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Having welcomed the Hockey's with a splended meal of BBQ spare ribs at the Blauwe Kei Taverne we set sail the next morning, August 27th, for Maastricht stopping for lunch moored on the Zuid Willemsvaart Kanaal near Opoeteren. Our first and only lock of the day was reached at Maastricht where we met a large 95m LOA barge crewed by mother and daughter. If we thought we were a big ship this one put us in our place. The lock was a guillotine type where the lock gates are lifted up and down on an overhead gantry.
Found moorings above the Kennedy bridge beside St Pieterstraat and the next day managed to squeeze into a mooring between eminently breakable plastic play boats at the city quay between the bridges right in the middle of Maastricht. A big boozy festival was in progress in the main city square and we were told it was in aid of the poor people of Maastricht. We didn't see any poor people but there were lots of people enjoying the music, eating and drinking. You bought a book of one euro vouchers which were exchanged at the many eateries and drinkeries around the square.
The next morning we were up bright and early for a voyage down the Juliana Kanaal through two very deep locks and back into the River Maas. At the second of these locks we nearly came to grief. The mooring bollards in the lock were cunningly arranged on floats so that, as the lock emptied, the bollards travelled down the lock with you. Unbeknown to us there were two types situated alternately along the lock, one 3m above the float and one 1m above the float. Big ships use the 3m one and little ships the 1m. We used the big one by mistake so we would drop 3 metres before the bollard would follow us down with the result that we began to get hung up on the bollard as the lock was emptied. Some quick thinking by the skipper off another barge alongside us resulted in him leaping across with an axe and cutting through our rope!
After that exitement we found a mooring and spud poled in a lake off the river near Heel. The TV satellite dish was aligned and we watched the England cricket team regain the Ashes from Australia. This called for a celebration so we set up the tables and chairs on the bank, fired up the BBQ and cracked open a bottle of Champagne. It was another gloriously hot day and, celebrations being what they are, we ran out of alcoholic refreshment, resolved by cycling into Heel and purchasing a case of the beer that reaches the parts other beers can not reach.
The next day, after filling our water tank at a local yacht club for €6, we travelled back upstream to Maastricht and moored once again at St Pieterstraat where we bade farewell to the Hockeys who returned by train to Brussels airport and home. We stayed in Maastricht for over a week walking and cycling around this very attractive city. After purchasing a Vodaphone SIMM card for Holland and trying to connect to the internet, they announced they do not provide this service so we were stuck with seeking out internet cafes to update our emails. After a few days, Koh and Reit arrived alongside in the Mon Ami. Koh treated us to a Chinese buffet lunch at a city restaurant he knew. Cost him all of €6 a head!! On one hot day we cycled across the Belgian border to the Albert Kanaal, then across the River Maas to Eijsden by a bike ferry. There is a great network of cycle routes, many traffic free, between Germany, Holland and Belgium and if there is a river or canal in the way then a bridge or a ferry is provided for you and your bike.
On Saturday September 3rd we said our farewells to Mon Ami and headed north again, down the Juliana Kanaal and onto the River Maas. We turned upstream, filled our water tanks at the same yacht club who ripped us off €10 this time, then to the head of navigation where it seemed every man and his dog was out on the river in speedboats, motor cruisers, yachts, canoes and kids racing dinghys which made navigation slightly precarious and very slow. Eventually we spud poled in peacful isolation in a lake called Schroevendaalse Plas.
We laid out our evening meal on the foredeck and watched the sun set, agreeing there was no other place on earth we wanted to be at that moment. On Sunday we cycled into Maaseik in Belgium and sat in a cafe in the delightful town square watching marching bands from all over Limbourg parade past us. Another bike ferry enabled us to do a circular route back to Harmonie. We stayed here for 4 days before heading north again, cycling around the countryside, on one occasion to Thorn, a beautiful little Dutch town near Maasbracht, painted white with a huge spectacular church and two Harmonies as the Dutch call their orchestras. We had lunch in a little cafe where one of the Harmonies rehearsed with their French director who made a three hour journey from France each week to conduct. They have won many international awards and only four members live outside the town between the two orchestras.
We topped up the generator tank with 250 litres of Red Diesel at Maashuizen before heading north, using our blue board for the first time passing a large ship coming upstream starboard to starboard and on through the Sluis (lock) Linne and into the Oolerplas where we found a superb mooring where we just fitted and where we were to stay for almost a week. Cycling into Ool that afternoon we noticed several naked men along the banks of a neighbouring lake but never any women, much to my disgust.
We were close to Roermond and spent time looking round this attractive city with its pedestrianised shopping streets and squares enlivened with another brass band festival! The weather was hot and sunny and we developed our taste for Hoegaarden Witbier. This is usually served ice cold with a slice of lime and is a great thirst quencher. Holland tends to be more expensive than Belgium and we noticed the Hoegaarden was about 50 cents cheaper a glass in Belgium! We could have stayed here longer but Sue wanted to spend her birthday in Den Bosch so we had to continue our journey down the River Maas.