Without-a-map: Maastricht (NL) to Coo (BE)

Do you know this feeling of being lost? A quick look on the map, or on your phone and you know where you are and which way you have to go, to reach your endpoint. I’ve done this many many times, and every time i reached my endpoint, but now ill do it different. Ill go to Maastricht, in the total south of the Netherlands and find my way to Coo, in the middle of the Belgium Ardennes. Yes, Without-a-map!

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Why would one do this? When you go somewhere, you have a look on the map which way you need to go; you don’t get lost. If you take away the map, you still know where you need to go, but not how to get there; there is now an element of surprise in the adventure. You have to watch your surrounding closer, and you’re delivered to your own navigating skills. I’ve never done this sort of thing before, so for me it’s also a first time. It might be easy, it might be fun, it might be hard and rainy the whole weekend…  Although I think there will be good times in the autumnish forrests of the Belgian Ardennes. Ive set myself some rules, so I would not cycle around in circles for hours and hours on end. The rules are:

- I can use a compass

- I can ask people where to go. (Its in the French speaking part of Belgium, and i speak no French at all!)

- Im allowed to make drawings from maps i see along the road, and from what i can understand from people.

- I want to be back in maastricht at 18:00 monday evening.

Maastricht – Coo is about 60 to 70 Kilometers. It could be a day of cycling, or 3 days of wondering where I am, and how I get to my endpoint… Now you might ask yourself: “why Coo?” Well it’s the first place in my life where Ive been sleeping outside, under the stars next to a waterfall. You can say it’s the place where my love for camping was born. Therefore Ill just take my bivvy bag and a tarp to sleep under.

Next week there will be the conclusion of this autumn adventure. Was it just a stupid idea, and should i get myself a GPS system, or will i burn all my maps and go “Without-a-map” from here on? Maybe ill just keep my maps for the next time…

We went on a adventure and filmed it. And Then…?

So we went on an adventure. After 6 days we came back, with lots of footage, pictures and pain in our feet and legs… I don’t have the right answers for this thing, there is no right way to do it, only your own way, but in steps i can tell how we did it. Here you can see the film (about 5 minutes) and after this you can read how we managed to do this in just 30 hours.

Step 1 – GEAR

First of all the gear you have is just 50%. Bring what you think is good for your purpose. We wanted to film, but also make pictures for the blog you are reading now. We brought 3 video/picture devices, I brought 1 and Henk 2.

Henk took a Gopro Hero 3 (good for quick pictures and film), a Nikon D3200 with an AF-S DX 18-55mm VR II lens and a long tripod. I brought my canon 60D with an EF-S 18-200m f/3.5-5.6 lens (good for beautiful scenery video’s). Next to this i took my mini tripod, which is easy to set up and very light weight. I didn’t bring my big tripod, as Henk took his. So if you go with a partner in crime, make sure that you don’t take double stuff, to limit the weight!  A microphone could be handy too, because the mics in most camera’s sounds like a tin can. There are some pretty good, cheap and light weight mics available. I would definitely take one the next time! Before you leave, check the battery, check the camera’s and if your tripod is good. Imagine standing at the beginning of a 3 week adventure, and you figure out the battery is still in the charger at home…

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Step 2 – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TELL?

In the end it’s not so important that you bring the top notch stuff. Nice images look nice, but the main thing is the point of your story. What do you want to tell the people, and how do you want to show it? In most cases of adventure telling the gear is inferior to the story you want to tell. There are good travel movies made with just a gopro, or even a 8 year old handycam.

For us it was a bit of searching to what we wanted to show everybody with our adventure. We knew directly we wanted to give people something, not just make a “look at us” video. The best would be to really know what you want to say with your film, writing or pictures about the trip, but sometimes this changes or you just dont know what you want to tell. That was our case. We knew we wanted to do it, but why…? This we figured out at the next step.

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Step 3 – PRE EDIT WORK

We came home after 6 days, and a couple of days later we both went on vacation with our girlfriends for 3 weeks… Way too long to exactly remeber what we thought at crucial moments, what we filmed and how we felt during the trip. We found the perfect solution to this problem. Take a beer, look at the footage that you shot and take your diary. (Extra tip! It’s always good to have a diary during adventures.) Just a whole evening of talking, making jokes and digging up memories and drinking a little. But we made sure we took our mind off it once in a while. It helps your mind to relax and then the ideas flow in! Late in the night, while drinking a beer and talking about random stuff it came to us: Aren’t we just 2 normal guys in search of an adventure? Yes we are. So now it’s time for the next step.

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Step 4 – EDITING 

We woke up, had a champions breakfast and… No clue where to start… Writing your main goal on a piece of paper and stick it to the screen helps you to find the way when your are lost. Also writing a small set-up of how you want your movie to be works pretty good. It can just be a couple of sentences, but it keeps your focus on the main storyline. This is what we did. Because of this, we forgot ideas that were not so good, and the really good ideas we wrote down to use.

I also think its a good idea to use good editing software. It takes a little time to learn how to work with good editing software, but its worth the time. Youtube is full with tutorials, so that should be no problem. But even when you know the software from inside out, it can take a long time… We started at 3 in the afternoon and finished at 4 in the night. The next day we started at 4 in the afternoon and finished at 6 or 7 in the night. So be prepared for some late night work!

We worked in the “pressure cooker” way. In this way you take a certain amount of time to finish your product. We just had 2 days to finish our movie. This is 48 hours. Because of this time limit we had to make decisions quickly, and we couldn’t stand still at problems for so long. Also because of the time, some things couldn’t be done. But this is just how it is, and in the end we are happy with what we did in these 30 hours. And our square eyes were happy the 2 days were over…

EXTRA TIP: KILL YOUR DARLINGS! Some things you really would like to show, it made a real change in the trip or it was a personal turning point or… But if it doesn’t fit in your storyline, just leave it out. To just quote some famous words: “It is like sculpting an elephant: you chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant and what’s left is an elephant.” I guess its the same with editing. Take everything away that doesn’t tell your story. What is left, is the story.

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Step 5 – ONLINE WARFARE

For us the goal was to reach as many people as possible with our film. We wanted to inspire people to go on an adventure and show that we are just ordinary guys, no athletes or supermen; we could be your neighbors, including loud music till 6 in the morning! To reach lots of people, we put it in lots of groups that are: or movie related or adventure related. Then you directly find the people who are interested in it. Use groups, ask friends to share and after 2 weeks post it some more. Send it to people you think they would like to see it. Are you interested in survival, did you make a survival video and is Bear Grills your idol? Send it to him.

Some time ago I made a short documentary about my first long distance biking trip. When I sent it to Tom Allen (a top adventurer/cyclist) he asked me to write a guest post on his blog. Because of this my film still gets hits a half year after it was put on. And next to it I’m pretty proud to write on his blog. You never know what will happen when you put your piece of artwork in the world and show it to the ones you think would be interested in it.

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Step 6 – ENJOY

And now for the nicest bit: sit down and show your mates. Ask for criticism, ask what they liked, and listen good what they say. This is somebody who has no clue about the story you wanted to tell. If they get it, it means you did good! If not, you still did good, you made a personal film! When i heard people say: “Oooh, i would like to do that too” I knew we did good. We wanted to inspire people to just go. And if there is just 1 person in the whole world who really goes i’m happy. If there is just 1 person in the whole world who thinks about going i’m happy. If that person is me, the maker of the film, than i’m happy. It seems that i found something I like, and that is the most important about making and adventure film.

Walking the West Coast – Part 3: The last kilometers.

This is the story of two normal guys in search of a challenge. Maybe you would like to start at Part 1, to read the full story of this beach expedition.

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We woke up in the tent under a house… That was quite unique! This day we had to make lots of kilometers to make up for the hours walking around at the industrial area. We walked, walked and walked more. We made a large amount of kilometers in the morning and went swimming during the day. It was hot again! In the evening we arrived to a special part of our trip. There was no more beach, just a dike to walk on. There was lots of fog which made it very mysterious. It was long ago i walked on grass and when i saw the typically Dutch landscape of cows and fields, i remembered that i was not in a foreign country. Lots of time i had this feeling. The feeling of being in a foreign country on a far away expedition. This feeling has been growing for 5 days now and seeing cows made me realize that it is possible to be on a real adventure in your own country. The feeling of being far away from my house, friends, family and normal life. But far away meant in this case 160 kilometers. As much as we would walk in these 6 days.

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After a well deserved night of rest the we kept on walking. Today would be the day of days! We would make it! We had 20 kilometers left so we could chill a bit, eat ice-cream and swim. A friend of Henk came along for the last 20 kilometers which gave us a new impulse. The whole 5 days where the same, walking through the sand, next to the water with just us both. Now a new person was coming along to celebrate the end with us! In my head there would be marching bands walking with us the last 200 meter, a big pole saying: Den Helder and at least 20 people with flags waving at us. While getting closer to our end goal, we noticed beach poles saying: 2 kilometers to Den Helder. Then 1,5 and 1 kilometer… We were almost there! 6 days of sand, blisters, rain, sun, salt and steps. Lots and lots of steps, and now we were almost there! The next pole said 0,5 km. Almost… We walked trough the shore when i noticed that the beach became a bit smaller. And smaller until it just stopped. We were at the end. No marching band, no people waving flags or cheering. Not even a pole saying “Den Helder”. Just the end of the beach. So apparently that was it… If you walk a marathon you see a finish, if you’re biking you have a destination. If you’re walking the westcoast-beach, the beach just stops. It puts everything in perspective. What i did, felt like my biggest adventure ever done. 6 days of painful legs and knees, sometimes dragging myself trough rain or heat but with my heart full of passion for adventure. All this time i was looking forward to this point. The end: Den Helder. And now I found myself standing next to a little girl making sandcastles and a sunbathing guy. Nobody had any idea what we did, what we went trough, the moments of happiness, misery and realizations. The moments we shared, and the individual moments. We made a trip, and it was OUR trip. The only thing we can do is share this and inspire you to make YOUR own trip.

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We ended the trip at the “Lange Jaap” the tallest cast iron light post of Europe. Now it was time for a well deserved beer and food. The fact that the beach just ended and there was no mark on the beach made me think about the saying: “Its not about the destination, its about the trip” and for me that’s 100% true!

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Some people called us crazy, some called us brave and others gave us hot chocolate and tips where to camp. We were not trained nor did we expect how it would be. The only thing we have is a passion for adventure and this is the most important. It was the passion that drove us from Hoek van Holland to Den Helder… And a huge amount of muesli bars!

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This thursday the short film about the trip will be released. Keep your eyes on this site if you dont want to miss it!

Walking the Westcoast – Part 2. Rain, sun and a huge thunderstorm…

This is the story of 2 guys walking 160 kilometers of beach in 6 days. It was hard but rewarding. A real beach expedition in a country 99% man made.

Maybe you would like to start at the beginning with Part 1. Here you can find part 1.

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We were 3 days into the expedition now, and on our 3rd day the weather was even worse. Our clothes were not really dry from the rain the day before so with shirts of made out of garbage bags under our jackets we left to the sandy battlefield to battle against the wind and the rain. And we were winning the battle! Fueled by muesli-bars, music and the will to go on we marched on! This day was about perseverance. Just going forwards. My knees hurterd, i had blisters, my shoes were wet but my mood was good. Step by step we dragged ourselves trough the wind, rain and seawater. Maybe i exaggerate a little but i was really dragging myself from trashcan to trashcan. When i passed one i thought: at the next one i will stop for a moment. But i didn’t, and i kept on walking. When we saw the sign saying: “Zandvoort” (we wanted to go to a camping for a nice shower and the world cup soccer game) we were happy like a german soccer fans. These are the moments where i thrive. Wet, cold, in the middle of -what seems to be- nowhere dragging a 20 KG cart trough the sand. These extreme conditions make me feel alive and give me a burst of energy. And this is exactly what adventure is about and what i needed at this moment of our adventure to make it. Giving up didn’t came in my mind for one second, that would be the next day…

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On the 4th day the weather was good again. Sun, low tide and smiling beach guests. At this day we had to cross a industry area in the city of Ijmuiden, so we asked some native west-coasters for the best route. It seemed like there was no best route so we had to find our own way trough the industry area.…  For what seemed to be hours and hours we were walking past steaming factories as people in cars stared at us. It was hot, my knees were hurting badly, exhaust fumes from passing cars and trucks, pumping factories and no end in sight. This was the moment i almost broke and said: screw it, i quit!! But then again, if i would quit, where would i go? We were in the middle of a huge industrial area… I had to walk further, and next to this, isn’t going on a adventures expedition a way to meet yourself? A way of seeing what you’re capable of, pushing your limits and sometimes looking over the edge? For me it was the moment i looked over the edge. Four hours walking trough a industrial area, getting lost, lost and a bit more lost but in the end finding our way back. Oh how happy we both were to hear the familiar sound of waves and seagulls again! The smell of the sea, and the smell of victory over a industry area. Now its back to the beach, the simplicity of walking in a straight line towards Den Helder.

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That evening we put our tent in the dunes, with nature as far as the eye could see! What a contrast of some hours before! This endless nature is pretty uncommon in The Netherlands so we enjoyed the view, chilled and went to sleep. In the middle of the night i woke up and saw a continues stream of lightning trough the tent. I looked outside and there was a huge thunderstorm coming our way! I directly went out with a sleepy head and checked how safe we were. While Henk checked the weather on his phone I noticed that we were on the highest dune with our tent… Two choices. Stay and try to sleep, or break up the tent and go to some beach houses we saw earlier. It was 3 in the night so then the best thing to do is to pack up everything and put down the tent somewhere else. But it was also the safest thing to do. While we were walking in the dark we could see the thunderstorm over the sea and we knew we made the right decision.

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The next 2 days would be crucial; would we make it in 6 days? Would the blisters keep us down? Read it in the next part!

Walking The West Coast – Part 1

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Many people travel for hours and hours to get to an exotic country for hiking or climbing, rafting running or biking. I would really like to do this, but since there is a lack of money for plane tickets in my wallet i have to find alternatives. I live in a country that’s made for 99% by humans and sadly enough there was no space for a 6 day hiking trip through Mountains. So i looked around for what we do have, 160 kilometers of beach for example! When i realized this my feet directly started itching… I got in contact with my partner in crime Henk and we made arrangements for a week long beach expedition in this man-made country which is The Netherlands. We would walk from Hoek van Holland to Den Helder. To do this we got a cart from WORM ROTTERDAM, good hiking socks and energyfood from ANTILOPE and bivvy bags from SIPS DUMP.

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After 4 hours in the train we were standing on the beach in Hoek van Holland, ready to go! We pushed the cart in the sand and realized: damn, its not going to be as easy as we thought! The wheels were not rolling through the deep sand and it was hard to pull the cart with the handles. We made a rope construction to pull the cart and we made our way to the shore. Now everything became much easier! It was low tide, so lots of shore to walk on, although i knew soon it would be high tide…

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Just 3 hours into the walk i looked back and saw Hoek van Holland, our starting point. And i saw it pretty good… What?! We’ve been walking for 3 hours now and it looks like we just walked 15 minutes! This was the moment i realized what we were doing.Pulling a cart for 160 kilometers through the sand. Smelling the salty sea for 6 days, the constant sound of waves, high and low tides, seagulls and sand in our shoes, hair and everywhere else…I thought we would never make it in a tempo like this and untrained. Although i wasn’t planning to give up! After 25 kilometers we decided it was enough for the first day and searched for a place to camp in the dunes. Just before we found our place the handle of the cart broke. A solution with a little rope would do it for now… Exhausted as we were, we put up the tent and had a beer… These are the moments of total relaxation and satisfaction.

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Was the first day sunny and with a low tide, the second day wasn’t… Wind, rain, high tide and hardly any shore to walk on. 100% the opposite of the previous day! We walked slow, through the salty water with strong headwinds and bad visibility. After walking two hours through this tough weather we saw a beach club, but it was closed. Although i saw some movement inside. There were people! I knocked on the door and asked if we were allowed to dry and regenerate a bit inside the club. We needed this so badly, and i think it showed. Like two wet cats we dripped in and sighed when we sat down. We must have looked terrible, because we got free drinks and some free snacks! Wow, we never asked for this, but the people of beach club De Golfslag were nice enough to help us a bit!

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We managed to walk about 20 kilometers this day and after putting up our tent we directly ducked in our sleeping bags. I was looking forward to this for some hours already. Being warm and dry. This was the day where our beach walk became a real adventure. With the stormy beach deserted and low visibility i was constantly searching for signs of life. A kitesurfer in the distance meant there was SOMETHING. Maybe an open beach bar where they could offer us some hot drinks or even a closed place where we could sit out of the rain and wind. I was really feeling like in a wet dutch desert.

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On the 3rd day the weather was even worse… But there was also sun, an huge industrial area to wonder trough and an unsuspected thunderstorm! Read it now in the part 2.

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Raw Sleep-out #3

Ooh i can tell you, this one was a nice one! Not only because i was pretty stressed before i left, but because of the weather, the good food and the good company. Just before i wanted to go with my friend patrick i got a phone call from Henk. He was on his way towards me, on a bicycle, from Alblasserdam in the west of the country. I live in the Northeast of the country, so thats about 300 Kilometers from my place! He was already on the bike for 3 days, already in the middle of adventure. He wrote a nice piece about it with some damn good pictures, and you can read and see it here.

But because of Henk’s early arrival, a phone call if i could work the next night and some other stuff i was really stressed out. And now i will spend the night in the forrest… Damn, i should be working on some stuff that i need to get finished! But when Henk arrived patrick and me packed our bags, took our bikes and went to a nice place not far from the city. I was known with the place, and knew it was a good place to calm your head and have a good night with some friends.

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Soon we had a fire going, and it looked like my stress burned with the wood… I think the beer also helped a bit, but the sun setting over a lake, birds singing and the sound of a fire is the best way to clear your head when its stressed. What i didn’t know is that patrick is quite the cook! He made a beautiful fire and creatively started making hamburgers like a real forrest chef.

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We ate till we were satisfied; hamburgers, noodles with tunafish, couscous with tomato sauce and a glass of wine to help everything digest like it should. While the sun set, and the sky turned yellow and purple the frogs started their choir and the bats were flying around us. We drank another glass of wine, and talked about life, ourselves and our other halves. Its funny how a fire and darkness brings people together. It seems people are more open to each other when there is a fire and everybody is sitting around it. It binds us.

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After some good conversations it was time to hit the sack. It was a fresh night, the stars were bright and so was the moon. A couple of times i woke up from the frog choir, but the night was refreshing. When we woke up the next morning the sun was already out to greet us, and soon the coffee was brewing. For me this is THE best way to start a day. Freshly brewed coffee in a tiny forrest. Drink it while its still hot and birds are singing, hoping to get a sip.

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With the coffee waking us up, we ate the leftovers from the evening and some bread and we put down our tents. It was time to go back to real life. For me that was lots of work… Getting ready for a exhibition, printing and distributing posters, getting lots of wood from a store, making a advertisement and in the night filming at a technoparty. The break of the Raw Sleep-out gave me the energy to do everything without stressing. The stress of the previous day was totally gone and therefore i had lots of energy to bounce trough my day. You might think that a night in a tent on a mat is sucking energy and you would wake up broken, but the fresh air and surrounding gives you that extra energy to bounce trough the day with a smile on your face.

Im glad i went again, because for me the cure for stress is a Raw Sleep-out!

I want to thank “Mr Bicycle” Henk,

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and “The Forrest Chef” Patrick for the nice talks and the laughs!

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First Raw Sleep-out experience

Yes, its in Dutch

Dinsdag 15/04. Het was 17:30 en steven stond al te wachten bij de martinitoren in het centrum van Groningen toen ik aankwam. Onderweg daar naar toe, dwaalden mijn gedachtes af naar wat we die avond zouden gaan doen. Ik zag om me heen dat iedereen snel richting huis fietste, omdat het 5 uur was geweest en het eten, de tv, moeders de vrouw en de comfortabele bank wachtte. Wat de fuck ga ik in godsnaam doen, dacht ik. De temperatuur komt misschien net boven het vriespunt uit vannacht en ik geef me er aan over! Waarom ga ik dit überhaupt doen? De mensen die ook bij het stoplicht wachtten keken mij aan en in hun ogen lag een blik die ik eerder had gezien. Elke keer als ik mijn backpack had gepakt, en echt ging reizen, zag ik deze blik in de ogen van andere mensen. Een soort nieuwsgierigheid, waar komt hij vandaan of gaat hij naar toe. Wat heeft hij allemaal meegemaakt, en kijk eens hoe smerig zijn schoenen zijn! Maar nu was ik schoon. En warm aangekleed. 

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Bij de Martinitoren zag ik steven. We zouden proviand inslaan en op pad gaan! Waarheen? Waar de wind heen waait, want er zat een kracht achter en daar tegen in gaan is gekkenwerk! Het zuiden dus. We zouden een uur fietsen en dan een plekje zoeken om de nacht te spenderen. De nacht zou ons dichter bij de omgeving, die we steeds minder goed kennen, brengen. Door ergens met een tentje te slapen op een plek die je van tevoren niet uitkiest, leer je je omgeving beter kennen en leer je alles om je heen beter te waarderen. De plek zou nooit meer hetzelfde zijn, je hebt er geslapen, de wildste dromen gehad, en alle nachtelijke geluiden van deze plek gehoord. Techno-vogels, loeibeesten, ganzen, een verdwaalde hond en een knisperend vuur. Deze dingen zijn er gewoon en als je er niet op let, herken je ze niet.

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Onze stalen rossen namen ons mee naar het zuiden, de wind volgend. Rode fietspaden werden grijs terwijl de grijze stoeptegels rood werden. We waren in het bossige land aangekomen. De wind nam ons mee naar kleine weggetjes, verhard en onverhard tot we langs landingsbanen en hekken kwamen. Landerijen, boeren, boerderijen en ineens een oase in de vlakte. Water met bomen erom heen. De stalen rossen vonden het op deze plek goed en wij stegen af, en gingen richting de oase. Het was een paradijs temidden van vlakke zwarte grond. Veel water, vogels en mos. Heel veel mos. Gestoord veel mos! De tent fluisterde al in mijn backpack en het leek ons beide het beste om hem daar eruit te laten…

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Terwijl onze magen zich lieten horen, hoorden we ook het geluid van de wereld om ons heen. Alles knisperde, het vuur, de gerolde shag in de vloei, de laarzen op de takken. Behalve de vogels, die knisperden niet, die zongen. Al snel werd de proviand uit de tas gehaald en gebruikt. De goedkope wijn smaakte het beste op een plek als deze, uien werden gesneden en uiteindelijk gebruikt in een tonijn-tomaat-ui-rijst pot. Borden werden gemaakt van berkenbast en het proviand met een extatisch gevoel verorberd. Terwijl de volle maan opkwam werd de wijn in het maanlicht naar binnen gegoten. De tent begon zachtjes te fluisteren.

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Het gefluister van de tent bracht ons naar hem toe. In de tent was het koud, en aan de heldere hemel te zien zou het nog veel kouder worden. Met mijn muts op en wol om mijn voeten rolde ik mij in mijn cocon terwijl steven zich als een blunt verpakte. De frisse lucht liet mij snel in de droomwereld glijden, en ik had een wekker nodig om mij hier weer uit te halen. De nacht was koud geweest, verfrissend en nachtelijk. Geluiden zwermden om onze tent heen en hier en daar kraakte wat. De ochtend had de meest warme gloed om zich heen, en sterke koffie was wat we nodig hadden. Terwijl de mist nog over het water zweefde dronken wij onze koffie en maakten het ontbijt van soep en brood klaar. Zat, voldaan en fris commandeerde ik de tent weer de backpack in en floten we de stalen rossen van de stal. Zij brachten ons weer naar de stad waar het nachtelijke avontuur allemaal begon. Dichter bij de stad aangekomen, zagen we mensen op weg naar hun werk. Net van het bed af, het hoofd nog vol van vorige avond; x-factor, sterren springen, utopia en hart van nederland. In ons hoofd echoden geluiden van de vogels, de wind en het knisperen van de takken onder onze voeten nog door.

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