Monday, 17 May 2010

The midnight knock and a broken mirror – bad luck in Holland, 14/5/10

At 1:30 am I became aware of bright lights further along the seafront.  A car drove slowly past, torches were shone and there was a firm knock at the door.  The two policemen explained in perfect English that wild camping was outlawed in the whole of Zeeland province, and that we would have to either stay awake all night or move on.  There was little choice.  Shame, even at this time of night it was a lovely place.  We packed up slowly, and drove on to nearby Domburg where we stopped in a carpark and wondered what to do.   Check things on the laptop?   We did, and amazingly found an unsecured wi-fi connection, and that lucky fact kept us occupied and awake for a couple more hours.   Finally it was just too much, and as dawn was breaking we found a more isolated car park near the dunes at Oostkapelle, where despite the bye-laws we caught up with some sleep for a few hours.

Our route through Holland after the midnight knock

We were, inevitably, tired all day.   We intended to start a longer journey south to the Belgian Ardennes, but as it was such a nice day we decided to take a roundabout route across some of the dams and barriers that connect all the islands of the Rhine Delta.  The longest was the storm surge barrier across the mouth of the Oosterschelde, a kind of mega Thames barrier that lets the tides through under normal conditions but can close to block dangerously high surges.   We came to the town of Zierikzee, which was picture postcard-pretty.  The main square was full of cafés and restaurants where people were enjoying the good weather, and the small centre was otherwise surrounded by canals and waterways.  Our route then took us along dykes and over bridges past a lot of reclaimed land, until we hit the ‘mainland’ at Bergen-op-Zoom.

Approaching this town on a straight but quite narrow road, there was a sudden loud bang on the left-hand side of the van, as a passing bus smashed into our wing-mirror.  We stopped as soon as we could (unlike the bus), but there was nothing to be done.  I picked up what fragments I could from the road, and we retired to the local Macdonalds to research Renault dealers on their free internet.   It was now 6pm and clear we weren’t going much further, an internet search found us another minicamping on a farm in pleasant, Norfolk-like countryside east of Bergen for the night.
Our poor van

Lesley’s small note –

Charlie picked up an admirer at the campsite - a girl of about ten, daughter of a guy who spoke excellent English, having lived in Canning Town, London, for several years. She made friends with him by giving him dog treats and insisted on taking him for a walk with Rob, even though she was in her pyjamas and ready for bed.

We have definitely slipped into our own peculiar time-warp though. Dinner seems to be getting later and later – 10 p.m. tonight.

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