Taste the Trail – The Fire of Adventure

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Waiting in the little hall of the hotel. Everything around me is made of wood; the floor, the walls, chairs and the couch. A desk, containing a little bowl of candy for the visitors. Am I a visitor? The owner of the hotel is away, filling my water bottles. My eyes drift away to the candy, my mouth is salivating and after a breakfast of warm water with pine needles I really have to control myself not to start munching on these delicious candies.

The night is cold and wet with squeaking pine trees all around us. Without any food to keep our inner bodies warm, it is a broken night. Marin slept like crap, if she slept at all. Sleep is important during trips like these. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not well rested and the coming day will be way harder. Mostly this is to be compromised with food. Thats why Marin gets three rosehips in her pine needle tea, which should be breakfast after a broken night. She’s having a rough moment and we have to pull each other through it.

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The first couple of kilometers are heavy and drowsy, but soon we hit the village of Monschau. This semi-urban and cultivated area should be home of some apple trees, pear trees or other fruit bushes. While we walk into a street my eye is spotting a grapevine and my legs and heavy backpack are following. Big clusters of grapes stick out between the leaves and quickly my hands pick as much as possible. I see somebody watching, but I don’t care. This is our breakfast. When I look up from the grapes I see two disappointed nuns watching us, and giving us gestures of discontent. This is not the way we are supposed to behave! Maybe the grapes are used for wine or maybe they will not be used at all. We don’t want to imagine. We want to imagine breakfast. Quickly we walk away from the angry looking nuns, around a corner, devouring our freshly foraged breakfast.

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We have become hunters. Our eyes scan the area for edible things. A sunflower with unripe seeds. A flowerpot with herbs. Edible flowers at a random balcony. An apple tree in a garden. It sounds like a full meal, but after three clusters of grapes, three flowers and an apple we head out to the forrest to walk the remaining kilometers. We’re in a rough time; nuts and seeds are not ripe yet and the fruits and berries are overripe. We find a lot of “policeman’s helmet” or (Impatiens Glandulifera). The seeds and flowers are edible, they taste a little like hazelnut. But how much can you eat with our any problems? We don’t want to get sick or end up with our underwear full of diharrea so we try not to eat to much.

When we walk we look at the ground. We don’t look in front of us, but to the sides of the trail. Scanning for mushrooms. The first mushroom of the day presents itself and before we know it, we have enough for a little soup. The idea there will be something of a meal in the evening makes us happy. It’s quite hard to not know if there will be food, especially because food makes the nights bearable. We are truly blessed with money in our pocket and a supermarket on the corner. There are countries where people are not so lucky as us, and for the first time in my life I experience this feeling of uncertainty of an evening meal. But this night we will have something. Together with the herbs I “borrowed” from the last village we will have a perfect warm meal. Mushroomsoup with lavas herb, nettle leaves, parsley and some other herbs. With a “full” stomach and a roaring river on the background we let the cold night fall over our tents.

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The next morning my body and mind feels heavy. During the night I kept on waking up, until I ate an apple. Feeling downed by the flu I woke up, but stay in bed. I’m cold and my mind is weary. These kind of adventures always make my inner fire burn, making me feel raw and wild. In my sleepy mind I see  remains of the fire. No big flames, just smoldering coal. There is no fuel to make big flames. I decide get up while Marin already got all her stuff packed and starts to make an elderberry tea with blackberry leaves, fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) and wood sorrels (Oxalis). This warm liquid doesn’t only heat up my body but also firestarts my mind. The flame starts to burn and I start to feel human again. Adventure awaits us. After a breakfast of apple compote with elderberries we decide to end our journey at a restaurant. The nights are terrible without proper food in our stomachs and we are here to enjoy ourselves and see how this turns out. It is nice to feel good, and in this case food is giving us this good feeling.

The last day of hiking is pretty ok, we don’t have a real goal to achieve. Our goal was to hike three stages of the Eifelsteig, but on empty stomachs this was too hard. In the end we hiked two stages; this journey is not about the distance, it is about foraging and gathering.

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During the last day we check out our surrounding more, the weather is quite nice and the expectation of a hot meal does the world for me. On the way to our final destination we eat some lost raspberries to get rid of the taste of all the apples we eat. We don’t drink too much, because we eat so many apples. After 50 hours of hiking, foraging and improvising we finally get to Einruhr where a restaurant is waiting for us. The meal we have (the first one since three days) tastes good, but it’s not the best meal I’ve ever had. I thought this would be the case, but our own foraged mushroom soups tasted better and made me feel better as well. Food made by ourselves has more energy then food made for us.

We end our journey with a german beer in a open wooden shack where we share stories of our lives over a little candlelight. Finally we get to know each other a little better; before we didn’t have any energy for these kind of things. It was straight to the tent and fall asleep from exhaustion. All energy went to foraging and trying to stay warm in the night. The last night I sleep in the open fresh air with the stars shining down on me. When I wake up I hear birds singing and see the shadows of pine trees on my sleeping bag. I grab the paper bag next to me and take a big bite of a chocolate sandwich. Real breakfast.

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Picture By Marin Leus

 

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Taste the Trail – Storm and sour apples

[Do not pick or eat mushrooms/berries/seeds from plants you don’t know! We left some mushrooms because we were not 100% sure they were edible. Marin is a professional forager. Please take care!]

“Look Marin! There, is that a good one?” I’m bending over and with a twig I flip over the mushroom and look at it. No gills, so that means it’s a Boletus and most of these are edible. We feel happy like little Johnny on christmas morning; tonight we are having a mushroom broth from this little mushroom! Add a couple of leaves from a nettle and we’re having a beautiful dinner!

Normally I don’t forage for mushrooms; I have no clue which ones are poisonous and which are perfectly edible, but this weekend I make an exception. Together with Marin from “Groene Avonturen” I will hike for a few days and eat only what we can forage from nature. We will live for three days as hunter-gatherers to see how this works out.

We will hike three stages of the famous Eifelsteig in Germany. But the first night will be at Plooni, who kindly hosts us in the hills of south-east Netherlands. We eat our last meal while the stormy night  blows her breath around the house, rain hits windows and my dreams about the future prepare me for the coming journey. I wake up and have a glass of water for breakfast. The journey begins.

We take the bus from Aachen to Roetgen, where we directly find something to eat. Our ziplock bags are quickly filled with hawthorn berries and rosehip. The rosehip doesn’t really taste good, the maythorne tastes like nothing. Next to the boring taste we know it’s a mild laxative and we don’t really feel like walking with a full underpants so we don’t eat too much from these. Walking out of the village we see a tree with little apples all around it. The storm of the last couple of days has kicked some immature apples out for us to pick up. Our faces are like the face of a child eating a lemon for the first time, when we taste the small apples. We decide they are good for some hot compote in the evening.

Blackberry after blackberry crosses our path as well as hazelnuts. Sadly the nuts are not ready yet and the blackberries are on their end. Or they are really soft or really hard and not edible. We don’t find to much and when we see other people sitting next to the trail eating their lunch we decide to keep on walking. “Don’t look Marin, they have cookies!!” With our mouth full off rosehip we keep on walking and find our first mushroom. A nice big one, perfect for a hot steaming broth! We find a couple more and all of a sudden we find ourselves foraging a whole meal! Our meal contains:

– three and a half mushrooms
– a hand full of nettle leaves
– 15 sour mini apples

Cold and wet we sit in a wooden shack and see the roaring storm pass by. With our cold fingers we bake the mushrooms in a little water and when soft we add some extra water and let it boil for some minutes. Add some nettle leaves and we have a great and simple soup! The first warm sip slides down in my stomach and I feel the warmth going trough me. After a half a liter of soup our bodies are warmed up and we feel it’s time for the next course. Cooked apples. We cut the apples in really small pieces and cook them till they’re soft. We ignore the sour taste and eat like it’s our last meal.

After this simple but warm meal we hike on, in search of a spot for our tent. The best spot would be next to a river, so I can fish or make a fishpod. In my mind I really need fish for some extra protein; some blackberries, apples and mushrooms will not bring us 25 kilometers further. The feeling of hunger is doable, sometimes I hear a pig squealing in my stomach, but I can still ignore this pig inside of me. When we find a bush with some blackberries we eat everything we can find. 10 tot 20 blackberries each and our stomachs are filled. Until 15 minutes later, when the pig starts to squeal again.

We find a nice place on the edge of a meadow, between the trees. The storm is still blowing and the squeaking trees give us perfect protection. The sound of the trees above us, makes us realize the storm is not over yet. Sadly there is no river, so fishing has to wait. For Marin this is her first time camping in the wild. Her little blue tent is thin and I wonder how her first night of real wildcamping will be. Her face in the morning tells the whole story…

For more adventure journeys and events, check out my Facebook page

Taste the Trail: a wild foraging adventure

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Once in a while we all get that romantic idea; living from the land, only eating fresh, pure food and everything organic. Forage and eat what nature provides us. In this urban times we almost forgot where our food comes from. Yeah, from the supermarket. Wrapped in plastic.

A new wave of people has risen up. Conscious people who learn the old ways of foraging. Picking mushrooms, berries and making wild salads. Marin Leus from Groene Avonturen is one of those people. She lived of the grid, without a fridge and tries to eat as much wild food as possible. In her I found the perfect partner to go on a wild forage adventure. With her skills in foraging and my skills in traveling we form the perfect duo to live from the land for a couple of days. But is this actually possible?

On the 14th of September Marin and I will hit the trail, the Eifelsteig to be precise. We will hike three days and will only eat what nature will provide. Salads, maybe some berries and I will try to get fish. It might be easy, there might be a abundance of food. But it might be hard too. Bad weather, no fish or edible plants and a journey of 54 kilometers in three days.

During the journey I will share the recipes we use, we will make pictures and film the journey. In the end talented artist Evert-Jan Soepboer will make a beautiful map with all the places we found veggies, berries, mushrooms and hopefully cached a fish.

Follow Marin on her Facebook, website or Instagram

You can follow me on Facebook as well

Cycling through western Russia

About two months ago I’ve got a message from Gernot, head of the International Cycling Film Festival. A festival I co-host in the cinema I work at in Groningen. The message was short but strong: “Erwin, we are organizing an edition of the ICFF in Russia, you have to come!”

Obviously my first thought was: Yeah!! My second thought was: I need to arrange some free days for this, because a weekend in Russia is too short. So I arranged some free days, got myself a visum, some plane tickets and a little idea for an adventure. Cycle from The Red Square in Moscow to St. Petersburg. This will be around 700 kilometers, and I will make up the route as I go (because there are no good maps of this area).

I don’t have a bike yet, but I believe there is a bike for me somewhere in Moscow. Maybe in a second hand store, maybe at somebodies house gathering dust. With this trip I’m hoping to discover local Russian life. What we see on the news is merely a small view of Russian politics. How are the real Russian people? What do they eat, how do they live and how do they react on a bearded Dutch guy?

This journey I will work together with artist Pieter Hoekstra, who will visualize the journey in a couple of awesome illustrations. The journey will start the 29th of June and you can follow me on my Facebook page from then on!

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Pole 2 Pole: pole-camping trough the Netherlands – A photographic essay

In the Netherlands wildcamping is forbidden. If you find a nice place to put up your tent, it’s not allowed. But to compensate a little the Dutch forrest administration pointed out some designated places to camp out and see what Dutch nature can be like. These places are called “Paalkampeerplaats”, roughly translated as “pole camping place”. I traveled trough the Netherlands with my bike, in search of these places. This is the photographic account of the journey.

 

Pole to Pole in the Netherlands

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In the Netherlands wildcamping is forbidden. If you find a nice place to put up your tent, it’s not allowed. But to compensate a little the Dutch forrest administration pointed out some designated places to camp out and see what Dutch nature can be like. These places are called “Paalkampeerplaats”, roughly translated as “pole camping place”.

With my bike I will go from pole to pole and check out these places. Do they sleep well, are they away from traffic and can I really feel like I’m out in the bush when a place is designated?

Every day I will post a very short story (not more then 200 words) about an experience of that day with a picture on my Facebook page. And of course a picture of the place I’ve slept!

Rollerblading LeJog; wheels and hills

A piece for Rollerblade Scheveningen; the skatestore that provided me with my wheels for the journey. Check out their awesome shop (Adventure-hint: a Fatstep!)

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Na Nederland doorkruist te hebben op inline skates zoek ik een grotere uitdaging, en die vind ik in de gehele lengte van Engeland en Schotland; van Land’s End naar John ‘O Groats, 1600 kilometer op inline skates. Naar mijn idee was de voorbereiding goed; drie maal per week trainen met 15 kilo op mijn rug, goede skates aanschaffen en gaan.

Die avond lig ik in de wijde heuvels van Schotland en hoor de bronstige edelherten vlak bij me brullen. Af en toe hoor ik geweien tegen elkaar kletteren, en in mijn hoofd zijn deze bloeddorstige beesten op zoek naar mals mensenvlees. Om hun bloeddorst te vermijden heb ik mijn tentje binnen de muren van een oude begraafplaats gezet. Waarschijnlijk lig ik een meter boven een grafkist, maar ik voel me hier een heel stuk veiliger dan buiten de bouwvallige muurtjes van het desolate kerkhof. Eindelijk vallen mijn ogen dicht en denk ik aan het begin van de reis.

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Sinds ik van Land’s End in Engeland vertrokken ben, stuntel ik langzaam richting het oosten. Zo voelt het ook echt: als gestuntel. Maar ik blijf skaten. Totdat ik de eerste afdaling ontmoet. De wegen in west Engeland hebben speciale bermen, ze noemen ze “Cornish Hedges”. Stenen muurtjes begroeid met bramenstruiken en brandnetels. Terwijl de auto’s langs me vliegen, ga ik steeds sneller en sneller de afdaling af. Ik probeer te remmen, maar dit lukt nauwelijks. De enige optie die ik heb, is om me te laten vallen en de befaamde hedges van dichtbij te zien. Hierna besluit ik de afdalingen lopend af te leggen.

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Het is niet makkelijk. Veertig tot vijftig procent loop ik. Als ik loop, merk ik dat ik het naar mijn zin heb. Geen pijn aan mijn enkels, voor afdalingen hoef ik niet bang te zijn en de kwaliteit van de wegen maakt minder uit waardoor ik me niet 200% hoef te focussen op wat komen gaat. Als ik op de wielen sta, verandert mijn houding. Proberen kilometers te maken en opletten. Meestal houd het na een uur of twee a drie op en ben ik weer blij als ik loop. Dit werkt niet. Er moet een nieuw plan komen.

Lopen, en waar ik kan, skaten. In het midden van Engeland is het vlak en zijn de wegen beter. Maar voor nu moet ik kilometers inhalen, wil ik over vier weken in Schotland zijn. Moet ik een fiets zien te regelen voor de kilometers? Als ik ’s avonds in de tentje lig en over de landerijen kijk, spoken deze vragen door mijn hoofd. Houd ik koste was het kost vast aan mijn plan, of stel ik het bij en maak ik de reis af op een andere manier? Soms gaan dingen vanzelf.

Ik ontmoet mensen die mij savonds uitnodigen om te blijven slapen. Daarnaast wordt mij een fiets aangeboden die ik aanneem. Maar hoe zit het dan met mijn integriteit? Ik heb iedereen verteld dat ik een heroïsche toch op skates ga doen, en nu het puntje bij paaltje komt, maak ik het mezelf er makkelijk van af, ik pak mijn oude, veilige manier van reizen weer op; met een fiets. Maar als ik dan mijn dagboek weer teruglees en lees hoe bang ik eerder was om onder een auto terecht te komen, of gewond te raken tijdens een ongecontroleerde afdaling weet ik dat ik een goede keuze heb gemaakt.

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Vijf weken fiets ik alleen en richting Edinburgh waar ik “Adventure” Henk ontmoet om samen een week mee door Schotland te rollen. Hij op een longboard en ik op de fiets. Eindelijk hoef ik niet meer met mezelf te praten. Alleen reizen is erg goed voor je, je leert met jezelf omgaan en om keuzes te maken. Je leert op jezelf te vertrouwen. Maar toch is het ook leuk om samen te reizen; de avonden zijn gezelliger met zijn tweeën dan alleen ik en mijn fiets, die nooit iets terug zegt. De laatste avond samen horen we herten brullen. Dit is een voorbode van wat komen gaat, maar dat weet ik dan nog niet.

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De fiets heb ik achter gelaten, voor een volgende avonturier. De sleuteltjes heb ik ondertussen opgestuurd naar Glasgow, waar een Deense jongen wacht op de tweewieler, om deze naar Ierland te fietsen. Zo kan ik de goedheid die mij gegeven is, doorgeven aan iemand anders. Mocht je zelf nog een uitdaging zoeken, van Land’s End naar John ‘O Groats is een avontuur voor iedere inline skater. Zorg alleen wel dat je over goede remtechnieken beschikt!

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Voor wat gedetailleerde verslagen over deze reis en andere toffe reisdingen kun je altijd mijn Facebookpage liken!

2016; a year in pictures – and Radio!

January

There are hardly any adventurous events in the Netherlands, time to make them happen! I decided to start “Leeuwarder Adventure Nights“, a series of lecture evenings where amateur adventurers talk about their journeys. First off were: Joren Kruit; cyclist – Ebrahim Hemmatnia; boatcyclists (Yeah, a boatcyclist) & Martijn Regterschot; motorbiker.

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February

It was time for a little winter adventure. Together with a friend we would walk 300 kilometers in our backyard, the outline of our province. Sadly because of an injury I had to stop, but at least we did 75 kilometers in three days. Check out the story here.

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March

Beginning of the Spring!

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The International Cycling Film Festival had a premiere in Groningen 2016. It was the first time I’ve organized a film festival, it will not be the last. Totally sold out, many cyclists came together to celebrate this culture.

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Together with the organizers from Germany and Poland

April

2016 was also the year of the first RAW Radio session; adventure radio with interviews, music and more random adventure based stuff. You can check it here. (in Dutch)

But it was also time for adventure again! A short weekend adventure on the Dutch coast, following the line of bunkers the German forces left in the second world war. Check out the short film I made about the journey here.

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Camping in one of the bunkers, the German forces used to live in

May

Another Adventure Night saw the light! Speakers were: Henk van Dillen (cycling from Rotterdam to Singapore), Roy Williams (Longboard adventures) and Johanneke & Douwe Dijkstra (Leeuwarden to Paris on a solex)

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The Idea of making radio really appealed to me, so together with Maud van Maarseveen we went on a little journey to make live adventure radio from the tent. We had some interviews with people we came across, told about out experiences, had a little beer tasting session in the tent and of course the sound of adventure! How does this sound? Check it here. (In Dutch)

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Birdspotters talking about the beauty of birds

June

The Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival had it’s premiere in Groningen!

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July

Last year I showed “Why we go out” on the Nomads Gathering in Amsterdam. This year I’ve been asked to do the Rough Conditions Adventure Film Fest there and organise something else. I decided to do an adventure workshop. The Gathering was about travel, adventure and being outside. So what else to do then to take people outside? The workshop was a little 2 hour adventure; getting from A to B in the city without money…

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Hitchhiking bikes, boats and trams

August

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The biggest adventure of this year, rollerblading LeJog (Land’s End, UK – John ‘O Groats, SCOT) I started off in the end of August. And it wasn’t easy. It was even so hard, plans changed without consulting me…

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September

The journey didn’t go as planned but still I continued with a new (and given to me) mode of transportation. I rolled trough England, Wales and Scotland. Alone and with a friend. To go more and more north to get to John ‘O Groats, the most northeastern point of Scotland.

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October

Eventually the trip of 50 days ended by reaching John ‘O Groats. Just before that I was sure that I would be eaten by stags in rut. But luckily I survived. In the end I left “Wesley” the adventure bike in John ‘O Groats, to pass it on to the next adventurer.

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Just a week after I came back, I organized the 2nd Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival in Germany, a day previous to the International Cycling Film Festival.

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Next to this I gave some lectures and showed some films on the biggest bike fair in the BeNeLux, BikeMotion. Yes, October was a busy month…

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November

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The Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival in Rotterdam was totally sold out, a huge succes! It’s great to see so many people with an urge to be inspired to get outdoors!

December

Manu from the Alternative Travelers Gathering Amsterdam asked me if I wanted to do the Rough Conditions Adventure Film Festival on Gran Canaria at the ATLAS Hostel during the Nomads Gathering. An offer I couldn’t refuse! So after giving an adventure workshop (More of this in 2017) and the film festival I decided for the mountains and did some good old contemplating and made some great plans for 2017…

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But first another Leeuwarder Adventure Night before the year ends! Speakers were: Remco van der Noord; Leeuwarden – Mongolia – Leeuwarden with a motorbike, Dorien Cramers; cycling trough China, Arjen Ulrich; walking from Alkmaar to New York.

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2016; a year full of great events, meeting great people and some awesome adventures. I feel 2017 has even more in store!

Do you have some great adventures in store for 2017?

The Lake District in 7 stunning pictures

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Sometimes one doesn’t have to search for beauty, sometimes it’s just all around. Thats the case in The National Lake District for sure. Beautiful mountains, lakes and stunning views. It was a bit hard to wild camp now and then, due to all the slating land. I’ve learned one thing: the tougher the ascent, the better the descent.

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Down the Wrynose Pass (with a steady 40 km/h)

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Hardknott Pass (east)

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Hardknott Pass (east)

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A small tree line

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A little piece of Honister Pass

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Honister Pass

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Wrynose Pass (view from Hardknott Pass)

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