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Challenge Reunion april 2012 Bennekom, The Netherlands

Once again Suus

and Bert had arranged the annual Dutch Challenge Reunion in combination with the Over The Hill Club Meet. A splendid get-together for British, Belgian and Dutch walkers to revive old memories, talk about the upcoming TGO Challenge and to enjoy the Dutch countryside.This time the meet was held near Bennekom at The Veluwe.I arrived friday afternoon in good spirit. The last couple of km had been on unpaved and dusty forestroads.It had been dry for a while. Some had arrived before I did and more were arriving during the afternoon and in the evening. Our base was Nivon Hostel 'De Bosbeek' , east from Bennekom.Many hands helped to prepare an Italian evening meal. I tried to grate a Pecorini cheese, the hardest cheese I've ever tried to grate. With help fromNicolas from Belgium I finally succeeded. Buying the ingredients and cooking for approximately 23 people isn't easy but the meal was a great succes. Saturday Rolf had organised a walk from the hostel to the river Nederrijn following a former meltwater valley dating back to the ice-age. Two little streams flowing through this valley still contribute to the river Nederrijn. The weather was a mixture of clouds and sunshine and perfect for walking. The path crossed the higher and smaller burn and on the lower side of the valley we had to cross the wider burn. There was a 'bridge' made of treebranches and most of us started queing to use this bridge. The burn was only ankle deep and even Challenge legends didn't want to gettheir boots wet ! I rolled up my trousers a bit and just splashed through. On the Challenge most of them are prepared to wade thighdeep through rivers.Rolf is an expert on the area we walked through - we even walked passed the house where he was born,at the high end of the moraine - and explained the legislative history to us. During the ice-age the originally north flowing rivers Rijn and Maas were forced by the icesheet to flow to the west. The icesheet formed moraines and after the ice retreated the wind deposited more sand on top thus creating a difference in height of over 40m over a very small distance. Our British guests were impressed. I offered some pre-Challenge training by going down and up again but they kindly refused. At one point the Romans created a path through the hillside to reach a rivercrossing. Nowadays there's aferry crossing the river at this point. We continued our walk through the river forelands on the northside of the river Nederrijn. At Wageningen most walkers took the bus to get back to Bennekom. Only Nicolas, Paul and I walked back through the forest - covering a total difference of approximately 20km - arriving at the same time as the others. Much to their surprise.Our evening meal was an extensive Indonesian dish compiled by Rolf. Delicious ! Hotel 'De Wereld' in Wageningen where the negotiations between the Allies and the Germans for their surrender took place at the end of WWII. made a bicycletour. Some of our British friends aren't very experienced in cycling(on the wrong side of the road) but even Big John H. managed and I have to admit it has been a long time ago I did cover such a distance myself. The first part was through the same forests we walked yesterday only now we where on paved bicyclepaths and we were much faster. The ones in front were actually so fast they had to wait at regular interfalls for the ones behind. At one moment we waited for the last ones who had already passed. Doh !This time we used the ferry to cross the river Nederrijn and followed the river-dyke west to Opheusden. Just before the next ferrycrossing we had a little stopover at 't Veerhuis' for a drink and a pie. Back on the northern bank of the Nederrijn we visited nature reserve 'De Blaauwe Kamer', the site of a former brickfactory which was operative until 1975. The area has been returned to nature and the summerdyke has been lowered so the area is flooded several times every year when the river is in spate thus creating a habitat for waterloving animals and plants. After De Blaauwe Kamer we continued our journey towards the souteastern corner of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the western moraine. This point is calledthe Grebbeberg and was a vital point for the defence of Holland at the start ofWWII. A little stream, initialle flowing towards the river Nederrijn, was converted into a canal to be able to inundate the Gelderse valley between the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and The Veluwe. We followed this canal for a while before turning east and north to reach The Veluwe again. We visited the Ginkelse Heath, the dropping and landing area for Allied Forces during operation Market Garden in 1944. Today it was busy - within a 100 yards of the carpark - with Easter sunday visitors. After a short rest we biked to Natuurcentrum Veluwe. Here we had soup with bread and watched a video about wildlife on The Veluwe. Shortly before sunset we walked to an observationhut to watch Red deer. we saw a heard of hinds, soon disapperingbetween the trees, a red fox and two wild boars. In the dark we returned to the hostel having done a roundtrip of approximately 40km. had been partly cloudy and dry (important when you're cycling) but for monday the weatherforecast said showers and thunderstorms were to be expected. Our programme was a mixed one. One group choose to go with Rolf to Arnhem to visit the WWII infocentre, the John Frostbridge etc. and a group choose to go to the Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe with the Kroller-Muller Museum, Sculp-ture garden and Art Deco hunting lodge St.Hubertus by architect Berlage. During the morning the rain was moderate but we were cosy in the museum. In the afternoon it was just light rain so we visited the sculpture garden. I was walking with JD, Mairi and Suus but lost contact with them. It turned out they went with the others to see the hunting lodge while I did a Dutch ridge- walk to another part of the sculpture garden. We ended our visit at 4 pm. and drove back to the hostel. The rain got heavier. Once again a well organised meet with friends old and new. Many thanks to Bert and Suus for organising and to Rolf for the guided tours. join us next year !

Easter sunday we

These last two days

Italian meal at hostel

Ready to leave

The meltwater valley

Rolf explaines

Hotel De Wereld

The Roman road

The river Nederrijn

Stopover at 't Veerhuis

BicycLEgends John and Mairi

Walking to the observationhut

De Blaauwe Kamer

Natuurcentrum Veluwe

Suus and art

Ridgewalk

Building in sculpture garden





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