If you are looking for a short weekend escape that requires no planning at all: take your bike on the train to Hasselt and start cycling. Pay 4 Euro per bike and ask the train responsible to open the door for bicycles and you just roll-in and attach your bike in the dedicated spot. Our plan: Hasselt – Maastricht – Heijenrath – Liege.
Cycling through the historic center of Hasselt is worth it. We left on a Friday evening, so we stayed one night in Hasselt. The next morning we cycled to ‘Wandelgebied Bokrijk/Kiewit’ where you can cycle through the water. What is most special about it is that you seem a lot smaller for the swans and ducks… and they seem at ease to get close or just float along while you are slowly cycling through.
We did not visit Bokrijk (still on our to-do list), but the woods are fully accessible and nature is stunning. If you’d like to you can easily spend the day just there. But we had a plan to visit the Dutchies across the border, so we continued.
From Bokrijk to Maastricht the route is rather easy if you stick to one rule: stay on the left side of the Albert canal. Some applications send you to the right side, but on most of the route this side is locked with high fences and obstructions… we ran into them multiple times. On the left side of the canal the road sometimes takes a bit of a detour around some buildings or a yacht club, but overall you’ll find your way. Parts are in nature, other parts are intriguing heavy industry.
These ships are not necessarily very low emitters, but the below ship transports 156 20-foot containers at once. That means that the same amount of trucks has been kept of the roads. These kind of inland-ships can transport from 50 up to 300 containers at once. So it does play its role in making the transport of goods more sustainable.
Next to being a lovely sight, the sheep also serve a real purpose along the canal: deplete the soil so that scarce plants can again stand a chance of survival. The feces of too many sheep are helping to deplete the soil faster.
After less than two hours cycling we arrived in Maastricht. In Maastricht we had lunch in the old fire brigade building ‘Brandweerkazerne’. We cycled around to visit some of the highlights such as the beautiful Frontenpark, Bassin, the red Sint-Jans church and square,… and strolled around in the famous bookshop in the church ‘Dominicanen’.
When the evening started to fall we head on to our final location of the day deep into nature: Heijenrath. A small village surrounded by impressive nature waiting for you to hike, cycle and camp. We stayed at Hotel Heijenrath since towards the end of November the weather is not that pleasing for camping… but there’s a super cheap campsite behind hotel Kreutzer to make it a low-budget weekend. (The campsite does have some holiday homes and sad caravans, but with the sun that should look less depressing).
The evening brought a good dinner. The next morning brought a morning walk before breakfast and a big hike after breakfast. The village has multiple loops to hike through the forests and hilly fields.
After losing three hours to repair my bike and tape 5 holes in my inner tier we head off towards Voeren. Sinterklaas and the marching band made our afternoon into a true feast.
All through the route you criss-cross over the Dutch-Belgian border and see these stone border marks as on the below photo.
We had dinner in Blackthys Hotel Voeren and saved this location for a next time. Food was really good and the village and surroundings look very pleasing to spend the weekend and go for a hike. After that we cycled back to Wezet where we took the train to Liege and back to Brussels. If we would not have lost the 3 hours we could have easily cycled along the Maas river of the Albert Canal to Liege. In our next trip we would also consider adding a visit to the Eben-Emael fortress.