Thursday, September 22, 2011

BelgiKayak Update: Reaching The North Sea

Belgian adventure Louis-Philippe Loncke has completed his BelgiKayak expedition, which sent him on a 600km (373 mile) journey around his home country, exploring its waterways and measuring their health, while filming the experience as a way of documenting what he saw along the way. What he found was incredible beauty that is threatened by man.

I received a note last night from Lou-Phi giving me insights into his expedition which ended when he reached the North Sea this past weekend. Traveling along Belgium's idyllic rivers, he discovered a number of smaller tributaries, often hidden behind foliage, that when entered, allowed him to get close to nature like never before. Anyone who has paddled a calm river has probably experienced something similar. Since kayaks make virtually no noise, it is easy to paddle up on unsuspecting animals, providing some fantastic experiences that are hard to have while traveling on foot.

When he first started this journey back in July, Loncke had very limited time inside a kayak. In fact, he only had an hours worth of training before setting off on in his Seabirddesigns boat. He freely admits that he didn't know how to pull of an eskimo roll and was completely afraid of capsizing in his first few days out on the water. But after hours of paddling, he became more comfortable and experienced, and is now looking forward to more paddling adventures.

Logistically speaking, there were some hurdles to overcome along the way. For instance, he had to navigate a series of 50 locks which help regulate water flow along the river. Those usually involved a portage, although he did pass through some that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List that have been in operation since 1888. He also paddled into Brugge, a city that is sometimes called the "Venice of the North," where kayaking is only permitted one day of the year. Loncke contacted the local officials before his arrival however, and they granted him permission to paddle through their fair city, something that sounds spectacular.

One of the things that I love about this expedition is that it was often conducted on weekends and during what ever spare time Lou-Phi could find. It is an example of how we can all find ways to put a little adventure into our own lives, even close to home, and maybe even discover some wonderful new places that we didn't even know existed. This could easily be a blueprint for other weekend expeditions, and I'm sure we could all find similar opportunities close to where we live. Well done Lou-Phi!

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