How To Push Back The Sea
Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
141Trip End Jul 21, 2010
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Where I stayed
I’m drawing on the balcony – accompanied by a cup of coffee and an apple, when Françoise and Femka slowly rise. The late risers cannot believe the hour, and the rain on the windows changes the original plan of bikes to bus routes. The timetables give as blocks of two extra hours for every one we miss, so we should be fine
I’m blessed with a new raincoat as being a creature of leisure the sunshine of a few days ago told me not to pack one. And here I am in different shades of blue on a white bike with pedal brake red tape stripe decoration as we head through the rain to the train station.
Waiting for the bus in a café – not a good coffee, about a 3/10 – we find a Vietnamese father and daughter heading fro the same stop. Talking to the bus driver the girl appears a little stressed. Her father behind simply looks around and smiles at everything he sees. That is the kind of traveler I want to be.
Talking to the bus driver I noticed the dangerous looking cracks in the screen, long lines that threaten to split the large piece of glass from it’s surrounds. The driver says there’s not really a lot they can do about it. Because they are not blocking his line of sight they’re here to stay. What’s even worse is that they’re not even from general use, but from the high-pressure hoses they use to clean the buses. This supersized car wash blasts hot water from all direction strong enough to make the windows bulge and crack and walls dent and buckle
Rain rain rain streaks across the windows as we head out. The Vietnamese Father and Daughter team get off a stop before, much to our surprise. This is the only tourist destination one would find along the road; perhaps they are seeing a friend.
There is a tunnel under the road we take after departing from the bus. It has a lovely echo to it, and we spend time out of the rain finding the frequency. It 's a little higher than my normal talking voice and makes the lights rattle when we hit it. I think of Tim in his kitchen in Berlin, changing his vocal patterns to suit the walls when he talks.
A short walk from here is an information centre on the Delta and the dykes. Rather skeletal in information, there is a wicked animation - in Dutch so I don’t understand what is being said word for word – on the history of the land and the building of the first dykes to claim it back. All the bits are in black silhouettes and are amazing like a puppet show.
It turns out the big stuff is actually on the other side, back where we were
The mussels exhibition is better than I thought it would be. Really, the thought of an exhibition dedicated to these creatures’ sounds mind bogglingly boring.
A mussel would not know the anguish of suffering
It would also not know the definition of anguish
It would not know what a definition was
Yet when faced with a predator its heart beats faster
It turns out these creatures move from continent to continent in the ballast of ships, and where they have invaded the lakes and rivers of America they have actually succeeded in making the water cleaner
Downstairs is a more in-depth history of the area where the dykes now sit, stating that land behind the dunes has been habitable since before the year 1000. The first actual dykes were built shortly after the turn of the millennium, and the population growth of the 12th and 13th centuries saw a need to drain and reclaim the land. A Major playing everywhere in those days, the Church played an important role in building the dykes.
Here I learn of the flooding of the 50s, trying to picture the feeling of knowing your house could be washed away at any moment. All accounts also say it could have been so much worse, but due to the timing of the spring tide, the water levels were lower than normal, which simply makes it all the more scary. Documents
Outside we really feel the difference artificial lighting makes. The inside exhibitions have a suffocating feel about them, with an environment so controlled and slightly sterile I begin to feel tired and heavy, similar to falling asleep on public transport
Along the path a crowd begins to gather in the rain. There is a seal show with four gorgeous creatures and two trainers. One feeds and signals while the other talks. There is one seal younger than the rest who refuses to play along after a while, curiosity drifting it towards the crowd instead. As punishment they are not fed the fish shared amongst the others.
Further down there is a whale exhibition in the shape of said creature. We enter though what could be the rear end of the animal, faced with an artificially lit cave of eery lights and running water. Inside is a thorough display on Greenpeace in association to its stance on whaling. Whales and many sea creatures appear in everyday products, even more in earlier years when they had no protection. Whalebones appear in umbrellas and corsets, the fat used in cooking and cosmetic products and the baleen appearing in brushed brooms and more. The exhibition is quite heavy on the treatment of whales, and as the information is a little dated it can only mean that things are worse. It’s a slow walk in the dark taking all of it in.
There is a strange thing on the map that I assumed was more of an information centre about the dykes, so we keep making the tourist loop around. This is not the case, as Jason does not read Dutch. Instead we come across what translates to the Hurricane Machine, with the sound of something similar coming from inside. There is a man waiting in an airlock area a box full of science lab goggles beside him, and others further inside, standing in front of what looks like a large jet engine
The rain falls heavier the moment we’re outside, perhaps we will return via the hairdryer when we leave.
The constructed coast of the man made island contains several different finishes and materials – many crazy patterns suiting a different variety of wildlife to coral inside and build further homes or simply hide amongst. The lines of the tide are visible and play an important role in the wildlife. Some plants and animals don’t survive if fully submerged all day, so sit at the high tide line, lush and green. The colours change like some crazy Dutch sea life rainbow from green to black to brown, with a small stripe of white in there too.
The actual delta repeats itself a little with more information about its construction, similar things said in both the free information centre and the downstairs history part, but here we see the ships and structure they built, not to mention the quarries they dug to the flood to move the pieces together. The science behind the structures also involved the replacing of the sand at eh bottom of the sea. That’s right, metres of sand were dug out and relocated, replaced with a better material that could be compacted better with what looked like those crazy lawnmower devices you see the roadworks people use, only on a much larger scale and made to be submerged. Then purpose built ships and cranes dragged the pieces together, thankful the man made island and quarry was not any further away
We decide to call it a day, Françoise planning on having her son and his girlfriend over for dinner along with Femka. And they will most likely be waiting already. Passing the disguarded construction machinery, layed out like some industrial graveyard, we pick up a postcard for Opa and head off. Sitting in the bus station we meet the Vietnamese father/daughter team from earlier today, hearing their terrible tale. Yes, they too had planned to come see the delta project today, catching the train down from Amsterdam for it. Her father is over from Vietnam for a week, traveling to see his daughter. This had been on his list for some time to see, so they had hoped to make a full day of it. Trains had failed them, arriving later to Middelburg than expected. Then the bus driver had misdirected them to a different set of dykes, thinking that is where they wanted to go. This gave them a forty-five minute walk between bus stops, a half an hour wait for a bus to the actual centre (turns out it was two stops early), giving them less than half the day to check out the place, knowing they had a time limit to get back to Amsterdam tonight. It’s for this reason alone the Delta ticket should not included in a package with all these additional extras you really are not going to need. There was one thing they wanted to see, and were so pressed for time they were forced to buy a full ticket to only see one part of the place.
Back home later than expected, a slender young man meets us at the door by the name of Errin
The winds are cold as we head for the car. Over the fences nearby are miniature ponies, or at least short horses that aren’t babies. I think I’m the only one interested for miles, but I know Kelly would be too.
Back at home it’s coffee (me) and tea (everyone else) inside with soft music until my eyes get heavy. I see the two out, hoping to see them again someday, wishing they both come to Australia. It's not something everyone can or will promise, I know how far away I am.