My alarm went off at 7am on Sunday. At any other time of year, getting up would have been a challenge. Thanks to the long days that the Dutch latitude (52 degrees) bestows us, it was palatable. In what's becoming a weekend routine, I strapped my lunch and dry clothes on the back of my bike and swung a sizable duffle bag of kayak gear over my shoulder. It always takes a bit of extra effort to get the bike moving when it's loaded down this way. But thanks to the lack of topographic variability, the 12 minute bike ride to the kayak club is easy once you're rolling. Some aspects of Dutch life just need reframing to see the bright side.
Tiengemeten, population 10, is an island in the Haringvliet named after its size (tien = 10, gemeten = ancient unit of measurement corresponding to approximately 1 acre). It started out as a sandbar in the Haringvliet estuary (which has since been blocked off from the sea and turned into a freshwater lake), and eventually grew to be an island between 1750 and 1804. After that it underwent all kinds of changes and development. Yesterday, Tom, Amelia, Iede, and I kayaked around it. Read on to see some cool photos of wetland restoration and find out what makes this island unique (from a kayaking and historical perspective)!
I start a new job tomorrow! So I've committed myself to finishing this blog post, since new jobs have a way of taking over. The past five weeks have been a whirlwind between jobs. I went to the US for almost two weeks, moved into my new apartment in Rotterdam (more on that later!), and spent a week adventuring in Mallorca! A good friend of mine, Inma, moved to Mallorca a couple months ago. With her apartment in Palma as a convenient home base, I hopped on buses every morning to explore different sides of the island... Read on to hear about this kayaking oasis!
Dinant Evasion: What happens when you combine a log flume, bumper cars, 7000 kayakers, and a sinking kayak on the River Lesse in Belgium.
The magical town of Dinant, on the Lesse River in southern Belgium. The kayaking route does not take you past here, so make sure to include a visit to the city in your itinerary! Photo by Rob.
Before you read this post, I want you to know that Dinant and the surrounding areas are really lovely - I've visited twice and had some great biking and hiking experiences. But kayaking was a different flavor, and I feel it should be documented as a warning to any kayakers thinking about paddling here...
As we passed under the big welcome signs at Dinant Evasion, I couldn't help but feel like I was entering an amusement park. We obediently zigzagged through the queue lines to one of the (many) ticket offices. "Do you have your confirmation letter?" asked the ticket lady in broken Dutch (Dinant is in the French-speaking part of Belgium). I fumbled for my phone, hoping the confirmation email was still cached (I still use my US smartphone, so no cellular data for me). Phew, there it was. I've never arrived for a reserved kayak rental and been told that my last name was insufficient for accessing the reservation... Warning Sign #1. Okay, the super commercial website could also have tipped me off (Warning Sign #0)...
My friends are real troopers. The forecast warned of intense rain, and that's exactly what we got. But we persevered! From downtown Utrecht to a pancake house about 6.5 km southeast of the city, Sander, Bonnie, and I paddled through almost continuous rain. But the "pancakes," if you can even call them that, were worth the soaking.
Fries from the sky, brewery by boat, Japanese gardens, and tunnels galore: Why the Hague, Netherlands, is a kayaking oasis.
How is it possible? How did I live in Delft for a year and never discover the wonderful kayaking oasis of The Hague? The horn you toot to request a kayak rental, free candy thrown at you by a friendly (?) passerby, fries that are lowered down to you by rope and pulley, gorgeous parks, a local brewery stop, and much more.
In October we're going to Vancouver! Henk, Sara, and I are headed there to do some sea kayaking around Bowen Island and in Deep Cove. We established our own prerequisite of getting up-to-snuff with kayak rescues before we arrive, since the water temperature will be in the low 50s (F, ~10C) and the weather unpredictable. Sara and I practiced some rescues when we paddled in WA, but it's been a couple years, so she's signed up for a rescue class in North Carolina. Since Henk is still pretty new to kayaking, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to get him a free lesson by brushing up on my teaching skillz.
Step 1: Watch a bunch of YouTube videos about kayak rescues. We spent an afternoon watching wet exists, T-rescues, bow rescues, hip snaps, sweep rolls, C-to-C rolls, and more from the comfort of my mosquito-netted bed (those bugs are everywhere in Belgium!). I attempted to demo a roll using the little rocking chair in the living room. Funnier than effective.
Step 2: Find someone who will rent us sea kayaks. (Read on!)
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!
Between mid-April and early-May, the rectangular fields of North and South Holland transform into a striped carpet of yellows, reds, purples, and pinks. Narrow canals, seemingly drawn with a ruler, meticulously separate the stripes. Tourists fly in from all over the world to view this annual spectacle between Haarlem in the north and Leiden in the south, where the flowers are most concentrated. Keukenhof is a world-renowned garden where hordes of visitors walk the narrow pathways, visit the windmill, and smell the flowers, especially this time of year.
On Sunday, a group of Windhappers (Alfons - trip organizer, Marianne, Willie, Elly, Twan, and I) set out to view the tulips from a less crowded place: our kayaks. Click Read More to see endless flower photos and hear about a minor mishap that almost resulted in carrying 6 kayaks over a busy railroad track...
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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Click the "Read More" link at the bottom of each summary for more photos, to see an interactive map of the route, and to read about the adventure.
Maps in each blog post: Click the icons to learn more about the launch site (amenities) and destinations. Click the square in the bottom-left corner to see an aerial photo behind the route.