Section by section I am getting closer to the finish mark of Bergen op Zoom.
Transport to the start point this time was the Hubby. I didn’t have a clear plan on where the trail would lead me. The initial plan was to hike the trail all the way to Dordrecht where the next noted official section of the Floris V Pad starts. The universe and my body had different plans on how this day would ultimately play out.
The morning was cool and the sky was clear. I started the hike that took me through more farmland of the Alblasserwaard.
This farmland trail had older windmills (one has been converted into a modern house) with an active water pumping station. I could hear the station pumping as I made my way along the trail.
As I approached the modern (windmill) house I started to notice artwork along my path. Then a gate that opened into a beautiful cottage garden. I took my time finding all the treasures hidden within the garden.
It was time to move on. Out of the garden, through a gate, and into a very long field, with no indicators where the trail existed. I checked the map and walked a straight line through the field. While I was hiking through the field I noticed that the canal water was moving at a good speed, most likely caused by the pumping station.
I walked a short section through a forest area then crossed a busy road intersection that shuttles traffic between Papendrecht and Schoonhoven. Once across the traffic intersection I was instantly inside the beautiful Alblasserwaard forest.
This trail now took me along tree and shrub lined trails, zig zagging through the forest. Birds singing in the canopy and insects of all sorts busy on flowers.
Somewhere around this time, I got off track of the actual Floris V Pad. Before I actually realized I was off course, I was almost on the outskirts of Papendrecht. Instead of back tracking, I just changed my plans. I texted the Hubby that I would meet him at the apartment building where he was waiting for a truck to haul off the last of his parents items.
Now I made my own trail as I wandered through the town. Papendrecht is not a small town and you really realize that when you are on foot. I walked through new housing areas and areas where time seemed to have stood still. The changes are reflected in the buildings architecture.
As I got closer to my destination I was suddenly rewarded with a new visual treat.
All of this made me smile and was well worth the trail diversion.
As I walked down the street, I found another tree community. This time there were two damsels waving at me from their perch. I am guessing they are huge Formula 1 fans, from the banner they sported from the balcony.
Soon another balcony came into view. The Hubby waited and waved to me as I made my way along the road.
This route of the Floris V Pad in sections is getting harder for me to remain motivated. The path is getting further away from the house and the areas are a bit of a challenge to reach via public transport. But, I keep going and I am encouraged and even inspired by some of my blog readers who have commented how much they enjoy reading about these hikes, so thank you!
On this section of the Floris V Pad, I almost skipped since I have visited the Kinderdijk enough times over the years. Hiking my way through tons of tourist is just not my thing even in normal times. In the last year I have become even more paranoid about crowds. You can read about our other adventures pre COVID time at Kinderdijk here and here.
This time I decided since the Hubby was working night shift for four straight days, I would head out on my bike for my first solo adventure since the start of the 2020 pandemic. The last time I was alone on a vacation was January 2020 when I travelled to Georgia, read about that here.
Taking public transport has gotten to be more of a hassle since the pandemic. Not only must you wear a mask at all times while on public transport here in The Netherlands, this summer you must also register your bike on the exact train schedule you plan on taking. That cramps my style and flexibility so for me it was a hassle to be set into a time slot on the train.
My plan was to “camp” out for a few days at my in-laws empty apartment. I didn’t need a ton of gear but still I had to plan like I was camping. Load my bike with all the gear and head off to the train station.
Train to Dordrecht via Rotterdam → Water bus to Papenrecht.
I had a luxury empty apartment for “camping.” A wonderful view of the Dordrecht church tower and the three major river routes that pass close to the apartment. Plus, I didn’t have to contend with a tent, other campers, or a silent virus creeping up on me in the night.
The next morning it was time to get serious about knocking out this section of the Floris V, but to get there, I first had to get to the public transport in Papendrecht. Can I add those kilometers to my total?
As I made my way through the towns of Papendrecht and then Alblasserdam, I looked at the cloud cover and wondered if I was going to be hiking in the rain today.
Once I stepped off the bus at the Kinderdijk entrance, I was surprised and a bit shocked to see I had the entire place to myself. Granted it was 08:00 in the morning, but still on a normal summer day it would be filled with foreign tourists. It felt strange to have the entire place to myself. The only other soul was a Dutch women who had camped in her camper in the parking lot overnight. She was busy sorting through her camping items and getting ready to move to her next location.
The first thing I noticed at the entrance was that there was a huge construction project. The pumping station that pumps water out of the polder and up into the Lek River is being upgraded. Another change is that the Kinderdijk visitor center and gift shop had been updated with a new building. The visitor center now has a huge observation deck on the roof. These are changes that have occurred in the last four years, the time of my last visit here.
There were also changes in walking paths along the canal and I think it must help with the over crowing of this site during a normal tourist year. I enjoyed the quiet as hiked this familiar area with no tourists to interfere with my enjoyment.
The overcast skies still looked threatening but I knew I had keep moving. After a short break at a park bench for a quick snack, I started hiking on a real foot path through the polder along the Kinderdijk canal.
On my hike two sections ago, here, I talked about walking through the field of cow manure, now It was a footpath (sheep path) of sheep manure. I have to admit that the backdrop of the Alblas windmill was breathtaking.
I climbed over two more fences and crossed over a bridge. Across a road and then back to a foot path that made me feel like I was the only person who had been on this trail in a very long time. The trail was lined with willow trees with a small canal on either side giving it a very isolated feel as I hiked along.
I came to a junction in the trail where I encountered a women with two rather large German Shepherd dogs. We had a short chat and then I sat for short rest. I was joined by a butterfly who stayed still enough for me to capture it with my camera.
The path between the canals ended in a farm field with almost no indication where the trail continued. A quick check of my map, I found I hadn’t lost my way. Soon I found a gate with a marker that eased my fears of being lost. But, the gate was locked! Now, I had to figure out how to get around the gate without falling into the canal. I tested the support beam to make sure it was stable and swung around the end of the gate. I get the feeling that the undefined trail and the gate lock was a friendly reminder to those hiking the trail that we are only visitors on this trail.
The trail now became a very long dirt driveway heading to a blacktop road. The wind started to pick up and I started to think that the rain would come at any minute.
Once I got to the blacktop road, I was now hiking on a road I had biked several times in the year we camped at Oud Alblas, I noted the changes big and small to the houses as I hiked.
Then it was a turn to my left, back into the flat farmland, another small footpath. Now, I could see the Oud Alblas church tower in the distance and knew I was almost at the end of this hike for the day. Would I make it to the end before the rain? My feet moved a bit faster through the long grassy trail.
Making it to the point outside Oud Alblas where I was first inspired to hike the Floris V Pad four years ago felt like a huge achievement. Now, more than half way to my end point in Bergan op Zoom I wanted to celebrate! Saddly, this spot is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I checked the bus schedule and saw that I had a bit of walk to get to the bus stop in Oud Alblas. Maybe I would have time for a coffee celebration at a local restaurant.
I made my way into town and saw that fours years had also brought changes to this small town. My favorite pastier was now gone (out of business I am sure due to COVID). I waited at the bus stop and the very small village bus, run by a volunteer, picked me up heading in the opposite way from Papendrecht. She invited me to ride the entire route with her but I had other ideas, a stop at one of my favorite restaurants for a coffee. She dropped me off at the restruant and told me she would be back on this route in an hour heading into Papendrecht. All I needed to do was flagged her with my arms and she would stop for me. Perfect!
Feeling guilty of my coffee indulgence, I started walking back to Oud Alblas. The rain still threaten to fall but now the wind started to make the trees sing a warning. I stopped, got my rain jacket out of the backpack, and on just as the sky opened up, dumping buckets of water. When I made it to the bus stop in Oud Alblas, I was soaked.
The bus appeared and the driver was happy to see me again although she noted that the weather had changed a little bit. When I got to Papendrecht I still had about 2 km walk to the apartment in my soaked gear. I think the universe knew I needed encouragement as I found two painted rocks along my route.
Happy to be back at the “camping” apartment, I ended the day with air drying all my gear.
Floris V Pad STATS:
This hike from Kinderdijk to Oud Alblas- 10 km
The prior hike from Streefkerk to Kinderdijk -10 km
I want to call the next two sections of this hike the great old windmill hike of the Floris V Pad. As the path goes from flat land of the Alblasserwaard to the dike of the Lek River through the World UNESCO site of old windmills of the Kinderdijk area. If there is only one section of the Floris V Pad you have time to hike I would highly recommend these two sections.
First, I tackled the section from Streefkerk where I had stopped on my previous hike you can read about that here. Once again I was able to beg a ride to the drop off point from the Hubby as he was heading to clean out his parents sold apartment. With an early morning start (7:30), I had the trail all to myself as the sun reflected off dew in the pastures.
The trail along this section is more of a dirt road for access to the farm fields. Besides an occasional dog walker I had the trail to myself. The flat landscape on either side of the canal lined trail was filled with milk cows and birds of all sorts.
At one point I looked into the fields on my left and saw three men walking in between what looked like geese standing in the field. Each carried a rifle and then it was clear to me that the “geese” I saw were decoy to get the wild geese to land and become easy targets. It became even more clear as I saw one of the guys bend over and pick up several geese who were already heading to some dinner table (meaning they were dead!). I continued to walk on thinking how strange to see hunters here in the Dutch countryside, a very common thing to see where I grew up in Minnesota but here I rarely see hunters. I looked into the field again and saw a grey goose peeking its head above the grass. I silently told it that it had better get out of there or the hunters would get it. Minutes later, I heard a shot, the goose had not gotten my message and its life was now ended. I turned around and stood on the trail to see if maybe I had been wrong in my assumption of the faith of the goose. I sadly was not.
It wasn’t much longer before another animal crossed paths with me. An invasive species that I grew up catching in the local river in Minnesota, a crayfish! These have become a huge issue here as they have no natural predators and have multiplied into the millions, eating all the small fish in the canals. This one surprised the heck out of me crossing in front of my path. As I reached down to pick it up it backed into the grass. I picked it up and placed back on the road so I could get a good picture.
Like I mentioned this section of the hike was full of windmills. From Streefkerk to Kinderdijk there are several and once you reach the Lek River dike there is the view of the World UNESCO site where you can view more than 25 windmills dating from the 1700’s. These windmills were mostly used to pump the flat marsh lands of the Alblasserwaard of water so that it could be farmed. Here are a few of those images from the hike.
This trail was not only windmills. As I stopped at a nice water point in Nieuw-Lekkerland I saw that the trail changed while going through the village. It was now lined with housing and cool back yard gardens. The gardens reflecting the individual tastes of the owners.
The trail after Nieuw-Lekkerland now was not well marked and there was a sign that the road deadended. I decided to take my changes and continue to walk. The road kept getting smaller and smaller and did finally end with only a foot path that went towards the windmills.
This hike ended at the Kinderdijk entrance.
I made my way via water bus to where the Hubby was waiting for me. The vacation time always brings challenges in public transport as the public transport schedules change or are on very limited routes. This was also the truth with the water bus from Kinderdijk. I experienced a very long wait for a contracted ferry boat at Kinderdijk, a transfer to the very crowed water bus at Ridderkerk, then finally my stop in Papendrecht. I was happy to arrive and to be treated to a coffee overlooking the Noord River.
This wonderful paddle location is really a very short drive for us, but we hadn’t paddled the Nieuwkoopse plassen since 2017 when we first were learning how to canoe paddle as a team. You can read about those adventures here.
We started early, although with all the gear packing and loading and the short drive we didn’t get onto the water at the Noorden launch site until close to 9 am.
Anytime prior to the magic hour of 10 am is a great time to do anything in this country and enjoy quiet of nature.
We noticed a few new things (or maybe we had forgotten) like route signs.
Instead of having a planned out route this time we explored the route towards the Meije River on the far East side of the Nieuwkoops plassen.
At the start of the river is a nature center. We stopped only briefly to look at the map.
When we started to paddle on the Meije we noticed three guys working on a water barrier that went across the river. It looked as if we were going to have to turn around and paddle back in the direction we came. One of the guys noticed us and waved us forward to the barrier. We were told to press a button and the barrier gate would operate. Then we could paddle through this water control gate onto the river. This was a new experience for us.
We paddled down the river for a short distance and noticed a second gate leading back into the nature area and was listed for paddle boats only. At this gate I took a short video as we waited for the gate to open.
As we entered this nature area we started to make our way through the canals. The route is pretty understandable, any possible water path that looks like it could be a route has been blocked intentionally with large logs making it very clear the direction of travel. This area was full of bird and insect noises. In fact, it was so quiet I heard a cricket chirping!
Unfortunately, the nature sounds are disrupted by the noises of aircraft engines from the Schiphol airport.
We came into a small lake and started to look for a nice spot to have coffee. Not able to find a good spot to stop, we start to paddle back to the launch site. We noticed now there was more traffic on the water too.
This location also had a very nice (my standard, as a kid I grew up with an outhouse for a toilet) camp outhouse.
At this stop we noticed it was really getting busy on the water with a good combination of large and small boats along with all sorts of paddling crafts.
That was our signal that it was time for us to be getting off the water, as we really don’t enjoy all the traffic.
When we pulled up to the launch site it was also busy with swimmers and other paddlers getting ready to get on the water. Always a challenge to carefully get our beautiful Cedar boat out of the water even more so when we have to tip toe around other people and boats. In this case, on this day, people who really didn’t have a clue about water courtesy.
We loaded up and headed for home.
It was a great time exploring this old paddle location.