Well, my night was peaceful but bloody cold. My sleeping bag is rated down to zero degrees but I'm never convinced this means 'keeps you snug down to zero', more like 'keeps you alive down to zero when you're wearing every thing you own' (I pretty much was). Looking at the weather report it was probably about 3 or 4 degrees last night... So yes, a chilly night and not super comfy as a result. Bring on the more southerly climes! I'm happy to have road tested the new tent and stove without disaster, but I do hope it warms up before Katy and Ed come out for a week's camping! Forecast is looking good, but then it feels like it's been one day away from good weather for quite a while now!
Some early morning porridge soon saw me right however and I packed up and set off into slightly threatening-looking weather.
A few K down the road I was admiring some lovely Norwegians (any relative to Molly, I wonder) and was accosted by a nice man determined to help me find my way. In the end I named a town I 'wanted to go to' just to cooperate. He did confirm the existence of a ferry however and it turned out to be free which was nice. Such a civilised country.
Had morning coffee and a panini in the patchy sunshine in the centre of Drunen, where I happily took advantage of the internet as well as the refreshments at Baker Bart's place.
The next section was absolutely beautiful, through a birch-forested national park with separate walking, cycling, mountain biking and horse tracks. Saw some other cycles but no cars, and even the cafés advertise themselves as 'cycle-friendly'. A most relaxing section.
In general there was much less getting-lost today, with the exception of one major warp in the space-time continuum which had me doing three sides of a square. One minute I was bowling merrily along a fast road following cycle route signs to Middelbeers, the next the road disintegrated into dirt and then sand (remember that Vic?). It seemed to be a private estate of some kind, very beautiful but a somewhat annoying detour. I wonder if perhaps Dutch kids think it's as funny to swing fingerpost signs around as we used to...
One reason I was grumpy about that detour was because my knees and shoulders were feeling a bit jolted around after a very high proportion of my route today had some form of brick/cobble/set surface. Perfectly cycleable but definitely more wearing on the joints, plus it increases my pannier-paranoia - whenever they jolt on a rough-set set I worry something is breaking. So a lumpy dirt track was not welcome.
This part of the Netherlands is horse central. As well as two sets of Norwegians I also saw Shires, more Haflingers, and an unbelievable number of fat Shetlands. I don't know if breeding Shetlands is a Dutch speciality, or if they're all just people's pets. Maybe the latter given that I have seen a lot of weird pets in people's gardens, including lots of goats, several pairs of bambi-like deer, and a group of llama. Any idea what the collective noun for a group of llama is?
Today's destination is Valkeswaard, a town I picked as being vaguely on route and because I wanted to try out a Dutch youth hostel. On first impressions it seems good - I am the first in to a large dorm and there is a nice bar etc. It's in a very peaceful location but I have been warned there's a large school party in tonight - from the looks of it a group of early teens from the Philippines or similar, which seems a bit random. Right now a warm clean bed seems pretty nice regardless!