2023, Pilgrimage in the Netherlands, stage 0

April 2023 I hoped to roll another part of my pilgrimage. To be precise, from Rocamadour, where I had ended 2022 and then via Lourdes and possibly on to the border with Spain.
But everything went differently than planned this year. For years I had had a hernia but in early 2023 it worsened. Despite that, I decided I wanted to leave anyway, but a few days before departure my back went completely wrong and I really didn’t know where to look for it anymore from the pain. i was already packed to leave but instead of travelling to France I was admitted to hospital.
After several treatments (including a nerve blockade) that did not work, I was admitted to hospital, stayed with my parents for a while because I couldn’t do anything but lie flat on my back. Then I had surgery on the herniated disc and after a period in a rehabilitation centre and then at home, I slowly got back on my feet and started hoping for travel options again, maybe even a pilgrimage in the Netherlands. I also increasingly managed to roll again on a longer trek in the area.

By the end of September, things were going so well again that I really dared to start planning again. Going to France would still be too hard (and all the campsites would be closed before I got there) but I did see an option for pilgrimages in the Netherlands. the last week of September the weather would still be reasonably good and the campsites were still just open. so a good option.
2016 I started my pilgrimage in Haarlem and I wanted to roll from home to Haarlem one more time. So that’s what I started doing. I just called this Stage 0 because, after all, it is actually the trek that belongs before stage 1 (2016). After Haarlem (day 3), I rolled on to Heiloo.

You can read the report below (and in the blog).

Morgen vertrek
Dag 1, Alphen aan den rijn naar Oegstgeest
Dag 2 Oegstgeest – de Zilk
Dag 3, de Zilk – Haarlem – Velsen Zuid
Dag 4, Velsen Zuid – Heemskerk
Dag 5, Heemskerk – Heiloo
Dag 6 Heiloo – Haarlem
Dag 7 Haarlem – Roelofarendveen
Dag 8 Roelofarendsveen – Alphen aan den Rijn

Tomorrow I am leaving!

september 26, 2023 

Just a quick blog with big news. Tomorrow I am leaving!

I will start my 2023 pilgrimage! Although I am physically unable to travel to France this year, I still see a chance to do a shorter trek in the Netherlands. The idea is to roll via the coast/dunes to Haarlem over the next few days and then on to Heiloo. A Dutch place of pilgrimage where there has been a healing spring and a chapel since the year 1409. As you know, I was planning to go to Lourdes, which was cancelled due to the hernia operation, but now I will visit a place of pilgrimage with a spring after all.

Last few days I packed, almost everything is packed only the last things. I am travelling with full packs as I expect to camp and stay overnight along the way. So in that respect it is like previous years.

Tomorrow is the day, I am looking forward to it. Then I will also start writing a daily blog again about what I am experiencing and who/what I meet along the way.

But now I’m going to sleep first. See you tomorrow!


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Day 1, Alphen a/d Rijn to Oegstgeest

september 27, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

This morning around 11 o’clock I rolled away from home. First towards the church to collect the first stamp of this trip. I did find it strange to leave home like this. This ride was all in familiar surroundings for me, in fact, the ride I rolled today (except for the last 4 km) I rolled quite often when I was just starting to roll long distances. My son once attended primary school in Leiden and I rolled there very often via all possible routes as practice for my first pilgrimage. Today, I decided to roll the route via the northern side of the Oude Rijn river. Some parts with (ugly) industry and fortunately also parts where you can look out over the Dutch polders and enjoy the water birds.
The rolling went very well. Although at bridges and short slopes, for instance, I still notice that I don’t have the power back yet, I am quite satisfied. These few days of rolling will hopefully help me regain that strength. In any case, I rolled about 25 km today!

Arriving in Leiden, I rolled through the city centre where there was a market. I also briefly visited the Hartebrug church where unfortunately no one was there to give me a stamp.
I also briefly visited the LUMC, so fjn to know a place with a well-adapted toilet. Normally when I roll through nature in France that works out fine but in today’s fully built-up area finding a toilet (or bit without people) was trickier. But a hospital is ideal for that. After the hospital/toilet visit, I could again relax and continue my way to Oegstgeest. Here too, the church (or at least the Maria chapel) was open but no one was present so no stamp yet, hopefully it will work tomorrow.

Now I am with people I know from the musical group (Kisi, which is now called Koemi) that I have written about before. This is where I can stay overnight. Very nice!

A new blog tomorrow, when I head towards the dunes near Noordwijkerhout/de Zilk. I’m really looking forward to getting into new territory to explore.


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Day 2, Oegstgeest- de Zilk

september 28, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Last night I had a cosy evening at the family where I was staying and went to bed around 10pm. My back was clearly indicating that it was time to lie down after a day of a lot of sitting. After a night’s sleep, I felt a lot better again.

I started with a delicious breakfast and then went with the mother of the family to the church in Oegstgeest where yesterday I got no further than the Mary Chapel. Now the mass was there. After Mass, I got a stamp in my pilgrim passport and then it was soon time to hit the road again.

Today, I mainly followed cycling nodes that I used to determine my route. My cycling map is from 2016 (at the time of my first pilgrimage) and more points have come up since then so my numbering was not always correct. Fortunately, there are signs with a junction map fairly regularly so I got around.

I first rolled along the Leidsevaart towards Noordwijk….

Just before Noordwijk, I rolled past Veldzicht regional museum. I didn’t go inside but did briefly visit the 2 gardens just before the museum. I especially liked the herb garden.

On the way, I saw many birds. Especially many geese. But the most special birds I found were the very curious ostriches that stood behind a fence and came towards me. They wanted most of all to eat my camera!

Every year in spring, I go to Noordwijk and its surroundings to take photos at the bulb fields. Some of those fields are now fallow, but I also came across many fields that now had other cut flowers on them, so I did see some beautiful flower fields.

Arriving in Noordwijk, I visited the tourist office, where I got a stamp.

After the VVV, I went to the beach for a while (as far as I could) and watched the many kitesurfers in/on the water.

Then I rolled over the promenade and continued my way along a cycle path through the dunes. A nice route.

Although I don’t live very far from the coast, I don’t often get to the dunes, so this was very nice.

Now I’m at a nature campsite near de Zilk (but the address is still Noordwijk) and lying in my tent here. My evening meal was nice and easy, couscous with dried fruit (just make boiling water with the dipper, add and done).

My wheelchair is already recharging in the toilet block and I’m going to recharge (read: sleep) early myself. Tomorrow I roll through the waterworks dunes.


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Day 3, de Zilk naar Velsen-Zuid via Haarlem.

september 29, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Even before the alarm clock, I woke up. I slept well and with my hot water bottle, I had even been nice and warm all night.

I then started packing quietly. Luckily I did so because soon the rain came and everything was pretty much packed, so I put on my rain suit as well. At the campsite manager’s I got a sticker for in my passport and he told me about the water supply dunes. Unfortunately, he could not tell me which paths were or were not paved. I couldn’t get clarity on that on the website either. So I took the nearest entrance at random. The first part went quite well despite not being paved. I saw several deer. It was a nice route but the rolling became increasingly difficult and so did the rain. Occasionally, I still got stuck in the loose sand. Fortunately, there were occasional passers-by who helped me with a push. I also asked them how I could get to a paved path. Because although at first I found it a challenge to roll along the unpaved path, at one point it was a bit too much. Fortunately, the last part I got help from someone I had been walking with for a while. She helped me find the paved path and helped me through the increasingly bad paths. Fortunately, I succeeded because the rain and sand (which by now was really everywhere) meant I was getting more and more failures from my wheelchair wheels. Arriving on the paved path, luckily things improved again and I rolled the last part to the exit by myself. Should you read this, thanks again!

After the waterworks dunes, I rolled on. On the way, I stopped for a moment when I saw I was rolling past a seminary (priest training). There I got another stamp and a cup of tea. Very nice with that dirty weather.

Then I rolled to Haarlem, rolling a lot along the Leidse vaart canal. Along the way, there were regular things that reminded me that a train barge used to sail through here. I also read about the first electric tram between Haarlem and Zandvoort in 1899. The weather changed and it luckily became dry. Nice, especially because it meant I could finally get rid of all that abrasive sand on my wheels, hoops, hands and actually everywhere, because that rolling motion soon got the dune sand stuck from head to toe. Fortunately, most of the sand left me when it got dry! In Haarlem, I stopped at the Cathedral. Here I got a stamp, changed my batteries and was able to go to the toilet (well adapted). Other than that, I looked around and rested there for a while. Then it was time to move on as today had a long journey planned.

After Haarlem, I went to the Kennemer dunes. I had been here years ago and I knew there were cycle paths through there. It was nice to roll around here. Occasionally cyclists passed by and also horses. The last time I was here I also rode horses, fun! But for now, I’ll stick to my steel (titanium) steed!

It is clearly noticeable in nature that it is autumn, the leaves are changing colour and there are many beautiful mushrooms.

Via the ruins of Brederode, I rolled to Velsen-Zuid where I am now staying at a nature campsite.

Back on tomorrow, now rest first.


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Day 4, Velsen-Zuid to Heemskerk

september 30, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Last night, I had been slightly colder. That I was cold was mainly because I had cooled down too far and was already cold before I crawled into my sleeping bag. Then getting warm takes a lot longer. Tonight I better make sure I get into my sleeping bag warm. Fortunately, despite being cold, I had a pretty good night. This morning my tent was quite wet due to the dew, which unfortunately prevented me from taking it back dry.

After everything was packed and the water bottle filled, I left.

On the way to a crossing (I hesitated between ferry or locks/bridge) I met a man. Also a pilgrim (in the making), he is going to walk a bit through Portugal next week and hopes to finish in Santiago. He walked with me for a bit in the right direction. Eventually I rolled past the first ferry, wanting to see the locks anyway and possibly catch another one further on. I rolled along a former railway line made into a footpath, between platforms.

I continued like this until the next ferry, but unfortunately it didn’t go. However, from there I could look out over the sea nicely and saw the Fort Island. There was also a large DFDS ship sailing to Newcastle. A trip I would also like to make one day. After my pilgrimage to Santiago perhaps. I am already dreaming of future pilgrimages. Maybe from Canterbury to Iona. But first let’s pick up where I left off. Then rolled back to the locks to make the crossing. Impressive to see all those big ships and huge locks. Furthermore, this part of my trip was also mostly beautiful in ugliness, all those chimneys with plumes of smoke, pipes, buildings, rail tracks, cranes, etc. of tata steel that I rolled past/between.

Eventually I arrived at Wijk aan Zee. Here I had never been before and I liked the place. A nice path allowed me to roll along the beach past the beach houses. They were removing them. On the beach, they were doing it but later on the way, I also saw carts with beach houses being pulled. On the stand, several people were flying kites, both with small and huge kites. Beautiful sight. Then I continued my way through the North Holland Dune Reserve. That was another beautiful route. After a few kilometres, I arrived at the campsite in Heemskerk. Here I put up my tent and let it dry for the most part. Now I’m lying comfortably on my air mattress writing this.

Going to Heiloo tomorrow. But it looks like I’ll stick a few more days to it, so tomorrow is not yet the last day of travel.

I will write the further plans in a subsequent blog.


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Day 5, Heemskerk to Heiloo.

october 1, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Fortunately, I had slept well and warm again and also left the campsite fairly early. Normally, you have to buy an entrance ticket for these dunes but I got it for free with the overnight stay. On the map, it is only a short stretch (14km) between these 2 places, but according to my route, it was a hefty drive (about 32km rolled). Instead of the short route, this morning after leaving the campsite I first set out on a route through the dunes and some beaches.

I rolled through the North Holland Dune Reserve. A beautiful area with excellent cycle paths. Sometimes forest then bare sand dunes with marram grass. These dunes are also water purified. This was clearly visible in some places, such as “the jellyfish”, a place where water is pumped into the dunes.

In Heemskerk and Castricum I went to the beach. Heemskerk was nice and quiet and Castricum was really busy with many kitesurfers. At Castricum, I also spoke to a man who had walked to Santiago.

The weather was lovely so nice to be by the sea for a while. Along the way, we photographed many mushrooms and other plants and flowers. Many different kinds of plants grow here than the area where I live, so that is extra nice.

At Egmond, I briefly visited the abbey. Got a stamp and had a quick look at the church. Then rolled on to Heiloo. At the shrine in Heiloo, went to the church where I entered too late because I had looked around Egmond for too long.

Then to my lodging place. I am staying with the same person as in 2016, but then it was in Amsterdam and now he lives in Heiloo. Here I had dinner with him and had a nice chat.Now I am lying on my bed in my own little flat. Basically, the trip is over but I still have time and feel good so I’m rolling back towards home, as long as the weather stays good.Later, I’m going to find out if there’s still a campsite open somewhere and then I’ll decide exactly how I’ll go back.


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Day 6, Heiloo to the eastside of Haarlem

october 2, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Na een goede nacht slaap nog even gekletst, ontbeten en daarna vertrokken. Ik sliep bij een vriend in zijn “organic b&b”. Een fijn aangepast tinyhouse. Het is goed toegankelijk met een handbewogen rolstoel (voor een elektrische rolstoel is de draaicirkel in de badkamer denk ik te krap) en heeft sanitair met beugels en zitje. Slaapkamer, keuken, woonkamer, alles zit er in. En in tegenstelling tot de meeste aangepaste kamers ook nog eens heel vriendelijk geprijsd. Dus voor wie aangepaste kamer zoekt en Heiloo en omgeving eens wilt verkennen is het een aanrader. Dit was mijn reclame blok!

After a good night’s sleep, I had a quick chat, breakfast and then left. I slept at a friend’s place in his “organic b&b”. A fine adapted tinyhouse. It is easily accessible with a manual wheelchair (for an electric wheelchair, I think the turning circle in the bathroom is too tight) and has sanitary facilities with brackets and seating. Bedroom, kitchen, living room, everything is in there. And unlike most adapted rooms, it is also very kindly priced. So for those looking for adapted room and want to explore Heiloo and its surroundings, it is highly recommended. This was my publicity block!

In 5 days I rolled to Heiloo and now I want to roll back in 3 days. Although my route is shorter it is still a considerable distance and my daily distances are a lot longer. On the map today 35km but I rolled 38 (there is always something to make a short detour for, like a church).

I rolled back yesterday’s route for a bit first. I passed the shrine again where I made a short stop to go to the toilet and while I was there I had a quick look in the bookstore. Then on again. I rolled through very different scenery from the past few days. Now mostly meadows with cows, sheep and horses.

In addition, I drove through buildings a lot. As a matter of fact, you can often tell where I am here by that. Many North Holland farms and around Zaanstad many green zaans houses. I also saw several windmills. The nicest one was a rather small mill that I heard had recently been moved and was now being restored.

I also briefly visited St Odulphus Church in Assendelft (Zaanstad).The Lady Chapel was open and I could also see the church through the gate. I then rolled on and before I knew it I ended up at a fairground. Not really my thing. Although I must say that a while ago I had celebrated a church service at a fair, which was quite special. But otherwise I let the fair pass me by. And this fair too, fortunately, I rolled by quickly.

Finally, I rolled to the North Sea Canal, where I took the ferry to the other side. From there I rolled to Haarlem.

I came along Ikea, there I remembered that I 2016 I also rolled on that same bike path. Then from Haarlem to Amsterdam and now I did it a bit towards Haarlem. Here I am now camping (found one that is open all year round after all).


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Day 7, Haarlem to Roelofarendsveen

october 3, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

After a nice night’s sleep in my tent (last night in the tent), I unfortunately woke up to the ticking of rain and strong gusts of wind. Fortunately, I had already stretched extra guy ropes yesterday. I decided to pack up quickly in the hope of avoiding more rain (it rained briefly and then stopped for a while). But alas, even before the tent was packed it rained again. The tent was wet but I managed to pack everything else dry.For a moment it was tempting to catch the train home (I could hear the train from the campsite) but then it would feel a bit like I hadn’t finished my trip so after making a thermos of hot water and filling my water bottle I decided to roll anyway. I drove via Hoofddorp towards the south.Where I would sleep tonight I did not yet know. All the campsites were closed and I came across few options. I did send an e-mail to the church in Roelofarendsveen last night asking if they had room for a pilgrim.

Meanwhile, I just rolled on, right through the rain that was occasionally quite brisk and occasionally less so, but hardly stopped. I also took few photos because my camera shouldn’t get wet and I had it safely tucked away. Almost the entire trip I rolled along cycle paths. Cows and sheep regularly walked on the cycle path. Some allowed themselves to be petted. Nice!

I passed various parts of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. I saw several forts and related things.

On the way, I received a call from a number unknown to me; this was someone from the church in Roelofarendsveen. I could stay with her. This was a relief because I was already afraid I would have to go even further and because of the cold and rain I was already starting to feel my arms.From that phone call, it was still 2 hours of rolling but that was manageable.I drove past the beautiful Braassemermeer and I passed the church (the one I had e-mailed). As I rolled along the Braassemermeer, judgement came such an er, nice as I was quite chilled by all the rain. Now I am at my accommodation and nice and dry and warm again.Tomorrow is really the last day, then I roll home and the trip is over.


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Dag 8, Roelofarendsveen naar Alphen aan den Rijn.

october 9, 2023 by rolstoelpelgrim

Here, finally, the blog of the last day of my pilgrimage. My website was completely down and it took a while before I found someone (via via) who could make it work again. But luckily everything works again, only a couple of blogs have disappeared but fortunately I still have the text and photos so I will repost them in the near future.

After a pleasant evening, a good night’s sleep (in which I was cheerfully greeted by the sweet dog when I woke up) and a nice breakfast with homemade bread, I left Roelofarendsveen. I rolled over a nice little bridge immediately lock.

I rolled along the Braassemermeer lake and took a small ferry across. This little ferry is for pedestrians and cyclists only. Fortunately, as a wheelchair pilgrim, it also went fine.

First I came across another group of peacocks walking along the path. I soon rolled into Alphen aan den Rijn via Woubrugge. From there I entered familiar territory.

At the Herenhof shopping centre I met another one of my followers, we had a chat and talked about this website that had gone down the night before. I told her I don’t understand much about it but she knew someone with the right knowledge and through that route my website problem was eventually solved too. Thank you!

And then I rolled home via some typical Alphen things (Rhine, town hall, bicycle apple).

The weather was lovely, sunny and relatively warm for October. So nice to end my trip like this again.

By now I have been home for about 5 days and look back on a great trip. Of course, it was shorter and different from the trips through France. But despite that, it was a similar trip because of the beautiful encounters and new roads I got to roll. Physically, I notice that this trip was just right, it was tough but not too bad. On the one hand, I notice that I have come a long way in terms of my recovery because rolling and pitching a tent is going quite well but I also notice that I am far from my old strength. A dune feels like the Central Massif and 25km like 40km. But I also notice that the training through this trip has also strengthened my muscles again. So slowly but surely I am getting there.

In the coming months, I will do a lot of exercises in the rehabilitation centre and with the physio and then I hope to leave for Rocamadour in spring 2024, somewhere between Easter and Whitsun, to roll from there to Santiago again.

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