July 21st is Belgium National Day, when the Belgians celebrate gaining their independence from the Netherlands in 1831 (right around the time the Oregon Trail was picking up speed over in the US). Apparently the mostly-Catholic Belgians were not happy with the protestant-favoring rule of King William the 1st and decided to rebel. Luckily for modern-day residents of Belgium, this means we have a day off every July. This year it fell on a Thursday, resulting in a 4-day weekend opportunity for 4 Dutchies and 1 American to head to the Belgian Ardennes and partake in celebratory Belgian activities like beer drinking, card playing, chocolate eating, walking in fields with cows, and, most importantly, kayaking past castles.
Last weekend, five enthusiastic Antea Group employees embarked on a Sunday morning canoe trip in Lokeren. The company I work for, Antea Group, has an internal organization called Antea Group Sport that supports employees in organizing "sporting" events. Since I started a year ago, they've organized runs, triathlons, volleyball, soccer, mountain biking, cycling, and even badminton. I decided that some more watery events were necessary*, so I went about organizing a kayaking trip, destination: Lokeren. It's a convenient location for people living in Antwerp and Gent. First, I did a scouting trip to check out the conditions.
*Disclaimer: I was also motivated by a need to find/develop paddling buddies here in Belgium, and the awesome t-shirt you get the first time you participate in an Antea sporting event (see above). :)
After starting out the weekend with a fantastic cabrewing tour of Lauwersmeer, it was rise-and-shine at 6am on Sunday for a truly Dutch adventure: WADLOPEN. Wad = mudflat, lopen = walking (in Dutch. In Flemish it means running, which would have been ridiculous). While I've done my fair share of mudflat walking as part of my job in California and the Netherlands, I've never attempted it in a recreational way. We put on our rainbow basketball shoes and trudged 16km across bare mudflat to get to Schiermonnikoog, the easternmost Frisian Island in the Netherlands.
Last weekend some Delft friends and I plopped ourselves into a couple canoes for a cabrewing adventure on Lauwersmeer - a lake adjacent to the Wadden Sea, about 45 minutes north of Groningen. It was my first time sleeping in a tent in almost a year (so sad), and my first time in a canoe since long before moving to Europe. Why don't I do this more often? It was fantastic.
I also did some Water Nerd research about Lauwersmeer, and it has quite an interesting/complicated history of floods, poldering, and damming. If you just want to read about that, you can skip to the Water Nerd section.
Today we take a short break from the Trip Planning 101 series to visit the Biesbosch, near Dordrecht in the Netherlands. I've visited the Biesbosch in the past, but starting in the southern boundary. Fun fact: Biesbosch translates roughly to "Wetland Forest" or "Reed Forest" (bies + bosch/bos).
Two Sundays ago, HJ and I met up with Carlos (a colleague from work) and his family for their first time kayaking. We did a little loop in what-turns-out-to-be a recently restored wetland - Jantjesplaat. Read on to see photos from our trip, and aerial photos of the wetland before and after completion of the restoration project - so neat!
Giethoorn is an adorable and quaint town way up north in the Netherlands - almost in Friesland. As you can see in the photo above, it's a dense network of channels, footbridges (180!), and thatch-roofed houses that can often only be reached by boat or on foot. The locals (about 3000 of them) travel over their personal bridges and on punters (boats you push along with a stick, like in Venice). I'd visited this town a few times before (it's a 15 minute bike ride from HJ's parents' house) but never floated along its canals. Until now!
It's been a while since the Water Nerd (and the Naked Kayaker, for that matter) has made an appearance on this blog. But have no fear - a quick analysis of the blog data shows that there's always a huge spike in posting frequency starting in May, continuing through August. Let's hope that's the case again this year - we have some new kayaking destinations coming up soon!
This weekend the Water Nerd and her partner-in-crime, HJ, took a long-weekend trip to the UK (thanks Belgian Catholic holidays!). They visited the Thames Barrier in London (huge moveable flood barrier) and hiked the gorgeous Seven Sisters cliffs of Sussex...
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
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