18 km (20 km for Holysloters!)
Sunday 19 August
by Mike Griffin
Photos by Eric Meinsma, photoshop by Mike Griffin
Caroline and Emil had organised a tour of an historic part of North Holland, although we weren’t exactly sure where we’d start or finish because the church parking place in Zuiderwoude could be full of churchgoers (I think we’ll call them Holy folk after this trip, read on!)
After loading up the boats – including a canoe for Eric and me – we set off with Viktor in the lead. The rest of the group was made up by Caroline, Emil, Eric, Brendwyn, Paul, Elsbeth en Elizabeth.
We stopped at a parking place in Monnikendam [see the green dot, top right of the map], which turned out to be gender-biased: the men could go to the seclusion of a large willow with enclosing overhanging branches, while the women had to traipse off to the gym across the water.
We headed off, luckily in the right direction, after a false start. Caroline was bravely navigating a group of wilful individuals, as you’ll hear later. But at the start we all followed like ducks in a row. I wasn’t sure my open canoe skills would be up to 18 km, and I didn’t want to be holding up the group, so was doing my best to make some speed without injuring myself for the rest of the trip.
The weather was good, well it could have been better, but it was warm and cloudy with only a bit of ‘heavy mist’ in the first half. The views were good, at times the pastures were only just a little higher or even a little lower than the water!
Soon after starting we overtook a folding canoe and Eric enquired about their journey, whether it went well in the car boot, but they had come by train! It takes about 30 minutes to assemble but if you have water close to a station it sounds ideal (as long as the overhead lines don’t break like they did near Meppel the same afternoon – not related to our trip!)
As the canoe stopped off at Zuiderwoude and Elisabeth wanted to join them for coffee, we paddled on. The next stretch was what touring is all about: quiet, nature, wind whistling through your ears! Only interrupted by the occasional kayaker trying to talk ‘cow’, and the occasional hire motor boat, which were luckily all small and electric. Also, the 2 portage places seem to have disappeared, we didn’t have to portage at all!
Arriving at the Holysloter Die, Viktor, Elsbeth Eric and I followed what we thought was the Holy Sloot (sloot = ditch) and after a while Viktor said “Let’s try that jetty, the group want a place to stop for coffee.”
We paddled into the harbour of a small yacht club – W.S.V. Het Die – and asked an old man (he was at least 2 years older than me) if the group could stop there for coffee. There was a great lawn in the lee of some trees, so a perfect place! He informed us he had no coffee but we were welcome.
But after a while it became apparent that the rest of the group was not following the aroma of coffee! Exiting the harbour we saw some small patches of colour in the distance and hailed them with my paddle. After one patch of colour waved back I remembered I have a phone and phoned Emil, who promptly told us that we’d paddled too far and must come back! We thought Holysloot was a ditch or another piece of navigable water, but it turned out to be a small village which we’d passed on the way to the yacht club! So instead of 18 km the four of us did 2 km extra, only for the thought of the smell of coffee! [See the yellow dashed line on the map.]
I needn’t have worried about holding up the group, Eric and I were keeping up with the rest and even out in the front at times. It was a refreshing change to do a trip in a canoe. I recommend it to other kayakers.
After another few kilometers, thinking only of coffee, we eventually landed in Broek in Waterland [see the green dot, left of the map], where we tried to explain to Paul & Brendwyn what the name meant and why. We were too tired to google it so we just made something up! The group alighted in Broek and had a quick lunch, while there was talk about wandering into the town to see the picturesque streets.
We left Eric & Viktor, presumably to watch the boats while the rest went on a tour of the town, but it seemed the group were still mesmerised by the thought of coffee and we ended up in Het Broeker Huis where we tried to explain that name to the Aussies! After swapping ancesteral stories and stuffing ourselves we waddled back, to find Eric & Viktor were wondering how big the town was that we stayed away so long. Again, our humble excuses, we should have phoned to tell you of the change of plans!
From there it looked like we were paddling in circles around Monnikendam, as we could see the church tower from every point. After all it is 55 m high! Shortly we reached Monnickendam and after passing the church we pulled into the exact same place that we started from, well done Caroline! It was a successful tour of an interesting part of Holland. Well worth noting for the future.