A Weekend Starts With Delirium

The heat in Belgium was still going on when the wonder of a weekend was brought upon us. A bit earlier we had decided to go and visit the brewery of the family Huyghe, in Melle, a small town right at the corner of Gent. We were foolishly thinking that an indoor activity would be good for the hot day. Our friend Ivan was dragged along too, with a promise of some BBQ after the beer tour was done.

Huyghe is most famous for their Delirium beers, which come in many tastes, but they do brew quite some other stuff as well, including fruit beers and also darker stuff. Even though the brewery has a long history, it is nothing but old and drowsy. They seem to be hooked on investing and expanding, and sustainability is one of their core values. The place has a water filtration plant of their own which makes the production very efficient in water usage and they employ people with special needs, who might face difficulties in a normal job market. Great stuff Huyghe!

The English tour goes on every Saturday at 4 pm, you will get in for the mere price of 8 euros a person and it includes beer tasting. Plenty of beer tasting.

The tour starts with a glass of beer, straight from the draft, under an old copper brewing kettle made into a bar. I think we all drank a Campus, which was a very pleasant acquaintance, with subtle flavors and nice sweetness to it. After that was done, the show moved to a small auditorium to watch a short movie on the steps of the brewery becoming what it is today.

After the film, we moved on, to see the older copper brewing installation, that had served the brewery before all the hightec things they have today. Apparently it had taken endless efforts to clean it. They are now serving their purpose as museum pieces, and beautiful pieces they are, large shining copper bowls.

Next we walked to the room where the magic actually takes place. Even though the brewing was not going on, it was still very very hot in the room, the giant stainless steel tanks were breathing heat from the previous brew. Our guide explained to us all sorts of things of the temperatures, boiling times and stages of incubation and filtration. In the next room they held the grains that make the mash. The smell in there was so very familiar and nice, smell of grinded grains, it reminded me of home. They use a variety of different seeds, even spelt and quinoa, which was a complete surprise for me. Oh, and they have a special hop room too, with its own set of scents!

The smells were left behind as we explored some more tanks and pipes and cooling stages and learned why lager is lager (it has a low fermentation; laag = lager). The beer making process is quite a science quest with all of its accuracies and fine tunings. After the tanks we moved to the bottling and barreling lines. Which are extensive. They brew about 200 000 liters of beer each day, so there needs to be quite some bottles and barrels filled. At Huyghe that is also a very well modernized operation, with robots and all. Those liters of beer are then packed into crates and stacked high in warm rooms to keep the fermentation going.

The tour was over, the guide – who by the way was a volunteering beer enthusiast and did a great job – poured some more beers into us. We tasted their triple, the Guillotine, and of course the Delirium itself. Delirium has a story behind it, well the name especially. It was named after a beer inspector, who had had too much to drink that day and was having a delirium tremens. A smart manager from the brewery decided to give that as a name for the new beer they were brewing. And so, also the pink elephant.

We left happy, and a slight bit tipsy which might be the reason why we also now own t-shirts with pink elephants on them. The point is, if you want to be happy, and are in Belgium, visiting a brewery might not be a bad idea, at least the guys of the Huyghe are extra friendly.

The weekend was not over, we still had a Sunday to waste. So we got some friends along, took the car and buggy gear and drove to Zeebrugge, the less known coastal cousin of Brugge. There is a big harbor there and a beach right next to it. Our friends Yulija and Igor had never even heard of buggying before, so we decided to show them what it was all about.

The wind was rather hard, even Waffle was not thinking about flying anything larger than a 4 meter. The dry sand was flying around and quickly finding its way into our eyes, ears and underwear, good thing it was still sunny and warm. There were dozens of kite surfers out there in the sea. I find it always very beautiful to see so many kites in the air, it is a sign of people having fun.

Igor and Yulija were, after bit of hesitation, getting exited as Waffle pulled the buggy together and attached the tandem to it. My buggy was left in the trailer, no driving with a broken arm. I was feeling a little sad.

There was only one buggier in addition to us on the beach and we parked our camp at a respectable distance from him. He was flying an old school delta kite and Waffle was jealous. Apparently those are fun to fly, they try to kill you even more than the ones we use, apparently.

Waffle spread out the first kite, our barely used 4 meter of a Yakuza. The wind was rather hefty. Normally he drives a tandem with a kite twice that size. We managed to convince Yulija to hop in the back after repeating 7 times that she would definitely not die. And off they went, out to the sea and back to the quay, making a turn with sand splattering and out again. We could hear Yulija’s excited screams as they passed us close by. Igor was getting more and more certain, that it was either crazy or dangerous to go and ride with Waffle.

Nevertheless Igor soon found him self sitting as a passenger, as Waffle lifted the kite up, and they went to their way. I was feeling a growing itch to get riding, or at least kiting myself, but of course that wasn’t an option. Plus, to be honest, I probably would have been scared of the wind. I had to settle for the next best option; tandeming. The wind had picked up, and Waffle switched into using an even smaller kite. A kite that gave me some flash backs of Denmark, my very first time of kiting.

After all the tandeming was done, it was time to teach the newbies something. Out came the “shopping back” our tiniest toy kite with only loops for handles. The wind was already too heavy to give a rookie even a 2 meter kite. They ended up having quite some fun with it, learning steering, looping and spinning. Both Igor and Yulija learned fast the basics of kiting; I think Waffle is getting better and better at teaching people!

I think we managed to get two new people hooked to this thing we do. At least they now want to buy a kite of their own to have fun with. That is always so nice, to help people learn new things and getting them excited over it!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bad Luck and Shooting Stars at Les Hemmes

It was time to drag our buggy gear on the road again. Les Hemmes had been enjoying low tide for half a week already, so the beach would be as perfect as it gets. Also the forecast promised rather nice winds. Needless to say, we were both excited to get going.

We reached France on Friday night and found the camping bursting from its seams. There were Germans there, filling the campsite from corner to corner. These long coefs collect a lot more people to the beach compared to shorter ones. A lot of Brits and Germans had been enjoying the cruising for already two days, and the camping was silently snoring as we were putting the tent up.

There was another Belgian arriving after us with his son, so we sat around for a moment talking about things you talk about, when you are expecting to have fun. It happened also be the night when our dear Earth was flying through the cloud of Perseids. Since it was about the right time to see the shooting stars, we decided to get to the beach. We drove our noble steed on the parking at the dune, opened the roof and stared up to the sky. Weirdly enough, we found ourselves in the middle of a very romantic moment. Just sitting there the two of us, looking at the black sky, spotting a shooting star every once in a while. We went to sleep with smiles on our faces.

We were so very slow on Saturday. We hunted down breakfast and moved to a new camping before putting the buggies together. The new camping is great! Loads of space and privacy and peace, as well as shadow to tuck your tent in, so we won’t be boiling inside it every morning.

Finally in the afternoon we had our buggies built and we were rolling them to the beach. We were met with a nice stable wind from the west and a large, smooth and dry beach. Just about perfect for driving. My fingers were tingling while Waffle was spreading out a few of the sails.

I decided to take it easy for starters. We had been missing the beach a lot this year and I wasn’t feeling too confident. So bit of ground work was needed for me, before hopping in and driving. I finally managed to put a thought into it, thinking about the wind direction and everything. Was kind of proud of it, as I finally swooshed on my way towards the sea.

I turned back, without even loosing any speed and rode back to the dunes. That is where I got really confused. I had some speed when I started to think about turning back, but at the same time I was looking at Waffle and another buggier and a bunch of people. And lost all direction. I figured I had no room to go up wind to slow down, so I tried… something, ended up directing my kite to the left and buggy to the right. That didn’t work out too good. I crashed the kite, broke one of the lines with a snap and took a hit to my right arm.

That hurt a little, so I stood aside for the rest of the day. Looking Waffle and others having fun. Even Waffle was being a little bit more careful, taking a smaller kite than usual. The new buggy still isn’t feeling quite perfect and so forth.

The evening came and so did the beers and camp fires. We sat around with friends, old and new. Talking about the day, kilometers and speeds and what not, until enough beer had been shoveled down and the discussions took a turn to more silly stuff. The buggiers, they all seem to have certain madness in them. It is a hippie lifestyle we life down at the beach.

In the morning my hand was still in pain, worse than the day before. So we went to find a hospital back in Belgium. There I was directed to have x-rays taken and then we waited. We waited for quite some time. Finally a nurse called us into a room and someone pushed in a plastering kit. Shortly after came a doctor with a computer and my pictures. There was a nice dark line crossing one of the small wrist bones in my right hand. They gave me 8 – 14 weeks of immobilization. Fuckety. My buggy season is over.

DSC_0016

A new dog friend.

DSC_0018

A new Dutch friend.

DSC_0047

Another new Dutch friend.

DSC_0105

A new great camping!

DSC_0174

An old concussed friend.

It was a mix of disbelief, disappointment and anger as we returned with my plaster to France. I was demanding Waffle to drive still but he didn’t want to. Silly thing thought that I would somehow suffer from him being out there having fun without me. As we returned we heard that I was not the only one to have crashed and broken things. One guy had his shoulder popped out and someone had also flown out of their buggy. Quite a weekend it seemed to have been.

It was a national holiday again on Monday, so we stayed put for one night. The evenings around the fire are efficient at keeping us there. Monday morning Waffle started to take our camp apart as I was feeling useless (writing this is also a bit of a struggle). We would be leaving France with only a few minutes of driving on the beach behind us.

As we strolled to the sea to say a proper goodbye we got to notice, that the bad luck of this coef hadn’t yet ran dry. All of a sudden we saw someone being dragged out and staying lifeless on the ground. Waffle had recognized the kite and we started running. As we arrived to the spot, there were other people already attending to the injured, who turned out to be our friend Gaetan. He had had a hefty concussion and didn’t quite know what was happening, he kept forgetting stuff constantly. Poor guy insisted on getting his buggy back and asked us to let him drive again. We didn’t. His buggy session was over too, for now.

Well, I think I learned that perfect conditions do not always mean a good buggy session. Things can happen, it is called an extreme sport after all. What is great to see, is that when bad things happen on the beach, everybody helps each other out, no matter the nationality or language barriers. It is a great group of people to have around you.

Now I am left to hope, that I can get this plaster off of my hand soon and be back in the game, Les Hemmes see you next time!

 

 

 

 

The endless Les Hemmes

Friday the 13th. The day that started our long weekend of hippie beach life. Our car was packed full again, we had a special guest with us, from Waffle’s work. We had also some extra special goodies for the birthday of one of the buggiers. The car was feeling like a mammoth slumbering through the roads, especially after we added the trailer to the tail.

It is no wonder we arrived late that evening to our usual camping. Of course by that time, it was already packed to the maximum. Mainly with Germans and couple of Dutchies in between. No French soul to be seen. We blobbed out our two tents between two camper vans and started off a fire. We just bought a new hiking tent from Quechua, keeping in mind the coming trip to mountains. This would be the testing session for that purchase.

It was just a short sit around for that evening. We needed to prepare for a long weekend of kite action. We had new people to teach and north western wind to ride. Everybody was a bit excited, when slowly crawling in. For The Colleague, this was the first camping experience, the first hippie life experience and of course, first kite buggy experience. He would have a lot to take in. That would be interesting to see.

The night was colder than expected. The Colleague was frozen and very sleepy until late in the day. We collected some breakfast, strong coffee and started to look around for people we knew. Waffle had put out a word about the birthday party and quite some familiar faces had gathered around. The Birthday boy was there too. Gripping to his coffee cup, I don’t know whether the beers the previous night had anything to do with that. The poor guy had hurt his hand right before he left for Les Hemmes and was going to have to stand aside from buggying. You could see the frustration steaming out of his ears. He is rather addicted to kite sports.

The beach. It was wet when we finally got that far. On top of the wetness it was slimy and muddy and partially disgusting with large puddles still lingering about. The heavy wind from the sea had kept some of the retreating seawater on the beach and caused the mud to puddle. Matched nicely with my hangover.

We found a dry enough piece of sand to spread our kites onto. The Colleague was stuffed into the tandem, to get a first taste of the fun. Waffle came soon back screaming. He had taken too big of a sail to begin with. In the meanwhile I was lifting up my small little thing too. The 4 meter kite was plenty enough for me for that strong wind. I was happy, first take off and I was gone without a cough. Until the first water puddle. I was planning on turning back right before it, since it made me nervous. Well, you know how it goes. You focus on the thing you want to avoid and involuntarily drive directly towards it. That’s exactly what I did and right before driving into the water, I landed my kite into a deep pool instead. Instantly I kicked myself in the head. Why, oh why.

Well, no need to mention, that wet kites don’t really fly too much. I was stuck there, my buggy standing in water and me attached to the sloppy and wet kite. Waffle came like a hero saving me, first of course making sure that I recognized the fact that I had made quite a mistake. As if I didn’t see that already. Well, I had two options. To walk back to our beach camp dragging the buggy, or flying the kite up in the air until it was dry enough to have enough power to pull the buggy.

So I started a 20 minutes of exhausting static kiting. After that all went relatively fine, my head was working on slow motion and I managed to do quite some stupidities, but nobody died. The kite is coated in mud though.

By the evening some more people had joined the group and we had a large circle of us sitting around a massive campfire. Nobody was cold. If they claim otherwise, they are lying. At some point of the evening people started to feel positive about the idea of having some fireworks to entertain us. Waffle had brought some for the birthday. It ended up being a rather nice evening with some explosions and planet searching from the night sky.

Sunday brought a perfect beach. Dry, hard and smooth. The wind was letting people down though, it was low, and switching direction on top of that. We had met one of Waffles old friends at the Leuven Beer Festival, and invited him over to try some kiting. He had arrived, despite of a small phone stealing episode and was soon practicing too. Waffle and I were both feeling tired and lazy after the day and night before. Soon we packed our stuff and headed for a walk to the sand bank where the seals spend time. The Colleague and the old friend followed of course. We still had one night to go at the camping. That meant some extreme relaxation around the campfire. Slightly worrying whether we had enough beers left.

Monday over here was a public holiday so we were in no hurry to get back home. The wind was dead and I was still feeling too lazy for buggying. So we spent the morning going through other campings in the area. Our regular place has restricted the area for tents and it is getting crowded also the service has been getting worse lately, so we are on the hunt for better situations. Next time we’ll be staying closer to the beach, I hope.

Every time we leave from the beach the feelings are controversial. You are happy to get home, have your comfortable bed and a bath. But still you keep looking back at those evenings when everybody is huddled around the fire and joking around. The morning chill when you hunt down the first cup of coffee and so forth. Then there is the contrast to the things that happen at the beach. There you concentrate, fail, try and learn. And fail again only try some more.  It is a complete stress release to be away from your everyday things every once in a while.

And rest of the pictures.