Two-day bike trip to Villers-La-Ville

Last weekend we took the most beautiful cycling route out of Brussels consisting of pure nature only. In a little more than fifty kilometres you can drive from Brussels to the abbey ruins of Villers-La-Ville, where we camped.

On the first day we left around noon with our camping gear packed on the bicycles, ready for our big adventure. We were lucky that our friend Thomas had planned the route (GPX map) with almost only roads through forests and fields. To come back he planned another route that is a bit shorter and with different sceneries, but still plenty of nature as well. The 50-60 km route has more or less 600-700 meters of uphill cycling. Nothing impossible but still a bit sporty.

You don’t need crazy gear for this trip: a decent bike (Tine even went on her Brompton), a repair kit (or a Velofixer – Amor in our case) a good picknick with enough food and water and basic camping gear (tent, mattress, sleeping bag).

Chateau de La Hulpe

After cycling through Bois De La Cambre and the Sonian Forest, it takes you less than an hour to get to the La Hulpe castle. That’s where we had lunch before heading to the Lion of Waterloo.


Waterloo’s Lion


While cycling out of the forest and into the fields, you soon see the Lion sticking out on its hill. Be aware it gets quite crowded and a simple walk to the top of the hill is not possible without paying a twenty euros ticket that includes a 2 hour tour in the museum as well. So we just admired the Lion from the terrace of the restaurant next door.


A couple of hours later, cycling through small routes through the forest and fields, uphill… downhill…, we got to closer to our end destination of the day: Villers-La-Ville. As you will see, this is the first picture with Tine having a quirky helmet position… and certainly not the last one 😉 !




Once we arrived to the ruins of the abbey of Villers-La-Ville we first had dinner at “Chalet de la Foret”, a good and cosy restaurant, and a perfect place to refill our water bottles and wash the suncream away after our trip. There are no campings closeby, but that should not stop you from camping.
Once the evening started to fall we found ourselves a good spot to put our tent and get ready for the night. A lock around the bicycles, brushing our teeth with a view on the abbey ruins…and ready for bed.


On the second day we woke up early, had breakfast and went for a walk. Notice that the abbey only opens at 10am on Sundays, so you might already take a hike before.



The history of the site is impressive and throughout the walk in the gardens and the abbey ruins the history is well explained. The waterworks, medicinal garden, protection walls, etc. date from around 1100…so plenty of stories to be told.



After the visit we packed our tent and camping gear into the waterproof bags and started to drive back to Brussels. The route took us through plenty of woods and small villages again. This route followed the railroad to Brussels for quite some time, so it’s rather easy to orientate yourself.



Halfway on the route back you pass the Genval lake with its relaxed atmosphere: rowing and sailing boats, restaurants around the lake and an esplanade with “Fancy people” that make you think you’re in Knokke.


Sonian Forest

Once you leave the route around the lake you end up back in the Sonian Forest and back around the castle of La Hulpe. The Sonian forest has so many routes you can pick whatever alternative you want: asphalt, gravel or off-road!


It was our first cycling-camping holiday, so it was a true learning experience to understand what is important and how to prepare:
– Decide on the best bike for you? (city / touring / offroad with racks for bags) -> Make it as comfortable as possible
– How to plan your route and add a maximum of nature? (e.g. Garmin basecamp, google maps,… decide your highlights and modify the route step by step via green corridors) -> keep it as green as possible
– What to take? (water, food, camping gear, repair kit, sunscreen, spare (warm/rain) clothes,…) -> keep it as light as possible
A really big thanks to Thomas for figuring out this route. Nature all the way!

The Sahara in Belgium

Lommel has a piece of nature that has been expanding like a desert and thus  looks like (a tiny piece of) the Sahara. Surrounded by Bosland it is a heaven for cycling or mountainbiking, hiking, horseback riding and hanging around. And if we’re this amazed with cloudy weather, a bit of sun would make it shine even more!

This bit of desert originally appeared in the early 1900’s after sand extraction and a neighboring zinc production plant that made almost all vegetation disappear. The woods were planted afterwerds to stop this piece of desert from expanding. Now it’s a nature park with lots of wildlife.


Lommel is a 1.5 hour train ride away from Brussels, but the Sahara park is another 15min by bike from the railway station… so taking your bike along certainly makes life easier.

It’s perfect for a weekend away…but camping seems illegal there, so we still need to find a solution for that. You can easily spend a day walking around in the nature park of Sahara and another day cycling around Bosland.




It’s not all sand. A bridge crosses the canal into different kinds of “Heide” fields, so the hike does not get boring at all.


The whole Bosland is equiped with cycling lanes like the one below (but also off-road and hiking trails)… so it’s accessible to all, including wheelchairs.


The watchtower in the Sahara is a must do. We were there in the afternoon on a cloudy day, but next time we want to stay there for sunset. Assured impressive colors and views.




The artist Will Beckers made multiple installations throughout the woods of Bosland. His purpose is to create art that blends perfectly into nature without using conflicting colors or materials.




In bosland we did not follow a specific route but started by using the impressively nice cycling lanes through the woods, then ended up on one of the mountainbike parcours… and eventually crossing the woods off-road.




Mediterranean hike in Spain – GR92

The trip I’m describing in this post dates back from the summer of 2016. But since it was one of the nicest hikes I have done in Europe so far, I still wanted to share it.

The start of the hike is easy to reach by train. If you come from Belgium you can take a high-speed train to Perpignan (probably transfering in Paris or in Lyon), and then a smaller train (or hitchike) to Vilajuiga. When we did the trip we first spent 2 days in Barcelona visiting some friends and then took the train to Vilajuiga. On the way back we hitchhiked from Argèles to Perpignan where we took the train back to Brussels.

This part of the GR92 is a rather easy part, except for the heat when hiking inland. So make sure you always take enough supplies so you can easily spend a full night and day in nature without having to worry about food and water. The heat can be impressive so taking plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat is really needed. For sleeping we made a mix between camping in the wild in the mountains or on beaches, some campings and some small hotel rooms. To be specific: we did not always walk on the GR92 itself but made some variations first to get to the GR92, and later to avoid lost kilometers when looking for a camping spot.

Day 1: Vilajuiga to Serra de Rodes

On the first day we took the time to get from Barcelona to Vilajuiga by train and to do some grocery shopping so we would be well prepared for the hike. In the tourism office we asked a map and best route to start, since the first part is not directly on the GR92. We left Vilajuiga around 16pm so there would be a little less sun for the first climb. After about 3-4 hours we reached the top and took our sunset picknick with a five star view on the sea.




Day 2: Serra de Rodes to Cadaques

Waking up was impressive: the location where we pitched our tent was actually above the clouds and we couldn’t see the sea, but where we were the sun was shining. By visiting the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, we split the hike in two parts to avoid walking in the heat at noon. In the afternoon we continued our hike to Cadaques where we spent the night in “camping Cadaques” at the side of the village. It’s worth spending enough time here: very good restaurants, lovely village and plenty of culture since Dali had a house there that is now transformed in a museum.




Day 3: Cadaques – Cap de Creus

We started the day relaxing in Cadaques, having a very good lunch at Lua with seafood: highly recommended. We rented a sit-on-top kayak for a couple of hours and did a tour in all the small bays around Cadaques. The hiking part only started by the end of the day to avoid the heat.

Nature between Cadaques and Cap de Creus is impressive. It looks like a moon landscape and has plenty of small bays and beaches to relax on. That night, after visiting the lighthouse and the restaurant of Cap de Creus, we camped on a small beach (Cala Fredosa) next to the Cap, since there was way too much wind and thunderstorm expected for that night.


Day 4: Cap de Creus – El Port de la Selva

The fourth day started very rainy, so we hiked faster to Port de La Selva and stayed in a small hotel (Hostal Sol i Sombra).



Day 5: El port de la Selva – Colera

Camping Sant Miquel, a nice place with a swimming pool to relax. The village itself is not the most impressive place… but hiking on to Portbou would have been just a little too much.

Day 6: Colera – Portbou

A short walk away from Colera crossing the mountain is Portbou. The views on this frontier city is impressive, mainly due to all the railway infrastructure. In the old days trains had to be switched from the French to the Spanish wheel base to continue their journey.


It’s in Portbou that we met with David, an old university friend from when we studied in Mexico. It’s a small city with some nice atmosphere and a modern art installation in nature south of the esplanade. We were there when the local festivities were taking place. We stayed at David’s place for the night.

Day 7: Portbou – Cerbère – Banyuls-sur-mer – Collioure

This was a long hike of more than seven hours passing multiple villages and crossing the Spain-France border walking.





Cities are always harder to camp, but in Collioure we found ourselves a good spot behind the Miradou fortress. Nicely hidden in the bushes.

Day 8: Collioure – Perpignan

On the last day of the hike we started hiking up to Argelès-sur-mère. And after a couple of hours decided that it was time to hitchike to Perpignan. If you make sure to check the timetables upfront you can certainly also catch a train.


p.s. All images have been taken with an older iphone so the image quality is not always very high


A 5-day kayak tour in Belgium

During the summer of 2015 I was looking for a kayaking holiday starting from the heart of Brussels. At that time I was a member of a kayak club in Anderlecht and could use one of their tour kayaks for a full week. It was certainly a good idea to take some basic courses on safety techniques and what to do when you flip over.

The plan was simple: enjoy nature and kayak through the Belgian backland. So that’s what I did: I kayaked from Tour&Taxis in Brussels to Deinze, over the canal, Zenne, Dijle, Rupel, Schelde, ringvaart and Leie.

My kayak was filled with my camping gear, water, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, muesli bars, some canned food and a bottle of wine. For the kayaking part I took a good map, a well charged mobilephone with gps and a cart to put my kayak on to walk around the locks.


The route I took looked exactly like on the map below. Important to mention that at every lock you have to take your kayak out of the water, walk around the lock complex and find a spot to safely get into your kayak again.


Day 1: Brussel – Klein Willebroek

I loaded the kayak on the dock next to Kanal and Tour & Taxis in the morning and started paddling in the direction of Antwerp. Past Vilvoorde I took the dock on the right side and had to lift my kayak out of the water for a first time. 5 days of food, camping gear and the kayak itself is quite a weight, so I was happy to put the two wheels under the kayak and roll it through the grass, over the road and back to the water.

An hour later I remembered there was a very important point: don’t follow the old Zenne until next to Mechelen or you’ll get trapped in a concrete canal with a small damm/turbine. I checked on my gps every couple of minutes and realized well in advance where I had to turn right not to kill myself.

In the beginning of the afternoon I arrived in “Zennegat”, a place where 3 canals come together. It has a super cosy bar (Zennegat 13), so I charged my phone for the first time and toasted to myself with a beer.

And that was the easy part without having to take into account the tidals. As from now I would have to calculate the most optimal moments to kayak and have the tide pushing my downstream (instead of paddling against the tide). Around 17pm I decided that 8 hours of paddling was enough for the day and put my camp next to a desolated working dock in Klein Willebroek. With a little drizzling rain I waited for my girlfriend to join me by train and bike and tell her all about how my arms heart but the nature is so beautiful.

Day 2: Klein Willebroek – Sint-Amands on the Schelde


Eventhough I realized it would still take a couple of hours before the tide would be beneficial, I decided to take a quick breakfast and start paddling towards the schelde. If you stay well on the side of the rupel you can actualy benefit of the stream turning backwards onto the riverbanks. So that’s what I did.

Putting sunscreen every two hours I reached the Schelde just on time to still get the tide along and shot down towards Sint-Amands. The picture just above is the idilic arrival at Sint-Amands. It’s a poetry village with a couple of small restaurants. It feels like arriving in a fairy tale. I camped next to a cycling path just outside of the village. Next time I’ll go to the same place for a nice biking tour!


Day 3: Sint-Amands – Ghent centre

The third day is where I changed my original plans from going to dendermonde to continuing until Ghent and then on the beautiful Lei river. And that’s where I started improvising on the route.

I had to paddle for about 10-12 hours to get to Ghent and arrived just before sunset facing an impressive 10m high lock wall without any spot to get out of the water. After getting yelled at by the lock responsible to “go back where you came from with your toyboat or drown, I couldn’t care less” I turned around full of adrenaline.

In the pitch dark with my headtorched I paddled back looking for a spot where I could go on land. Since it was next to a road there was not a single square meter to pitch my tent. So I rang at the front door of people with some grass in their frontyard. Yes, I could camp there and of course they could charge my phone. Lucky me. After paddling more than thirty kilometres that day I fell asleep immediately.

Day 4: Ghent – Sint-Martenslatem

After spent the early morning relaxing and reading in my tent I set of for another day full of adventure. Early afternoon there was the huge lock of Merelbeke. Steep riverside walls of 6 metres high lead to some brain stretching engineering techniques with a long rope and the wheels under the kayak. It took me two full hours to get back into the water just behind the lock.

So with less time left to paddle I decided to go slow and enjoy the pictoresk views of the Leie. In the evening i pitched my tent with a view on 11 cows and a boat. I enjoyed the last bit of my wine, meatloaf, tomatoes, parovitta, mozarella cheese and tomato juice. My healthy kayakers lunch dinner since 4 days, also called “pica pica”. For desserts I ate two balistos and some speculoos.

Day 5: Sint-Martenslatem – Deinze

The last day of my trip I went as slow as possible to just enjoy the scenery. I paddled for a couple of hours and arranged my pickup with my parrents at lunchtime: Gasthof Halifax, a lovely terrace with views on the Leie. A nice celebration to finish the adventure!