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Netherlands: Mudflat hiking Ameland

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Mudflat hiking Ameland | Netherlands | Europe

[Visited: September 2014]

It had been on my mind for many years to walk across the Wadden Sea to one of the Wadden islands just off the northern coast of the Netherlands, and when a colleague offered to organize a trip, I made sure to be on. The weather is an important factor, and it is only the evening before the hike that the decision is made to go or not. We are lucky: a sunny day almost without wind welcomes us at Holwerd, a village on the northern coast of Friesland province. After a little chit-chat at the pier, we are off to the shore, get a short explanation and introduction to the guides (it is not allowed to go without), and we are off. Very soon, we arrive at the mudflats characteristic of the Wadden Sea. The hike is closely timed with low tide, and there is only a tiny layer of water covering the muddy seabed. Walking on it inevitably means sinking your feet in the smelly, black mud.

Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Hikers in a muddy part of the hike across to the island of Ameland

We soon find a way to deal with the circumstances, gliding forward and taking care not to stay too long in one position; after a while, your feet get stuck in the sucking mud. It is fun to watch other hikers get black mud all over them, until you realize that there are spots of mud on your own face, too. We first hike along the coast, passing straight lines of wooden poles. Once, the idea was to expand the firm land here to have more land for agriculture, as the Dutch have always eyed the sea for ways to extend their territory. Around us, there are birds, and on the ground, mussels, oysters, and crabs. After a while, we veer off the coast and turn left, hiking directly towards the eastern side of the island of Ameland. In the distance, we can already see the dunes - but we still have to cross several sections of water. We take regular rests, get some additional explanations of this World Heritage area, and prepare to get wet.

Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Hikers having a break on the way to Ameland

Even though the tide is low, there are some channels that need to be crossed. The depth depends largely of the wind. Today, circumstances are easy, and the parts we have to wade through water, it is never deeper than our hips. Moreover, the water is not cold, and the lack of wind means we don't get cold afterwards. Instead, it is big fun to cross the channels with our group. There is an area where large amounts of mussels have formed islets on which it is easy to walk, until we reach sandbanks, and more channels. At high tide, the water can be over 2 metres higher, but our crossing of course coincides with the lowest tide. There is a short section of mud just before reaching the firm ground of Ameland island, and after climbing a dune and looking back the way we just came, a feeling of accomplishment fills our bodies. From here, it is a short hike through the dunes, to the beach on the northern side of the island, where tractors with carts await us to take us to the central area of the island. The ride is fun in itself, and when we get off, we all run to the sea to wash away the mud and refresh ourselves in the waves of the North Sea. After some drinks and a well-deserved dinner, we cross the Wadden Sea again, by fast boat, taking only ten minutes on the waves of high tide. It is amazing to realize we walked on the sea bed below just 6 hours before.

Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): The end of the hike at the island of Ameland: finally, firm ground under your feet!
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Guide with stick on the mudflat
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): At the beginning, the mudflat can be quite deep
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): The mud can be quite deep at parts; best thing is to keep going
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Guide showing the way through the mud and wooden poles
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Hiking parallel to the coast through a muddy part of the crossing
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Wading through the water of one of the channels that need to be crossed to reach the other side
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Crossing water on the way to the island of Ameland
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): The seabed is partly covered by huge amounts of mussels forming islets
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Hikers arriving at solid ground on the island of Ameland
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Lines of wooden poles just off the coast at low tide
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): Low tide on the coastal area with wooden poles
Picture of Mudflat hiking Ameland (Netherlands): The beginning is easy: the very start of the hike across to Ameland

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