Time sure flies when you're busy as a bee! So much to write, so little time!
One of the reasons I'm glad to be back in Belgium this fall is that I've joined the University of Liège's hiking group! Starting up hiking again was one of my plans for getting back in shape last winter and spring... until a certain tumble knocked me out of circulation for a couple of months and then limited me to aquatic action. Well, taking it slow but surely (being careful of my ankle and how it reacts) I'm done with standing still, I'm on the move! And I'd like to share these tales of trees and hills (they don't really have mountains here... but the hills can have some very steep climbs!) and mushrooms with you! Hope you're interested. ;o)
These people head out into the hills 3 Sundays a month, rain or shine, for a full day's hike. Usually about 20-25km, somewhere in the hills of Wallonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) towards the Ardennes (the non-flat part of Belgium). They're all circular routes devised by one of 5 membres of the group, and about half of them allow for a meet up at lunch time for those who would rather do 15km and not get up at 7 a.m. for the rendez-vous. Which is what I did with a friend on my first Sunday here (Sept 19th). After years of the occasional hike here and there, and a bum ankle, no way was I going to start all hard core! Good thing too... this first hike had my ankle bothering me at the end, and my legs twitching for 4 days after! :p
This Satellite image (thx Google Gods!) gives you an idea of the area in the Aywaille region between Nonceveux and Lorcé:
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The route is 8km along the roads, we (those who joined the group at lunch) did 14 km from Lorcé to Nonceveux through the fields and woods. Our starting point:
As you can see people were wrapped up pretty well... the summer's definitely over, but at least it didn't rain!
So we (my friend pictured above and I) joined up with the group at meal time, and then headed out through the woods:
I kept getting distracted from the path by the little things I kept spotting at my feet! Like these flowers:
Careful! As any Agatha Christie reader knows digitalis (or foxglove) is a good murder weapon! ;o)
Then there were the funky mushrooms that kept popping up all over the place in wondrous varieties! A few below, I'll write a fuller post on mushrooms another day, combining photos from various outings.
I can't stress enough how wonderful it feels to be back in a forest! I love the Mediterranean and don't know if I could live away from the sea anymore, but the rest of Alicante is so arid it makes me long for green...
Isn't this moss amazing? It looks like baby pine trees!!!
And I love this type of "bruyère":
Then there were the more "practical" bushes we occasionally came across:
yum! blackberries!!! (not many left, but enough throughout the hike for me to enjoy them)
We came out of the woods through some fields and farmland...
...and walked through a little hamlet with a church and a few houses...
...and then headed back into the woods.
Our hike leader chose a lovely spot along the Amblève river for a break...
While some of us ate a snack, others begged for a bite:
and some of us just enjoyed exploring and goofing around... ;o)
Then on again along the river, coming across a very surprising site (for me). Three guesses as to the critter responsible for this damage:
? no? ok...
Huh? Beavers? In Europe?!?!?! Yup! Apparently some (US) army rangers thought it a good idea to bring some over back in the day, and they haven't had any trouble adapting to their new environment! (what I don't know is if their environment is having trouble adapting to them, introducing foreign species is usually not a good idea...)
We followed along the river for quite a while,
coming across fields of these gorgeous flowers:
I must say, there's something magic about walking under a green canopy and hearing the babbling of the river running next to you...
Look! More mushrooms! Quite a colony:
After just over 3h (and just about enough for my ankle) we popped out of the trees and into the town... a few blocks from the cars and headed on home.
You like? I loved it! In spite of my legs being sore for 4 days after! :p And I'm glad I'm getting to see some of the hidden beauties of this region. After having lived here for 8 years (staying mainly in the cities, with the occasional road trip thanks to rental cars), it's nice to see Belgium still has some surprises in store for me! I look forward to discovering more of them! :o)