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Scare away the dark

Scare away the dark

Sing, sing at the top of your voice

Love without fear in your heart

Feel, feel like you still have a choice

If we all light up we can scare away the dark

                                                                        Scare away the dark/Passenger

Scare away the dark

Winter is coming to an end, and spring is knocking on the front door. I have a strong urge to listen to songs that express that feeling of spring coming. I like to sing at the top of my voice, for life seems so much more beautiful when the sun is shining and you realise that it’s a blessing when you’re happy and healthy.

 Why am I sharing this with you? I realise that being happy and healthy is not something we can take for granted, for at this moment, not everybody has a chance to see the sun. They live in the dark. They don’t want to but they have no choice. Something awful happend to a family member of one of our Dutch Peakers Walkers. And choosing to live in the light is not really an option for them at this moment. But maybe if we all light up we can scare away the dark for them just a little bit. Having said that I’m going to take you on our third walk.


Today we are in the region of Brabant. When we did my challenge last year, every Dutch Peaker who joined me had to drive a long way to walk with me, some of them even drove for two hours. This year we are walking all over the Netherlands, and it is my turn to drive. For this walk in the region of Brabant, I had to drive an hour and forty-five minutes to reach my destination, a little village called Someren.

 Someren is a place in the middle between Eindhoven and Venlo. But be aware Eindhoven is situated in the region Brabant and Venlo in the region Limburg. Although both regions speak with a soft “g,”  there’s a large difference between the two regions. What they do have in common is that they are both celebrating Carnaval. Both do it in their own way, with a lot of tradition and habits.


As we are walking, Carnaval is only a week away. Today I walk and talk with Petrie. Petrie lives in Venlo and tells me a little bit how they celebrate Carnaval at her place. Four weeks before Carnaval starts in Venlo, there is what they call Boeremoosball. I actually don’t know how to translate this for you but I think Barn Dance is the closest I can think of.

During this Barn Dance the engagement of a wedding couple is celebrated, and the couple who got married last year show their fresh born baby (it’s all a large outdoor play) to demonstrate that their marriage has been fertile. The wedding couple for this year will be wed on Carnaval’s Tuesday, better known as Fat Tuesday. And you know what? Our Petrie is a real Carnaval partier, for she only slept three hours last night. She had a masked ball, and now she’s walking with us. That’s the real Peaker Spirit or should I say, she is just a little bit crazy?

The Lieropse Moor

It’s a beautiful day to walk, the sun is shining, and some of us are even walking in MPC2019 t-shirts, fresh delivered in the last couple of weeks. Walking in your t-shirt at the end of February is really an exception. Our first break was at a cosy little restaurant where Ellen, our host for today, treated us coffee or tea with cake. Ellen celebrated her birthday the day before. She turned 60 and is going to walk the West Highland Way with her son this year.

 But we did not drive all the way to Someren just to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake.

After leaving the restaurant we walked through a forest to get to the moor. The first thing that came to my mind was this moor is totally different than the one I saw a couple of weeks ago in Drenthe, or perhaps is it just because of the beautiful weather today? Me feeling so much better then a couple of weeks ago? When we walked just  little bit further we stumbled upon a place where you could birdwatch. It was a rather large cabin where we had a wonderful view over the Lieropse Moor.

People in hiding

Again I’m surprised by today’s walk. In the middle of the woods, not to been seen if you don’t know where to look, are the remains of a  hidden village. It’s called Kamp Dennenlust, a camp for people in hiding during the WWII. These people in hiding lived here from the 28th of December 1943 until the liberation on the 21st of September 1944. They stayed there because they initially tried to evade what was called “Arbeidseinsatz”. People, mostly men between the age of 18 and 35, were forced to work in Germany during the WWII. Stumbling up to such a place always makes me remind me how lucky we are to live in a free world. It silences me.

With a smile on my face

I told you that the weather was extremely good this day, so we could eat our lunch out in the field and enjoy the first warmth of sunshine. My mother was a big admirer of the sun, not that she did a lot of sunbathing, she didn’t have to, because she got her tan only by being outdoors and sitting just for five minutes in the sun. When winter was done and February started with a little sunshine, she always got a chair, put on her coat and sat in the corner of the garden, letting the first bit of sun on her face. It’s that moment in February that reminds me of her, and it puts a smile on my face.

Being aware of the fact that these few lines of a song don’t mean the same to everybody and nuances are being made, I drive home that evening singing at the top of my voice because I want to love without fear in my heart and with a feeling that I have a choice. And if it might just help one tiny little bit, I light up and scare away the dark for those who need it.

“Ik bid nie veur brune bonen”

“Ik bid nie veur brune bonen”

Our second walk on our quest is in the region of Drenthe, which to many Dutch people better known as Het land van Bartje.

Have you noticed the somewhat strange titel of this blog? Whenever I think of Drenthe, the first thing that comes to my mind, are these words. They are from a book called Bartje, written bij Anne de Vries in 1935 and translated into many languages. Maybe you have heared of it or even read it yourself.

For my dutch readers, there was even a tv serie of it in 1972.

I don’t know about the youth, but every single person of my generation and older grew up knowing these words were spoken by a little boy called Bartje. This little boy grew up in a poor family of farm workers, somewhere in the region of Drenthe.

Because of poverty they ate a lot of brown beans ( in those days they ate them with bacon; it was a cheap meal and it gave you a comfortable fullness of the stomach).

Bartje came from a religious family and therefore had to pray every night before dinner. One night when, as every other night, there were again beans on the table, his father told him to pray. At that moment Bartje spoke the legendary words in dialect: ik bid nie veur brune bonen ( I don’t pray for brown beans). You might have guessed by now, the boy didn’t like these beans and refused to pray.

The weatherforcast for today is the least dreary fort his weekend. Tomorrow will be a lot worse and wet. Today will be windy, but they promised it will be a day without rain. So let’s hope for the best. I prefer wind over rain.

It’s not the forecast that made us a small group today. Unfortunately we have a flu pandemic that has been going on for 9 weeks already. So far I thought it had passed my door. Unfortunately, a couple of days ago it started with a bad cold, but like so many other people, I didn’t have time to give in. I had two job interviews that needed to be done and of course I had to do the second walk of our challenge. So no whining, I took some aspirin and went.

Luckely I didn’t have to drive by myself today. Vera was so kind to pick me up. Ever since we met in Glasgow a year and a half ago, the two of us have  become true friends and get along very well. That’s what My Peak Challenge does for you, it provides you with a large group of new friends.

Drenthe is situated in the Northeast of the Netherlands and with almost 500.000 inhabitants the least populated region in the Netherlands.

Although my first memory of this region had every thing to do with a book I read as a child, there are more things this region is famous for. In Drenthe you can find 52 “Hunebedden”. If I have to translate it to english I think “Dolmen” is  the correct word, although archaeologists will tell us differently. Hunebedden are huge Catacombs built of at least three very large stones, you can find them mostly up north from the city of Emmen to the the city of Groningen. Unfortunately not in the part of Drenthe we walked in. Who nows maybe next time I’ll see some.

Jiska showed us a part of Drenthe I had never been before and I was impressed by it.

Such a small country and still every place I’ve walked so far is so different.

I read somewhere that you can compare Drenthe with a plate upside down. The round center part consists of sandy soils and the borders consist of peat bogs.

We walked in the surroundings of the village Echten and saw both. On the sandy soils we saw beautiful moors. It’s a pity they only bloom from mid-August until the middle of September. Or maybe it’s not so bad after all for now we have a good excuse, to come back, and we will.

I told you this region is famous for many things and an other one is “witte wieven” (white wives).

These “witte wieven” often appear in Dutch folktales. There are various meanings as what these “witte wieven” stand for. Some say they are the ghost of deceased women, others say they are shreds of mist in hilly landscapes. That’s not surprising, for there was a time we believed that mists where ghosts. Seeing this picture taking by Jiska I believe these “witte wieven” are definetly shreds of mist. Such a beautiful and mystic picture.

I also learned a new word today, I never heard it before and doubted for a moment if it even exists. But it does and it’s called “drentenieren”’. For those of you who are not familiar with the dutch language, it’s a merging of the words Drenthe and the dutch word for retiring.

It seems that a lot of Dutch people ( with enough money), who are retiring, want to leave the big cities and buy themselves a home in the region of Drenthe. Besides that, it seems that Drenthe is one of the most aging regions. When you ask Dutch people what they remember Drenthe by, they will all probably tell you for biking. There is not a region in the Netherlands where people like to bike more than in Drenthe, and mostly these retired people.

I have to confess that I’m not very proud of this walk. I wasn’t very cosy compagny today. I didn’t talk as much as I normally do and showed very little interest in those walking with me today. I felt realy sick and asked myself why I even decided to go this morning. When we walked a little over 4 miles we took a break. Completly against my principals, I had to ask the quickest way back to the restaurant where we began. The group wouldn’t let me go by myself, and that’s how this walk ended after 7 miles.

And that’s also what Peakers do; they help each other, they stick together. Thanks ladies!

No brown beans for me that night, but a very hot shower, and a little prayer that this will be over soon. After that it was straight to bed ( and that’s were I was for the next couple of days).

Strong winds to blow your worries away

Strong winds to blow your worries away

Todays weather forecast

Heavy showers of blessings,

Strong winds to blow your worries away,

Followed by warm hugs and kisses

To put a smile on your face 

This Sunday morning the rain is pouring down heavily. If it wasn’t such a special day today, I think I would probably turn around again and go back to sleep. That’s not going to happen because today is going to be the first walk of our new challenge for 2019. In 22 walks we’re going to walk all 12 regions of the Netherlands and we hope, by the end of the year, to raise a lot of money for Bloodwise, one of the charities supported by My Peak Challenge.

The weather forecast tells us there will be heavy showers today, but if we are lucky, they will not start until we’re done. And lucky we were, for as long as we walked, there was hardly any rain, not more than a couple of lost drops.

This month, January, is the month of the Peakstreak, or for those who are new to the MPC program, they can choose to do the Peak Foundation program. Those of you who are Peakers know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who don’t, the Peakstreak is a challenge, invented by one of the coaches of MPC, to fill the gap between the end of one year’s program and the start of a new one. This year we are asked do “The 100.” Every day you do something a 100 times. You read 100 pages, do a 100 sit ups, do 100 burpees, or walk for 100 minutes. Just be creative.

At first I thought, “I can do this.” I could walk 100 minutes a day, write 100 words a day or, as one of my Dutch Peaker sisters said, I could do a 100 sips (of whisky) each day. Uhhh, that last one sounds good but really, a 100 sips? I couldn’t commit to that, not during this month, (not any other month!) where I promised Bloodwise to lose the booze and I joined a challenge of doing a sugar free detox! And on top of that I promised myself, no honestly I kicked my ass, to get back to the gym, twice a week. The last couple of weeks I haven’t been there much. Shame on me!

So about Peakstreak, what am I going to do about that? Nothing! I am going to do nothing, I am going to be a rebel this month. I am not going to do anything, each day, for 31 days, a hundred times, minutes, miles, yards, kilo’s, sips, steps, bites and anything else you can come up with. I am going to the gym twice a week, lose the booze for a whole month and do the sugar free challenge, and that’s it! If I can do that, it will make me feel a hundred times better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the Peakstreak. I love to see and read what everybody else is doing. I just don’t have the motivation of being creative. Doing the things I want to do and holding on to them satisfies for the moment.

As I told you at the beginning of this story, today we start our first walk. We begin in Hoorn, a region in Noord-Holland which has existed since 1840. It was then that the region named Holland was divided in North and South Holland. The city of Hoorn lies 24 miles north of Amsterdam. Not far from Hoorn lies a very tiny place called Schellinkhout (828 inhabitants) directly situated on the Markermeer. Why am I telling you this? Well, first of all this was the area that fellow Peakers Vera and Henry organized their walk and second, I thought after my last challenge I was done with walking dykes. Yet here I was, walking a dyke for a little more than 4 miles while a very strong wind was blowing and nearly blew us off the dyke. But after 13 miles we had seen some amazing views, historic buildings and even a Dutch mill.

At the end of 2018 Dutch Peakers Walking was born, and a lot of Dutch Peakers were enthusiastic to join us in walking all over the Netherlands. To do these walks with us, some of us have to drive almost two hours to get there. But every time we meet it feels like a little reunion, there is a lot of hugging and kissing. For those of us who walked frequently last year, we came to know each other pretty well. Others got to see each other for the first time. Positive as we are, and also a little bit crazy, we are determined the weather will improve as soon as we start walking. Apparently we are blessed with heavy showers of good luck. The moment we start walking it’s dry. Those of us who joined us today and wanted to get their heads clear, today was a good day for that.

I told you before, strangers are strangers until they meet. Every walk I meet new people and every walk I have such interesting conversations. Last year I made an appeal in the Dutch Peaker group if there was somebody who would walk with me, and Miranda volunteered. She responded, “I will but what’s the distance you are going to walk?” I said that I do 6 miles at least. And she said, I’m glad I can do half of them. She recently had two operations on her hip.And isn’t it amazing that this same lady walked almost 13 miles today? I am so proud of her!

I also talked to Saskia today. Saskia is a shepherd. She used to herd a flock of sheep around Rotterdam. And I hear you thinking, what does a shepherd do in the outskirts of a city? Well, I did.  It has everything to do with city’s grazing of the natural environment. Now she herds several flocks of sheep (about 150) on different fields in a bullpen near Maassluis. I thought there were only flocks of sheep in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Apparently I was wrong.

And after a lot of talking and laughing, we came back. And what’s more warming at the end of the day when your guides serve you a nice cup of healthy, homemade soup, and you look around and see all these people with warm rosy cheeks. That puts a smile on my face, and I’m looking forward to the next walk.

Let’s walk into 2019

Let’s walk into 2019

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.

Just walk beside me and be my friend.

-Albert Camus –

As I begin writing this, it’s been raining cats and dogs during our drive through Germany. We are not traveling alone. In front of us with a huge trailer attached tot heir car are our dear friends and neighbours. Together we’re drinving to Hungary to celebrate Christmas.

A little over a year ago our neighbours bought a house in a little place called Miklósi. It was a rather old house with a lot of surrounding ground. So far they have done a lot of renovation.Up till the day before we arrived, the workmen were busy making a second bedroom so we all (except for the children) could sleep in the house. Last summer they moved their mobile home to Hungary, and that’s were the children are sleeping.

If you wonder what’s in the huge trailor? How about two beds, matrasses, a big garden table, a cabin and some sort of a trunk. A second bedroom means you have to have some extra furniture!

The first day we drove until Bischofsmais, Germany, where we reserved a  hotel room for one night. It was such a nice hotel with very hospitable people and excellent food.

Because of the Christmas hollidays there was a lot of traffic along the way. We decided to drive through Slovenia, because of a huge traffic jam in Austria. Driving through Slovenia saved us at least an hour. Apparently we weren’t the only ones going on a holliday!

The last couple of weeks have been busy for me and my love. He had a lot of work that had to be done ( my love is a carpenter and runs his own business). People always think there will be no more days after the hollidays, and everyone wants their jobs done before Christmas.

For me, it had also been a busy period. Besides my work, I finished my challenge and at the same time was already thinking and planning a challenge for next year. I asked each and every Dutch Peaker to organize a walk in their own region. A little over 30 Peakers responded to my call. Amazing! Some of them wanted to organize, and others just want to walk.

So I scheduled 22 walks throughout the year in every region of the Netherlands and even included a whole weekend to one of the Frisian Islands. Each walk is organized by another Peaker. Sometimes even two! My personal challenge for 2019 will be walking all 22 of them.

I think it’s an amazing new challenge for next year. Show me the beauty of your own backyard. Show me places I’ve never been before, Show me views that silence me. Show me nature in every season of the year. Let me meet new Peakers, reconnect with the ones I met before and treasure the stories they tell me. I’m so looking forward to it.

2019 is going to be a challenging year in many ways.

Besides all these beautiful walks me and my love got infected with the Scotland-virus. Honestly I was already infected when I visited the country over 10 years ago, but every time I go back I get a little homesick leaving the country.

Last year we walked the West Highland Way. This year we’re going to walk the Rob Roy Way.

After having walked the WHW I somehow got addicted to walking. After years of chronic pain,  because of a severe Achilles Tendon injury, I was finally able to walk without almost no pain at all. And once you are addicted, there’s no program to get clean. There is no withdrawl, no cures, no treatments. You simply have to learn to deal with it.

And when you don’t? You begin to feel restless. You’re desperatly seeking a way to do so anyway. A short walk(let’s say 3 miles) is enough to adress some of the symptoms: restless legs, the need to go outside, and the bad temper because you stayed inside for far too long.

Not going for a walk means you lack of energy, you can’t clear your head and you become uninspired. Does this sound familiair? If so, I’m afraid your an addict yourself.

All the more reasons why you should put on your walking shoes, grab your coat and go outside. Invite friends to come and join you and before you know it you have organized a challenge of 22 walks all over the Netherlands!

I recently read an article by a woman who also walks a lot, and she collected 55 reasons why it should be good to walk. Those of you who don’t like to walk can hardly imagine,  but it makes me happy. My body is producing two important chemicals ( endorfine and serotonine) which makes me feel relaxed. It really loosens me up and when I get back home I feel happy!

There was one other reason that appealed to me: walking teaches you more about  your own backyard, to look at it in a different perspective. I can assure you it does and doing it with my love or my Dutch peaker sisters, it’s also a social and cozy activity.

But back to our journey in Hungary. It’s late in the evening on day two when we finally arrive in Miklósi. Over the next couple of days we celebrate christmas with our neighbours, made delicious food ouside, and me and my love did some walking.

We went to Igal, to enjoy the thermal bath, to Kaposvár to have a nice cup of coffee and take some pictures of a Christmas stable with wooden statues. So beautiful.

On Boxing Day me and my love went to Tihany, a peninsula on lake Botania, and took a long walk. It surprised us that the isle was almost deserted. We passed some large resorts and there was  hardly a soul there. But we also walked into some beautiful views of nature. I think it most be absolutely beautiful in the summer.

Believe it or not but it was there, while walking, that I already got another idea, another challenge. I think that when I’m done with the Netherlands, my new challenge for 2020 should be walking as many countries in Europe as possible. Asking my European Peakers to organize a walk for me and for other Peakers in their country. How amazing would that be?

Thank you Hungary for the wonderful week we had. We’ll be back, that’s for certain.

And that’s how 2018 came to an end. I did some awesome things and there will be a lot of them next year.

I wish all my readers a healthy and happy 2019 and let’s walk into 2019!

Walking the dykes of Flevoland (part II)

Walking the dykes of Flevoland (part II)

Strangers are stangers until they meet
I’m gonna follow if you take the lead

-Amigo, Chef Special

Walking the dykes of Flevoland (Part II)

To be honest, I’m not much of a follower. I’m more the type for the leading part. But this song keeps me going on the crosstrainer in the gym. Yes, it’s the machine I hate most, but I know it brings me a lot of strength in my legs and arms. And it’s that strength that I need to fulfill my challenge, walking the dykes of Flevoland. Besides that,it burns a lot of calories. Not utterly unimportant!

As I said, I’m not a follower;for most of what I’m doing, I take a leading part. I took the lead in organizing this challenge and invited all my friends to join me. I invited Peakers and non-Peakers, making this a challenge not only for me but for everybody walking with me. The moment the idea of this challenge came to my mind it never occured to me that their would be Peakers who got so inspired and excited that they got beyond their own limits just because they wanted to walk with me on this challenge, it made me so proud! Cross your boundaries, walk a distance you’ve never walked before and feel the satisfaction in the end. And if it was hard, and we had to encourage somebody to go because giving up and giving in is not an option,there was always the song about the elephants.

Un elephant ca trompe, ca trompe

Strangers are strangers until they meet. Inviting everybody to walk with me made strangers become friends in the end. Wether I was walking with a small group, or even sometimes with one other person, there were always conversations. Beautiful conversations about almost every subject you can imagine. In the Netherlands we have a tv show called The Walk. The host of the program goes on a walk with familiar and less familiar persons, and during the walk a conversation starts. Walking the dykes of Flevoland makes me feel a little bit like the host of this programm.

Every walk I got the chance to talk to different people, trying to get to know them better. My admiration for them grew. They told me things that were new, surprising, astonishing, sad,happy, and lovely to me. I was surprised by one Peaker who started her career as a train driver, even drove trains in Belgium and France. We talked about how it affects you when people jump in front of your train, how awful it is, and on the other hand you follow protocol in such a moment.

Astonishing how quick you have deep conversations with Peakers you only met once or twice before. That’s only possible when people feel safe. But we also talked about books,movies, our work, and wishes. You see I have this secret wish. One I have never told anyone until I told another Peaker while walking together. It is inspired by the song Dear Mr.President by Pink.You see I have this wish to walk with our Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. I find this man intriguing. Who’s the man behind the Prime Minister? Well it will remain a wish, for I know this one will never come true.

The Knardijk

There was one Sunday I did not walk with a Peaker but with one of my best friends. It was only halfway through my challenge that I decided that I should walk this dyke too. You see this dyke once divided Flevoland into Eastern and Southern Flevoland. Eastern Flevoland was the first part of the polder that was drained. The dykes around southern Flevoland were build between 1950-1956 but it last until 1959 before they drained this part of Flevoland. The money for it was provided by the Marshall Plan, it took until1967 before it was finished. It was at that moment that the Knardijk lost its primary role as a flood defence. So that’s why I decided this dyke should be a part of my challenge too.

I walked this dyke together with a very dear friend of mine who I met when our daughters started primaryschool.  Although it seems it was only yesterday, it is in fact almost 17 years later. We have remained friends ever since.

Large parts of this dyke are off limits for cars, partly because the dyke is cut by two drainage channels. On both points penstocks have been build. Should it ever come this far that the dyke breaks, eastern and southern Flevoland can be drained separately. The other thing that’s revealed by the Knardijk is the age between the two parts. Where as eastern Flevoland was developed for agriculture, several small and greater population centres, in southern Flevoland, trendy politics about land development, played a large part.In southern Flevoland they left more room for nature and recreation, and only a few large population centres (Almere, Zeewolde).

All great things must end

And then, all of a sudden it’s December and my challenge is done! In about 9 weeks I walked 190km (118 miles)around the region I grew up in. I thought I knew my backyard but every time, on each leg, I was surprised by the sights, the nature and all the windmills. I knew we had a lot of them but not that there were that many. And walking past them you could here the sound of the blades.To my opinion they fit very well in the landscape of Flevoland. We were once called The New Land and in this respect I don’t find the mills strange objects. Everything in the landscape is straight and constructed, and we have hardly any history. No ancient buildings or woods. Most of the roads are straight and even our woods are created.

Walking through Flevoland you sometimes find two signs in the landscape. One with a plane and the other with a ship. The signs mark places were they found the remains of a ship or a plane from the period before Flevoland got drained. In my village Dronten, the propeller of a plane from the Second World War represents the memorial monument for the victims of that war.

I want to thank all of you who walked with me. I feel so proud and satisfied, but the greatest surprise came on my last leg when approximately 5km (3 miles) before the finish, a car stopped and my sister got out to walk the last miles with me.

I started the first part of this story with the words “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” and I can assure you it is true, for I have already been thinking about my challenge for next year. Keep following me on facebook, instagram and twitter and I will soon let you know what I am going to do.