Mooching about* at the sixth WOR

*) Mooching about is lummelen in Dutch

“Do you have the card of running events where participants receive a t-shirt?”
– “Yes I do, the WOR t-shirt with checkpoints shown in the form of a W.”

“Maybe you also have the running event which includes shooting?”
– “Yep, I have the WOR catapult.”

“And by any chance also the event that give heavy people an advantage?”
– “That one as well, the WOR where the weight of participants count as bonus points.”

“And also the event where a ladies team is the overall winner?”
– “For sure, WOR 2017, Omega Ladies.”

“Happy family!”
(The Dutch card game is called Kwartet and is similar to Happy families, though the cards not only resemble family members but also objects.)

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The sixth edition of the WOR starts at the Sint Ferdinand buildings in Lummen, but actually it started a week earlier when the email with homework arrived. This time two puzzles and the traditional movie. Like earlier editions it contained the footer: “… besides adding to the confusion it might contain useful information.” At the end of the WOR Ferdy tells us: “Third time you’re participating? Then you’ll start to understand our pranks.” That is exactly the problem: what can be used and what is a spoof?

The WOR, each year more surprising.

I investigate the movie frame-by-frame to rule out that the Woudlopers used subliminal stimuli (like in the movie Fight Club). I find nothing. The Woudlopers specifically mention in their email that the movie contains sound. They used “Wat heb je vandaag op school geleerd” (What did you learn at school today) from the Elegasten which I scrutinize word-by-word. Also no clue found.

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The movie is enacted at a school. Among other things it shows a list of senses: to feel, to hear, to taste, to see, to smell and to blow. To blow? It really says so: to blow. Is this also a hidden clue?

Now let’s go to the day itself. The opening act is spectacular as ever. When the cow bell rings balloons fall from the air. At the toot of the recorder the envelopes may be taken. This year like always it contains the roadbook and the first set of maps. Next to that we find a t-shirt, a bag of pebbles and a set of skewers. Charissa picked a red balloon which gives us the answer to CP Z for free. Unfortunately we forget that until we reach CP Z.

En route it looks like this:

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A selection of the mistakes we made this year:

  • We forgot to go to CP B. We didn’t even come close.
  • The assignment at the watchtower looked like a spoof, but we fell for it anyway.
  • During health check “feeling” we thought to recognise a prank, but it was none. How suspicious did we become? 🙂
  • I urgently need lessons in shooting a catapult. According to the organisation the teams were a lot better shooting the potato gun last year.
  • I mark special CP T with a red pen on a black part of the map. While running I don’t see that anymore (red-on-black) and we pass the CP without noticing it.
  • At the end we forget to look at an inset map and lose the chance for 3 CPs among which a special!

Coming back to the advantage heavy people have: while registering in the morning all team members are weighted. We don’t know why, is it worthwhile to remember our weight? We forget to ask. At the end of the day when the results are presented it is explained: 10% of the weight of the team in kilos is being subtracted from the penalty points, “to counter the advantage of thin, fast and sporty people a bit.” The WOR, each year more surprising.

 

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Analysis

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Last year we found out that, though you improve yourself, you can go back in the rankings: a lot of good teams participated that year. This year we wanted to be better than last year, but more importantly we wanted to have a day full of fun. We were rewarded a third place of the mixed teams.

2015 2016 2017
Total CPs 71 86 91
Total standard CPs 39 61 66 *
Total special CPs 32 25 25
Found CPs 45 (63%) 60 (70%) 76 (84%)
Found standard CPs 25 (64%) 37 (61%) 54 (82%) *
Found special CPs 20 (63%) 23 (92%) 22 (88%)
Standard CPs correct 24 (96%) 35 (95%) 51 (94%) *
Special CPs correct 15 (75%) 18 (78%) 17 (77%)

*) G & P checkpoints count as standard CP with a penalty of 30 minutes.

WOR2017_grafiek

Via Gulia

The Geul springs from numerous small sources in the German speaking part of Belgium. A few sunny days are forecast, a good opportunity to go and run through the valley of the Geul.

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The zinc violet occurs naturally in the valley of the Geul. Humans helped the violet by mining the zinc that occurs here and returning the waste into the Geul. We’re too early in the year to see the zinc violet, we settle for pastures full of dandelions.

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Practical information: The complete trail measures 53 km. We’ve run 18 kilometers on the first afternoon and 32 the next one. We slept at campsite Kontiki near Sippenaeken next to the Dutch border. Despite this trail is said to be well marked, we’ve often neede to search for the right way, sometimes even quite long. On a few occasions the arrows are pointing to the opposite direction or they disappear for a few kilometers. They are not positioned at logical places. The searching notwithstanding the trail itself is beautiful, certainly worthwhile hiking/running.

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Photographs

Click here to see all photographs.

Bibliography

Description of the trail.

IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 35-43: Eupen

ANWB/Falk, 1:50 000, 41: Zuid-Limburg

Flying patatoes

The Woudlopers Orienteering Run, the only orienteering run where you need to take three potatoes with you. I hear you think: “what nonsense is he writing now?” It’s very simple: if the Woudlopers ask you to bring three potatoes for the WOR, you do that. No questions asked.

This is going to be our second time participating. Last time we were so enthusiastic that we wanted to register for the next one right away. The Woudlopers define their own event as: “an adventurous running contest […] but slightly different”. It’s exactly that slight difference that makes the difference. In theory it is a contest, but everyone registers because it is so much fun to do. Six hours of running through forests and moorland and at every checkpoint the questions pops into your mind: is this a real checkpoint or a fake one?

Just before ten o’clock the briefing starts. A usual briefing is used to update everyone on the latest information. At the WOR the briefing just adds more confusion.

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This year the starting shot is launched by a real canon. The first shot dives into the Kanaal Bocholt-Herentals. The second try reaches the other side of the channel easily. This will be the last CP, but not for us.

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Just like last year we take half an hour for the preparation. This year we receive a roadbook and around ten maps. At home we made a nice collage of the maps, if only we had this during the run itself.

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It’ll be too much to describe the roadbook in detail, so I’ll stick to some highlights:

Let’s start with a story: to chase the WOR-hunter. Or rather a mouse which is eaten by a cat, which is eaten by a wolf, which is shot by a hunter (with a wooden leg, left leg? right leg?), who is eaten by a bear. (A bear? In Belgium? Really?) The bear is no-where to be seen, but we’ll find a district full of old Masters. They hide in the shrubs and under benches.

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At checkpoint D we need to find a bird that chirps. We jot down the first thing we notice that chirps. Later it turns out that that was timber and not the bird that was asked. Most of the other contestants make the same mistake. Stay alert!

Checkpoint 8 is located at the watchtower at the Lommelse Sahara. The roadbook describes: “73.7 meters above sea level. Info on information panel. Photo C.” We don’t bother looking at the information panel. Maybe we would have seen that the platform is 20 cm higher than the CP. And that our CP is not located on the platform itself. At the debriefing we hear that it was located just next to the staircase if you would look down the railing on the outside. Everyone finds the decoy here…

For assignment Y we need to make a composite sketch. Everything works out fine, except for the moustache. Apparently a green bottle doesn’t belong in the green glass container in Belgium? Or did we do something else wrong? Time to dive into the recycle habits of our southern neighbours.

Finally we need our potatoes for test X. All morning they have been flying though Charissa’s backpack. Belgian fries are world-famous and now we’ll do a workshop in how to make them. It involves a canon (again), this time with pressurized air. The potatoes fly around our heads and we’ll make enough fries to receive two additional instructions. And a paper bag with French (?) fries.

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Slowly the fatigue kicks in. We’ll record a few decoys after all. At the debriefing we learn that it doesn’t matter if you walk north normally or backwards, both ways get you north.

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We’ll look back at a fine day running with puzzles and a good spaghetti afterwards. Maybe this story is a little confusing. The only cure for that is to participate in this event yourself. There’s a small chance that everything will become clear then.

Analysis

2015 2016
Total CPs 71 86
Total standard CPs 39 61
Total special CPs 32 25
Found CPs 45 (63%) 60 (70%)
Found standard CPs 25 (64%) 37 (61%)
Found special CPs 20 (63%) 23 (92%)
Correct standard CPs 24 (96%) 35 (95%)
Correct special CPs 15 (75%) 18 (78%)

We arrived 5 minutes sooner than last year. This year we had more focus on the special CPs, which worked well. A noticable difference to last year is also the increase in standard CPs. Just like last year we didn’t make it to all CPs in time. Point of improvement for next year?

This year the teams are faster than last year:
WOR2015-time-overzicht WOR2016-time-overzicht

The teams were also better, more CPs has been found in total:
(Lightblue: correct CPs, darkblue: incorrect CPs.)
WOR2015-posten-overzicht WOR2016-posten-overzicht

The same can be seen from the results per team:
(Red: special CPs, blue: standard CPs, light: correct, dark: incorrect)
WOR2015-team-overzicht WOR2016-team-overzicht

La dernière légende

The GR571, a story in three parts. Part one led us through the valley of the Amblève. The second part took us through the valley of the Salm. Now, it’s time to visit the valley of the Lienne.

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The subtitle of the GR, the Valleys of the Legends, refers to the many legends written about this area. In the first part we’ve met the devil of Fonds de Quarreux. This section is home to a fairy called Lienne and a golden goat.

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Unfortunately we didn’t meet any of the two. Actually, we didn’t meet anyone while hiking these nice trails. The owner of the campsite in Targnon is surprised to see us when we arrive. In the last 28 years she has seen the number of people walking GRs diminish. What a shame, it is a beautiful trail, so close to home.

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Passing by Fonds de Quarreux, the legend of the first section, we arrive back at Remouchamps.

Merci pour l’Ardenne MystĂ©rieuse!

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Photos

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Bibliography

GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

21 amphibians on the Semois

It’s spring, the time for our yearly packrafting weekend with our Flemish friends of Hiking Advisor. This weekend we are found on the Semois.
We took our drysuits. As an experiment we’re going to use them as rain clothes as well, when needed. Of course it’s needed: whens leaving it is raining, so we dress in our sweat suits and walk to the Semois.

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We put off the backpacks, eat and inflate packrafts. The green meadow is brightened with yellow, red, green and blue rafts. The first “rapid” can be seen from here which nourishes the doubt for some of the novices.

The weir at Cugnon is located a few kilometres downstream. After inspection and explanation of Joery and Willem a big part of the group crosses the weir over water. “It’s quite okay, how big is the chance that you have to swim over there?” At the moment the question is asked, it looks like a very remote chance. A few minutes later someone’s swimming in the water.

During the break we ascent the viewpoint and caves of Saint-Remacle. It’s only a short stretch to the bivouac zone from here.

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We learn some things: Taking charcoal with you for barbecuing is a great idea for a weekend trip. There are many ways to bivouac, with a tent, a tarp or just using a packraft, some wood and a piece of aluminium foil.
Raindrops and the first mosquitoes are scared away by the camp fire. Being together around the fire we discuss cultural differences and exchange practical advices. Now we know why Debbie takes a Dutchman to the woods.

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We wake up in fog which disappears quickly when the sun starts shining. We continue our sailing in beautiful weather. Between Dohan and Bouillon we eat in lovely sunshine. The last part on the water we build one big floating circle with all 21 packrafts, that just fits in the Semois. Arriving in Bouillon we build a leaning tower of Pisa with as many packrafts as possible.

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Hiking Advisor, thanks again for organising this great event.

The idea of the packraft tripod is based on the one from the Deliverance team. A great idea, tack!

Semois at Bouillon: waterheight 71 cm and flow 19 m3/s

Photographs

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Video

Woudlopers Orienteering Run

It feels like we’re back at school. Last week we’ve made our homework, today is the day we have to perform. At half past nine the briefing starts, at five to ten we can collect our envelope. At ten o’clock we can finally start, we may open the envelope, the race has started! A week ago we received our homework. This time a 9 minute during YouTube movie. A part of the route could be seen in this movie, but partly the movie raises more question than that it answers. The briefing is similar. Are clues still clues if they only raise more questions?

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In the envelope we find six pages with maps, a double-sided roadbook, two cards for the answers, a balloon and a string of wire with cheerfully coloured plastic caps. Enroute it surely will work out. We take half an hour to put the maps in the correct order, mark the coordinates on the maps and read the full roadbook. Then we’re off. It’s 13 degrees centigrade so we can’t call it a proper winter, but rain and heavy winds make it a bit cold and stormy.

Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards.

The start we recognize from the movie. Two special checkpoints in the pocket. At the second checkpoint we also see our first “false checkpoint”. We’ve been warned: in the surroundings of a real checkpoint there might be false checkpoints. When you write down the control number of a false checkpoint, you’ll get a time penalty. We’ll build up enough experience with time penalties the next six hours. According to the roadbook special C is located on a trajectory from checkpoint 3: “Go for 35 meters in 45 degrees / 40 meters in 350 degrees / 35 meters in 270 degrees / 65 meters in 165 degrees.” I wish we had drawn this beforehand. Once we arrive at CP 3 we find out the trajectory goes straight through some woodland and swamp. We make a quick calculation and conclude that we should end up back around CP 3. Unfortunately there are four checkpoints near CP 3, we choose the wrong one.

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After some time of running, reading the map, interpreting instructions and sometimes a swig of water and a biscuit Charissa asks how long we’ve been busy since the start. I look at my watch: “Two and a half hours” Really?!? That long? We thought we were only racing for an hour. Half way through the race we have to shoot at bottles to get extra instructions and we have to sniff at trees. Unfortunately we don’t recognize the decoy. The deadline slowly comes closer. It’s not possible anymore to reach all checkpoints, so we take a shorter route to the end point.

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Regularly we meet other people with maps in their hands, crossing the forest running. Are they lost or do they have a better strategy? How high will we score as newcomers? The deadline is set at four o’clock, time penalty when you arrive later. We take our last sprint. Slowly we start to feel the tiredness of our bodies. Twenty-three minutes later our time is stopped. Even the last kilometers to the starting point we continue running not to cool down too much.

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Back at the start we changed our wet clothes and eat spaghetti with the other participants. Advice is exchanged, errors recognized. This is the moment the rain and cold are already forgotten and the tall tales start to emerge. The verdict: 13th overall and 4th in the mixed class. Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards. Is it already possible to reserve for next time?

Photographs

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Film

Analysis

Of course we’ve reviewed our race and see what we can do better next time. We’ve ran twenty-seven kilometers in six hours and twenty-three minutes. That’s not much less than other teams. Some days after the race we received all results, which can be converted to a few nice graphs. One of the conclusions we can derive is that the teams that have a high score have few errors and are fast. No surprise, just build up the experience.

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Another conclusion is that at the start almost everybody finds all checkpoints and makes few mistakes. In the second part a lot less checkpoints are found and more errors are made.

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(More graphs can be found at the pictures.)

Chez Bertrand, la deuxième fois cette annĂ©e

When the last rainshowers leave the area, we start driving to our neighbours in the south. Last spring we started the GR571, Vallée des Légendes. Coloring leaves on the trees and a good weather forecast for the next days is a nice excuse to continue this route.

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We leave the car in Trois-Ponts and walk along the Salm. A sneak preview for what we will encounter when we want to packraft this creek later this week.

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The first night we do a painful discovery: our stove breaks down. We eat lukewarm macaroni and have no option to cook hot tea the next day.

We continue to Gouvy the next morning and return to the car. For the second time this year we eat at Bertrands, the well-known, local frieterie (sort of mobile snackbar) in Trois-Ponts. Like aways, it’s very busy.

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The next day we arrive at the railway station at ten. Twenty past ten the train to Vielsalm will leave. Nineteen past ten an announcement is made. “Le train Ă  Luxembourg […] de dix heures vingt […] Excusez-moi” We don’t understand everything that has been said. Something is said about the train we would like to catch, but what exactly, we missed. We wait for another five minutes and then walk back into the railway station. Previously three other people were waiting there, but now the railway station is empty. We find someone from the railway who tells us the train will not come.

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Maybe a bus will leave in twenty minutes. According to the timetable route 142 will leave, but the sign near the busstop only indicates route 42a. We’re lucky, the bus arrives and this one will head for Vielsalm.

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According to Ardennes’ terms the Salm is quite small and fast flowing. Contrary to most other rivers no canoes can be rented here. Fallen trees are therefore not cleared. For a few hours we enjoy the packrafting. We find seven floating soccer balls and have to step out of the packraft for six times to walk past fallen trees. One time the cows like us that much that they start running with us for two hunderd meters.

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Water flow at the Salm: 3.2 m3/s. Barely enough for packrafting. We didn’t get stuck, but scratched the river floor quite some times.

Click here to see all photographs.

Bibliography
GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 55: Durbuy
IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 56-56A: Sankt Vith

GR571, VallĂ©es des LĂ©gendes

Whit Sunday. The weather is forecasted to be 29C and sunny with a chance of showers. This time we don’t take a tent with us, but a tarp. That should suffice for these temperatures and some rain.

We ascent to Les Tartines and look at the confluence of the Ourthe and the Amblève. At a junction a farmer is taking a nap in the grass. We say hello and ask for confirmation of the way to Oneux in our best French. He points in the direction we were heading and says: “Un bon kilomètre, … et demi peut-ĂŞtre”. We thank him, he sits in the grass again and continues to doze.

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A view at Comblain-au-Pont (Rivage).

The GR remains at altitude today with beautiful views over the Ourthe and Amblève valleys. The weather is muggy and we’re sweating when we arrive at Martinrive around three o’clock. Too early to call it a day. “Fortunately” the camp site has been closed six years ago and the grass is leg high. We continue to walk to Aywaille, where we enter in the mids of a bicycle festival. The camp site is fully occupied but there’s always a spot to put a small tent.

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Camp site Domaine Château de Dieupart.

The next day starts with some showers. We just packed our bags and wait. The rain makes the temperature drop and refreshed we start to ascent again. Slowly the day turns muggy again, just like yesterday.
In the forest a trailrun is taking place. The trailrunners started at the same time we started our ascent. Thirty-three kilometers of running. We’ll see them again a few times this day.
As a bonus we make a small detour through the Ninglinspo valley. We follow a forest to the start of the valley. A forrest full of horseflies and other not-so-nice insects. From the beginning of the small valley the route descends again: 350 meters in three kilometers, just next to the creek or sometimes through the creek. The closer to the village we come, the busier it gets. The peak of tourists is of-course at the end of the valley in the village of Nonceveux.

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There is a camp site in Nonceveux, but it’s the second time we think it is too early to stop. Along the Amblève we continue our trail to Fonds de Quarreux. There’s a small and quiet camp site named au Moulin du Diable. The name refers to a local legend: The Fonds de Quarreux are the large boulders located in the Amblève here. The miller, Hubert Chefneux, was promised to own a beautiful mill if he would give his soul to the devil. The wife of the miller worried about her husband’s soul and hid herself in the mill with Notre-Dame de Dieupart’s medal in her hands. That made the mill blades halt. The devil went outrageous and casted down the mill: The large boulders fell down to the Amblève one by one.

We think the devil is still present around there: at three o’clock in the night he awakes us with thunderstorms and hail the size of large marbles. Our tarp passes this twenty-minute test without problems. In the morning we see the devil in the forest on the other side of the camp site. He looks at us with a bit of a grimace:

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Diable du forĂŞt.

The GR571 leaves the Amblève now and ascends next to the Chefna creek. We like this little valley just a bit more than the Ninglinspo. Less tourists, the trails are just a bit smaller and windier and we’re there at the right moment: in the morning after some nightly rain. The sun is still low on the horizon and the forest steams mysterically. It’s a beautiful morning.

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Valley of the Chefna.

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Valley of the Chefna.

We walk to Coo. Though both guidebooks don’t mention a camp site in Coo, there is one present. We pitch our tarp and start to cook when suddenly the sky turns black. We grab our saucepan from the fire and sit under the tarp. For twenty minutes the wind tries to grab our tarp on all sides possible. The thunders roar and lightning crashes above us. We hear trees squeak in the wind. When it is over, the camp site has no electricity anymore. A tree fell into the electricity cables, which broke. The Amblève has risen ten centimeters in these twenty minutes and is brown-coloured now. After our meal we help the camp site guard drinking Bellevaux Blanche. It would be a pity if the beer would warm because the fridge is out of electricity.

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Cascade de Coo.

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Panorama of Coo and the resevoirs.

This is the first part of three of the GR571. The last day we walk at altitude from Coo to Trois-Ponts with nice views on the route we’ve walked. In the forest we see what the storm has done: innumerable amount of blown away branches and more fallen trees than we’d expected.

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Point de vue de Ster.

In Trois-Ponts we take the train back to the starting point. We’re hungry for more GR571. Nice, quiet, beautiful sceneries and close to home!

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The train of Trois-Ponts.

Click here to see all photographs.

Bibliography
Op pad met rugzak en tent
Sjef van de Poel
Uitgeverij Elmar
ISBN 90-389-1339-7

GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

Lesse

It’s Saturday morning when the alarm rings. The backpacks are ready, we walk to our car and in the rain we drive southwards. After a few hours we park our car at the railway station in Anseremme. It’s still raining, so we put our drysuits on. Drysuits, rain clothes, what’s in a name?

According to the timetable our train will stop at track one. The local clochard is sitting on the platform, drinking his third beer. He explains us clearly that they are working on this side of the railway station and the train will stop on the other side. A bit later, Ivo, Joke and Peter arrive. Together we ride to Houyet.

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Joery and Veerle already arrived in Houyet. We inflate the packrafts and leave. Our rubber duck floats happily with us today, he doesn’t care about the rain. Actually, he likes it so much that he frees himself of the tiny rope and nearly stays with the other ducks.

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We take a break on a small gravel beach. In the meanwhile the rain has stopped. The best part has been left for after the break: There are two weirs, one at the castle of Furfooz and the other one near the camp-site. At these water levels they are both easy to raft.

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Just before the end near Anseremme we meet three kayakers. A few hunderd meters later it’s time to have a drink and then say our goodbyes. See ya next time?

Click here to see all photographs.

Film