213km OF DUTCH COAST
Unfortunately there are no mountains in the Netherlands but still, a mountain lover as I am, was able to find an interesting hike to tackle. The wandelnet.nl has a great list of all the possible routes and that’s the site where my own Hollands Kustpad started in the first place.
I haven’t ever really lived or visited a real coastline so now I saw a perfect opportunity to do so since I was spending my exchange studying semester in Utrecht. The water is definitely not my element, and I have to admit being a bit of afraid of the sea itself, but nevertheless there’s something very fascinating in the vast oceans. I think they have the same interesting elements as the mountains have, the grand scale and the power and beauty they possess.
The route itself, Hollands Kustpad, traverses 213km along the coastline from Hoek van Holland to Den Helder in the north. It can be done in both ways, and I chose to start from north and I have to say it was a perfect choice. I don’t know how typical it was, but the wind was all the time blowing from behind, and this made walking along the endless beaches much more pleasant. Also was nice to see the cycle of the sun in those few days it was shining and the Europort as a landmark in the distance at the end of the journey. And perhaps there’s some truth in it that going south feels like going downhill.
May should be nice time to walk this but be careful with the weather. Despite of some really hot days before the trip, temperatures never rose above +15. Half of the time it was raining more or less, and sunny days came always with very chilly and strong wind. But worst were the nights temperatures dropping close to zero degrees. I wouldn’t say I was unfortunate with the weather, because it served as a good gear test, taught to deal with not so comfortable conditions and anyway, there were lot of variation showing different sides of the nature.
I shared this hike with my two Dutch friends, the first four days with Mr White Lighttower (code name), and the last two days with Mr Johnny Walker (code name), having three days of solitude in the middle part of the journey.
Even in May in the Netherlands you really have to be well protected against rain, wind and cold, so basically I took the same clothes as in the Alps last summer plus one extra fleece jacket. This time I wanted to sleep in the tent and be self-sufficient with the main meals so that gave a bit of extra challenge.
The tent was an issue number one, but fortunately one kind soul borrowed his great tent. I bought small Primus Express Stove gas burner for the cooking. Well the idea was just to boil water for those adventure food packages. Another investment I made for this trip was Thermarest Z-lite sleeping pad. I’m happy to have both of them in my future hikes as well.
All my gear worked very well except the summer sleeping bag, which was totally not to these conditions and I kind of knew it before. I managed with all my layers on, but the nights were really uncomfortable and freaking cold. I was able to sleep usually from 10pm until 4 or 5am when the coldness woke me up and made sleeping quite impossible.
The route is mostly very well marked, but I think the guidebook is necessarily. You can buy Hollands Kustpad- guidebook from the wandelnet- website or some bookstores. The book is great, and even though I don’t speak Dutch, I was able to find my way with the maps in it. Before the trip you should maybe make a bit more research were you want to stay over.
DAY 1, 4th of May
*Den Helder to Callantsoog
*Walking time 12:15 – 17:15
*Distance covered 19km
*Overnight stay in Camping Klein Begin 11€ (2pp and tent)
Exciting first day of the great expedition started with a delayed train trip to the north, to Den Helder where the walking started around midday. No nonsense since we headed with Mr Lighttower directly from station to the top of the seawall and there it was, the first sight of the sea and the endless looking coastline waiting ahead of us. I was very impressed by this and already felt this will be a great journey!
First hour went walking along the mighty seawall with strong wind blowing and body being amazed of a sudden stress. The backpack felt heavy but bearable. When reaching Groote Keeten we decided to depart from the main route by walking the rest of the way to Callantsoog along the beach in a sunny weather.
Evening was exciting with the first pitching of the tent and our first adventure meal. All went smoothly and because this campsite was so close to the beach we walked there to witness the sunset. In every way spirits were high though the coming night worried a bit.
DAY 2, 5th of May
*Callantsoog to Schoorl
*Walking time 10:15 – 17:15
*Distance covered 21km
*Overnight stay in Camping Buitenduin 15€ (2pp and tent)
My worries about the night were true and I woke up somewhere around two shivering from cold. More layers on but I barely slept after that anymore. The next night I have to feel at least a bit warmer in some way, otherwise I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep going until the end.
Feeling a bit miserably in the morning we started the days walk by passing some beautiful flower fields before entering the dune area and reaching finally the seawall in Petten around 1pm. From there we wanted to keep walking along the wall until the level of Groet and then through the large forest area to the final campsite. Walking was mostly pleasant and last night’s coldness seemed just like a bad dream.
The forest area we entered was full of paths and at some point we were not quite sure our exact location. We saw some marks of forest fires and it seemed this area has lately had unusual many of them. Seeing a police officer in the middle of the forest and witnessing lot of helicopter activity kind of supported this conclusion.
The camping place was nice with very nice warm showers and the adventure meal tasted even better than the day before! A successful day number two.
DAY 3, 6th of May
*Schoorl to Duin en Bosch
*Walking time 9:30 – 17:15
*Distance covered 24km
*Overnight stay in Camping Bakkum 21,50€ (2pp and tent)
I changed a bit my dressing for the second night and I felt slightly better, being able to sleep quite happily until 4am and then just struggling the last hours. This gave me some well-needed confidence for the coming days. It was far from being pleasant but at least I was able to rest enough to maintain my energy level for walking.
The path went through forests and dunes and it actually felt a bit like wilderness. We reached the sea again around midday and had a nice beach walk in the sunshine to Egmond aan Zee.
To the campsite which we decided to reach was still a long way to go, and I was worried about Lighttowers blistery feet. We ate some fries in Egmond before leaving again to a long path through the dune land. The last five kilometers seemed to be for Lighttower his own journey to the personal edge, which he bravely survived, and we reached the big camping place in good time around 5pm.
A long and weary day was happily over and nice adventure meals filled our stomachs again lifting the spirits up. Still no rain.
DAY 4, 7th of May
*Duin en Bosch to Velsen-Zuid
*Walking time 9:15 – 15:00
*Distance covered 19km
*Overnight stay in Natuurkamperterrain Schoonenberg 10,40€ (1pp and tent)
The morning revealed itself cloudy and rainy. We waited until 9 when the store of the campsite opened to buy some fresh supplies (fresh chocolade:D). In overcast weather we walked again through forests and dunes until reaching the industrial area of Beverwijk and Velsen-Noord. Maybe because of yesterday’s stress I was feeling very tired today, especially my soles became very sore which was definitely not a good sign.
It was a long and tiring march for me, also mentally because I was going to be left alone in this afternoon. The unpromising weather forecast didn’t help, that’s for sure.
There was a nice few minutes ferry trip across the canal to the south side of Velsen and to the final campsite of the day. After setting up the camp, it was time to shake hands with Lighttower, hug a bit in a manly way, and say farewell.
ALL ALONE NOW!
Still rained a lot every once in a while and I felt slightly depressed, but that lasted only a moment. After realizing that the whole fate of the journey was now in my very own hands made me pull myself together and I started to enjoy the situation. After all hiking alone was something I wanted to experience during this journey.
DAY 5, 8th of May
*Velsen-Zuid to Bentveld
*Walking time 8:00 – 15:30
*Distance covered 23km
*Overnight stay in Het Naaldenveld Scout Centre 5€ (1pp and tent)
I had to use earplugs for the first time because of the airplane noise and birds singing very loud everywhere around the tent. After all this was a nature camping spot so there were lot of them. Coldness woke me up around 5am as usual but it started right away to rain a lot so I waited until 7am before packing the tent, which was now wet and double heavy to carry alone.
I was eager to start early and was able to hit the road at 8am. The walking felt surprisingly good and I kept good steady pace stopping in regular intervals and avoiding any extra hassle. Some nice landscapes along the route but I took only few photos because of the rainy weather. The most exciting moment was to encounter right on the path those Scottish cows with their huge horns. I guess they were more afraid of me.
I had two options for the night, either following the main route to the heart of Haarlem and stay in some hotel/hostel, or avoiding the city centre and keep pushing forwards until the Bentveld camping. I chose the latter and it turned out to be a good choice.
The camping place was very nice with friendly staff, and I met there one Dutch guy who was on a same route but to the other direction. Was a nice chat with him and we shared some beers and thoughts before the rain eventually forced us to our own tents.
DAY 6, 9th of May
*Bentveld to north of Noordwijk aan Zee
*Walking time 7:30 – 15:15
*Distance covered 23km
*Overnight stay in Campsite De Wulp 13,40€ (1pp and tent)
It rained the whole night but the great tent lasted! I got up at 6am when it ceased and started walking around 7:30. I began to consider finishing the whole hike in 9 days instead of the original 10-day plan. But it meant that tomorrow I really need to reach the northern outskirt of Den Haag far away, and that meant that today I should cover as many kilometres as possible to place myself in a good attacking position for the “last battle”.
I felt more tired than the day before and the wet 3-kilos tent really felt heavy to carry. The morning was a bit wet but fortunately the day remained dry. Just from Bentveld begins a huge forest/park conservation area or something and to enter you should buy a ticket from the machine at the gates. Just press the red button to enter.
Very nice forest with some very curious looking trees and I thought to walk for a while with my camera ready. My feets felt sore but keeping slow and steady pace I was able to reach almost Noordwijk aan Zee. After reaching the campsite I felt good about the distance I had covered and the dry weather. All my gear was dry again and in the evening the clouds gave way to the evening sun.
I knew that tomorrow would be a hard 27km march and it would be my time to go to the edge of my limits. But I was ready for it. The only thing that worried me was the clear evening, indicating most likely a very cold night. However the end was drawing near, and at the end of tomorrow I should meet Johnny Walker at the next campsite.
DAY 7, 10th of May
*North of Noordwijk aan Zee to Wassenaar, north of Den Haag
*Walking time 6:30 – 15:30
*Distance covered 27km
*Overnight stay in Duinhorst Camping 8,90€ (1pp and tent)
I was right about the night. I woke up at 3am completely frozen and after two hours of restless shivering I got up at 5am. The moisture outside of the tent was frozen so it must have gone below zero! And my sleeping bag has an extreme temperature mark at +3 and comfort somewhere at +13.
I hardened myself, dressed up and packed the tent and started walking already at 6:30. The sun was just rising and I was able to witness some very awesome cloud masses above the sea lit by the morning sun.
I passed by Noordwijk aan Zee around 7:30 and Katwijk aan Zee an hour later when the village was just waking up. From there it was a long walk through dune land and forests in very remote area. My soles hurt a lot from the very beginning of the day and I knew this would become a tough day.
After Katwijk I didn’t took any photos even if it was a sunny day. My mind was totally focused on walking and keeping a good rhythm, distracted only when reading the map. Fortunately I met a nice Dutch man in the end part when I was feeling very exhausted. I walked with him the last 5km and talking really helped to forget the pain and my own weariness. He was doing a day walk from Katwijk to as far as he could, so I really had to put up my best to keep up with his pace.
I couldn’t have walked much further without much longer rest periods but I did it, the hardest day was done. Food supplies were getting thin as well at this point.
DAY 8, 11th of May
*Wassenaar, north of Den Haag to Ockenburgh
*Walking time 8:30 – 14:30
*Distance covered 16km
*Overnight stay in Kijkduinpark Camping 34€ (2pp and tent)
Johnny joined the expedition the previous night so last two days would go in a good company again. Relatively easy day but we thought to start early and then finish early as well. The sunny weather was gone and more heavy clouds were pushing from the sea. The day remained cold and extremely windy but in the evening we were able to witness a beautiful sunset.
We decided to follow the alternative and shorter route today and thus avoiding wandering too much in the centre of Den Haag. The beach and harbour were beautiful and it was a pleasant walk. I saw also the silhouette of the Europort harbour, the final destination, and it seemed to be so close that it was hard to stop for the night. Especially because the campsite was ridiculously expensive compared to the others.
DAY 9, 12th of May
*Ockenburgh to Hoek van Holland
*Walking time 8:30 – 13:30
*Distance covered 20km
It rained through the night and no hope for the morning sun, or sun during the whole day altogether. We started early and decided to follow the main route. The other option we consider was to hit straight to the beach and walk along it the whole way. Anyway when we reached the beach there were still plenty of kilometres to cover. The vigorous wind pushed us forward quite rapidly and seeing the dark cloud masses forming in horizon gave no reason to linger.
The never-ending beach finally ended and I found myself standing in the corner of Hoek van Holland. Even though we still had to reach the train station, this was the end for me and for this journey so I gave few good battle cries and jumped in joy. What a feeling, worth of all the effort. I did it! Our Expedition succeeded!
My second long-distance hike was quite different from the first one, mainly because of the way of sleeping and cooking, but also because of the stress was quite different at this time. There were no climbing so I didn’t really feel my muscles being tired; it was just the pure pain in the feet, the blisters and extremely sore soles that set the maximum daily distances.
The hike gave me what I was looking for and I can truly recommend it. It’s a beautiful walk. Even my Dutch friends were very impressed of the versatile nature the route offered.