Kayaking Through the Canals

September 29, 2011

By Thomas Pickelner and Wyatt McCall

There are many ways to travel around Utrecht, from biking to busing, all of which show a different side of the city.  But there’s an even more peaceful and healthier route to take, and that is floating along the canals in a kayak.

We had heard a lot about this mode of transport, and so we decided to dive right in and test the waters.

The kayak rental place, Botenverhuur De Rijnstroom, was located outside of the city, conveniently close to the Hogeschool for students to try out.  We were welcomed by the owner, Tom Van Der Kamp, a big guy with an even bigger smile.

“Seeing Utrecht by water is one of the best ways,” he said, jestering to the fact that he rented both boats, bikes, and scooters.

As soon as our paddles broke the smooth surface, we were off on what we knew was going to be a unique Dutch experience.  After just a few strokes we knew Tom’s words to be true.

Right away we were in a new environment, one which is invisible from the busy rodes, where the green trees and cloudy skies are reflected in the mirror-like waters.  We almost felt sorry to cut through it with our kayaks.

Before entering the city, we paddled along the glassy waters with countryside all around.  For students new to the area, it was a great place to see locals playing and walking along the banks.

As the town came closer, the grass and trees morphed into new bridges, old buildings, and fancy homes.  From our waterway, we entered the canal that circled the city and began searching for the narrow entrance to the old canal.

In comparison to the often chaotic bike-ride, it felt unusually peacefull and spiritual to be kayaking through these old water routes.  We could feel the historic presence of the many boats and merchants who’d passes this before.

The walls of the canal showed this history, with old sculptures that stared back at us just like the families having supper in the windows we passed.

At times we got lost, but there were many locals hanging out near by that were more than willing to point us in the right direction.  Also, there are only two main canals in the city, and so we didn’t have to hard a time finding our way.

Before we took off, a neighbor advised that once you’re in the city, you can tie your kayak up and hop off for a smoke and lunch.

“If you get out at the Andersom Coffieshop, there’s a good Gyro place near by,” he said.

As relaxing as kayaking was, we began to feel exhausted.  Pain was starting to grow from the back and out the arms as time went by.  After two hours, fit as we thought we were, it started to be hard to get all the way back to the rental place.

Nonetheless, back we got, wet and tired, but with new memories we hope to re-live soon.

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