A five day hike in Belgian backland – Transardennaise

A seven day hike from La Roche-En-Ardenne to Bouillon through the Belgian Ardennes. It might sound like being a long hike, but the track is very diverse. From mountain-like landscapes, to grasslands, into pine woods, through small villages… It’s a 160 kilometres dream hike.

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In this post I want to convince you to make this your next holiday! I will not be talking you through the whole route, since you can find that in the guide book “De transardense route” published by Grande Traversée des Ardennes, or via the instructions below.

The track

Your most important tool will be the detailed maps shown below, and a gps track (gpx) for the Transardennaise. The printed map can be bought online and the gpx can be downloaded for free (contact me for instructions).

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The track is indicated for most part of the route, but I did find myself looking for traces or doubting along the way. So that’s where the gps track comes in very handy to compare your exact location with the track.

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What (not) to do

I learned a lot while hiking this route, so I’d like to share some of my key take-aways with you:

  • Pack light: don’t take too many books, camera equipment, tablet or laptop etc… I packed in a hury and realized only during the hike I was carying a 23kg backpack with me. Since I was hiking alone I had to carry a lot of camping gear on my own -> Don’t do it! 13-15kg should be your maximum, including camping equipment and food/water.
  • Take food and water: make sure you always have some light weight food for 24 hours and enough water… a lot of the lovely villages you pass don’t have shops nor restaurants. You can always ring a doorbell and ask water, but asking for food is a little more complicated. I was well prepared and used almost all of my food multiple times on the hike.
  • Don’t rush it: I only had 5 days but really wanted to do the full hike… so with a heavy backback and doing 20-30% more kilometres per day made it challenging.
  • Test your gear: only in Saint-Hubert you might have the chance to buy some new/extra gear, but for the rest of the trip you will not pass any shops. So make sure your camping gear and hiking boots are working fine. (my boots started to take up water after 2 days)

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Basic packing list

Oh well, you probably know what to take… make sure not to forget to pack LIGHT!

  • Walking: (not new) hiking boots, well parametered backpack, at least two pairs of socks to switch, compeed, phone (+charger) for gps and pictures, raingear (jacket, pants, garbage bag inside your backpack + raincover over backpack)
  • Camping: super light tent, matress, light sleeping bag, use your clothes or backpack as a pillow, pocket knife, small headtorch, lighter, candle
  • Clothing: comfortable hiking clothes, just go for the smelly modus and take enough to switch 3-4 times in 7 days.
  • Eating & drinking: see below

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Wild boar

Chances are big you will run into wild boar or other wildlife. Make sure you don’t find yourself between a mother and her babies… step back where you came from if needed, or lay flat on the ground if they would attack.

After meeting plenty of them with babies I started whistling or singing to make sure they would hear me coming, since I was hiking on my own and thus would not be talking to anyone.

Hunting season! Be carefull to read the panels at the entrance of every wood if you’re hiking around hunting season. It wouldn’t be funy to get involved in a hunting accident.

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Camping

Being on my own, I always asked a farmer if I could place my tent somewhere not too far from their house. That way I could charge my phone or take water at their place. Behind wire you’re also “safer” for wild boar or deer. So something between camping in the wild and having a bit of basic security.

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Food

There are some restaurants on the track, but try to call them in advance to check if they are open at your time of the year.

The culinary highlights of my trip: L’auberge du Prevost

The culinary low in my trip: canned fish and parovita for breakfast and lunch on the same day. Typically I would take muesli bars, canned fish, parovita, boiled eggs, breakfast cookies with chocolate and bananas. Enough for 3-4 basic meals in a row. No food that should be cooled or prepared, since I don’t take a stove or cooking equipment. Picknick all the way!

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The arrival at Bouillon is truly impressive. Don’t miss the viewtower to get the view as shown below. Bouillon has plenty of cultural places to visit, so take some time to visit some of the musea.

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Before heading back to civilization the next morning (and straight to a baptism party) I had to make sure to remove two ticks and wash myself properly. I booked a room in the “Hotel De La Poste”, one of the cheaper places around, but very nice “Ardennes” atmosphere.

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