Stage 4 of the GR 571 Stage 4 from Trois-Ponts to Vielsalm shows the beauty of the Ardennes to the maximum!
The weather forecast for April 2-3 was fair and dry, so early on Saturday morning I was off again. Up early too. Hope the train driver can see in the dark.
Even the square in front of Leuven station was dark and deserted, although quite pretty.
After the recent terrorism in Belgium, I felt a bit nervous walking past the railway security guards with a rucksac on my back, but I guess a deserted railway station at 7 a.m. isn’t the obvious target for a terrorist.
Have I introduced you to my rucksac yet? No? How remiss of me. Readers, meet Rucksac.
Liz says it should be featured on the BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow”. You can imagine the expert’s view: “Oh look at this treasure. An original Karrimor Tote’em Senior, made in Accrington, England, and dating back to the early 1970s. Aluminium frame! You don’t see that these days. Lightweight but extremely rugged. Made to last.”
And it certainly has lasted. I bought it new in 1972, after saving up my money earned doing some weekend gardening jobs. It’s been on my back all over the UK, to Switzerland and Austria, and is still doing fine service in the Ardennes. Not bad for something over 40 years old.
With my destination of Vielsalm in mind, I travelled to where I had finished stage 3: Trois-Ponts. Thanks to my early start I reached this at 9 a.m. As with every stage, the footpath started from the railway station with a steep climb up into the hills, although this time it was more like a narrow and rather precarious sheep track along the side of a steep hill.
Having carefully and rather anxiously negotiated that, the path broadened out and passed through the forests, although at one stage the route couldn’t decide whether it was a footpath or a stream.
As always, the views from the top were splendid.
The GR 571 then proceeded to descend into the river valley. Not the AmblÃ¨ve, but the Salm:
and pass through the villages of La Neuville, Rochelinval, Petit-Halleux and Grand-Halleux.
Nearby Wanne is obviously the place to be:
As with previous stages, there were plenty of reminders that this area was the scene of heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG!
What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Two weeks ago it was still winter in the Ardennes with snow on the ground. Now it was the beginnings of spring, with all the signs evident:
STOAT AND BADGER
And look at this lovely little fellow I was studying for a while! Or was he/she studying me?
I also came across these: the characteristic broad 5-toed footprint of a badger.
A bit later this board confirmed that badgers (le blaireau) do indeed inhabit the area:
Actually I always think that these boards, while being educational, lead to overly high expectations. Yes, all these six animals probably do live in this particular forest, but that doesn’t mean you can expect to see them. Most wild animals keep themselves to themselves, or are even nocturnal.
The river certainly seems to be well populated with all sorts of fish too:
TWO UNFORTUNATE ACCIDENTS
Towards the end of the day I had two unfortunate experiences within an hour of each other; one worse than the other. Firstly the strap broke on my binoculars so I couldn’t hang them around my neck, which wasn’t a big problem although slightly annoying.
Secondly, my camera belt bag broke. This was much worse as it spilt my camera onto the ground, which happened to be hard rock. The screen smashed! For the rest of the weekend I was taking photos with no idea if the camera was working still or whether the lens had been damaged, and no idea if I was framing the photo correctly.
COLD AS ICE IN VIELSALM!
I arrived at my destination at 5 p.m.. This was Vielsalm, where I had booked an overnight stay in a caravan at Camping de la Zalm. I have to say this was probably the coldest, most uncomfortable night I have ever spent for a long time.
The caravan had clearly not been used or opened for a long time. It took the camp site owner half an hour and three attempts to find the right key to open it. Everything about it was cold, as well as damp and musty. I had my sleeping bag but as the temperature dropped overnight (and it was a freezing cold, cloudless night) it was insufficient. There were no extra blankets. I ended up wearing all my clothes, including my hat, in bed. But that didn’t stop me shivering through a night where I didn’t get much rest at all. Eventually at 5 a.m. I got up, put my 1-euro jeton in the shower in the main building, and just stood under the hot water for as long as the jeton lasted for.
I don’t think I will be returning to that specific campsite again. But I will definitely be returning to Vielsalm again.
Despite ending up with a broken camera and a broken night, the day was wonderful. I walked 20 km and you can follow the route here on RouteYou. You can also check up previous stages such as stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3.
What a person sees of nature and the world depends upon how they travel – plane, train, auto, bike, or by foot. You experience amazing adventures just by putting one foot in front of another. I applaud your adventuresome spirit. Hope your camera survived the downward flight it took.
Thanks for your lovely comment Judy. The camera is not dead, but very ill.
Extremely well written Denzil, I admire your writing skils.
You were very lucky to find a brimstone butterfly that wanted to pose, most of the time they are very active.
And you were also able to take a picture from a wild mammal, the stoat – it doesn’t happen often to find them and have the time to take a shot.
Sorry for what happened with your camera, I hope it wasn’t a new Hasselblad.
Thanks for the compliment Jacques. Yes I was lucky with the brimstone. I think it was still cold and slow after waking up. And very lucky that the stoat posed for so long. No the camera wasn’t a new one. It was my years-old Panasonic Lumix TZ5, which I have always been very pleased with. However, last year the lens got marked somehow. You may notice on some photos a blurring in the middle of them. I am now saving my pennies for (possibly) a Lumix TZ-70 with its longer zoom.
For your purposes it have to be small and light weight; so I think that the Lumix TZ-70 will be a good choice.
You could consider also this one: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX60V.
You know that I have several cameras also from Panasonic and Sony; both have their advantages.
Thanks Jacques for your advice. I will check these out
Crack of dawn start deserved a better ending, Denzil, but the stoat was a nice surprise. 🙂 Signs os Spring definitely on the increase. It’s been lovely here today. I’m walking this Monday but not the following one. Thanks for sharing.
What a lovely day you had, Denzil. I’m enjoying these walks so much. Now I’ve seen a stoat, which is new for me.
Shame about your camera, but a good excuse to get a new one. I read your conversation with Jacques. My camera is a Lumix TZ-60, about two years old now and I love it. It has a fantastic zoom function. I’m assuming the 70 is the new model, so it would be great.
If the Eternal Traveller recommends a TZ60, it must be good! Yes the TZ70 is the new model.
You’re so kind! I’m very happy with it. It’s light and I wear it around my neck all day. I love the zoom and the macro and it is quick to respond when it’s turned on.
When we come back from Spa , we offen drink coffee in Trois -Points near the bridge on the corner ..very good coffee….nice picture from the stoat !
I’ll look out for that coffee shop next time Leen. Yes it was lovely to see the stoat, and I was delighted that it stood still for so long to have its picture taken!
Oh Denzil! Just when I think the hike is looking up in terms of weather, all the catastrophes! What in the world was that caravan owner thinking, letting you spend the night there? Well, now you can look forward to a newer camera. And of course this will be one of the highlights of your hike, that you certainly will remember! Carry on, at least the backpack has proven to be Exceptional!
Thanks for your empathy CadyLuck. I am sure if I had been 40 years younger I would not have noticed or felt the cold so much! Yes, I am looking forward to a new camera!
I don’t know about that cold is cold!
A memorable day out for more than one reason. One to thrill the grandkids with tall tales for years to come. Hope you had your thermals for the overnight caravan stay. On the camera scene I have a Lumix DMC – FZ200 and love it – fantastic.
Ha, yes, telling the grandkids … I wonder what media will be available when they are my age. Will something have superceded blogging? No I didn’t have my thermals; they were tucked up at home, unfortunately. Thanks for your camera tip. It looks a nice camera but is twice the weight of Carol’s. I try and carry as little weight as possible on my walks. I’m obviously not as strong as you! 🙂
I’ve the same camera FZ200 and I love it also.
For me it’s light enough. I take it along when I don’t feel to carry the heavy gear.
But for you with 588 g, that means still more than double as yours.
When I was looking for a new camera, my main priority was that it not be too heavy. Glen’s does take fantastic photos but it would be too heavy for me. I put my camera around my neck and “wear” it all day. Hey, maybe you could buy both cameras Denzil – one for hiking and the other for times when you don’t have to carry it all day!
Great blog entry, Denzil; love the pictures and the story – next time I’ll have to react sooner; most things I wanted to say, have already been said 😉 Looking forward to the following stage 🙂
Thanks Guido for your comment and encouragements.
I know that campsite in Vielsalm! I fully agree with you that it’s not a place to recommend if you plan on staying overnight in one of their caravans. They all look crappy and derelict. I can only hope you got it cheap.
I stayed there twice, but fortunately I had my own tent.
Keep on walking. Following a GR route is seeing the region change at a slow pace. It’s the best way to empty your head, to get new ideas and to appreciate life and the beauty of it.
Yes, I had one of the crappy and derelict caravans! It wasn’t particularly cheap: 30 EUR. Yes I agree with your comment about walking, emptying your head, relaxing etc. I enjoy reading your website too: http://www.lumaj.be Full of lovely photos and great info!
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Hi, Denzil, we walked this stage last Friday, the first warm spring day of 2017 and found it wonderful. Great to see the similarities between our pictures 🙂 I will refer to your account in mine. Regards!
By the way, I looked out for the stout! Alas!
It must have been wonderful to be doing that stage in such gorgeous weather. I’m off to your blog now to check it out. https://guidowke.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/gr-571-trois-ponts-vielsalm/
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