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!

 

 

 

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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.

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A new dog friend.

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A new Dutch friend.

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Another new Dutch friend.

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A new great camping!

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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!

 

 

 

 

One Stupid Idea – A Weekend

This time the weather took us to the northern coast of France. No, not Les Hemmes. We parked our car in the TGV station of Calais, being Fréthun, took the train to Boulogne-sur-Mer and started walking back. There is a trail GR120 that runs along the northern French coast and ends up somewhere in Belgium. We were planning on doing that. More or less. This would be also the perfect moment for testing out our small, tiny and light packing for mountains.

Our journey started in a landscape wrapped in a soft mist. All the soft hills of Nord Pas Calais looked even softer, colors muted and wet. A perfect weather for hiking. A slight fear was creeping into my mind when the bullet train approached the station. We were taking a train ride for 20 minutes, and would be walking the distance back. 50 km on foot, a nice way to spend a weekend, don’t you think?

The train dropped us off at the next station, in Boulogne-sur-Mer. The direction was to the coast as soon as we managed to buy some breakfast, some rain ponchos, since we forgot to prepare for the rain when we left home, and a bit of extra to drink. Boulogne is a beautiful city in its own right, it has a wonderful beach and so forth, but this time, we had no time to spend around it. We were facing a hike of nearly 30 kilometers that day, ending up somewhere close to Wissant.

We reached the edge of the nature preserve rather fast as we made our way up the coast towards Ambleteuse. GR120 travels mostly on top off the white cliffs. We were lucky enough to be walking during low tide and there was enough beach available to walk on and we advanced quickly. Once we were at the edge of Ambleteuse there was a lovely surprise waiting for us. It was a river, between us and the village. No bridge in sight. We had to start heading inland, to find a crossing point, which we found about 2 kilometers away. So we strolled through the calm streets, watching people eating giant dishes of sea food.

We walked through the boulevard at the doc and descended back on the beach. On the stretch of a kilometer or two, all the way to Audrelles the beach is horrific to walk on. It is soft and full of round stones that tilt your ankles in all different directions. It makes the advancing slow and tires out your muscles fast. We were happy to find a sign post showing the GR taking a turn to inland through yet another idyllic French seaside village.

Here I must add, that the idyllic French seaside villages, they exist, they are real, and they are just as idyllic and French as you have always imagined.

We found another route sign, that said 4,5 kilometers to Cap Gris Nez. We didn’t give it any more thought and just headed on. Through fields of barley. Oh I love barley fields. The way they smell under the summer sun and the way the wind makes them whisper and the way they wave and the way they just are. It reminds me dearly of home. After a while we began to notice, that the sign post might have lied. We had walked further inland and too much to the east. That meant biting the lip again and heading back. Which resulted in an additional loop of a few kilometers once we finally got the sight of the wind beaten cap.

That was a beautiful piece of our trail. The path goes right at the edge of the cliff, next to some fields. The pink flowers create a lovely contrast for the greenery and the blue ocean. As we climbed towards the cap, we saw a head popping up from the waves. The wind was pushing the water around the cap, forming a strong current and bringing fish with it. Hunting that fish were at least 7 very curious grey seals. There was a group of people watching down at them and the seals were watching up to the cliff at the people. A beautiful moment of common curiosity, I would say.

My knee started to give me quite some trouble right about then. The down hill I went limping back to the beach, as we headed for the last leg of the hike for that day. The beach was luckily hard and smooth and gentle on me. We didn’t make it quite all the way to Wissant as planned. The pain stopped me a couple of kilometers before. So we popped our tent out onto the dune and cooked dinner. I was exhausted and fell a sleep right after 8.

Early in the morning we woke up and started to head for Wissant, just a  couple of kilometers ahead. There we raided a very good bakery, well, which bakery in France isn’t very good? and had our breakfast. I slurped my coffee in the company of a very pleasant dog, who reminded me of our old dog. He had the same eyes and the same demand for scratches.

The first strip for the day was to get ourselves from Wissant to Cap Blanc Nez. The other one of the two caps. It was again a very humid day. Mist was all over us and the sky was grey. So far we had been lucky enough to avoid any rainfall. We were hoping that it would continue so until the afternoon.

My knee reminded me soon, that I had limped a little too far the day before. It was not happy about the plan to limp yet another 15 – 20 km. My dear Waffle was offering to run for the car, and pick me up from some of the villages. He got me angry with those remarks. This wasn’t that kind of a trip that would force me to stop.

It took us just a little over an hour to reach Cap Blanc Nez. I had needed a couple of pauses on the go but there we were. And the last kilometers of our journey were ahead of us. From there we turned inland, towards Fréthun again. It was a boring walk of ten kilometers via country roads. But finally we made it, tired and in pain but very happy. We tested out our lighter backpacks, mattresses and the new tent. All is working fine, we are ready to go to the Balkans!

At home we had a nice bath and a cold bottle of G.H. Mumm waiting for us. That is the way you end a weekend of hiking.

The rest of the pictures are here.