Just a weekend in July. The weather forecast is great and makes my cycling/camping blood run through my vessels again. And so I start packing, put the route on my GPS and book a campsite at a farmer. This time I will travel to one of my favorite provinces: Limburg. At the Southernmost point of the Netherlands it is a bit hilly. That is what the Mergellandroute is about. Driving the hills, roughly following the route of the Amstel Gold Race.
And so I drive South. The first day I will cycle from Geulle to Camerig. Roughly 63km, with 735 altimeters. Sounds easy, but for a Dutchy living in the flatlands it is hard work. With ascent rates of up to 11% it is not a real piece of cake. Especially when I am driving my trekking bike + 10kg extra luggage on the back!
Anyway, apart from being hilly and cycling through lovely countryside, this route passes a lot of 'Zwingelputten'. These are old (pivot) wells, which were used to pull up fresh water. On top of a brick well a wooden construction was build with a wooden role and crank, called a 'Zwengel'. A lot of these wells are still in good condition. After 10km I see a 'Mergel' (Marl) formation. Marl is chalkstone which can be found a lot in Limburg and has been used for construction most of the older buildings and houses. Next to it my first real ascent starts, the 'Bemelerberg'. With 11% a tough start!
After what seems to be endless climbs and many lovely views and 'Zwingelputten', I arrive in Camerig. A small town where I am able to pitch my tent in the backyard of a farmhouse. Well, most of it is in ruins, but the old lady loves the company of campers. There is no flat spot on the field to put up the tent and it is full of bumps, but the view is magnificent. With a great sunset in the background I enjoy my dinner and start feeling the muscles in my legs.
The next morning I get up early. I want to make as many kilometers in the relatively cool morning. In the afternoon temperatures will rise up to 30+ degrees. No conditions to climb some hills. Especially knowing one with 22% is waiting for me in a few hours. The start is a wakeup call. Leaving the campsite the road starts climbing for the first 5km. BAM! My legs are a bit sore from yesterday, no better cure than climbing. I pass small villages with lovely half-timbered houses and am looking for some coffee to enjoy. Well... this is Limburg as well. Monday morning everything is closed. It takes me hours to find an establishment. They are not open yet, but are willing to pour me a nice cup of doping for the 22% hill which lies just 5km ahead. The 'Keutenberg' is a real killer. Not long, the first 200m are just killing. It is like a wall you bump into.
After the climb I feel like I deserve a piece of cake. Knowing Valkenburg is around the corner I am sure I will find some. Valkenburg is the biggest tourist spot in this part of the country. A small, lively village with many, many restaurants and cafes. Here I find what I need, fuel for the last 15km. Limburg is well known for its cakes called 'vlaai'. Usually consisting of a biscuit bottom and covered with fruits. I realize this cycling route is not going to any town in a straight line. If there is a small hill, a detour is made to ascent en descent the hill. This results in a cycling route of in total 128km with 1500 altimeters. For me, a nice challenge in a beautiful environment with great cakes!