About six months ago I got called by Yanick, a friend of mine and active member at Hiking Advisor NPO. Nothing special as we speak each other regularly on the phone, but this time he had a special request.
He wanted to know if I would be interested in organising a two-day hiking trip in the context of Slow Roads Day*.
In the past, I had been on a couple of hikes with Hiking Advisor, and last spring I assisted Sofie during a trip in the Volcanic Eifel region. However, this time it was a whole other story.
It’s strange, that after I committed myself, the questions raised. I knew fairly quickly that I wanted to go to the southernmost region of West Flanders, Heuvelland (tr. Land of Hills), where the mountains are hills, and the hills are called mountains.
After a couple of day hikes in the area, I mapped a trail that suited my needs. Still, I felt somewhat insecure. Maybe some kind of stage fright? Guess there is a first time for everything, and maybe that was all part of it.
* Trage Wegen vzw, literally translated Slow Roads, is a Flemish non-profit organisation that is trying to promote and preserve Belgium’s footpaths and bridleways. Every year, in autumn, they organise a campaign weekend called “Slow Roads Day” where several associations participate in showcasing our countries low-traffic streets and footpaths. Whether it’s on foot, on a horse or on a bike, it happens in a pleasant and safe way.
With a little imagination, it feels like being on holiday in Tuscany. Great weather, endless views, rolling hills and even vineyards.
– Filip D.
A splendid atmosphere
It was around 8:45 am when the first participants arrived in Nieuwkerke, the rendezvous point of our two-day adventure. During the introduction of each and everyone, it turned out very soon that this was going to be a fantastic group to guide.
As we strolled along broad farmland, the questions I had about the chosen route quickly disappeared. Everybody seemed to like the scenery of the Flemish rolling hills. By the time we reached the slopes of Red & Black Mountain, Filip, one of the participants, compared this region with Tuscany. Maybe I didn’t show how it felt when hearing that, but I must confess that I was a bit proud.
As the group consisted of 12 people it was also easier for them, and for myself, to learn to know each other a little better. This also benefited the atmosphere, reaching a climax at the end of the first day shortly after pitching our tents at the campground. Lieve, who came up with the idea of cooking together, and the campfire afterwards made it perfect. It was impressive to see everyone getting into the spirit of the day. Maybe, the fact that the campsite owners had their fridge filled with some local Belgian Trappist beers helped a bit, but even without this golden juice, the mood couldn’t be better.
The second day our journey continued towards Kemmelberg, merely 156m high and the highest point of the province. As we wandered through several nature reserves, tips and tricks about multi-day hikes were shared, and future plans were made as our micro adventure advanced.
It tastes like more
At the end of our journey, we covered 47 kilometres in beautiful Heuvelland. A local pub was the place to be for a last drink together. With great satisfaction, we looked back at two days hiking and a bunch of new friends. It’s clear that all the questions I had before starting this trip had been answered in the best possible way.
Thank you Delfien, Lieve, Lynn, Nina, Cristopher, Davy, Filip, Karel, Marc, Paul & Tuur. I couldn’t have imagined a better team.