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!
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!
Utrecht is a big city located in the middle of the Netherlands. It's rich in culture - apparently second only to Amsterdam - and a central point for transportation. With a student population of 30,000, it's definitely a lively college town. As we paddled through the city, we saw many bikes dangling perilously over the canal, held only in place by their locks...
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!
Alwin (fellow member of the Windhappers kayak club) and I spent Thursday afternoon kayaking around the city of Leiden. I haven't been to Leiden before, so I'm happy I got to visit before my departure from the Netherlands in a week. It's similar to Delft in size and ambiance - a small city surrounded and divided by canals, with many old buildings lining its narrow streets.
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...
The Biesbosch is a national park in the Netherlands, located about 30 minutes (drive) southeast of Rotterdam. On Sunday, Henk Jan and I hopped in the Beast (his 400k mile Volvo) and drove down to the Biesbosch for a day of kayaking. The Biesbosch is best explored by boat, since it consists of endless channels that weave around low-lying islands. The Biesbosch has a long history of inhabitants and water management. I'll tell you about that at the end of this post. We spent about 5 hours paddling through the channels, ending up with a solid 11-mile paddle for Henk Jan's first time in a kayak...
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.