Over the past couple of years we discovered our passion for walking. Just walking around our own town and city parks, hiking through the mountains and trekking through endless national parks, either close to home or far away. In our enthusiasm we started quite a couple of long distance tracks in our own country (and around) but without actually ever finishing one. Until last month. The time was finally here to finish Holland’s most famous long distance trail: the Pieterpad .
In 2013 I already wrote a post about this epic trail that we had been following for years now (go here to read it) and instead of setting off on another trail, we decided that we should finish our unfinished business first. Or at least, this one.
The Pieterpad (Path of Saint Peter) runs 485 km from the town of Pieterburen in the north of The Netherlands, to the Sint Pietersberg (mountain of Saint Peter) in the southernmost part of our country. We kicked off this trail in May 2007 and finished it 6.5 years later. Somehow we just never got around to doing so earlier. We planned it and talked about it, but the further you go from home, the more hassle it is with public transportation and such. But as we didn’t plan on celebrating Christmas anyway, we decided that finishing this trail would be a perfect way to end 2013.
We started our walk in Vorden, the half way point located quite close to where we live. From there we walked all the way down south and now we headed northbound.
On the first day we planned on hiking from Rolde (where we finished last time) up to Zuidlaren. While in the train up north, we found out that we should have called ahead to reserve the bus that we planned on taking to Rolde from the train station. The original plan was to walk 16 km on the first day, but as we now had to walk towards the start our journey as well, we had to add about another 7 km. This eventually made us walk in the dark for about an hour but we didn’t mind as we were rewarded with the most stunning sunset as a complete surprise.
Most of this walk took us through the Drentsche Aa National Park (another one to cross of my list for my 20 Parks challenge) and along some ancient tombs (called Hunebedden) that are typical for this part of The Netherlands. The trail was easy to follow but unfortunately the weather was pretty grey so we didn’t get too much pictures…
On our second day we walked to Groningen, the biggest city of the north. It would be 21 km plus a little bit to our hotel (no, we didn’t go camping this time) so not that far. But unfortunately, we just had rain, rain and more rain. The highlight of the day was meeting our friends Frank and Sabine for a cup of tea half way down the track in Haren. They happened to pass by at roughly the same time by car, as they were going on a little trip in this area themselves. Other than that, let’s just forget about this day. We didn’t even take out the camera, just took some iPhone shots. There were still some moments of laughter though, realizing we were getting closer to our final destination.
The third and last day would be the most important, as we would reach Pieterburen today. The end of the trail. The end of a 6.5 year long journey. Normally this part of the trail is done in 2 stretches but we felt up for doing them both in one go, making it a 29 km walk. The first part of the trail wasn’t much fun, walking out of a town on a dark day (again!). We knew it was going to be a long day and had heard of many other walkers this is one of the least interesting parts of the trail. Just marching straight on through meadows, along canals and small villages, that mostly didn’t even have a café for warming up.
What can I say … the road was long. Our feet were sore (walking on asphalt is just not our favorite thing), we were quite cold (the wind was blowing like crazy) and we just wanted to be there. So by the end of the day, after we had been pushing ourselves to keep on going (and finding just one tiny café for a coffee and some pie) we finally saw the church tower of Pieterburen in the distance. My heart skipped a beat and I got all excited. There it was, the end of the Pieterpad, the end of a great learning experience within our own country. And the end of a 6.5 journey…
But I also got sad. This would be it. No more planning long weekends on this trail. We’d seen it all, nothing left to discover. The trail caused me blood, sweat and tears and as I remembered the first day of our trip 6.5 years ago (my pack was too heavy, we planned a stretch far too long and I swore I would never walk again that night when pitching up our tent … ) I just couldn’t help but feeling proud. We’d nailed it, 485 km was over and done with. A journey that we started half way during our lives together. Now that journey is finished. But we’ll keep on walking!
So … where to go from here? Well, there’s no reason to be sad really. Within The Netherlands there are 38 other long distance trails, of which we have started 4 but haven’t finished any of them … yet!