Fully refreshed after my overnight stay at Maggy’s Airbnb after completing stage 2 of the GR 571, and topped up with a lunch packet, I set off from the village of Stoumont at 8:45. I was hoping for some sunshine, but the day started off as gloomy as the day before. But my spirits were certainly not gloomy. It was wonderful to be out early in the fresh air and lovely Ardennes countryside.
First point of interest was the ChÃ¢teau de Froidcourt.
Looks pretty old doesn’t it. In fact it was built between 1912 and 1919 by the Mayor of Stoumont, Charles-Albert de Harenne. (Wasn’t there a war going on in Belgium at that time?). It was built on the site of a medieval castle that guarded the valley of the AmblÃ¨ve river, which was my next photo opportunity:
Monceau village was my next port of call.
Although tiny, it was the scene of an important mini-battle during the much larger Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War. This was when the Germans launched a surprise offensive through the Ardennes forests on December 16, 1944, which caught the Allies completely by surprise. The 82nd Airborne Division responded quickly, retook Monceau on December 20 and forced the German units back across the AmblÃ¨ve the next day.
The Long and Winding Road
After Monceau the path goes this way and that and ascends to give you some wonderful views across the AmblÃ¨ve valley and to the range of hills known as La Gleize.
Up, up and up went the trail.
Down, down and down went the temperature.
Until I reached the Arctic Circle, or so it seemed.
By this time I was really in the low clouds, and thought for a moment it was going to snow, but it didn’t.
Just before frostbite set in and my oxygen tank ran out, but before I had met any eskimos or polar bears, the path began to descend. First it passed the Coo reservoir and hydro-electric power station:
and then I entered the surprisingly restaurant-rich village of Coo:
Here I was greeted enthusiastically by the local restaurateurs who insisted that I sit at their best VIP dining table:
After my picnic lunch it became apparent why there are so many restaurants in such a small village: it has a tourist attraction! Actually it has two. One of them you might have seen in the photos above: Plopsa Coo, the family-friendly theme park. The other is the Coo Waterfalls:
With a drop of 15 metres, it’s apparently Belgium’s biggest waterfall! I couldn’t seem to get a front-on photograph, so here’s a print dating from 1890:
I do Coo a disservice. It doesn’t have two tourist attractions. It has THREE!The third is a chair-lift!
Stairway to Heaven
Starting at 240 metres above sea level, it rises a further 220 metres up to a watchtower on top of the hill overlooking Coo. The GR 571, of course, does not take the chair-lift; it follows an incredibly steep and absolutely exhausting climb, beginning here:
As if that wasn’t tough enough, it had some obstacles along the way:
I took a detour, and eventually, gasping for breath, reached the top of the chair-lift:
And then kept going to the top of the watchtower:
But it was well worth the effort, for some wonderful views:
And that was about it for this lovely stage of the GR 571, which I am really coming to like a lot. After climbing so high, the path meandered gently downhill through the forests to the town of Trois-Ponts, where I caught my train back home.
The route was 17 km, and you can find it here on RouteYou.
We did this climb also and indeed ..its was high ! 480m height above the sea level !
Yes I saw on your blog that I was following in your footsteps!
Beautiful photos as you traveled through various climates. 🙂 I hope you had lots of protein and carbs with you to keep you going because that looked like a real workout. 🙂
Yes Judy it was, and the days after the steep ascent at Coo I had extremely sore calves!
You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you? It’s all looking a bit cold and bleak still. 🙂
Yes Jo I haven’t seen much sunshine yet. But I was out last weekend too (April 2-3) and there were definite signs of spring in the air!
Well, you certainly haven’t been idle lately 😉 And gotten very fond of white & red signs on the trees, so it seems. The idea to spend the night somewhere and continue the next day has not been a popular option over here yet – however, now that I am retired, that might very well change. It feels great, doesn’t it, to walk for several days?!? Anyway, it will be my turn in May. So long.
Yes Guido, the red-and-white signs have become quite a familiar travelling companion! My overnight experience between stages 4 and 5 (this weekend) wasn’t quite as fun though – you’ll hear more about that in my next blog. What are you planning for May?
A long hiking weekend on the Saar-HunsrÃ¼cksteig in Germany; however, we (5 walkers) will start from one guest house to the various starting points. Looking forward to it.
Hey Denzil, I really enjoy reading about your GR 571 adventures! You’ve already done 5 stages and I feel you thoroughly enjoy this trail! I found your site via your comments on Guido’s hiking blog – it’s a small world! 🙂 I wish you many more adventures on this great trail and once you’ve finished the GR 571 I can highly recommend GR 57 to you (I’m hiking that one too), which is also a real gem. 🙂
Thanks for your comment Kelly and I am pleased to see that you enjoy my blog. I would be interested to learn more of your experiences on the GR 57. Are you doing it in stages? Do you have any overnight tips or recommendations?
I am indeed doing it in stages, in weekends actually. The number of kms we do per day is not that much (max. 16 or so) because my friend who is walking with me is not so obsessed with hiking as I am. 🙂 Still, walking less kms a day makes it also possible to enjoy everything along the road: we sometimes take time to visit a small village, have a drink, have a good talk with a nice animal we come across 😉 We mostly sleep in B&Bs or sometimes small hotels. If you have concrete questions about certain parts of the GR, don’t hesitate to ask me. We only do 1 weekend per year on this GR together but throughout the year I am quite active with other walks, bicycle trips, kayak and dance. This year we’re doing the part from Barvaux to Hotton, which I actually already did once in 2011, but the trail has somewhat changed on this part since then. I wish you many happy walks! 🙂
Sounds a lovely approach Kelly. Let’s stay in touch, and if I get to do the GR57 I will certainly drop you a line.
I would have been very tempted to take the chair lift to the top and then walk down. When we were in Austria Mr ET commented that everything there is uphill! I think this part of Belgium must be similar.
The chair-lift season hadn’t actually started, so was sitting idle. A funny man, that Mr ET!
You’re doing a lot of climbing on this trip – good for you for not being tempted by the chair lift!
I was certainly tempted halfway up! But by then it was too late.
Very interesting share, thanks Denzil
Sipping a good Australian red wine reading your posts, the only way to walk. Wait for the chairlift to start everywhere over there is uphill. BTW did you see the TV series Band of Brothers? Some of it is set around these parts.
Yes I did see Band of Brothers Glen. An excellent series. Every time I rounded a corner in the forest I expected to see David Schwimmer coming towards me.
Today we walked in your footsteps again. Much nicer weather and not as cold. This must be one of the most beautiful walks one can do in Belgium. It was tough, too, but with some breathtaking views. In my opinion the AmblÃ¨ve valley tops the Ourthe valley.
I’m looking forward to reading your account and seeing your photos Guido. I am rather envious of you. I’m tempted to do this stretch all over again, maybe from Gouvy to Comblain this time.
My hiking companion definitely wants to repeat today’s stretch in spring time.
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