I’m sitting inside, out of the rain, waiting for my freshly washed clothes to dry in the drier. My friend René managed to find me on the road today and invited me to stay at his place for the night. I met René while covering the Explore Sweden adventure race in 2010, a race that started in Å, Norway, and finished in Piteå,Sweden. We were both there as photographers and got to know each other during the race. Just the other day I had been sorting through all my old e-mails trying to find his adress and kicking myself for seeming to have left it in Sweden.
I left Esterwegen on Sunday, surprisingly well rested after the long walk the “day” before, and spent the day following canals towards the border. I eventually struck camp just on the German side of the border.
Almost forgot the big moment of the day, the-walk officially passed the 2000 km mark!
Monday morning I crossed the border into the Netherlands, just next to Bourtange, where I planned to get my morning coffee fix. I sat down at one of the cafés in the center of the old town and ordered coffee and cake. Several people asked me about the-walk and I tried to explain without sounding too crazy, not always easy!
When I had finished “breakfast” I tried to pay but discovered that one of the ladies I had been talking to had already paid my bill. Without even mentioning it when she wished me a good journey and left a little bit earlier.
I did some sightseeing and was lucky to cross paths with the lady a bit later and got to thank her in person.
Then it was back on the road. In Vlagtwedde, I bought a salad at the supermarket, along with a fruitsalad for dessert. I am trying to eat a bit healthier…
Halfway to Stadskanaal, where I planed to spend the night, a car pulled up in front of me, a man got out, followed by a lady and three young girls. It was Jaap and his family. They had passed me earlier and seen the sign on the Mule and decided that I could probably use a bit of fresh, cold water. They sped of to the shop, got some cold water and a packet of Tick-Tacks, turned around and were here to deliver. Thank you, it was very much appreciated!
About 4km outside of Stadskanaal, I spied a small café, adjoining a service station. As I needed to visit the bathroom, I thought that a cup of my biggest vice would be in order. I entered and asked about some coffee. There was some confusion but I eventually understood that I could get coffee, but would have to wait for it to be made. No problem I said and started to make my way to the toilet. On the way I passed the bar where a gentleman was sitting with a cold bottle of Amstel in front of him. It looked so good that I turned and said not to worry about the coffee, I would have a beer instead. Everybody smiled..
It was an incredible, small café. It was clean and neat but looked like it had been unchanged since the fifties or sixties. On the wall was a plaque celebrating the café having sold Amstel for 75 years, but the plaque was 20 years old! I sat down and enjoyed my cold beer. The proprietor did not speak much english, but the other customer did and I fielded the usual questions about the-walk. Before long there was a new beer in front of me, compliments of the other gentleman ( never did get his name).
An older couple turned up, then the proprietor’s wife and finally two other regulars. Everybody was speaking dutch and I relaxed back, trying to capture the conversation and enjoy the atmosphere. I thought I could disern something about speeding and police, but that was about all. Eventually they asked me if the police in Sweden do their job or if they just try to collect as many fines as possible, so I was pretty close. One last beer and then I thought I had better leave if I wanted to be able to find the campsite. I was not allowed to pay for my beer, the original gentlemen customer insited he sponsor me. Again, thank you!
Outside of Stadskanaal, I got directions from two lady joggers, found the campground and pitched my tent.
Then it was of to the center of town to find Wi-Fi (McDonald’s). On the way there I ran into the joggers again and could report that I had found the campground safely.
The next morning (today, Tuesday), I headed in the direction of Assen, a suitable distance away. Just after midday I passed Gasselte and a gentleman on a pushbike pulled alongside and asked me if I was really going to walk to Sydney? It was Chris, from Brisbane. Man, was it good to hear a true blue Australian accent!
Then the phone rang. It was René who was trying to find me and told me to stay where I was until he could get there. Chris and I sat down and had a coffee and a chat. He was I Europe on holidays with his wife and they were returning down-under tomorrow. René turned up just a few minutes after Chris left and, after some checking on the map, we found that he lived almost along my planned route. I was quickly invited to spend the night at his place. He did offer to drive me, but this is the-walk, so I set off on foot towards Rolde.
I passed through some beautiful forest along the way and soon met up with René again, this time on his bicycle. René shouted me dinner, got the washing machine going, and showed me the sights.
Hows this for ironic, two photographers photographing each other with their mobile phones!
If you read this in time, make sure to listen to Swedish Radio P4 Extra tomorrow, I should be doing a live interview with them (if I have coverage).