This is quite a long post about a weekend canoeing in a national park in The Netherlands. It also tells what I believe is important about nature. Sit back, relax and enjoy this weeks expedition storytelling.
A Canadian canoe loaded with camping gear and a weekend ahead of us in one of the most beautiful nature parks in The Netherlands. That was our view before we started our canoe adventure. I never did a canoe adventure, not for three days in a row until Erwin, my fellow adventurer, ask me to join him on a weekend canoeing in National Park De Biesbosch.
National Park De Biesbosch is a unique area of Dutch nature with lots of water. It’s wild with big rivers, tiny ditches and next to the city Rotterdam. That makes it the perfect place to refresh from a busy life in a crowded city. When you canoe into this place you find quietness, chirping birds, nibbling beavers and flying fishes.
In the early afternoon we arrive at canoe rental Visserhang in Hank. We bought a lot of food at a supermarket to be totally independent for this three days. Erwin found a cabin online, which serves us as one of the legal pole camping places in The Netherlands.
We are doing this for a couple of reasons. The main one is to have a microadventure, to refresh from everyday life. Saturday gone, Monday back and Tuesday at the office again. The second reason is to make a short film about the importance of this national park.
We’ve planned to visit two persons who are living in this nature area. First we meet Jan Saarloos, a farmer. Jan runs a farm with a herd of highland cows and also a campsite for recreation.
We talk a few minutes with Jan about his farmers life in De Biesbosch. He tells us that this is no joke, every week seven days of hard work. I like his local approach. If the highlands cows are three years old then they will be slaughtered and the meat is sold locally through a butcher shop.
A good intro to this area, now we are fully aware of what we can find here. As soon as we start paddling again we find this curious little creature following us along the shore.
He grunts us something we can’t really understand. Maybe he told us that we’re two silly city boys who are canoeing the wrong way.
The coordinates on my navigation device point out a place right in the woods. We barely can’t leave the canoe in this wildernis. We walk for about 20 minutes through a bunch of nettles, my legs start to hurt really bad. We can’t find the cabin and decide to go back into the canoe again. We paddle into another ditch and finally find our home for the next three days. A cabin build for everyone to enjoy. Yes, this free outdoor resorts still can exist in The Netherlands.
A nice cozy cabin with a terrace…
Some food and drinks…
And a campfire. I don’t really wish for more if I’m outdoors. It is quite amazing that this place really exists.
The next day after getting out of bed we decide to paddle the whole national park. Maybe a little bit ambitious but we’re going to give it a try. A little bit smelly from the fire of yesterday but we don’t care, nobody will notice.
While we canoe through rivers, ditches, under bridges and on trunks, I think about what benefits I have from this outdoor adventures. I like the idea to encourage myself, to learn about risk. To challenge and do something difficult and learn that I’m capable of doing more than I’ve ever imaged. If I risk nothing, I do nothing and have nothing.
We decide this time to take the risk of being totally lost. After sunset we try to find our way through the darkness back to the cabin. Canoeing at night is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. You don’t see a lot, but you’re focused on what is happening and what can happen.
Back at the cabin we dive into the woods and find some dry branches for our camp fire.
Our main idea of this trip is to experience nature in urban areas. We want to create some awareness to preserve the few wild areas that still remain in The Netherlands. I think that this wild areas are important for wild animals and causes as climate change. If no one really cares than big companies will come and build it into a smelly smoke area or decide that it is better for society to have big trains riding through this area.
We have planned to meet a person today. An older woman living totally independent from society in this wild area. On our last day, we meet this woman and she is skeptical about our idea. When I see her she’s on her bare feet mowing the grass around her house. “Can we have a talk with you?” I asked her. “Why?” she responded. “Because we saw you on local television and you seem for us as a very interesting and inspiring person.” “Well,” she responded. “People come her and say that I am special, but I don’t want to be special. I just want a quite nice life in this beautiful area and I don’t want to be harassed by people who find me special.”
That totally thrilled me, what a woman. Shall we skip this talk? I really don’t know what to say anymore. This is quite an interesting welcome. After we told her who we are and that we just want to share a few interesting thoughts, she offered us an old fashioned cup of coffee (hot water and coffee powder in a can). We talked about interesting things such as nature and our influence on it. “We try to rule nature,” she told us. “And nature can never be ruled. It’s funny,” she continued. “We are part of nature but we think that we can rule nature. Nature isn’t to be ruled, nature rules us and will strike back if we keep ruin it.” I think she is right.
Back in the canoe, I still can’t get my mind straight. That woman, in her early seventies just told us all the things we ever need to know. What a relieve. She just showed us that life can be very simple. I mean, we all got our big questions and things we think we need to know. She tells us we don’t and just need to live our life as simple as we can: by not thinking that we all have to change the world.
At Monday around 6:30pm we arrive back at the canoe rental Vissershang in Hank. We finish with a talk with Dennis, one of the guys who runs this place. Dennis knowns a little bit more about the financial resources of this national park. The government just cut all the financial fundings for maintaining facilities for visitors in this national park.
Fortunately a number of (commercial) organisations set up a fund for the preservation of National Park De Biesbosch. This fund is called Beleef & Geef Biesbosch (translated: experience and give fund). When this national park is becoming totally wild nature, it will be closed for outdoor activities such as canoeing. This fund prevends that this will happen by maintaining and cleaning parts of the park. If you’re interested you can donate through their website.
Now we still can enjoy this national park and I’m happy and grateful for that. It felt good to be out there for a few days.
Bye canoe adventure, we will meet again.