Tag Archives: Holland

Goodbye summer. Hello autumn.

FALL, LEAVES, FALL
by Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Fall, the most depressing season according to many. I always have mixed feelings, realising summer is over, the long cold winter is due to arrive. I do not like cold. I do not like rainy days. I do not like the monotonous colours. I definitely do not like the short days. Yes, there is a lot not to like. An if I would only see these things, I will get depressed for sure. However…

Fall is the season of the nicest colours in nature: red, orange, yellow. The leaves are colouring. The grass is still green. Mushrooms pop up everywhere, especially the red cap with white dots.Lovely! And best of all, sometimes the sun manages to break the skies, peeking through the clouds, sending us a last warm regard. The nice moments are there, you just have to see them, and when you see them, you have to enjoy them to the max. It can be over soon.

I love walking in the woods in thus season. Especially shambling in the fallen leaves. The crispy sound under my soles, the smell of wet leaves and mushrooms, mist on the fields and the first night frost. It is nice to sit on the couch with a snuggy snug rug, a glass of hot tea or very nice wine. Time to make new holiday plans, prepare for the holidays and sleep. The days shorten, I am cycling to work in the dark, but also when I go home it is already getting dark. Boring? Yes, in a way, but all the lights on the road, in the shopping streets and in peoples houses give me a happy cosy feeling. ‘Gezellig’ as we say in Dutch. A word which cannot be translated. It says everything about the essence of our culture and this time of year.

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Scuba diving in The Netherlands


The sea, once it casts it’s spell, holds one in it’s net of wonder forever – Jacques Ives Cousteau

Diving in The Netherlands. I can hear you thinking. What? Where? Is there anything there? Yes, we have our lovely pea soup as we call it. Cold, dark, green waters, full of algae and thus life. There is a rather large diving community. Mostly Dutch and Belgian, sometimes even a few Germans. And me. How come?

Once upon a long long time ago. I was traveling in East Africa, Malawi to be precise, where somebody told me it was cheap to get my PADI certification. I am Dutch, so why not. I did my training in the large Lake Malawi and logged a few dives at Zanzibar some weeks later. And that was it. Years later, at the Poor Knight Islands in New Zealand, I went diving again. After being close to panic, I realized that without practice I would not enjoy diving. So I decided to go for my advanced certification close to home in a sand pit. Guess what, I got infected by the scuba virus. I was amazed by the many life forms I found under water, even with our mostly poor visibility. I kept on diving, became a Dive Master, attended some biology trainings and I started to check off as many creatures as possible, enjoying almost every dive I did. Almost, because diving in The Netherlands is not easy. Sometimes the waters were so murky that I lost my buddy, or weather was too bad to enter the waters safely. But, to be honest, I logged hundreds of dives in these waters. There surely are some really nice places for diving, each with their specific life forms.

Fresh water

The Netherlands has many lakes, all basically divable, but some have special facilities available. Think: toilets, parking, easy shore access, scaffolding and sometimes ladders, but most important food and beverages. I have been diving in some lakes like Oostvoorne, Vinkeveen & Spiegelplas. Especially in Spring, when the water is too cold for the algae to bloom, visibility is acceptable and you can see many animals waking up. Small Crayfish, Eals, Perch and small, but also very big Pike. Fresh water diving is not so much the flora and fauna as it is what we humans have dumped in the waters. Boats, tires, busses, construction waste. A lot of pollution, but also hiding places for fish. It is always a pleasure to explore. And difficult, for the compass cannot handle all the iron under water very well. Navigation skills are key in our country.

Grevelingen lake

The Grevelingen Lake is a large water area just south of Rotterdam. It used to be a sidearm of the North Sea, but due to the damming activities (Delta Works) for protecting our land, it was closed with two dams in 1965 and 1971. The largest salt water lake in Europe was born. Locks in both the Grevelingen dam and the Brouwers dam manage the salt level. Even though man intervened, the underwater flora and fauna found it’s way to flourish. It is an easy place to dive, even though navigation skills are still necessary and waters can be murky and dark. Maximum depths at dives are up to around 30 meters, but below 15-20 meters life is scarce. Some of the nice things to see are huge lobsters, crabs, all kinds of small fish, jelly fish, anemone, sponges, algae and some nudibranches. Very rarely there are sightings of porpoise and seals. In some locations artificial reefs have been placed to create hiding places for wildlife, and thus can be very interesting for divers. Even though divers have to climb with all their gear over the dikes which are protecting the land, the dives usually are very rewarding and facilities at the dive sites are great. Surely a good dive does not stand without some after dive drinks and food at one of the nice restaurants in the small, mostly pictureque towns around.

Oosterschelde

For me personally the nicest dive spots are in the Oosterschelde. Again a closed sea arm of the North Sea, closed by a storm surge barrier in 1986. It is not completely closed, the dam has sluice gate type doors which let water flow freely, until a storm and extreme high tides are predicted and the doors are closed. The flora and fauna can enter any time, making the diversity somewhat larger compared to the Grevelingen lake. Seals, dogfish even porpoise can been seen under water, but there is much more. In some areas large groups of sponges are making colourful scenes, more than 50 species of nudibranch can be found, large groups of sea bass and mullet are roaming the pillars of bridges and, my personal favourite, cuddlefish and squid are mating and reproducing in Spring. Every season has its active species ready to be found and admired. There are some hanging mussels which are accessible for divers. Amazing how good visibility is around these large numbers of ‘filters’.

Diving in these waters always depends on season, temperatures of the water, weather, tides, currents and number of divers. Anything can influence the conditions and visibility. But once I knew how it worked, I really loved diving here.

Diving: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles.

Roparun 2016

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“To ad life to the days, where days cannot be added to life anymore.”

Roparun – an event with a good cause. While running non-stop in relay from Paris (or Hamburg) to Rotterdam (524 kilometer) in the Pentecost weekend, money is collected for people with cancer. Since 3 years I am member and coordinator of one of the 400 teams joining in this challenge.

Our team, Teamall4Friends, consists of 25 people: 8 Runners, 6 cyclists, 2 navigators, 5 drivers, 2 catering ladies, a masseur and a team captain. The run is a relay race with 2 sub-teams of 4 runners, each covering about 30 to 50 km per stage. In the end, each runner has covered roughly 65 km. The whole run takes about 43 hours. Throughout the year sponsors are contacted and events are organised to collect money for the foundation and for the run itself. After a whole year of planning, collecting funds and arranging the necessities for our run, Pentecost has come and we finally go to Paris.
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Roparun – 14 – 16 May
It feels good to see everybody again. The people in my team I know, but not on a very personal level. Yes, we spend 3 days together in rather tough circumstances. Non-stop, day and night we are on the road. We do everything together without much sleep, we eat little and are sometimes packed for hours in a small bus. It gives some feeling of intimacy. We talk, laugh, sing, complain, suffer, give compliments… we agree to be honest to each other. How will it be this year?
The weather is reasonable. Pentecost is early so it is cold, very cold. Especially in the night shifts. But it is mostly dry. The exciting feeling at the start is all we need for the first stage. The average speed is high, 12,5 km/hr. The guys love to run. We sub-devided the stages in small bits.1km running, 3 km rest, 1 run, 3 rest, and on and on and on. Until the stage is over and our next team is taking over.
I am a navigator. I keep us on track, inform the sub-team of challenges to be overcome during the stage and am the trouble shooter. If something happens, I find the solution, I fix the navigation, put batteries in the GPSes, feed the cyclists and keep the driver alert. I am the contact person for the base camp and our other team. A role I really like, because no stage is the same. I can look outside, make pictures and post them on our live site and on twitter and facebook. Just to keep the home front informed.

This year I will also run in one of the stages. Something I really like to experience myself. What do they feel, how do they experience the route, the supporters, the other teams on the road. It is only a bit more than 10 km, but I love it. Running in the beautiful countryside of northern France, crossing the border to Belgium, hearing the cheers and getting tired. I want more. There was not more this year. Maybe next year?

The days are intense. First night no real sleep. Just a power nap of maybe 15 minutes. Second day I still feel ok. Get a bit of sleep on a small camp bed on a parking somewhere in Belgium. Funny idea and part of the adventure. Just get into your sleepingbag somewhere and try to get some sleep in the open air. Lovely. Along the route are many villages giving us a warm welcome. People are awake day and night and party as long as the teams pass by. Next night again just a power nap. Fatigue is entering our bodies and minds. Small annoyances come up, but nothing too serious. Every year I am surprised how most people can manage, even though they must feel dead tired. Somewhere I seem to enjoy it so much, that it overcomes the negative feelings. We are on a mission!

In the morning of the third day we arrive on a large parking. We share it with all the other teams. Busy, tired faces, sore legs, but still eager to go for the last 60 kms. There are showers in the public swimming pool. Yes, time to take care of myself a bit. It is lovely and will keep me going until the evening. In the mean time the ladies from the catering are making pancakes and grilled toast with cheese.

After 43 hours in the race, and 55 hours of being ‘awake’ we finish in Rotterdam. We finish almost 2 hours ahead of planning, with an average speed of 12,1 km/hr. We are 26th of 252 finishing teams. We feel good! We meet our family and friends at the finish line and after the official ceremony and group picture we feel tired but so satisfied. We did it again!

Now, after a few nights of sleep I feel proud. I am part of a great team. Even though I meet some people only for these 3 days, I can still say sincerely that I love  them!

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Home sweet home

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After every holiday there is home. My space to relax and plan for next trips, holidays, adventures. I love planning. It seems there are always places to visit, things to do, countries, cities, landscapes to explore. Well, I followed an education in tourism management long time ago and it paid off so far. I love traveling, exploring, meeting people getting to know and respect cultures and most of all, I love to use all my senses and try to never forget what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Exciting the senses at home bring back memories. Looking back at my pictures, hearing certain music or songs, the smell of spices or coffee, having dinner at a restaurant.

But home is not just a house with only memories. Home is also a nice country with lovely places to explore. A bit less exotic, but ok. Let’s talk about home. The Netherlands. Small country in western Europe, flat, green, partly below sea level, with a rich history. Me, I love our cities for the great history, the nice buildings and the fact that there is always something going on. I also love the tulips in Spring, the befriended enemy called North Sea, the country side, the islands in the north…

Spring in Holland
It is Spring time. Slowly the world around me is waking up. I love this time of year. Everything is new. The flowers we are world famous for start blooming, the fruit trees blossom, the beach tents are build up again for a new, hopefully warm and sunny Summer season. Well, warm… that isnrelative of courde. We Dutch already sit outside in the sun (ok, behind a screen of glass) when temperatures reach about 15 degrees Celcius (59F).

I simply love to see the bright colours of the flowers appear again. With the tulips coming up and the fruit trees blossoming, I feel the energy of nature. I want to enjoy every second of sun, smell the fresh air, feel the warmth on my face, hear the sound of the birds building nests. I live in a very urban area on the west coast, but still all these things I can find around me. I simply walk through the parks and along canals like I am on holiday in my own town.

Spring breathes new life in the world around us