“Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; but paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.” – Pierre Trudeau
Normally my adventures and journeys are packed with excitement, a bit of adrenaline and cycling up hills or long distances. But this was different. This was calm, almost serene.
The main idea was to get a canoe from Vissershang and be away for a couple of days, finding out what the biesbosch means in a fully built country like the Netherlands. From a different perspective Henk and I watched the creeks go by, we met a black pig, hurled our canoe over muddy hills, witnessed beautiful sunsets and sometimes paddled like there was no tomorrow. And drank wine at a fire. Very important!
The first couple of hours were a bit clumsy. We had to find out how to move on water, but since were Dutch (most of our country is below sea level) we adjusted quickly and after a while we slid trough the water like all the ducks we passed. We started to like the canoe, and figure out how to move it properly without flipping over. Everything got a little wet, but when your surrounded with water the water will also be on you, and your stuff. This is how it is and it is ok. After sliding for some time we found our castle for the night. An small cabin, with outside fireplace and benches to sit and cook. We couldn’t ask for more! We made a fire, food and reflected on the day, where we met farmer Jan. Living in the park with his wife and 160 cows. We talked about his idea’s of why nature is important for people. It seemed that he found nature is there for people to enjoy. Without people the nature would have no purpose. In my idea, nature is there first and people second. People should adjust to nature, take care of it and not try to form it to their own needs. Because nature doesn’t like to be formed. It cannot be formed; it always grows back to its own form. With this still in our heads we laid down in the cabin and went to sleep.
The whole weekend the weather was perfect, and it add a extra dimension to the trip. Paddling for hours and hours in the sun gave us the energy we needed to keep going trough this beautiful area. We noticed how easy it was to slide trough the water, and it felt like this was a way how people should go from place to place. The first minute in the water felt like pure joy! After some hours of paddling the sun started to set and we decided to go further in the dark. Then it got totally dark, now this was a new experience. The world gets smaller and smaller, until it only contains of the canoe and your light. With the dark evening like a blanket on us, we went trough creeks, saw square cows and the eyes of ducks. In the dark everything feels more unreal, and this is adventure at its finest. All the senses are heightened, your eyes wide open en still you hardly see anything. It became even better when the batteries of my headlight became weaker and weaker. It heightens all of the senses even more! The small world flows by, and we see only fragments of what we hear. After a couple of hours of going trough this dark world we returned to the cabin and searched for some firewood. Even in the forrest we got lost. Walking 10 meters away from the cabin, and we were lost… Yes, dark forests have magic powers to push you an other way then you think you are going.
Strong coffee, soup and bread is what our stomachs got for breakfast. We went up early, but not too early. The previous days we got the hang of sliding relaxed trough the water, and sleeping in comes naturally with this sort of relaxedness. After going trough passes we didn’t took yet, we managed to find the house of Henny. She is a lady living in the Biesbosch, in touch with nature. We had a coffee “Biesbosch style” with her and talked about nature, man, history, why the Biesbosch should finds its own way and the beavers living there. She tries to live off the land as much as possible and although she is 72, she still manages to do her own thing, living on the edge of the forest with her feet like roots in the soil. Nature will find her way, she doesn’t need humans, and she definitely doesn’t need humans who knows what is best for her! I think Henny must know, she already lives there for years and years and the nature is part of her as she is part of the nature.
We had to go back, the sun was setting and we chose the big river Maas to paddle back. We slowly got into society again. Big cargo ships were passing us while the sun was orange and shone his last rays over us. We got back while it was already dark. In the cozy cafe of Vissershang we drank a cold white beer and had great food in our empty-paddled stomachs. Our arms were almost sore from paddling 4 days. Almost… We were back in the real world. Dirty and smelly but relaxed, full of fresh thoughts, experiences and renewed energy. On the way back we philosophized about nature, humans, our system, the planet and how we live on this planet. Because its not OUR planet. We just live on it, but were acting like it’s ours. The Biesbosch showed us the greatness of nature we have here in the Netherlands, the beauty and how we need to keep this. The Biesbosch is not ours, it’s just there.
Maybe there will be a free weekend coming up for you, maybe you can search for a canoe and maybe you can take a tent and go out for some days. Because you can travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; but paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature…