Stage 2 of the GR 121 is a walk of two halves, but certainly worth walking.
When the first half of a football/soccer game is totally different from the second, the commentator will often describe it – rather unimaginatively – as “a game of two halves.” This stage of the GR 121 is most definitely “a route of two halves.”
First Half (La Roche to Genappe)
La Roche (Brabant) railway station is a humble start for the walk. It’s so decrepit that there’s not even a bench to sit on. But as long as the train continues to stop there, that’s what’s important, not the decor and furniture.
It took me three trains to reach La Roche, but I didn’t mind at all. I enjoy travelling by train; I arrive at my destination considerably more relaxed than by car, after spending the time reading a book and drinking a coffee.
Immediately upon leaving the station you are in the countryside of Brabant Wallon, and lovely countryside it is too.
For ten kilometres you will walk through some pretty copses, criss-cross the River Dijle, cast admiring glances at picturesque cottages, dit bonjour to some equally pretty horses, stretch your legs on some gentle ups-and-downs, and generally come to the conclusion that this is an extremely pleasant walk.
Second Half (Genappe to Nivelles)
How different this stretch is! Basically it consists of walking along farm tracks through heavily cultivated lands full of potatoes, wheat, potatoes, barley, potatoes, maize, potatoes, potatoes and potatoes.
Some tracks are so straight that a passing Roman would turn green with envy. Part of the route runs so close to a busy and noisy motorway that you can’t even hear yourself complaining.
And everywhere seems so sterile. In the whole of ten kilometres the only significant observations were two yellow wagtails flying overhead (probably heading for somewhere more interesting), one rabbit, and a few butterflies vainly trying to find a wild flower that had managed to resist being nitrated to death.
Now and again I heard grasshoppers reeling away in the grass. And there was a small murder of crows in one field, presumably looking for the grasshoppers to crunch.
But apart from that. Not a lot …
If you are simply wanting a pleasant country walk, then you might want to walk the first half to Genappe twice. In other words, walk to Genappe, look around the village, maybe seek some refreshment there, and then turn around and retrace your steps to La Roche. Walks always look completely different when you do them in the other direction, which is not surprising as you have a totally different viewpoint.
Of course, if completing the GR 121 is one of your objectives, you simply have to grin and bear it. Not every walk of every long-distance footpath is exhilarating, and you just have to make the best of the bits that aren’t. And no matter how boring parts of a path can be, it will involve a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise, which is always good.
Either way, let me know how you get it; I would be most interested. If you enjoy these posts on Discovering Belgium, you could always buy me a coffee which I’d appreciate greatly! And if you are not yet subscribed, add your email below to get new posts in your inbox. Thanks! Denzil