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Guest 000

Life in the slow lane.

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Guest 000

Just now we are in a little town called Aarle Rexton, about 60km north of Maastrict and our progress is pretty slow.There are two reasons for this, firstly, I am having great difficulty seperating Joke's bum from her bicycle seat and secondly,the wheels of Dutch beaurocracy turn very slowly. I cant blame Joke though, this province of Brabant is very beautiful for cycling and we have racked up quite a few kms exploring the countryside. Interestingly, if you get down on your hands and knees and make a hight-of-eye of about 10cm you can actually determine a slight rolling of the landscape which makes a nice difference from the flat lands further north. Regarding beaurocracy we are still awaiting an ATIS number for the VHF which is required before we enter Belgium. There is no problem in that our application for this number is approved, its just that it takes up to two weeks for someone to sit at his computer, find the next available number on the list and tell you what it is. If we had known that all this stuff was going to take such a long time we would have got things underway in NZ before we left.

But, none of this seems to matter very much which we put down to the fact that life on the canals is a very leisurely affair. We travel at a speed where joggers on the towpath keep up with us and cyclists pass us. Our nervousness about locks has pretty well evaporated now that we have a few under our belt, and as it turns out the bigger locks with large rises and falls are easier than the small ones. The reason for this is that the smaller locks have rows of bollards set flush into the lock walls at different heights and so it is necessary to let go one and secure to the next one up or down, depending on which way your going.This means two sets of lines for each bollard which does tend to result in a bit of a tangle until you have a system worked out, especially for us learners. The bigger locks by comparison have floating bollards that rise or fall with the water or else pipes of around 20cm diameter set vertically into the walls which the lines nicely slide up or down. Both very nice systems, and I have to say that Joke has turned out to be a pretty passable linehandler. But, big or small you do need to have a lot of seriously good fenders. The commercial ships can be a bit frightening when you see an 80m vessel coming your way and you pass with 5m between, but thats another thing you quickly get used to. And then theres the lifting bridges, and I cant get used to those, not that there is any problem. You call the bridge man on the VHF and tell him you wish to pass through. He will close the barrier arms across the road and lift the bridge for you, and as you trundle through you see traffic backed up for miles on either side and I still feel a bit guilty about that!

So, hopefully by the end of next week will be able to cross into Belgium which we will try to transit as quickly as possible before the water police know we're there.Joke the linehandler-1.jpgPiushaven 2.jpgCars waiting for us.jpg

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