Alaskan Reunion in The Netherlands

The first person I saw as I hopped out of the car was a man in wooden clogs, clearly I was in Holland. I’d just hitchhiked from Brussels to a small town just outside of Rotterdam. The gate opened, marsh land all around, to a friend of Walter’s house. Instantly there were familiar faces I’d been looking forward to seeing, Walter included, Nick and Jeff as well.

The lot of us and many more who we’d see later (and even more who couldn’t make it to this part of the world at the time) had all volunteered in Alaska back in the summer of 2008 to collaborate on the CouchSurfing.org website.

Along with smiles, I was greeted with beer and schnitzel, the world was in working order. We took a walk in the back of the property, at one point I attempted to run across a swampy area (after I was warned) and sunk down to my waist, but managed to hold on to my beer. Once again, all was well.

We laughed into the night catching up, then the following day we drove into Rotterdam where we picked up Mandie who’d just arrived. Mandie requires tea, so this was about the first order of business, a little hotel sort of spot on the water.

Mandie also delivered a note and a bracelet to me from Bridget, a girl I’d fallen for back in Australia. It was good to get a gift from a beauty across the world. We had another night of laughs and smiles, also visiting the lowest point in the Netherlands which was a short walk away, it was good to have the crew together.

A day of lazing around with Nick and Mandie came before they hit the train station bound for Amsterdam where we’d be meeting up with more people, actually Haarlem, just outside of Amsterdam. The next day we attempted to eat some mushrooms I’d gotten from somebody in Czech, they did nothing, probably from being stored poorly, pot would have to do.

The next day I got a move on, walking the flats to the main road and eventually hitching a ride with a trucker who drove four days a week for his wine and cheese shop. We overshot Amsterdam a bit, but I was able to catch a ride from a couple Bulgarian guys into the city closer to where I was heading.

Walking along the road from Amsterdam to Haarlem that I’d biked along on a previous trip, I was scooped up by a guy who let me in quickly. He smiled and joked, “A hitchhiker! My God, I shouldn’t be picking you up, this is dangerous, simply not safe!”, we laughed and joked the short way into Haarlem.

He let me off and soon I was walking over to Eline’s house where everyone was gathered and more coming. We had a great time, a big dinner was cooked and loads of new beers were ready to try as we told stories and caught up. I borrowed a bike and went over to a guys house where I’d brewed some beer some weeks earlier in preparation for this reunion. I caught up with the guy and sipped a beer as we talked a bit, then I biked back to the house.

The beer was decent at best, I’d chosen a pretty bootleg way of brewing it (brewers take note, it was the all-in-one can...) and it showed, but I was happy to have it anyhow. The likes of Douglas, a Belgian himself, quickly switched back to the beers of the homeland, I can't say I didn't join him.

We had a great time wandering the market the next day, stroopwafels are awesome. Nick made up some New Orleans style food, muffaletta was the biggest winner. To top that he fried up some fancy flaming bananas. The guy’s a genius.

We had another couple days of catching up and laughs, trips to the brewery and great meals together. I headed into Amsterdam eventually, hitching a ride from an energetic healing woman. I went to a place called “The Hub” where a few of us messed around on computers before parting ways. I went to the casa, the communal house I knew of in Amsterdam, they were apparently having complaints or issues from neighbors which seemed to be a reoccurring theme there, to be expected with dozens of transients coming and going constantly.

I used a bike and met a bunch of the crew for dinner, then Jeff and I walked the streets for a few beers here, there and the other place telling stories and the like. Back at the casa I managed to find some floor space and passed out for the night.

After a late morning and afternoon half listening to people talking about the revolution and changing the world, I hopped on a bike and headed back to Haarlem. I got there by night for yet another night of games, beers and a good meal with laughs.

The next day a group of all biked to a park. My tire blew out half way there so some of us took turns jogging and riding on handlebars. We found a nice place on the sand to sit, free buffalo loomed about on the opposite side of the water and alongside the trails.

I ended up hopping a train back to Amsterdam with the busted bike and walking it back t the casa. Luckily there was someone on hand who said they’d be able to fix it up without a problem. I hung around with the people there, an Australian girl I’d met a month earlier had returned and some other people I’d met had never left. Some of us headed over to the farmers market as they were closing and stocked up on veggies and other food they were going to otherwise throw out.

Later on I headed to a restaurant to meet up with Mandie and more of the crew for some drinks, Mandie had black tea, of course, Belgian beer for myself. I headed back to the casa briefly, but wound up catching a ride back to Haarlem for the night.

Mandie and I began formulating a plan to hitchhike together, Paris became the idea. That next day was a bit too late and wet to get going anywhere, so we spent another day in Haarlem. That night I caught up with Kasey who’d made his way up, he was staying at the casa. Over a couple beers at the nearby brewery we formally agreed to go all-in on Trip Hopping together, a travel project I’d started a while back and had spent many hours coding away at in his Brussels home.

We cruised around a bit after that, then parted ways and I headed back to Eline’s place where a smaller group of us talked into the night again. The next day Mandie and I would find our window to have another great hitchhiking trip together, Paris was the goal, there was much fun to be had on our next adventure.

September 9, 2011 to September 23, 2011

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