Let me start off with a conclusion, if you plan a camping trip for the first time, were you will be sleeping a couple of times in the ‘wild’, try to at least camp 1 or 2 times before you start with your big adventure. Naturally, we did not do that. So, our very first night under the stars felt good as we slept quite good. So far the good news.
I had a defcon 5 bivi tent but no sleeping bag, thinking that a thin sleeping bag liner was enough, keeping the boat a bit lighter. Despite day temperatures of +30°C, in the early morning it dropped as low as 10°C, so I used a towel to try and keep myself moderately warm. My kayak buddy sleeping only with a sleeping bag and no tent, had a good night sleep. But as we were slow grinding our fresh coffee beans in the morning, the sun was there to warm our hearts and limbs.
After a hearty breakfast we repacked all our stuff but it still proved to be a bit of a challenge, although I had scoured the internet for months before this trip, checking out ways to pack gear into a kayak. We needed a bit of practice, but in the end, we got everything in the boats. During the portaging we thought it quite possible that the boats would break, but they made it in one piece.
It felt great to be on our way again, the sun in our back paddling on the Rupel, seeing the sights, rejoicing when we saw landmarks we recognized from our youth. Being both born and raised in the Rupel area before we relocated to the Kempen we had a nostalgic vibe going on. It took us longer then expected getting to the bridge of Boom, were our family had gathered to cheer us on.
Meanwhile the tide has turned, so we embarked again. The rupel is only a short river so in no time at all we were paddling on the Schelde. What the tide lacked in strength the north wind more than made up for it, unfortunately it was a head wind. So after a brutal paddle to Antwerp and a bit beyond, the only thing we had to do was get out of the water. This proved to be one of the worst decisions of our trip. Because of the low tide we could not get out of the kayak on the mud banks. Our feed, ankles and lower legs completely got sucked down, this was route was to dangerous, so we decided to get out on a rock wall. On top of this wall we sought higher ground thus more solid. Also completely overgrown with high reeds and weeds. After a grueling climb, a lot of scratched limbs and what later proved to be a tick bite we reached the camp site.
Here I got a sleeping bag delivered by my lovely sister and her son, after this delightful intermezzo, we had to content ourselves with a lot of noise from the petrochemical plant across the river also they never turn of the lights apparently. At two o’clock in the morning an Antwerp police patrol came to check on us. They must have concluded it was to much of a hassle to get our asses out of there as it is not legal camping in the ‘wild’ in Belgium. Recently the law has changed about bivaking meaning staying somewhere for just 12 hours, a sleepover kinda. Strictly speaking only at places were a bivaksign is posted, but these prove slow to produce. If you clean your campsite, have respect for nature and don’t use an open fire many people turn a blind eye about it.
So we had a good night sleep, sweet, warm dreams and contrary to the weather report two days of beautiful sunshine. Although that was about to change. See you tomorrow.