On April 7th, 2019, the first kayakers of 2019 set foot on the Marker Wadden islands. The islands are nestled in the northeast corner of Markermeer, a large manmade lake east of Amsterdam.
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)...
Every year my team at work (called Business Unit Water or BUWAT) has a late summer picnic involving some casual outdoor activities (walks, bikes, playgrounds for kiddos) followed by a dinner buffet of sorts. Last year the picnic was two days before my start date, making it a nice forum for meeting my new colleagues. Apparently all my attempts to get coworkers paddling over the past year have made an impression, because this year our team leader Renaat graciously offered me the chance to organize a kayaking trip as part of our "mandatory" annual team even. Now that's one way to get people in boats!
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). :)
I recently went through the exercise of contacting a bunch of kayak rental places in Belgium (and nearby) to see if they rent kayaks in winter. Here's what I found, in case you're also having a wintery kayak craving. If I've missed any rental shops, I would love to hear from you! You can contact me here.
I received a funny range of answers when I contacted the various shops, spanning from "of course we do!" to "of course we don't!". I understand both of these responses, as a renter unfamiliar with cold weather paddling can be quite a safety hazard, but kayaking is awesome so we should still do it in the winter.
I've mapped all the rental shops that I could find below, with symbols representing whether or not they provide rentals in the winter! Click on an icon to see the name, address, and website of the shop.
Green = Open for rentals in winter
Yellow = Limited winter rentals (group size minimum or limited days)
Red = No winter rentals (most closed November - March)
White = Unknown (contacted, no response yet)
Disclaimer: This summary is based on email conversations that I had with various kayak rental companies in early December, 2015. Please contact a company or check their website to confirm the details if you are planning to rent. Also, if you're planning to paddle in winter, make sure you're dressed for immersion and always wearing a PFD. Paddle safe!
Update (May 2016): I've now added all the kayak rental shops I can find in Belgium. There are still quite a few to be added in the Netherlands. If you know of a good kayak rental shap that is not shown here, please send me their website!
Map of kayak rentals in Belgium and the Netherlands
Click the icons for more information.
Emilia and I went on a kayaking trip near home (my new home near Antwerp, Belgium!) in celebration of her Confirmation a month ago. Emilia is my 11-year-old cousin and goddaughter. The closest kayak rental shop that I could find, Kano & Kayak Center, is located in Wachtebeke, close to the border with the Netherlands. It's possible to paddle a 38 km route, but we just did an out-and-back trip for a few hours. We kayaked, ate good food, and kayaked back. Emilia wrote a short guest post - click Read More to read that and see some photos!
Sadly, my time in the Netherlands is coming to a close, but only exciting adventures lie ahead. In September, I'm moving to Antwerp (Belgium) to work at Flanders Hydraulics and continue my coastal engineering world tour. During June, July, and August I'll be wandering around Europe with a medley of friends.
Stay tuned this summer for a resurgence in posts! I hope to post casually every few days with anecdotes, photos, and of course, kayak posts. I recently purchased a tablet, so I'll be posting updates from the road. The posts won't be as detailed as usual, so expect more of a stream-of-consciousness.
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I'm hoping to paddle at least once in each country:
Norway - the Western Fjords and the Lofoten Islands with Bailey
Belgium - near Antwerp with Emilia
Portugal - the Algarve with Henk Jan, Emily, and Brian
Spain - North Coast and Barcelona with Emily and Brian
Ireland - Maybe a quick dip in Dublin with Emily
France - Provence and Les Calanques in Marseille with Emily and Alice
Switzerland - Maybe another paddling trip on a mountain lake with Henk Jan, Emily, and Sara
Italy - Cinque Terre, Sardinia, and Corsica with Emily
If you happen to know of good sea kayak rental companies in (or near) any of these regions, please let me know. It's hard to find quality sea kayaks for rent.
A lot has gone into organizing this trip, including:
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.
Email updates on new blog posts, about once per month.
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.
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