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At the top of Belgium

At the top of Belgium


Postby JohnJoe » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:50 pm

Date walked: 10/12/2011

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It's a shame I can't go to the Highlands every weekend. But instead of moping about in my flat or plodding along the same old shopping streets yet again, I decided to go to the highest point in my country of residence. It's over half the height of a munro!

signal de botrange.jpg


After 5 long hours trundling along on Belgian trams, trains and buses, I finally arrived. The bus stop is conveniently situated, er, on the summit, which meant for once I had accomplished my mission without even trying. However, I didn't fancy jumping straight back on to the public transport system, so after a non-conversation in German and a very poor one in French, I took the advice of the woman behind the info desk and set off for a walk through the national park. "Trois heures", she said. "C'est bon".

bus stop.jpg


So off I went along a dead straight, flat track through a seemingly endless man-made plantation. God I love Scotland, I thought. After almost an hour I finally changed direction slightly and then went off along a path through the woods. Given the amount of signs and warnings detailing the rules of the park and what you cannot do there, leaving the main trail made me feel slightly criminal.

Photo0281.jpg


I soon returned to the marked path and continued along the assortment of tracks though plantations and boardwalks through bogs until I arrived back at the 'summit' (number 394 bus stop). I had brought my stuff for camping out, but when I realised this would mean spending 14 hours alone in the freezing darkness followed by a 6 hour wait until the first bus, I decided against it. I made a final push to the trig point - which stands at a whopping 700 meters above sea level - and just stood there taking in the view before I dragged myself away and went to the cafe to sink three nice Belgian beers whilst waiting for the bus.

final push.jpg
The final push


view from the top.jpg
Stunning.


final beer.jpg
Last edited by JohnJoe on Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:14 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby Graeme D » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:35 pm

It's a good job they can claim to have some of the best beers in the world. In hill walking terms it is a god-forsaken land! :lol:
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby JohnJoe » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:31 am

Apparently the Ardennes is 'nice'.

But I don't want 'nice'. I want wild and rugged and remote and borderline dangerous!
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby morag1 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:50 am

JohnJoe wrote:The bus stop is conveniently situated, er, on the summit

:lol: :lol: :lol:

I once went camping in the Ardennes forest. It was a nice spot with good facilites including a swimming pool. We had plans to do some walking in the forest and also visit four countries in one day - France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany - as the Ardennes lies on the intersection of these four. Unfortunately it was torrential rain the whole time so we packed up and left early. Never saw much of Belgium so I enjoyed looking at your photos :D
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby Belgian_Hiker » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:38 am

The 'High Fens' area of Belgium, although high above sea level, are you have seen are flat and one of the most protected nature reserves in Belgium. Good call not to wild camp there as you have the high risk of getting caught !

There are 'good' areas in the Ardennes with a little more high difference, Bouillion area for example:
DSCN1106-800.jpg


Sadly it's forest everywhere though and the regular middle of the night wake up of wild boars around your tent.
At least we can escape to Scotland to keep our sanity :crazy:
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby JohnJoe » Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:26 pm

I think I'll try La Roche en Ardennes next time - looks ok and there seem to be lots of campsites around there so I won't get caught wild camping by the rangers (although I'm guessing they won't be open at this time of year?)

I'll have to conquer those Danish peaks some time too :D
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby morag1 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 7:19 pm

JohnJoe wrote:I think I'll try La Roche en Ardennes next time


Funny, I'm sure the place we stayed in was called La Roche. It was a good few years ago and i dont remember much of it, (apart from the rain) but I do know it was very popular with the Europeans we met. they all went camping there every year and spent their time walking and cycling in the forest. i will rummage around for the photos and if I find them will post them here. i dont know about wild camping, we paid to stay at a campsite run by Eurocamp - well worth the money
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby Belgian_Hiker » Sun Dec 11, 2011 8:50 pm

JJ - if you have a gps, I can send you a gpx file of a 40km hike I done a few weeks ago nearby La Roche following the river Ourte. We wild camped and never seen anyone the whole 2 days. Most , if not all campsites in Belgium are open March to October.
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby JohnJoe » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:38 pm

I don't have a gps but I'm sure I could get someone to extract the file somehow. Does (or could) the walk start near a train station? I am car-less at the moment so need to get there by public transport unless I hire one.

I think my Eurocamp days are over - too many screaming kids (although I can't really complain - I was one of them once) :D
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby icemandan » Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:49 pm

Does this magnificent peak have a name?
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby Belgian_Hiker » Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:39 am

Ardennes are reachable by train, but the big problem is the busses, especially outside the summer season.
PM me if you would like a few more suggestions.
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby malky_c » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:48 pm

That's a bit of a shame. I'm sure I remember an article in an RAC magazine or similar from when I was a kid that showed a few interesting rocky hills in Belgium. I suppose the photo was either from another unrelated article or they had made an error.

I liked the bit where you drank the beer though :lol:
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby StevenF » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:18 pm

Nice to see a Belgian report, although I doubt I'll do this one :-)

The "hill" is Signal de Botrange", it's more a blob on a plateau.

If you want a walk with a lot of height difference in Belgium you can walk along the GR AE from Bouillon to Vresse. It is 34 km and 1500m of ascent. I still have to do it, so if any Belgian walkers are interested maybe there is a possibility of doing it together?
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Re: At the top of Belgium

Postby Belgian_Hiker » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:44 am

I haven't done this section of the AE GR, but the area around Bouillion is spectacular (when compared to the rest of Belgium).
I did a route starting in Bouillion a few weeks ago, routing via Botassart, Ucimont, the 'les eschelles' route with the steel ladders before Rochaute, Fraham, Poupehan, Corbion and back to Bouillion. About 28km with just under 2000m ascent. The picture above (DSCN1106-800) was taken on the 'les eschelles' route.
PM me your email address and I'll send you the gpx file.
I'm happy to join in if a few others want to go on a hike somewhere in Belgium. All year round, any weather is fine for me.
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