Bart Kessels
Bart Kessels
Passionate open source software engineer who loves to go backpacking

Backpacking Pieterpad - Sittard to Roermond

Backpacking Pieterpad - Sittard to Roermond
This image is taken in Sittard near the Molenbeek (roughly translated, millstream)

During april in 2023, my girlfriend and I decided to start walking the Pieterpad. See the previous post for more information about the Pieterpad. We wanted to test our newly bought gear before heading off to Sweden to go backpacking in the wilderness. We’ve decided to walk the Pieterpad here in the Netherlands because for us, it’s near-by, and there are a lot of camping’s were we can stay for the night.

The leg

As I’ve said before, we don’t always obey to the laid out legs from the Pieterpad Foundation because of limitations with public transport. And this leg was no exception to that. We decided to take the train to Sittard (Limburg) and walk for three days during a long weekend.

This leg actually consists of one-and-a-half leg from the Pieterpad Foundation, so this blogpost will cover one leg and a half. The other half of the second leg will be covered in another blogpost.

The leg we've created for walking from Sittard to Roermond

This image is captured from Komoot where we’ve laid out our own leg.

Because we haven’t had any training and have never walked with 10 kilos on our back, we’ve decided to only walk around 10 kilometers a day. Therefor we could walk about 30 kilometers in the three days we had. During the days the weather was pretty nice, we’ve had a lot of sunshine and the temperature was around 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit).

Walking from Sittard to Echt-Susteren

We started in Sittard at the train station were we arrived. Because we hadn’t lunched yet (it was almost lunchtime) we first stopped at the local grocery store to get some currant buns. After feeling like a bull in a China-shop with our backpacks we could start walking.

Because this was the first we walked the Pieterpad we had to follow the map using our Komoot app. But then I started noticing some signs that kept appearing in the directions we had to walk. So I put away my phone and started navigating using those signs. After my girlfriend told me a couple of times that I should check the phone, I finally decided to act on it. That’s when we saw that I was wrong, the signs I thought were from the Pieterpad were actually from another trail. So, walking back for ten minutes to get back on trail we walked through Sittard, and it all was quite beautiful.

The trail lead us through the old parts of town, near rivers, through forests and even through a small part of Germany. In Germany, we walked through this small town which had a few typical German houses with white walls and big wooden beams holding up the entire structure. When we left Germany and walked into a forest in the Netherlands it started raining a bit, but not hard enough to stop walking. We saw a lot of birds quickly flying into trees to find shelter while we kept walking. Out of the forest we entered a heath in the ‘smallest part of Limburg’, where the skies also cleared turning it into something I wouldn’t have expected to see in the Netherlands. It was like we were in some tropical country, only the palm trees and parrots were missing.

When we arrived at the camping we were exhausted after walking a little over 12 kilometers without prior training. We set up our tent at a camping from a local farmer and we felt asleep. When walking up an hour later we went to the camping across the street and we both ordered a nice steak. That felt like the perfect end to our first day walking this trail.

Walking from Echt-Susteren to Montfort

The second day was just as nice as the first, only this time we walked mostly through little towns. At some occasions we stopped and put up our small chairs and just enjoy the view of the town. This is such a humbling experience, seeing the rest of the country I’ve lived in for years and just stop to appreciate it.

The trail took us to remote locations between towns were you only see fields, nothing more and nothing less. We walked a small portion near the Maas (a river that runs through the Netherlands) were we came across other people walking the Pieterpad. The one thing that struck me about those people is, they are all really open and eager for a conversation. For some reason I find that really cool, because most of the time everyone is in such a hurry, but walking this trail everyone just calms down and is really in the moment.

After walking the rest of the trail, we arrived in Montfort at the camping we picked out. We were expecting a small camping but on arrival we saw that it was quite a big camping with a lot of locals. When we were setting up our tent we looked around, and we were the only ones without a caravan or camper. Because this camping was really remote the only source of dinner for us was the local chip shop were we also met a few locals. The locals were really close with each other, and we couldn’t really start a conversation with them, so after finishing our meals we just went back to our tent and play some cards.

At the end of the evening we were falling asleep, and suddenly we hear this siren going off. It turns out that the locals were having a party that evening and one of them was racing around on a quad and screaming through a megaphone that the party has started. We started laughing really hard because we’ve never seen or expected this.

Walking from Montfort to Roermond

The final day or our long weekend started and, we broke down our tent for the last time. Being hungry and not having a store at the camping meant that we had to walk a couple of miles before we could get our well-deserved meal to start the day. Arriving in the store, we were picking out some fresh made sandwiches and out of nothing someone says ‘Hello neighbours, how are you doing?’ and we looked at each other thinking do you know them?. But we say hi and move on, then it hits us. It was the family from the camper that stood next to us on the camping we just came from. That just goes to show, you meet a lot of new people on and off the trial.

When our sandwiches were put away in our bags, and the ice coffee was opened, we got back to the trail for the last time that weekend. We walked on a dirt road behind gardens from people who had goats, and we were so happy we just started bleating to the goats. For some reason that is one memory I cherish, drinking my ice coffee and ‘talking’ with the goats in Montfort.

Because the last day consists of half a leg from the Pieterpad, the end was in the middle of nowhere. So we had to leave the trail and walk straight to the train station in Roermond to get back to Venlo. When walking to the train station, we walked through the city, and I remember a lot of people looking at as if they were thinking ‘what are they doing?’. We looked exhausted, sweaty and dirty and walked without a coat while it was only around 12° Celsius (53,9° Fahrenheit) while everyone else was walking around with heavy winter clothes.

Sitting in the train back, we were happy that we could get back to our luxury lives with a bed and a roof above our head. But we still felt some sort of connection to the trail. And I think that’s the beauty of backpacking, it makes you humble and really lets you appreciate what you have. And that’s also when we knew, this isn’t going to be the last of the Pieterpad that we’re going to see.


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