At the end of the weekend trip to St. Aldegund, I finished the blog post with a somewhat pessimistic comment, as things were not quite easy to organise as I had imagined in the first trip in a holiday house, instead of a youth hostel. Actually this time I didn’t even organise the trip – it was Inna who booked a place in Dinant some time ago. Therefore I did little for the preparation of this trip.
Belgium is a somewhat weird country. All the surrounding countries, namely Germany, the Netherlands and France, have strong personalities, Belgium is somehow hard to grasp. Dinant being in the French speaking part, it’s true that it’s a bit like France, but it’s still a fairly different country. I guess this was partly the reason why this weekend trip as well as the one to Liège attracted so many people.
This trip took a slightly different form than the previous ones: we (almost all) went there by car. There was also the possibility of going there by train, but it would have taken forever and involved too many small sections. It was quite an undertaking to find someone who could drive. There was at least Khaled from the beginning. We were thinking about renting a car or two over the weekend, but then as it turned out, there was Niloofar who was interested to join in the last moment. With Kartik and Cláudia renting another car, we had 3 cars in total for a group of 11 people.
The fact that it was not conceivable to go there by train is mostly related to the surrounding area. This part of Belgium, contrary to the Flemish part or the Netherlands, is part of the forest of Ardenne and is quite hilly. It was also the part of Belgium that the French people considered impossible to pass for the Germans at the beginning of WWII. This assumption turned out to be wrong, but at least it is a kind of area that makes it quite plausible.
Friday evening, the first car left Duisburg around 3pm. As I had a meeting until 4pm, I joined Niloofar’s car leaving Essen at 5pm. We had a small stop at Aachen to buy stuff for breakfast and a bit of traffic jam, and ended up somehow arriving some time before 10pm. I’m infinitely glad that the first group had already arrived and started BBQ for everyone else (great thanks to Khaled). The last car arrived around 1h later. By this time some people had already gone to bed. Just like every time there was no big party Friday evening. We all went to bed relatively early.
The night had been apparently quite tough for some people. I usually dream pretty well, but this time I had a super nerdy dream that woke me up several times. There were also reports of people snoring in the night.
Concerning food we organised pretty much everything centrally in St. Aldegund. This time, while the dinner was like this, the breakfast was essentially up to everyone. I wasn’t really sure about this concept but actually it worked quite well. Since people want different things this might indeed be the right format we should take in the future.
Contrary to places like Kaub or Cochem, it was first the accommodation that was set up before the hiking trail here in Dinant. So I had hard time figuring out where to go and what to see. In the end, I decided to include cities and towns as well, in order to see the atmosphere and the architecture more. There’s this river called Lesse going along the city of Dinant. The idea was to go along the river, but then on top of a hill, to have viewing spots regularly. This strategy didn’t quite work out as well as I had hoped. The geography itself was as I had initially imagined, but there were not so many spots adapted to this kind of stuff. We had different field and forest sections, but in total we were in flat areas.
There’s a section on the trail, which you can see on the map on Komoot above, where it’s indicated as non-existing. Komoot is sometimes wrong and I simply hoped that the path would exist, because it was still there in the database of the OpenStreetMaps. Komoot was partially right: the path was more like just a part of the field and we had to cross a wild area of maybe 10m. In the end it was not quite a deal but if you want a regular trail you might want to avoid this part (although I don’t know how).
Before the break we had to walk along the river for some time. A kind of nice walk for me but maybe it was not a kind of path to take in the summer. Bogdan quite obviously didn’t like it.
There was a pizzeria after we crossed the river. It was not the nicest place but we could at least have good pizzas :D. I didn’t realise but there was actually also a nice marketplace nearby, where we ended up having another break.
After the break, it became even more difficult to see the river. Still it was a nice area and I really liked the surrounding houses. Also despite the initial weather forecast, we started having the blue sky.
As I said, we took an area that included cities and towns on the way. In fact there was another trail that would have involved only nature and could have been more challenging. Therefore, it was a bit like a risk to take the one that we took, and my biggest hope lay on the city of Dinant which looked impressive on the photos on Google images. The gamble paid off – Dinant is a splendid city. The fact that there was only little space between the river and the hills right behind it forced the city to be elongated, but then on the riverside you could have a great view over the concentrated city center.
We had our group photo at the riverside and had a short break, with a Belgian beer in one hand. After some time we walked along the river and went back to the house. We started the hike around 9am and finished around 7:30pm. Just like always, perfect!
This time, as it was easy to transport stuff, I took my guitar with me. It turned out to be a really good idea. I’ll take it with me next time as well.
The dinner was again organised by Khaled. He did a brilliant work preparing all the stuff.
After the dinner, we simply stayed in the living room for some time. People went to bed one by one. As I was sleeping in the living room, I had to stay there till the end. It was around 1:30am that we turned off the light in the living room.
Next day, I woke up around 7:30am, just like always. I thought everyone would be ready to go by 9am, but I was apparently badly wrong about this. While I was totally prepared by 9am, people were starting to get up around that time. In the meantime, I was getting slightly nervous, because first of all, there was this kayaking that I had made a reservation for a few days ago, which was supposed to be at 10:30am. Secondly, it was the first time for me to organise such a session and since the website of the operator didn’t include much information, I wasn’t even really sure where we should be at 10:30. Anyway, since it looked like it was just nearby, I started moving at 9:30 and went to their headquarter, where I essentially learned that we were getting a shuttle bus that was going to the starting point. Since the buses are anyway operated every 30 min with always enough space, it wasn’t important to take the one at 10:30. After waiting for Felipe to come back, who needed a corona test, we took a bus at 11am.
It was much more professionally organised than in other kayak places I’ve seen so far. The bus was a double deck one and at the starting point a semi-automatic mechanism was sending the people into the water.
I still don’t really understand the distinctions between kayaking, rafting, canoeing etc., but from what I understand kayaking is quite a challenging one with a lot of hurdles on the way. While I’ve indeed seen more difficult ones, this one was already a quite challenging one. There were super shallow areas, where Giampaolo and Niloofar were stuck, and also small dams, one of which capsized Cláudia and Kartik’s kayak. Miriam and Salima’s kayak also almost capsized with a stock only partially jutting out of the water.
Well whatever problems there were, the landscape along this river Lesse was amazing. There were cliffs, castles, fields, forests and much other stuff together.
The whole tour of 12km took us slightly less than 3h. The weekend trip itself was then over. I personally had a short lunch with some other people and we went back home. It was after 9pm that I arrived at home.
So much was our second weekend trip where we stayed in a holiday house. There were things that went better this time, but other things were worse. Let’s get right into it.
I ended the last report by pointing out that last cleaning part didn’t work out at all. This time, actually I don’t know how it worked exactly, since I had to leave earlier to get the tickets to kayaks. However, as I could see after BBQ, there were quite a few people who helped to clean up. It was always the same people, but still more than last time and it was good enough to put everything in order. Here, special thanks to Cláudia, Kartik and Salima (I hope I didn’t forget anyone…).
As I said above, this time pretty much everyone travelled by car. It was not clear until the end whether we would have enough cars and drivers. This time it worked fairly well, but we were really lucky to have Niloofar, Khaled and Cláudia who were willing to provide a car. It still remains a question how to fill the gap between a rented car and a private car, since those who travelled with a private car most likely ended up paying much less than those who travelled on a rented car.
The Sunday event, which is often the tricky one, worked out quite well with kayaking. It could almost become a regular event in the summer. Maybe I should start thinking about what to do in the winter trips.
The format for the breakfast, that everyone brings what they want to have, was new, and actually I really liked it. I guess from the next time on we can indeed only organise the dinner and everything else is up to everyone. This being said, I’d hope that there’d be some level of sharing, which probably people are willing to do.
So, this time the whole trip was meant to be co-organized by Inna. In reality, there were quite a lot of misunderstandings. I guess those problems happened because of lack of communication. Well let’s see what I can do for the next time.
The total price per person was 75€. Here’s what was paid by whom:
22€: Übernachtungssteuer by Tim
365.70€: Accommodation by Inna
35€: Grill by Inna
25€: Grill by Felipe
80€: Grill by Khaled
22€: Grill by Cláudia
276€: Kayak by Sam
Again, I’m sorry that the bookkeeping was quite unclear. I promise that next time it’s going to be better!! 🙂