Friday, 9 September 2011

Thought Picnic: Signposts for bicycles bearing West

The life of blogs

What I began in my last blog basically ended up in a narrative about visiting the graveside of a dear friend. That is one thing I have learnt about my blogs, I start to write and they can suddenly take on a life of their own and I just let it continue to the point where it appears to close off to the conclusion.

The main thought that inspired the blog then ends up in another blog and so here goes – I had planned to cycle out to Zandvoort which is at the coast and for once dispel that notion I have always had of beaches needing to be at certain latitude to be allowed the encomium of beach status.

Everywhere bearings awry

The implication being, you need sun along with your sea and sand to have a decent beach, but I was in for a surprise. It was a bit dull and at times the sun came out though there was the threat of rain, a few droplets were not going to dissuade me.

After viewing Google Maps for a basic idea of the distance, I decided I was going to use my bearings and rely on the signposts all along the way from Amsterdam to Haarlem and then to Zandvoort.

I ended up in the strangest places, deserted, desolate and sometimes dangerous, I knew there had to be a better way but I did not deviate from the advice of the bicycle path signposts.

The vista of amazing nature

By the time I got to Haarlem having ridden for the best part of 2 hours, it was comforting to know I still had another 17 kilometres to go, it was not tiring, the determination just kept me on.

Then I got the unusual landscape, the grassy dunes with the signs pointing in all directions that I put on my most English deference and asked a lady who had just blown her dog whistle to summon her dog how to get to the beach.

Another 4 kilometres straight down the path that was far from straight or direct but my bearings were towards the sea, a few double-takes later, the North Sea lay in front of me as I appreciated the wonder of the sea.

The Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

I rode up the promenade towards Bloomendaal aan Zee and then turned into a National Park which seemed to have interminable lengths of bicycle paths and ran for kilometres and kilometres.

The landscape was amazing; I never expected to see forests and the kind of natural features of land and water that I saw in this park especially not in the Netherlands and definitely not in the province of North Holland.

I was in awe and I probably did about 20 kilometres within Zuid-Kennemerland National Park and that hardly covered much of the large expanse of this jewel of nature.

A route so different

When I got back to the entrance some 3 hours later, I saw another signpost on the bicycle path back to Amsterdam, it literally was parallel to the main road back to Amsterdam and this time the 22 kilometre journey back to the outskirts of Amsterdam was without much adventure – a straight road and knowledge gained as to how to get to Zandvoort without getting marooned like the Israelites in the wilderness.

It goes to show once again that the journey of discovery can be quite complicated driven by determination but the return is always a lesson in knowing that there are probably better ways of doing what you tried out earlier.

It has taken me over 11 years to come to the realisation that I do live in quite a beautiful country, however, that depends on the willingness to travel, ride and walk.

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