Thursday, September 6, 2012
The second day of my long distance hike started poorly. Woke up before 6 AM and it was pouring rain outside my window at the Martini Hotel in Groningen. By 7 AM I had breakfast and when I was ready to start walking at 8 AM it was actually DRY!
First I had to find the Pieterpad trail because the hotel is not located along the route itself. But at that time in the morning on a Sunday you can shoot off a canon down mainstreet and not hit a soul. I wound my way through town, through parks, littered with the left overs of late night parties, and finally found my way to the trail outside of town. Immediately I missed one of the signs and ended up walking an extra km before I had found the trail back.
Most of the trail is marked with small red/white signs, but some are faded and/or missing. It is not like the Camino de Santiago which you can hike without a guide because the markings are so well done. But once I got moving I made good progress through wide open fields. I had decided to walk this section of trail from south to north because the very detailed Dutch weather forecast (http://www.buienradar.nl/) showed me that it probably would dump less rain on me than if I had taken the train first back to where I left off yesterday (Winsum).
I hardy saw a soul on my way out of Groningen and during the first hour. The other advantage (to the promise of less rain) was that I now had the constant (strong) wind in the back instead of against me. This was the fist day I used hiking poles and it sure did make a difference. Now instead of blisters on my feet I had blisters on my hands (just kidding). The only problem is that one of the poles has a rubber cover missing at he base, so I sound like a pirate with a wooden leg. Everything went smoothly until it went swimmingly.
Dark clouds had been gathering but I thought those were moving away from me. How wrong I was. Suddenly it was pouring rain and not just rain, but HAIL! Three days ago the Dutch weather had set high temperature records in the low 40's. As soon as I went for a walk, it had to hail, not fair! Anyway I happened to find a car port and stayed under it for 10 minutes for the worst to pass. Onwards through green fields as far as the eye could see, cows were eying me suspiciously.
Since there was not a village or hamlet in sight I just kept walking and because everything was soaking wet I could not sit down anywhere to rest. The rain had stopped after a while, but once in a while I had to put my poncho on to more or less stay dry. Finally after 3 hours and probably 14 km I got to a village where I found a cafe and a coffee and a tosti to sustain me for the rest of the day. Another 5-6 km and I made it to Winsum where I missed the train by 5 minutes and had to wait 55 minutes for the next train back to Groningen. That gave me plenty of time to read about the next sections of the trail. Today ended up being about 20-22km. All in all not a bad day, thanks to the poles I had little or no trouble with my feet and I have confidence in the 21 km for tomorrow (with backpack). I have made overnight reservations in the next two villages and look forward to exchanging the wide open spaces (with the damn winds) to forests in Drenthe. (the second province of the five I will be hiking through).