Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Kayaking Ghent

An easy family kayaking trip in the historical center of the city of Ghent: Leie, Lieve, Ketelvaart, Schelde.

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Packrafting & Hiking the Leie Region

A bit of a strange impromptu packrafting and hiking trip in the Leie region on Sunday, 30.2 km in all. I first paddle from the Astene drawbridge to the public jetty in Sint-Martens-Latem, subsequently hike home for lunch, hike back to the jetty, and finally hike all the way to where my car is parked in Astene.

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A Good Deed at Sunset

On one of those great many tropical evenings of the summer of 2018 I make another after work packrafting trip on the Oude Leie in Astene (Deinze). As usual the atmosphere created by the sun setting over the placid water is mesmerizing, it is therefore with regret that I notice 3 empty bottles of wine floating around in the water. As a result of the gorgeous weather youngsters have been partying all summer long by the shores of the old river branch, which as such is perfectly fine since summer and youth indeed need to be celebrated. What is however not fine is that some apparently find joy in throwing empty bottles into the otherwise surprisingly clean water. My good deed of the day is therefore to collect those bottles and expedite them to the nearest waste bin once back ashore…

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Three Years of Packrafting

It is now three years ago that I decided to buy a sturdy and inflatable packable raft, also known as packraft. Truth be said, these things are not cheap, so it was a bit of an investment. The question therefore is, was it worth it?

Well, even though I am not overly adventurous and have not been using my raft on whitewater very much, I have been using it quite a bit on lakes and still water, in a variety of countries. So, I definitely do not regret my purchase, since it has brought me to places I would not easily have been able to go to otherwise, and since it has allowed me to enjoy nature in a completely different manner than before!

The furthest I have paddled on flowing water in one day is the 32 km from Vallon-Pont-d’Arc to Sauze on the Ardèche river. The furthest on still water are the recent 23 km on Zuidlede and Moervaart. The time I regretted most not to have taken my packraft was during our family trip to Denmark, Sweden and Finland in 2016, since I could easily have seen myself paddling parts of Lake Vättern, the Stockholm and Turku Archipelagos, and Copenhagen’s Nyhavn.

Anyway, below is an overview of the places I have so far explored by packraft (sometimes more than once). In most cases a video is available, in some cases unfortunately only photos.

Belgium

Leie – Old branch in Astene:

Leie – From Astene to Sint-Martens-Latem:

Leie – From Sint-Martens-Latem to Baarle:

Leie – From Sint-Martens-Latem to Ringvaart:

Ghent waterways (Leie, Lieve, Ketelvaart, Schelde, Coupure):

Zuidlede & Moervaart – From Stenenbrug to Kalvebrug:

Dommel – From Neerpelt to Valkenswaard:

Lac de Nisramont (Spring):

Lac de Nisramont (Fall):

Quebec

La Mauricie NP – Across Lac Wapizagonke to Waber Falls:

La Mauricie NP – From Lac Soumire to Lac Dauphinais:

Sweden

Rogen NP – From Käringsjön to Skedbrostugan

Norway

Femundsmarka NP – Røa waterway:

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Femundsmarka NP – Grøtåa:

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France

Basses Gorges du Verdon – From Quinson to Lac d’Esparron:

Gorges de l’Ardèche – From Vallon-Pont-d’Arc to Sauze:

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Packrafting Zuidlede & Moervaart

Zuidlede is a 15 km creek that flows through a largely unspoiled pastoral and forested landscape in the province of East Flanders, Belgium. In fact, Zuidlede is the original upper section of the Durme river. Around 1300 AD a canal named Moervaart (22.5 km; also sometimes referred to as Noordlede) was dug to bypass the narrow and meandering Zuidlede. Both Zuidlede and Moervaart have now lost their economic significance and are used for recreational purposes only.

On a pleasant Sunday morning I start paddling Zuidlede around 9:30am at Stenenbrug in the direction of Mendonk (i.e. west). After a scenic journey through woods and agricultural lands, I end up at the Moervaart canal and paddle northeast to Kalve bridge, passing Overlede bridge in the process. Both are old iron drawbridges that are protected by law, just as the natural scenery around them. After lunch I paddle the entire stretch back to where I came from, adding up to a total of no less than 23.1 km, which is the furthest I have ever paddled on still water during the course of one single day. I return around 4:30pm after a very pleasant day, with many sightings of bird species such as blue heron, black cormorant, great crested grebe, coot and moorhen.

A couple of remarks:

  • The section of Zuidlede east of Stenenbrug is probably equally scenic, but passage is not allowed here from April 1 until June 30 due to the breeding season.
  • At the moment of writing there is no public jetty at Kalvebrug. The jetty at the Kalvebrug canoe rental is private property and cannot be used. The shop attendant is rather strict about this.
  • There are a number of public jetties along Zuidlede where it runs through the Puyenbroeck Provincial Park.
  • The bridges at Stenenbrug and Puyenbrug are quite low. Depending on water levels one may have to stop paddling, lie back and push one’s hands onto the ceiling to proceed (as I did).

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Packrafting the Ghent Waterways

On Whit Monday I make a 14 km trip by packraft in and around the historical center of Ghent. I paddle parts of the Leie, Lieve, Ketelvaart, Schelde and Coupure waterways and pass by sights such as Graslei, Gravensteen, Rabot, Kraanlei and Geeraard de Duivelsteen.

Especially interesting are a couple of hundred meters through the darkish vaults below Laurentplein that lead to Reep. Eventually, when the currently ongoing works will have finished, Reep will again become connected to Portus Ganda (as it used to many years ago), which will open possibilities for more convenient tours of the city by water.

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