last super boring stretch to Venlo is the ice cream from the petrol station in Neukirchen.

Statistics

– Day 1: Osnabrück > Kempen (114 km; 1,525 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Kempen > Allagen (103 km; 1,532 alt.m)
– Day 3: Allagen > Werden (124 km; 878 alt.m)
– Day 4: Werden > Venlo (107 km; 506 alt.m)

Categories
2019 Belgium Germany Luxembourg The Netherlands

The Ardennes

To compensate for the prematurely terminated Kyrgyzstan trip I make a cycling trip through the Ardennes in August. The trip goes from Maastricht to the French border, from Sedan to Luxemburg-City, and via the High Fens back to the Netherlands. The landscape is varied, the road surface mainly asphalted and the temperature very high. In six days, I cover more than 600 kilometers and climb 7,200 meters. (Unfortunately, I have lost most of the pictures).

Day 1: Maastricht > Barveaux (91 km)

I arrive early by train in Maastricht. I cycle via the Sint-Servaasbrug, the Onze Lieve Vrouweplein and the Sint Pieterstraat in the direction of the Sint Pietersberg. After the viewpoint at the ENCI marl quarry, I continue south along the Meuse and the Albert Canal. For a while, I cycle along with two gentle psychology students. The route through Liège goes smoothly: it is well signposted, and the stretches of bike path along the quay are nice.

After Liège I follow the Ourthe for a while. Sometimes the cycle path is squeezed between the river and the railway. Usually the road surface is fine; only once I have to walk over a stony path. Because just cycling along the river is boring and not very challenging, I also add some unnecessary climbs. Eventually I reach a family campsite along the Ourthe, crowded with Dutch people. For the first time since my first cycling holiday (in 2000) I’ve taken a little chair with me.

Day 2: Barveaux > Poupehan (107 km)

From Barvaux I cut off a part of the Ourthe and cross the by now narrow river again at Hotton. After a few stretches of jeep track and footpath, I follow more boring roads, through heavily wooded landscape and hardly any river valleys. This is one of the higher parts of the Ardennes, with climbs up to about 400 meters. It’s also ‘summer camp country’ here: everywhere I see groups of adolescents walking and even cycling – and that in this heat!

At Rochehaut I reach the Semois (beautiful view!) and follow a nice descent to Poupehan. I end up on a family campsite that is too expensive: I pay no less than 24 euros for a spot near the toilet block. There I defend my miserable spot with all kinds of attributes against the camping idiots  who put their feet agonizingly close to the tent pegs. But it could be worse: at the neighboring campsite, anti-social people party on Dutch music until late in the evening.

Day 3: Poupehan > Arlon (102 km)

From the Semois I immediately climb from 200 to about 450 meters. In Corbion I have breakfast on the sidewalk of the supermarket. Just after this village, I pass the border with France, turn off the main road, and ride on good gravel roads southwards through the forest. Via hamlets with names like Olly and Illy I descend further to Sedan in the Meuse valley. The landscape on this side of the border is much more beautiful and open than on the Belgian side. Also the road quality is significantly better.

Sedan houses one of the largest fortresses in Europe: the Château de Sedan. In recent military history (1870, 1914, 1940) the town played a strategic role. I ride a few blocks through the stately streets of the city center and then cycle out of the town along an excellent cycle route along the Meuse and next the Chiers – a good preparation for e-biking along the Danube, later when I’m old.  

At Tétaigne I cross the river and gradually climb over small roads and through small villages. After Matton-et-Clémency there is a nice stretch on a narrow road and a jeep track through a forest to the Belgian border. In Chassepierre I ride parallel to the N83 east for a while. My planned route is sometimes blocked because whole stretches of forest are closed due to the hunting season. As a result, I have to take alternative stretches over duller roads.

At Étalle, instead of the N83, I take a dead straight roman road, which at a certain point gets quite bumpy and dusty. Just before Arlon I cross the Semois: early this morning at the camping this was still a wide river, but in the upper part only a small stream remains. In Arlon-North I end up on a campsite on the N4, with a fine restaurant and a friendly reception.

Day 4: Arlon > Vianden (100 km)

From the back of the campsite I cycle on a barely visible path to Bonnert, and from there on narrow tarmac roads and a forest path through the lovely Vallée des Trois Moulins towards the border. From Eischen I take the ‘piste cyclable de l’Attert’ southeast. In Luxembourg, several old railway lines have been transformed into cycling routes with good road surface, which makes it easy to cover longer distances.

After Steinfort the landscape opens up and I ride via villages like Garnich and Holzem over cycle-friendly roads to Luxembourg-City. There I go through the car-free Vallée de la Pétrusse, a gorge that lies between the old fortress (the ‘Gibraltar of the North’) and the districts on the south side. I cycle under the Pont Adolphe (in 1908 the largest stone arch bridge in the world), climb to the Rocher du Bock, and descend again to the Alzette.

From Dommeldange I climb steadily to an altitude of 400 meters on a bicycle route that largely follows the track of the old railway line to Echternach. At Hemstal I turn off to Hersberg. Here I descend through the forest along the Härdbaach on a trail on which cycling is easy. In this lovely valley one can find the Kuelscheier: a dark, narrow rock tunnel of about 100 meters long through which you can walk.

After a bit on the tarmac road I go off-piste again in the Hallerbaach valley. This time the path is so difficult that I have to get off the bike once in a while. But I don’t care because it is beautiful here! In the touristic Beaufort I reach the main road again and after a short descent I end up 200 meters lower in Reisdorf on the Sûre. In Wallendorf I turn left and cycle the last part along the German side of the river Our on a nice little road to the camping in Vianden.

Day 5: Vianden > Troisvierges (83 km)

From the campsite I climb over a nice piste cycable to Fouhren, and from there on to Brandenbourg. Here is the beautifully situated ruin of the castle baring the same name. I buy myself an apple turnover and coffee in Diekirch. A bit further, just before Ettelbruck, I arrive at the Patton Monument: a statue of General George S. Patton Jr. holding binoculars in his hands, probably thinking of a brilliant tactical plan to hunt down the Germans (‘those lousy Hun bastards’).

From Warken I cycle north again through a beautiful, quiet valley. In Welscheid I climb via several hairpin bends to a plateau, followed by a grandiose descent on a car-free road to the valley of the Sûre. Next is a somewhat annoying climb to another plateau, followed by a descent to the valley of the Clerve. The piste cycable along the meandering river up to Wilwerwiltz is really beautiful!

Located in Clervaux is the Benedictine Abbey of St-Maurice and St-Maur, built in 1910 and modelled after the famous Abbey of Cluny. So it’s fake. By now it’s 4 pm, but still hot. After eating a delayed reward – an enormous orange, two peaches and a can of Fanta – I’ve cooled down a bit. What remains is an easy stretch of cycling along the river, which by now is called the Woltz, before I arrive at the campground in Troisvierges.

Dag 6: Troisvierges > Heerlen (124 km)

Today is already the last day of this short cycling holiday. Because of the long distance and the expected heat, I get up very early. This allows me to cycle the first part of the Vennbahnradweg in peace. This cycle route is nicely constructed, and offers the possibility to cycle all the way from Luxembourg to the Netherlands in just one day. In Sankt Vith, where during the Battle of the Bulge in WW2 a lot of fighting took place, I have Torte und Kaffee for breakfast.

At Waimes I cut off a part of the Vennbahn road, which makes very wide loops here. Further on I cut off again, this time through the High Fens. With more than 600 meters this area is the highest point of the trip, but definitely not the highlight. The road leads mainly through and along boring stretches of forest. So I’m glad when after the Wesertalsperre the route becomes a bit more varied again.

In the shade of the ancient Aachener Dom I order coffee and a sandwich. Next I ride out of Aachen via a nice route. I cycle for a while with Fabian, who invites me to drink Apfelsaft at his place in Kohlscheid. Guter Vorschlag! He turns out to be a professional photographer and has travelled a lot, among others in Pakistan (for work) and Mongolia (cycling). It is nice here and I could stay for hours, but I really have to move on!

The last part of the route is diverse and follows narrow roads along Wasserburg Haus Heyden and the Amstelbach to Kerkrade, and via the Wilhelminaberg to the city center of Heerlen. With a record-breaking temperature of over 40°C this is the hottest place in the Netherlands. In Heerlen, the railway station is being renovated and the elevators are not working. Packed like sardines in a tin, I hold my bike by hand in a busy, hot train back to Den Bosch.

Statistics

– Day 1: Maastricht > Barveaux (91 km; 837 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Barveaux > Poupehan (107 km; 1,604 alt.m.)
– Day 3: Poupehan > Arlon (102 km; 1,131 alt.m.)
– Day 4: Arlon > Vianden (100 km; 1,159 alt.m.)
– Day 5: Vianden > Troisvierges (83 km; 1,298 alt.m.)
– Day 6: Troisvierges > Heerlen (124 km; 1,159 alt.m.)