I love the beach as much as I love the mountains. There is something so calming about the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. The fresh sea air is rather cleansing.
A walk along the shore is meditative and clears the mind and the soul.
Of course, the first images that come to mind when I think of the beach are the sun and the blue sky seeming to go on forever over the ocean horizon.
The day we embarked on the 20 km hike along the North Sea, a rather different image unfolded before us. One of rain and wind.
But, this was the second day of the two day hike to and along the North Sea. It all started in Brugges. After a delightful several day stay in the quaint Belgium city, we left our big packs at the train station, and embarked on a two day journey. We were to hike from Brugges to Zeeburgges for a stop, then to Blankenberge for the night. The second day, we would hike to Ostende, all along the sand dunes and the ocean.
Things don’t always go exactly how you plan them, especially when travelling and hiking. That is why, as experienced hikers, we attempt to apply all that we’ve learned. This doesn’t guarantee that things won’t become difficult.
The route was supposed to be 15 km along the canal to Zeebrugges for a lunch stop. Very doable given the pace we usually keep and there wasn’t any climbing.
The route turned out to be along a fairly major road through an undustrial area. We abandoned the industrial road for a pathway along the canal, thinking we finally had the scenic route we’d planned. However, the connections that we thought existed to get us over the water did not exist. The execution simply became difficult as we made several failed attempts to find our way across.
I have leaned to always have water and some sort of snack. You never know when things will get off track.
As we attempted several connections to get where we desperately wanted to be, the kilometers piled up and the hours went on. It was getting long. We were becoming depleted.
It is easy to slip into a negative space. Of course, I don’t want that to happen, but sometimes my mind focuses on the discomfort and the things that are going wrong.
This is when I allow myself some silent time to focus on the road ahead. This is when I concentrate on the flow I can achieve with my legs and the feeling of life pumping through my body.
I ate the remnants of my snack. I held off on the water as we were literally in the niddle of some industrial areas with no amenities. I knew I needed to hold on and focus on getting there, the place I knew we would get to if we just stayed focused.
It can be hard to stay positive. It’s natural for our minds to worry, to criticize, to take on a negative space. We can always choose to clear the bad energy and to release the useless thoughts. We can always decide to be positive, no matter how hard it is.
It was a longer than expected hike. It was about 25 km before we got to our lunch stop. But we made it. We had a beautiful meal of local smoked salmon and beer.
We took a deep breath and continued the last 5 km to the next town where we would stay. The last bit of the walk wasn’t easy. I was depleted from waiting too long to replenish. However, it was a beautiful trek through the sand dunes and along the ocean. That is what I focused on.
At the end, there was a beach and beer waiting. We enjoyed the sunset and I found the replenishing power of the Duvel.
The next day we awoke to a cloudy sky. It took us a bit to find our way, but we made it to the next town where we found a quick bite. Something to sustain us till lunch.
As we started the hike to the next town, the rain and the wind came down. It was fairly strong, but not the worst we’ve faced.
The wind was pushing us, which was much better than a head wind, especially with the rain. We made it to the next town, about 10 km into out 20 km day.
Our plan had been to stop at one of the many beach bars after the half way point. We suspected these may be closed due to the weather. Erring on the side of caution, we stopped in the town for lunch as there weren’t any more towns between this one and our final destination.
We weren’t totally dry. We weren’t totally wet. I found the warm pasta lunch comforting. I was finding it much easier to be positive and excited than the day before. It’s funny how our minds and bodies work, and we simply have to be prepared to guide ourselves accordingly.
The second half of the hike was great. The rain and wind continued for the first but, but then eased up. I found the fresh sea air invigorating and the sound of the crashing waves soothing. It felt special to hike along a section of the world we had never seen before.
This wasn’t to usual tourist activity. But, we aren’t usual tourists. I think it is worth it to be able to challenge ourselves and experiment the natural world and all its beauty.
I will always cherish this gem of a hike.
The maps below are from Strava and you can follow me there if you want to see the details.