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Kas decided not to bother going for a run this morning, which meant we were all up, dressed, fed and watered by the surprisingly early time of 10am.

We’d done a bit of discussion the previous night and decided that today we were off to Kinderdijk, one of the most quintessentially Dutch of all Dutch places. It has the full combination of windmills, canals, rivers above your head, flat land and clogs. Probably cheese too, if you buy the right thing at the cafe.

From where we were staying it was a moderately long hack over there around the south side of Rotterdam along the A15. This road runs through the heart of the Rotterdam Port area, passing several oil refineries and other sites that have a lot of metallic twiddly-bits. Since I last lived here they have also added a not inconsiderable number of wind turbines, which means this is probably the Netherlands’ biggest concentration of power generating equipment. It’s good to see all this renewable stuff mixed in with the oil refining.

On the way there we managed to get lost once, at the short section where the A15 and A16 converge and then diverge again. The problem was that there are, quite frankly, a lot of lanes there, and because the map we had conveniently hid that section it wasn’t obvious which signs we needed to follow. In fact, going to Kinderdijk, you don’t follow signs for the A16 at all. So we overshot by one junction, got off, and came back again, right into the middle of the same total confusion of tarmac. This time however we were primed with the knowledge of 3 directions that we most definitely did not want to go, leaving the fourth as the only feasible option. All we had to do then was shuffle across several lanes of traffic on more than one occasion to get into (and stay in) the correct lane. Seriously, it’s not a good motorway junction for local traffic.

Sport aside, though, it took about an hour to get there. When we arrived (after seeming far too long on a little local road from the motorway), we were directed into one of the few remaining spaces in the official car park for the princely sum of 5 Euro for the day. This might have seemed a bit steep, until we got to the ticket office and realised we didn’t need a ticket unless we wanted to go inside either of the “working” windmills – meaning the two where they have some geezers in period costume showing you how the windmills used to work. So 5 Euros covered the parking and entrance fees for all of us, and also included a free coffee at the museum. Not bad for a whole day out at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I won’t explain why there’s so many windmills in the one place – just follow the Kinderdijk links on this page and read about it on Wikipedia.

We started off by buying some tourist tat for the girls (technically, they bought their own) and taking photos of them standing in monstrously huge clogs. After this we walked out along the main pathway for however far it is, enjoying a sunny and warm stroll through reed beds and passing lots of windmills.  There was supposedly a multi geocache here but I took one look at the requirements (about 12 stages and a walk well beyond the normal tourist trail) and decided not to bother even starting it. I didn’t really want the time at Kinderdijk to involve that much detailed searching for non-windmill things.

So we walked out as far as the part where you can get the “classic” view of Kinderdijk – the point where there’s a junction or angle between two lengths of canal and you can see a long line of windmills disappearing off in two directions.

From here we walked back to the entrance and then around the end of the canals to have a look at the museum and maybe grab that free coffee. The museum seemed a bit dull, not really focusing on the site but generally on bits of old Dutch culture. And the cafe wasn’t really a cafe. It was a kettle, from which we could obtain a cup of instant coffee. Hmm ! We were expecting a little more. So we didn’t bother stopping there, and instead we walked back around to the cafe and shop by the entrance and grabbed some ice cream / coffee and a bit of a sit down. At least there was a giant National Geographic logo for the kids to sit in.

This took us through to mid-afternoon, and too early to go home but too late to do anything else “big”. On the way out though we’d passed a nice looking beach on the landward side of the Haringvlietdam, so we decided to head there to finish off our day.

On the way, heaven forbid, we had to stop for fuel, because the car was complaining it only had about 60 miles left. Given that this was the first fill up since leaving Milton Keynes I was quite happy with that. I was even happier when the car topped out at somewhat less than 50 litres, which indicated that the fuel gauge was being quite conservative. Maybe 60 more miles before the fuel light came on rather than 60 more before the car stopped working. Anyway, that means the car had done all the distance from Milton Keynes via the Channel Tunnel, northern France, Bruges, up to Port Zelande and then running around the place for 3 days on about 50 litres. The trusty old car would need to be filled up at least twice to do that distance.

The beach in question was the wonderfully named Quackstrand near Hellevoetsluis. It is sheltered behind the Haringvlietdam and has a few things to keep the general population entertained, such as bars, bouncy castles and a waterpark. From my perspective it also had a series of challenge caches attached to the bottoms of 6 wind turbines running along the seaward face of the dam. So I asked Kas to drop me off at one end and I’d walk back doing the caches and meet them on the beach later. Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way. The caches concerned are :

Kas dropped me off on the landward side of the dam, near where it looked like there was a path you could use to duck under the main road where the dam turns into sluice gates, so I headed off that way, and indeed there were steps, and a pedestrian tunnel under the road. On the other side of it, there was a fence. About 9 feet high and with padlocks on the gate. So I presumed I was not supposed to climb over just here or, indeed, walk through. This meant I’d got to now walk about a mile back along the dam on the landward side to reach the “proper” foot tunnel, and then a mile back along the seaward side of the dam to get to the geocache on the very end windmill. “Bum !” was not a word I used, but I’m not allowed to type the ones I did use. It’s a family show, folks.

Apparently Kas could see me walking all the way back along the road from where she was sitting on the beach, but by this time they were all settled into beach type activities so I had no expectation she’d get up and fetch me. Anyway, walking is good for you. Probably. Especially if you get to do some swearing under your breath while you’re doing it.

Eventually I found the correct way under the road and found myself walking along the reinforced seaward face of the dam. About halfway between sea level and the top of the dam there was a flat tarmac road (actually the whole seaward face was covered in tarmac, but the part halfway up was the only part flat enough to drive/walk on) which had the six wind turbines built in. Initially I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be there, but then I assumed that if the CO had managed to place caches then you must be allowed to walk along. The case for the defence was strengthened a couple of hundred yards in when I saw some people with dogs walking back towards me. I also saw something to potentially scupper the mission though. Two of the windmills appeared to have vans parked at the bottom and people working on them. It looked like I was going to need to practice my best Dutch to try to say “do you mind if I furtle around the bottom of here in a highly suspicious manner for a few minutes while you’re attempting to go about your business ? Honestly, I don’t want to nick your power tools. There were 6 turbines and the vans were at numbers 2 and 5 from the direction I was walking. To be honest, something else was threatening to scupper the mission too. It was quite windy and the turbines where whizzing rund at a healthy rate. Now, in your heart of hearts, you know you’re not going to get your head chopped off , but there’s still a little bit in the the back of your head that tells you to duck down whenever you’re right underneath one. And to be honest, the noise of the blades spinning round gives me the willies. It made me really want to walk quickly and get the caches found as soon as I could manage.

Number one was the challenge cache that I’m not eligible for, so I continued my walk up to number 4 before deciding to try to “get my eye in” by searching for one. It was remarkably easy to find, and this proved a useful exercise, especially when backed up with an identical find at number 6, because it meant I now knew what kind of container I was looking for and where it was likely to be. So on my way back to #5 I noticed the workmen were both upstairs actually inside the bottom of the turbine, and I quickly grabbed the cache and then walked off to “stare at the sea” while I signed the log. It was then equally quick to snap the cache back into place and move on without them noticing me.  #3 was the same, and fairly quickly I was on my way back towards #2. It seemed here that the workmen were in and out, up and down a bit more than on the other one so I was beginning to work a strategy for asking them, or for asking the CO if I could have the find without signing it, and just as I was taking evidence photos I noticed the workmen come down the steps and get in their van. So I waited a bit, and took a couple more photos, and sent a text to Kas, and by that time they had gone. Phew ! Potentially uncomfortable moment avoided. It was the same find as the other 4. So was the last one. Although I was technically not eligible for the last one the page says it’s OK to make a speculative signature and then turn it into a “Found It” log when you do qualify. So I thought I might as well. I’m a long way off the requisite 2000 foreign finds but if I didn’t sign it here I’d have to come back again to sign it. Anyway, I was standing right next to it by the time I’d run through all these points in my head.

This was about enough for the hot, sandy, windy walking for one afternoon, so I retired back under the road and onto the beach, where I met up with the girls, who were deeply embroiled in some beach-type activities of sitting in the sand, plodging in the lake, and soaking up the sun. Ami wanted to have a go in the waterpark so I went over to discuss at the ticket office and managed to determine that entrance was on a strict hour or half hour basis (to make it easier to know how long everyone has been in and to control total numbers). I also determined that Ami could have a half hour slot, but because she couldn’t present a Dutch Schools Swimming Certificate then she’d have to be accompanied by an adult and have to wear a life vest. Probably sensible. Anyway, if she came back in 5 minutes she could catch a half hour session.  Izzy wasn’t so bothered about the splashy zone so she settled for a half hour in the bouncy castle instead. Kas went with Ami and I sat in the sand waiting for half an hour and soaking a few rays. It was all quite pleasant.

When the half hour was up the clock had ticked its way around to 6pm, so we retired from the beach into the nearest bar for some ice creams and drinks. Again, all very pleasant.

So Kas drove us home, a journey made more interesting by having to wait for a bridge to come up and go down again, and once home seeing as the girls were all covered in sand and I wasn’t they all went upstairs to get cleaned up while I made a very creditable Spaghetti Bolognese using slightly alien ingredients (where’s the jars of Dolmio then ? I thought they were supposed to be a Dutch company) and a somewhat less creditable garlic bread. Less creditable because they didn’t have garlic butter in the supermarket so I tried to use garlic, and butter. This is dangerous, because when I do this I invariably get the balance wrong and end up producing something that could kill Dracula at 50 yards. The fact that there wasn’t an oven to bake it in probably made this effect worse. Still, the spag bol was OK.

After which the girls put on an impromptu dance show, as they often do, before heading off to bed, which they rarely do willingly.

That was quite a long day.