We started our journey under the bridge of the D947 next to the hamlet called Kruystraete. With a creative mind every 'problem' gets turned around in an enjoyable challenge, so crossing a field of nettles before we could get into our kayaks was just a matter of finding the right downslope and with some help from our trusty 'mooring' rope we went down with just a smitch of nettle fire on our legs. Great, we were ready for our adventure, the kayaks are full of gear and ready to go, sorry about all the mud in my cockpit though. Well, nothing we could do about that and the least of our worries at the time. After a few minutes of paddling the river was getting smaller and smaller and to top it all off, we disturbed a couple of swans with their young. If we just knew of a way to show these majestic birds they had nothing to fear of these two, I guess I must say it, strapping young men, we would implement it immediately. We closed down our yapping traps and gave the birds time to vacate the area as their young dove under the nearest bush.
After a few 100 meters the river opened up, the change was drastic, but welcome. Closing on Roesbrugge-Haringe it meanders a short distance parallel with the French-Belgian border. At Roesbrugge-Haringe, there is the first jetty of many yet to come, but this one we were very glad to see. We could get out and clean the mud out of the kayaks. After a bite to eat we embarked in our sparkling clean boats, they looked as good as new. Because we had no more nettlefields to cross, we could ditch the long pants and start to enjoy the beautiful weather in our 'stylish' shorts.
The trip hasn’t really started and we are already at the halfwaypoint. We found a great spot to put up our tent, right at the edge of a nature reserve. Where this beautiful spot is located is easy to find, look for clues at the coat of arms on the bridge. Immediately after disembarking we spot some storks, a Brown hen-harrier is hunting for his dinner while we are preparing ours. We have the luxury of a real table, my brother in arms gets way to excited about that then is healthy, but while we take a stroll next to the Ieperlee channel, we forget all about that.
The Westhoek is a very beautiful area in Belgium, but if you take a closer look, there are a lot of grisly reminders of a dark period in our nations history. I am talking about the First World War or The Great War. You can’t travel in the Westhoek and ignore this gruesome historic event. So even as we are walking under a canope of greenery next to a picturesque channel, our eyes are drawn to the biggest landmark for miles around, the Iron Tower.
This monument was build to remember world war II. There is a big and a small Iron tower, The smaller one was build after WWI and was destroyed during WWII. After the war when they were building the new, big tower, they must have thought, well, we are building anyway, lets restore the small one to.
We made a short stop at the only Trenches we still have in Belgium from the great war, These trenches are silent reminders of terrible times and human suffering and bear the gruesome name Boyau de la Mort. After some silent contemplating we turn our backs at history for now and turn towards the goose paw. An exciting place to paddle, albeit a bit dangerous I guess.
However first things first, after two short days on a small river we were surprised to find a big water reservoir collecting all the water of the IJzer before releasing it in the goosepaw. On a day like this without any wind a rather dull affaire I'm afraid. Traversing the locks of the goosepaw was a bit of a challenge because of the high walls surrounding the complex, but we made it.
During our short dash through the harbor we had the company of a big drone. In the end it got chased away by a flock of wood sandpipers, way to go nature!
Sometimes there are seals sunbathing on the right bank of the IJzer. Unfortunately we only had the pleasure of trying to rescue the dog statues on the pillars flanking the fairway. Before we knew it we were at sea again,surfing on gentle waves towards the beach, another wonderful kayak experience under our belts.