My diary has a few notes about the things I did in Leuvern that weekend, but not much about my trip from Belgium into The Netherlands, so this entry might be brief.
I do clearly remember crossing the border into The Netherlands so for that I don’t need my diary. The border was marked by a farmers track and a row of trees, but that was all there was to it. There was also a convenient bench that straddled the border that I used to eat my lunch. While I was sat there an old man on a scooter appeared on the road int the distance he came humming down the road towards me, stopped his scooter got off and came and sat next me. Unfortunately his English was as good as my Dutch so we communicated mostly with hands and gestures, he smoked a cigar through most of the exchange and then decided to leave and went off again on his scooter back in the direction he came from. I have no idea why he came to that bench to smoke that cigar, or what he talked to me about, but I like to think I had passed the test and was allowed to continue on my journey.
My next visitor in the border bench was a woman who was walking along the border track by the trees. She stood out because she had a metal harness strapped to her belt which was pulling a plastic barrel that was rolling along behind her. She also stopped to have a sit on the border bench, but thankfully spoke some English. It turned out. She had been walking for two days and was on her to Spain to Santiago de Compestella, which was going to take her another 6 weeks or so. Te barrel contained her clothes as her back was too weak to hold a rucksack.
After lunch I continued on my way north with a plan to camp on the edge of Tilburg, but I also needed to visit the centre to buy some maps, as my cut up low detail maps were beginning to frustrate me. I went into the centre and decided to find a hotel to stay in then head for the shops. My budget for a hotel was €50 but I phoned around a couple from the phone book but could not find one for this price. I then headed into the centre to find a map shop with a vague aim of finding a camping pace later.
As I was stood in the centre near some shops, looking vaguely lost and probably a bit confused, a chap came up to me and asked first in Dutch and then English if he could help. It turned out his father had recently cycled to Santiago de Compistella and he could not see someone stood on a bike and not help, because he was grateful to all the people who had helped his father on his journey.
Joost was with his girlfriend Ilona and they both helped me find a map shop and also tried to help me find a hotel, calling around most of the places I had tried. In the end Joost decided that I was trust worthy and offered for me to stay in their spare room, commenting that even if I did steal the TV I would not get far with it on my bike. I didn’t immediately jump on the offer because of y normal British attitude to politely refuse help, but eventually decided that I should take him up on his very kind offer.
Had a great evening with Joost and Ilona, she cooked some great food and we all watched the Ice Age DVD together. They refused to let me pay for anything even some wine to go with the food.
OK so it wasn’t that brief! ;-)