Why I walked 32km along the Afsluitdijk


Click here to read this post in Dutch

The actual name of this post was supposed to be “Why I walked 32km along a causeway … and why you should, too!”, but unfortunately, this proved to be too long to fit into the title bar. Also, I’m sure Google wouldn’t have liked it so a shorter version it was. The causeway I’m talking about is called the Afsluitdijk, or literally translated “Closedowndike”. This causeway was built in the early 1900’s, with the purpose of damming off the Zuiderzee from the Waddenzee and turning this latter one into a freshwater lake, nowadays called IJsselmeer. As a country that has 26% of its land below sealevel, we’ve always had issues with water. Eventually, damming off the Zuiderzee resulted to the foundation of a brand new province called Flevoland in 1986. I could explain you the whole history of this place but I’d rather have you check out Wikipedia instead. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue with the why…

Sometimes, you just have to do crazy things in your life. I’m off from work every other Friday and when not traveling, I try to do something new rather than being a couch potatoe and spend my day behind my laptop, working on this blog. So when I stumbled upon Daisy Pioneer’s website (she’s a Dutchie traveling around The Netherlands for a whole year and blogging about it) I got inspired by her post about walking from one end of the Afsluitdijk to the other. And immediately I thought: I want to do that!

Why? I don’t know! I love walking and I love exploring new places. As I had never seen this causeway before because it’s all the way up north in The Netherlands, I figured it would be nice to follow her footsteps and challenge myself to do it. Just for fun.

The first challenge was finding a walking buddy. Luckily, I have a friend who is just about as crazy as I am, called Marieke, (we walked the Nijmegen Marches together, 4 days x 40 km is a true hell!) so when I asked if she was in, her immediate answer was YES! The second challenge was finding out how to get from one end to the other in a eco-friendly manner, so not by driving all the way up north by two cars. Eventually Marieke made the plan and decided we would overnight at the western end of the Afsluitdijk near Den Oever. From there, we would take a bus to the eastern end called Zurich, and then walk back to the car. So off we went…

When you are going on a roadtrip up north during the rush hour, you just have to make the best of it. Along the way we stopped at Ikea to have Swedish meatballs for dinner and also paid a quick visit to the Decathlon store in Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena to do some last minute outdoor-gear shopping, so we could wear matching t-shirts (yes, you read that right!). When rush hour was over, we continued all the way up north to where the land gets incredibly flat … the province of Noord-Holland. We drove until we could drive no further, unless we wanted to end up in the Waddenzee, and finally reached our campground for the night. Ofcourse we weren’t camping since we’d need a good night’s sleep before our challenge, but we booked a cabin, which turned out to be cold yet cozy. We arrived just before sunset so when we decided to walk up the dyke that protects Holland from the sea, we were amazed by the view. Yes folks … this is Holland!

denoever-sunset

The next morning we packed our bags and took the bus to Zurich. Here we got off and started our walk. But ehm, where did the actual Afsluitdijk start? We were dropped off at a parking lot, not very close to the highway that runs along the Afsluitdijk and we weren’t sure where to go to. So we just started walking and withing 1 km we passed a sign saying we had officially entered the Afsluitdijk. Challenge started!

afsluitdijk-collage

If you are walking along the Afsluitdijk, you actually have various options for walking. If you want to walk fast and complete your challenge within no-time, then walk on the paved cyclepath that runs next to the highway. If you want to take it slow, then walk on top of the Afsluitdijk, which is mostly a grassy trail that will give you a great overview. If you want to take forever, then walk along the water of the Waddenzee, across rocks and muddy pools with water. And if you want an extra challenge, make sure to walk from east to west like we did. You are guaranteed to be blown away as this way usually means you are walking against the wind. Which can be horrendous, if you have an unlucky day…

wandelschoenen-afsluitdijk milepostafsluitdijk-2

We decided to divide the walk into three equally long 10.66 kms sections so we would have something to look forward to at any time. In our case: a rest, tuna sandwiches and Kit-Kats. The first 10.66 km went just fine. We mostly walked on top of the dyke because of the views and to take some pictures. We talked continuously as we hadn’t seen each other in like forever, even though we just live one minute walking from each other. Occasionally a truck or car would horn at us so we could wave back but other than that, not a whole lot happened.

afsluitdijk

The second 10.66 km was a bit harder already. After a first break it’s usually hard to get up again and actually get back into the rhythm. The second part, was also the time we needed to feel the urge to pee (in case you are wondering, there is no toilet … the sea is your toilet!) and the first little pains started to appear. Luckily, it was also the time the wind turned a bit so when we were walking on the cyclepath, we almost couldn’t feel it. Flowers, or weeds if you really want to call it that, cheered up our way and during this time of the day, it seemed like everyone was bored so the horning and waving kept on going continuously.

anto-afsluitdijk afsluitdijk-gele-bloemen

The half way point at 16km was passed and before we knew it, we were at 21.32 for our second rest. By now, we were a lot more quiet as we had already been talking non-stop for about 4 hours and some pains started to get serious. At this point, I was really happy to be able to take another break. Stuffing myself with food (= energy) felt exactly like the one thing I needed to do and within moments we were up and walking again, pushing ourselves to the end of the Afsluitdijk. About 7 km before the end of the walk, we passed the memorial and a spot where many tourists stopped so we decided to stop as well for some pictures. From here, it would be a piece of cake we figured, only an hour and a half or so …

afsluitdijk-collage-2

By now, we had taken off our jackets and the sun was shining non-stop. We imagined what this walk would be like without the traffic passing by (fyi: about 9.500 cars/trucks pass this causeway each day … one way!) and how cool it would be if we’d see any wildlife in the sea such as seals or maybe even a whale. Unfortunately, none of that happened but by then, before we knew it, we were there. We reached the end of the Afsluitdijk!

denoever

Did we really just do that? Walk 32 km against the wind, with cars passing by at full speed and without being in major pain? Hell yeah we did! Happy about our victory and with exhausted legs, we returned to the car. From here, we started uploading pics onto our social media channels and Marieke reminded me of the promise I made to her when she agreed to walk with me: doing the “Nieuwjaarsduik” at January 1st. This is a Dutch tradition in which you take a plunge into the ocean in the freezing cold on the first day of the year. I wished she’d forgotten about that, but unfortunately, she did not…

From Den Oever we picked up the car and drove all the way back home. About half way, we decided we were too tired to grab a bite so instead we ordered a home delivery pizza. By the time we got home my face was glowing and I realized I had forgotten to put sunscream on. Oops… That evening I went to bed early because I was exhausted. By the time I had taken a shower I was knackered, however it still took me a while to fall asleep. The cars were still speeding by and horning in my ears and my face was still blown into by the ongoing wind.

Mission accomplished!

So… then the why you should do it … Well I can imagine you are a bit sceptical after reading this blog. However, I’ll try to give you 5 good reasons:

1. You will burn more calories than when doing nothing. According to Runkeeper, I burned 1.809 calories in 6 hours and 33 minutes. Eat that!

2. You will get a tan! Really, you may not even notice it on a cloudy day, but the wind will make sure that your face will be colored by the end of the day. Do make sure to wear suncream however so you won’t turn as red as a lobster, like I did.

3. Walking is the best way to see the Afsluitdijk. If you drive a car across it, you won’t have time to admire the sea properly. It will be just a highway. If you stop at the memorial, you will just be a tourist. Be like us and walk!

4. Horning trucks and cars will make you smile. Guaranteed! Normally I don’t pay attention to horning cars but in this case, it’s actually fun. If it won’t make you smile, then you really have to do something about your life…

5. Do it because I told you so. And then afterwards, tell me if you agree with me that it’s just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And that the feeling of reaching the other end of the causeway made you feel as good about yourself as I did. Everyone needs a good feeling every once in a while, right?

Now tell me, what’s the craziest thing you ever did? And would you do it again?

May is hiking month on we12travel. During this month we’ll share our passion for walking/hiking with you. Some of the previous posts include:
The best (half) day hikes in the United States and Canada
Welcome to the we12travel hiking month
What I talk about when I talk about hiking

Thank you for sharing!

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