Kiting on Vlieland
Vlieland Travel Blog› entry 4 of 5 › view all entries
Saturday was to be devoted to kiting and kite-surfing, which had been organised by Rowena. This was an activity for which I had enrolled in spite of not having a clue what it was about, although I suspect that I may have been confusing it somewhat with paragliding, in that I had visions of plunging 200 feet to my doom if I did something wrong. But basically I just trusted that Rowena liked us all sufficiently not to want us to die, or at least not on her watch. Kiting, as it turned out, just involves flying kites at the end of extremely long pieces of string, which tend to whizz about at alarming speeds and, in inexpert hands, quite close to the ground. This could possibly involve the strangulation or decapitation of young children, a possibility which the authorities strangely regard with some disfavour.
Fortunately there were enough TBs with cars to ensure that everyone had transport to the port of Harlingen; Wendy and Rowena had kindly offered me a ride with them. So at about 7.45 we set off in convoy, with Wendena in the lead and this year fortunately not reliant on the SatNav. Shortly before Harlingen we stopped by a pleasant harbour to load supplies, and a few ravenous TBs bought some breakfast; but mostly we just engaged in the traditional activity of milling around. An additional few minutes drive brought us to the ferry terminal, where we were to meet the kiting instructors with all the equipment, and board a ferry for the island of Vlieland.
The ferry was due to depart at 9.00 sharp, and as we arrived at 8.15 we appeared to be in good time. However, some of the instructors were late, and as the time approached at which the gates would close the tension mounted, because tickets could not be purchased until we were all together as a party.
The ferry had three decks, and most of the party chose to stay below as it was cool, overcast and blustery, although dry. However, I stayed on deck, to watch the sea; and although I did get quite cold, I discovered that it was distinctly warmer leaning over the stern of the ferry, as hot air from the two big engines wafted up in quite a pleasant though diesely fashion.
There was also on deck a dog in nappies, probably the most revolting sight in Christendom. Dogs are quite bad enough, but a dog in nappies ... ewch!
Finally we docked at Oost Vlieland (East Vlieland) on the south-eastern shore, which is the only village on the island, and there were scenes of chaos as hundreds of passengers disembarked and tried to find their baggage which, along with our equipment, had been loaded onto trolleys at Harlingen. No cars can be brought over on the ferry: they are allowed only to residents, and there is precisely one bus route that does a Cook's Tour of the island every half-hour.
Almost inevtitably we just missed a bus, and so had a half-hour wait, but this was pleasant enough as the sun had put in an appearance and it became obvious that the weather on Vlieland was distinctly more promising than on the mainland. People-watching was the order of the day as the throng gradually dispersed, mostly on bicycles, surprise surprise: the laws concerning cars on the island left little option, and indeed horse-drawn transport is by no means unusual.
When the bus arrived Rowena paid for us all and received in return a ticket about six feet long. The route took us across most of the island through narrow lanes, and it was clear that tourism is the sole industry. Outside the village the only buildings are hotels and holiday cottages, with many of the latter being scattered fairly randomly across the fields, with no evidence that anyone actually owns the land; the landscape and flora often reminded me of the Isle of Wight.
The equipment was laid out on the sand: kites of various sizes and styles, and kitewings; a kitewing is a large wing which you hold onto for dear life, the idea being that if your feet are strapped to a skateboard the wind will carry you along. Well, that's the theory. But we were to begin with simple kiting, and for this purpose were divided into groups of three for instruction.
All this time lunch was being prepared, and at around 1.30 the kiting stopped and we descended on the trailer, which had been laid out as a buffet. There was a prodigious quantity of food which was decidedly jummy, and for which I was very grateful as my sole sustenance so far that day had been two pieces of cake purchased on the ferry. After lunch it was time for more kiting, and some of the other equipment was brought into play.
Fortunately I managed to find a free kite and teamed up with Sonja, who kindly acted as my launcher for an embarrassingly extended period, claiming not really to like kiting. Finally I insisted that she should have a go herself, whereupon she disclosed hitherto unsuspected kiting skills, putting my own novice efforts to shame.
Soon, however, we had to pack up and leave, as the last ferry left at 4.45 and so we needed to catch the 3.45 bus; the journey back to Oost Vlieland was just the morning's trip in reverse, save only that, far from having to wait for the bus, it arrived just as we did; if we had lingered on the beach for a few more minutes we would have missed both the bus and the ferry. As it was, we had plenty of time to spare at Oost Vlieland and just sat around in the sun, while one or two enterprising TBs explored the village shop in search of beer. It was sunny for the whole return journey, but this time I felt tired enough to sit below, and chatted to Sonja and Eef whilst watching certain TBs fight a losing battle with sleep.
Back in Harlingen we enjoyed an excellent and much-needed dinner (and, in my case, cup of tea) at the Zeezicht Restaurant. Then we drove back to Leeuwarden and found ouselves at the Stads Cafe for drinks; but I didn't stay long as another early start was scheduled for the morrow!