Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ameland: a brief visit to a very beautiful island

Our road trip through North Holland last weekend led us to the West Frisian Islands. Out of this chain of islands, we chose Ameland for a brief visit as Dad went camping here as a child. We ended up borrowing tents off some friends and setting up camp for the night near the beach at Buren as being school holidays, there was no accommodation left on the island. I do love camping but it's something I associate with Australia - certainly not Europe - but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's still just as good over here!!!! (a tent is now on my shopping list!!!).

Ameland was absolutely beautiful: still quite wild and rough but also developed enough to give you some kind of sense of civilisation - plenty of decent pubs and cafes in the four townships. We awoke well before the rest of the campground on Saturday morning (at 7am mind you - Dutch people seem to sleep in while camping!) and headed off to the almost deserted beach for a stroll in the early morning sunshine.

Along the short walk to the beach, I was SO excited to see these bunnies!!!! I'd actually found one the night before outside our tent so wasn't really surprised to see more - they were everywhere and rather tame. The beach at Buren was long and sandy - a sandy beach is exciting as so many beaches in Europe are only pebbled. It actually really reminded me of our Aussie beaches - it was a proper beach in my opinion and I'd love to go back for a dip in the sea. While Dad worked on his writing, Mitch and I went for a wander, sighting rolling grassy dunes, sandcastles, oil rigs and even someone out for a ride on their fiets

After packing up camp, we spent the day leisurely exploring the rest of this island. The long dijks which protect the island from the sea are covered in these local sheep, which as we discovered later in the week (more to come on that) fetch a pretty penny. I have say, I think they are the ugliest sheep I have ever seen in my life - they resembled bull dogs gone wrong.

The beach at Holwerd was just as pretty as Buren, although much more crowded. Dad camped in the dunes here beside the lighthouse so we had a look around, amongst the many, many bikes. We saw plenty of Dutch Fathers taking their kids for a spin in these specially built bikes so Dad and I figured - better late then never...

The Reddingsmuseum (Rescue Museum) on the island was well worth a visit - one of the key features of this island is it's horse drawn lifeboat that was used for real rescues until 1988. The museum provided a fantastic insight into this brave means of rescue, which at times proved to be deadly - a terrible mishap in the 70's resulted in 8 horses drowning. Today, there are still regular demonstrations of the lifeboat on the island, which we happened to miss by only a week :-(

And of course, being Dutch there was a windmill on the island - just as pretty as always...

While having the car was great, next time I'd like to go back on my bike (and see how much camping gear we can load on it!) as so many others do. The island is so well set up for bike riding and I think you'd get to see even more while leisurely riding along the bike paths. Or perhaps, we could roll up our pants and hit the mud flats - at low tide, you can actually walk all the way over to the island... I think the ferry is more appealing though!!!!

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