It’s been a while since I’ve posted an itinerary and review and we’ve been pretty buy since we left Marburg! This post is a bit of a mixture of a few things – my first music festival, some show jumping, crossing country borders over 17 times and sharing a pitch with about 200 college students. We left Marburg (sad face) and headed to Hasselt in Belgium for Pukkelpop before entering The Netherlands for some time in horsey country and then soaked in the North Sea air. Read on to hear more about one of the oddest fortnights on this trip.
Highlights and Lowlights
- Pukkelpop 2022 was great! Good music, nice people, clean and just generally great fun
- Horses were aplenty at the Longines Global Champions tour
- We got to enjoy the cooler weather by the North Sea coast
- Sharing a pitch with 200 college students isn’t exactly my idea of a relaxing time
- Our Valkenswaard campsite was a poor choice
- We had a bit of a lull and some dull few days
Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.
Pukkelpop 2022 in Hasselt Belgium
Campsite – Camping Relax on wheels- a festival campsite
Cost – €185 for four nights for two people including electricity
Facilities – portaloos, showers, food stands and a thrift shop. There was no chemical toilet, grey water disposal or fresh water
Accessibility score – 2 / 5
See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.
This was your typical festival campsite that was essentially just a big field with rows and rows of campers and caravans in it. It was nothing special and didn’t have a lot of the basic facilities that an established campsite does BUT we were only there for 4 nights so we really didn’t mind. However, it was extortionately expensive for what it was, especially when you compare it to what we get in a “normal” campsite. Maybe its not fair to compare the too but it was hard to ignore it!
The accessibility of this campsite left a lot to be desired. Pukkelpop did have an area reserved in one of their other campsites specifically for people with a disability but that was for tents only. As we are in the van, our only option was Relax on Wheels. The site was just a big field so signage was minimal, the ground underfoot was long grass and there was no map. I get that it is a festival campsite, but at the same time, PKP were very open about the accessibility of their event, and I felt that this particular site wasn’t accessible enough.
Now, on the other hand, the festival itself was very good. Attendees with a disability could register beforehand to avail of extra services available such as wheelchair platform access, help with tent building or personal care, bringing a chair or medication into the festival grounds, access to the accessible bathrooms and use of the induction loop for hearing aids among many others! I registered beforehand and got access to the wheelchair platforms, accessible bathrooms and the press / VIP entrance which was also designed for people with varying abilities. Being able to pre-register was great as it was all sorted in advance and I didn’t have to go and try to get it organised when I arrived.
During the event, I used the wheelchair platforms a couple of times but they didn’t make a huge difference as they were at the very back of the venues!
As a first festival experience, I think I had one of the best! It was such a well organised and clean festival, with a huge variety of acts, places to eat and drinks stands. We were never in a queue for very long.
One of the stands they had on site were for ear plugs, which was a great idea. We both bought a pair of the festival ones that can be reused and allow to hear the music while wearing them. As I rely so much on my hearing to compensate for my vision loss, I didn’t want to risk damaging it. I immediately bought a pair and used them at every gig. They were great!
Valkenswaard – for music festival number 2 and horses!
Campsite – Camping Dommelvallei
Cost – €27 per night for two people including electricity
Facilities – bar, pool tables, playgrounds and swimming pool
Accessibility score – 2 / 5
Full disclosure, this was one of our least favourite spots for a number of reasons. We picked it because it was close to the Tops International Arena, where there was one leg of a show jumping league on. In hindsight, we should have stayed a bit further away from the show grounds and just travelled to it, rather than staying beside it.
The only space they had for us was in a large field, which we would be sharing with what we were told was a school induction, with 300+ students and their parents. I think there was a bit of a breakdown in communication here because we thought school and parents meant younger students heading into secondary school or something like that. NOPE. It was college students with some chaperones. Very different altogether.
To be fair to them, the students were clean, tidy, respectful and were quiet by 11pm each evening. There were some parties in the evenings and music played all day but they were OK to share a field with. It was kind of like being back at Pukkelpop but a lot less fun.
The main issues we had were with the campsite itself. It was way too expensive for what it was, especially as we didn’t have a designated pitch (we just parked up in a part of the field). there were no helpful signs anywhere. I only found one ladies shower (by chance) and it was really unclear which toilets were male, female or unisex. The chemical toilet also did not have a sign and it was right beside the dish washing sinks which was a bit gross. There was also no toilet paper or hand soap provided, which I would expect for €27 per night! In addition, the staff were not very friendly, nor helpful. We were also working for 2 days while here, and we were coming off the back of a weekend at a music festival so it all combined into a perfect storm of unhappiness for a couple of days. This is a perfectly normal part of travel and vanlife and we’ve bounced back since!
Things to see and do – We went to the Valkenswaard leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour, one of the biggest show jumping leagues in Europe. It was great to see the beautiful Tops International Arena and support the Irish riders who all did incredibly well.
The campsite was a very short drive from Malpie Nature Reserve which we visited one day for a nice walk.
North Sea Bliss in Burgh-Haamstede
As a complete antidote to the above two festivals, we headed to the west coast of The Netherlands to Burgh-Haamstede. One of the best things about this place was that it was much, much cooler – think Ireland in the summer. Lots of wind, and some sunshine. Glorious.
En route to the campsite, we stopped at Baarle Hertog which is a little piece of Belgium within The Netherlands. We crossed the border between the two countries 14 times in 20minutes as we walked around this town. There is even a house here that straddles the border, with one part in Belgium and the other in The Netherlands.
Campsite – Camping de Duinhoeve
Cost – €30 per night for two people including electricity and Wi-Fi
Facilities – bar, restaurant, pool, snack bar and playgrounds
Accessibility score – 4 / 5
This was a beautiful campsite, with great facilities on the doorstep. We had a nice shaded pitch close to the modern sanitary blocks. It was right on the beach, cycling and walking tracks and had a bike rental spot just down the road. The staff were really lovely and the whole campsite was really well maintained.
It was a very accessible site. There was a good map handed out at reception, signs on the toilet and shower doors and very few steps (although I did trip up one in the restaurant). The lighting around the site was very good too. I didn’t see any tactile paving or signage around the site or around any of the paths and cycle ways which is the main reason why it didn’t get a 5.
Things to see and do – We felt that we wouldn’t really experience The Netherlands if we didn’t rent some bikes and test out the cycle tracks. So we did just and cycled across the island and part way across one of the huge dams that are built to protect the country. As a visually impaired cyclist, I am extremely slow and cautious, so much so that I was constantly overtaken by other cyclists. I was very nervous cycling around but got used to it after a while. The designated cycle tracks make it really easy to navigate and stay safe. Apart from a minor crash into a pillar and big bruises from the pedals, it was a pretty uneventful bike ride!
There are excellent cycle tracks and routes set up all around The Netherlands. These are identified by numbered nodes that you can follow. They have an online map and app too which makes it really easy to plan your route.
As fuel for our cycle we stopped at Pannekoekenmolen de Graanhalm for some pancakes before heading off. They were delicious.
That’s it for this fortnight. The next two weeks will be spent in Utrecht, Aalsmeer and Leiden as we do some house and pet sitting, fix a broken tap and (hopefully) enjoy some thunderstorms! Thanks for reading, Aoife x
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