Finally the beautiful summer arrived to Belgium. Momentarily at least. We had a short weekend hike planned in the Ardennes. We had our minds set on the Eisleck trail, or at least a short part of it. The plan was to follow it from Houffalize to Nadrin and camp at the bivak zones close to the trail.
On Friday everything was packed and we, Waffle, Waffle’s colleague and her son plus I, were heading down south with two cars. First car was dropped off in the small town of Nadrin and we continued with one towards Houffalize and our first camping spot.
The bivak zones are a great thing these Belgians have come up with. They offer room for tents and a fire place in a shelter and they are for free. Often times they also have water available too! This one was close to Houffalize, on top of a hill, next to small field, there were other people too, enjoying their evening.
We quickly guided our friends to the secrets of erecting a tent, had dinner with some wine and watched the sunset. Even I managed to stay awake past 10 in the evening. That normally never happens if we are on a hike.
Saturday woke us up with warm sunshine and a nice choir of birds. We were looking at a hike of around 15 kilometers that day and the red wine was still lingering around me. Good thing we had some extra coffee with us to get things going.
Our convoy left towards the car again where we dropped off excess stuff before heading to Houffalize. There we did some shopping for cold drinks and something extra to nibble on on the trail, plus brand new scarves to cover the heads of the ladies once the last shower would be only a distant memory..
The trail took a short climb up from the valley where the village is and dived into a forest that surrounds the river Ourthe Orientale. It was a bridle way, a hikers highway, but still we mostly got to enjoy solitude. We passed through forests and fields and dropped down to the river, with rather pleasant picnic spots. Our original plan was to make it all the way to the bivak zone in Engreux, but we started to reconsider, since it would leave us only a minor distance to walk on the last day and that bivak was far away from the river.
The map showed us an area along the river with not too many places of civilization close by and we decided somewhat in unison to find our camping spot from there, a little bit off of the Eisleck trail. The unmarked path followed the riverside for a while, climbing to higher grounds only slightly. Which was a good thing, since my knees were complaining again and some sings of tiredness began to emrge in the group. We were in luck! By the trail there was a smooth spot of mossy ground in an old spruce forest. Perfect for sleeping! Some old fire pits were there already and the river was close by, it was sold!
We popped the wine for the evening into the river to cool down a little, put up our tents and built a campfire. It is very handy to have a boy from the scouts with you, they will immediately attack the fire building duties. It was a relaxed evening, listening to the streaming of the water and birds in the trees. The soft evening light is so beautiful in a forest like that, giving a whole different nature to the shades of green.
The evening went by, we ate, talked, checked for the route for the following day (straightest trail to the car). The bathing in the river was also a refreshing experience; flowing water never really gets too warm. After that dive it was so nice to crawl in the tent and let the sleep take you to the next morning.
We had our breakfast and slowly got on our way.Soon the trail took us to some cliffs right at the river side. There the heavy rainfalls had loosened the soft ground and taken our trail to the river and replaced it with fallen trees. To get through that, we needed some improvisation. Waffle went ahead to find a safe route to get higher, on top of the cliffs, where we would hopefully be able to carry on without too much trouble. That plan worked, up until the next cliff, where we had to scramble again a little higher. We progressed slow and Waffle had to carry some extra weight too, to get the whole group through.
I think we were all more or less happy to finally find a trail that didn’t disappear into a muddy landslide after 20 meters. It was smooth going once we found the Eisleck again and started to follow it towards Engreux and the Lake of Nisramont. On the go we even found some trees chewed by beavers!
The trail was very beautiful and it passed plenty of viewpoints, either to the river and the lake or to the beautiful Belgian countryside. Still I was happy, when a sign said that Nadrin was only 15 minutes away. In the village we sat in a cafe with less than friendly service, had beers and compared the amount of tick bites.
After that little rest, we packed ourselves into the car, drove back to the other car in Houffalize, found some more ticks and headed for our own separate ways.
I think I learned a thing or two on the way:
- Waffle is an absolute hero. He keeps his calm, takes care of everybody, deserving or not, and makes things so much funnier and easier.
- I am a bloody lucky bastard to have a Waffle.
- You should always allow yourself to spend time with those people who you can be grateful for, and who are grateful for your company too. That will create positive energy and enjoying the beauty of things is so much better with them.
- Red wine doesn’t solve all the problems in the world. Not even with chocolate.
P.S. Sorry for the pictures. We noticed too late, that there was a smutch on the lense, now there is a smutch on all the pictures too.