Mills and I joined a dozen or so friends for a canoeing and camping weekend in Limburg. For someone who doesn't like water, I've sure spent a lot of time on it in the last year and a half.
The weather forecast was dismal. Rain, thundershowers and chances of sun. Mills and I boarded our canoe, nervously, and set off. In a giant circle. Then we hit a bank. Then we overcorrected and hit the other bank. And then went back to the other side.
By this stage, the other six canoes were well down the river and we were still trying to get ourselves facing the right direction. I helped matters by shouting instructions from the front of the canoe. "Can you actually see that we're heading for a bank? Are you even trying? Hard right damnit, paddle! Mills! What's your problem, goddamnit. You are useless!"
Mills did his bit by not hitting me on the back of the head with an oar.
Once I realised that, no matter how much I willed it, I could not steer from the front, we settled into a fairly strong rowing pattern. It was a great test of character for me to let this go. Huge. The women in my family are a) highly competitive b) massive control freaks.
Fortunately we soon found the current and we had the wind at our backs, so things got pretty cushy. We put the oars across our knees and had a casual drift downstream. We even had our water-proof ponchos at the ready when a brief thunderstorm struck.
Speaking of water-proof... the recommendation was made that valuables were placed in plastic bags to ensure that they stayed dry. I decided to put my valuables in a plastic bag, in my camping bag, in the van which was driving most of our stuff to the camp site. Others chose to put their stuff into a dry-bag made specifically for camping purposes. They put this bag into one canoe. More to come on that.
Setting up camp on the Belgium side of the river, I was not entirely convinced whether we were camping, or squatting. There were no ablution facilities, and we could either camp in a field of cows(patts), or practically on top of the canoe storage area. Slightly dodgy, but anyway, set up camp we did. We found a little tavern to abuse their toilet facilities and did our best to avoid the ubiquitous stinging nettle in our camp site.
The Dutch have a wonderful product, called Kant en Klaar BBQ sets. Three euros a pop, they are compact, portable and trashable mini-barbeque sets. They come complete with fire container, wire grid, charcoal and firelighters.