Finally, the day of our departure has arrived! After months of dreaming and weeks of preparation, the days of wondering how we will overcome the real and possibly a few imagined dangers and what will happen after debarking on this mighty journey are over. Over the next few days we are gonna find out if we are mice or men
We embark at the Wamp, our boats light as a feather because we only have water and food for the first day with us. Our camping gear will be brought to us at the first camp site by our lovely support team. Immediately after we push of we are badgered by a swarm of pesky horseflys. Luckely once we are in the open on the small Nete the swarm loses its focus and the few straglers are quickly taken care of. We try to start at a modest pace, we keep reminding ourselves that we are going to navigate this river like we did a few times before, but this time we aren't going to stop before we are at the Northsea. It looks like an impossible feat.
After the barge at Herentals we are confronted with the lowest water level we ever saw on this river. After more then a month of dry weather, there have been a few thunderstorms and rainy days. But the waterlevel is dangerously low, sometimes we have to navigate around old bikes or strange indefinable objects which probably have been stuck in the mud for decades. We are happy that there have been a few rainy days otherwise the whole project would have to be cancelled. Ironically it looks like there will be a lot of rain in the coming days. Whereas we don't have any bad weather gear in our packing list, because it's high summer... And to top it all of, we have zero camping experience. An interesting cocktail for sure.
We stop at the watermill in Grobbendonk to have a spot of lunch, there is a small table and a peculiar chicken. With a full belly we get a little help from the river but the amount of it isn't like we imagened. Getting out of the water at the underpassage of the Albert Channel would have been an unsurmountable task without man/monkey MTTWIM. A strong headwind is whipping up the waves in the channel, combined with the low waterlevel it makes dis - and embarking a wonderful new experience. We cross safely to the other side where we meet our first 'supporter' on a bridge. The man ask us where we are going, normally the answer should be Lier or something like that, I don't think he believed us when we said: 'The Northsea'.
It is hard to believe that we had to stop a few km's before we reached our camping site. The upflowing tide proved to strong to paddle against. We managed, but rather then draining ourselves, we decided to wait until the strongest current passed. While waiting, we rested a bit while our supportteam brought all our gear. So after a relaxing rest and some frantic last minute decisions what to take and what to leave behind, we started with the heaviest laden boats we ever paddled. After hauling them twice out of the water and carrying them to our camp site we could enjoy a first night under the stars. Looking back on our succesfull first day we decided that the portaging is the worst at the start of a camping trip as all that fresh bottled water is very heavy. The quote of day 1 is either: 'Ik moet niet onder water hangen om te broebelen' or 'I am here for stating the obvious.' Goodnight!