After a multi-day trek in the French Dordogne and Lot area last April I was longing for some outdoor activity again. Another 10 hour drive south wasn’t at all appealing so I opted for the hilly southern part of The Netherlands and some Belgium. My trip started off in Maastricht, the most southern town of the country and also one of the oldest: the Romans had a town here and the entire greater area is littered with prehistoric sites a few of which I passed during the trip. I took the train to get there in 2.5 hours and at half twelve I started the ride at the Maastricht train station.
Within 20 minutes I left Maastricht and went uphill a bit. To paint you a picture: Maastricht is in the Maas river valley and rather flat. A few kilometers East of Maastricht the only hilly part of my country starts. The highest one of those hills is the Vaalserberg which is 325 meters high and on the border of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany and therefor a famous touristic destination for many. The entire hilly bit of is maybe 30 by 30 kilometers in size, for the rest of it The Netherlands is indeed mainly flatlands.
South of Maastricht is a huge open marlstone quarry, the Sint Pietersgroeve. They managed to quarry half a hill there but dotted everywhere in Limburg itself are older, smaller quarries of which you pass quite a few when heading South. I pass one open type, a gigantic hole dug in the ground over hundreds of years. Further down the trip I pass the ‘cave types’, also hundreds of years old. They look a bit spooky…
The first leg of the trip would take me through the Voerstreek in Belgium and up North over the Vaalserberg and then back down again to the Geul river valley. The trip down South to the Voerstreek leads through small valleys, over some hills and past many historic sites like the marlstone quarries. In the Savelsbos there are not marlstone but flintstone quarries. These are over 5,500 years old and you can visit them. I didn’t though. Also I passed a site where the Romans mined gravel. I guess to put in their famous concrete or maybe just to put it in roads.
One of the highlights of the day was a nice stairs which takes you some 30 meters down. Luckily, not up. Because that would have been horrible 🙂
Eventually I reach the border with Belgium and you enter the Voerstreek. It’s very obvious the Voerstreek is relatively flat as opposed to the hills of Limburg in The Netherlands. On the last hill you get a good view at the Voerstreek area.
The Voerstreek may be relatively flat, it does have some nasty climbs. And some landowners really don’t want you on their lands. The make this clear with signs on the tracks that do cross their lands. This is in fact nice, can’t argue with that ^_^. The .gpx is corrected for this so if you choose to ride it you won’t encouter the huge 3 meters high fence where I had to disassemble my entire bike to get past it… Also removed is the bit where a landowner hung a chain over the path. It all looked a bit spooky there, so I decided to turn around and take the paved road to get to a point a few kilometers further up the route. Good thing I did because I then also stumbled upon a nice place to eat of which you have none in the woods. There I also learnt the landowner was known to scare people off the path with a shotgun. Which is obviously very illegal where I live but that hadn’t stopped him before. So that bit is also removed from the route 🙂
By now it was 19:00 and I was not sure I was going to make it to the Vaalserberg. The Garmin told me I was averaging 10 kilometers an hour. A quick calculation and a proper meal made me go for it, so of to the Vaalserberg I went! Not for long though… I was stopped in my tracks by a very off limits section following the Geul rivier. So I decided to skip it and head up to the paved road again. This was not good for my motivation… and then it also started to rain. By now I could see the Vaalserberg but I didn’t care for it anymore. I had it for the day and went straight for the campsite ” t’ Zinkviooltje” near Terziet in The Netherlands, just across the border. The final stretch took me over a beautiful trail next to the small Geul river.
The campsite was next to the river and had a proper shower. You do have to get in before 17:00 or you won’t have a coin for the shower. Why some campsites still use these amazes me. I got in at 19:30 and therefore couldn’t get a shower. The main point of going to a campsite and not a wild camp is the shower! Luckily a nice couple gave me a coin and I had a shower and then another meal in the tent. It was raining and it wouldn’t stop raining until 10:30 the next day. I was very happy to be in my tent and not on my bike at the Vaalserberg.
The next day I waited for the rain to stop and continued my trek which was now going North to the town of Sittard or even Roermond if I felt like it.
The trail out of the valley was too steep to cycle so I walked. It’s never a long walk so that was fine. Next was a paved stretch which I did cycle up the hill 300 meters high according to Mr. Garmin. You can’t get much higher here, so that was kinda neat to see on the little screen.
The highest hills are really at the border of The Netherlands. So after the 300 meter hill it was back down over rolling hills and a lot of gravel roads some of which crossed little streams in the valleys between. A nice way to cool off your feet!
North of Landgraaf I entered the area of the Brunsummer Heide where lots of heather was starting to bloom. Here I ride trough patches of forest, then agricultural lands and more patches of nature. Don’t expect wide open natural and public lands in The Netherlands. Or Europe, for that matter. At one time I pass the site of a late medieval farmstead. Now in the middle of nowhere. It’s strange to think of the people who once lived here a long time ago. Also in the middle of nowhere, probably.
And a bit north still I enter Germany for a few miles only to leave for The Netherlands again near Sittard. Somewhere along the way I have to cross through a herd of Scottisch Highlanders. Not the folk. They look a bit like the old cows from ages ago and that is why they are introduced again to give the landscape a ‘rustic’ feel. Or I guess that’s why they do it. The bull wasn’t exactly thrilled by my presence but I managed to pass him too and without any problems.
The entire trip was ~130 kilometers with 1885 meters of climbing. So The Netherlands isn’t entirely flat! Click here for the route if you want to ride it one day. It’s not entirely legal as there are some parts where you have to walk. But ‘be nice’ gets you a long way.