Hiking in Belgium

Walking around a very wet Virelles

A rainy day hiking in Virelles, but with an unexpected and delightful observation

After all the “excitement” of the previous evening, my second day of my walking weekend in the Ardennes started out well, with a copious and tasty breakfast at B&B Les Gabelous, after which Ben, my host, gave me a lift into Nismes to pick up my abandoned car.

Knowing I had an early start and a full day ahead of me, I had already selected an interesting 30 km walk starting from the village of Virelles near Chimay, circling the Lake of Virelles, going into Bois Robert, and dropping into the village of Lompret.

There was one problem though …

Rain, and the forecast of more!

As I drove to my starting point, the rain gradually increased in intensity from a light drizzle to a steady downpour. I parked and switched off the windscreen wipers, and soon I couldn’t see anything out of the window.

What to do? I wasn’t sure I really fancied walking 30 km in this weather. But what were the alternatives?

Shopping? No way. For me, the ideal shopping experience is choosing something online and having it delivered to the house.

Museums? I’m not a lover of museums. There’s something about the air in museums combined with long and boring descriptions of whatever is on display that sends me to sleep on the third exhibit.

Internet café? I’m here to get away from the computer, not spend a day on it.

No, there was no alternative!

So I got my waterproofs out and put them on in the car, which meant doing more gymnastics in ten minutes than I’ve done in my whole life. I zipped and buttoned everything up that could possibly be zipped and buttoned up, and stepped out of the car.

Within seconds, the thought of a nice warm internet café or a museum shop suddenly seemed extremely attractive.

But, knowing that my Discovering Belgium readers would think I was a real coward for chickening out, I set off.

If you’ve come here expecting some beautiful photos of the Virelles landscape, you’re going to be disappointed. Generally I kept my camera hidden away in a dry pocket, but I did get it out a few times to give you a sense of the joy I was experiencing.

The Belgian Ardennes on a rainy day
This is what a grey Ardennes sky looks like
Virelles in the rain
This was taken from the relative dryness of a pine forest. I was trying to photograph the rain lashing onto the pool
A very wet Denzil Walton!
And here’s one to prove that I was really out there and not making it all up!

However, I did see something spectacular!

While deep in Bois Robert, I came across a clearing in the forest where the grass looked like it had been churned up by a tractor and plough.

Virelles on the trail of wild boar

Going closer, I could see little piggy footprints and little piggy snout marks.

Wild boar making a mess of the grass!

Wild boar!

I have never seen wild boar, although I know they are found in the forests of the Ardennes. I also know that during the day they generally hide up in the undergrowth and avoid people. However, I wondered, on a day like today, when the whole of Bois Forest is totally human-free (apart from idiot me), would they feel it was safe to come out and have a little forage?

In the photo you can probably make out a bench. As it was lunchtime I sat down on it and quietly ate my packed (and very quickly soggy) lunch, while keeping an eye open for any boar who could have been attracted by the smell of my cheese and tomato sandwiches.

No such luck, but about half an hour later, to my immense surprise and pleasure, an adult wild boar and two juveniles suddenly appeared from the bracken to my left. The adult saw me, gave a grunt and disappeared back into the bracken, quickly followed by the two little boarlets.

I edged along the path, stopped where they had disappeared, and stared into the thick bracken, camera at the ready.

From the depths of the undergrowth, a very loud and low grunt resounded!

I became very aware of three things:

(a) Wild boar are generally harmless unless they feel their young are threatened, when they can charge. Yikes!

(b) I had just seen an adult with two young. Double yikes!

(c) I was very alone in the middle of a deserted forest, and the only thing between me and a potentially charging wild boar was a Panasonic compact camera.

A bit later, I came up with a haiku to explain “what happened next”:

Wild board haiku by Denzil Walton

For the rest of the day, the rain continued to fall, the sun never appeared once, and I ended up cutting a few kms off my route. But the sight of those three wild boar made it a day I would never forget.

Overnight in an “eco cabin”

Eco cabin for overnight accommodation

Some of you might be looking at this and thinking that your garden shed is bigger. It probably is. This was the eco-cabin that I had booked for the night. It has electricity, but no WiFi. A a dry toilet. No running cold or hot water, but a tap a few meters away for drinking water. It has no sink or washbasin, but around the back is a “shower” which involves filling up a watering can from the (cold) tap, standing on a step, and lodging the watering can on a frame above your head, from whence the water apparently trickles down to give you a shower. (Having spent all day getting wet, this contraption didn’t really appeal to me).

Why had I chosen this overnight accommodation?

I wanted to see the stars! I wanted to be out in the countryside, far from city and streetlights for once, and gaze up at the myriads of stars on a clear summer’s night!

Unfortunately … yes, you’ve guessed right. Although the rain stopped, the clouds remained. No single star was visible.

The hostess Michele who runs the farm on which the cabin stands, was very friendly and hospitable. She provided a warm evening meal, with the promise of a breakfast and packed lunch for the morrow, which surely can’t be as wet as today. Can it?

This is the original route on RouteYou (thanks to Roadhunter). As I say, I didn’t complete it all, but shortened it by about 5 km.

37 replies »

  1. Right you were to take some time to write such an amusing article, Denzil. I found your haiku exhilirating and so much adapted to the circumstances as were your lessons learned about wild boar 😀 I also like the way you use titles in your writing, like a cliffhanger in a movie 🙂 Regards!

  2. Bless you, Denzil! Nobody could accuse you of wimping out 🙂 🙂 I was going to suggest ham and tomato sandwiches might have been more appealing to a boar but when I think about it that really doesn’t hold water! A little too close to home. Shall I pinch this one for Monday? I’m sure folks would like to see how dedicated you are on their behalf.

    • If it had been a hot dry day I would definitely have tried it out Andrew, but I was more concerned about drying off than getting re-wet.

  3. At first glance, I thought the heading said, “Wild Bear!” and I panicked for you! Not that boar are less dangerous – yikes! Sounds like an amazing adventure, and I hope the weather cleared for you the next day.

  4. I would not think you a coward for chickening out of this! 30km is a long way even in good weather. The accommodation looks – hmm – bijou. Is that a free cat it comes with?

    • There were three cats attached to the place. I’m slightly allergic to cats so didn’t welcome them inside, although they seemed accustomed to that privilege. Yes, bijou is a good description of it Anabel.

    • Considering the venomous animals you have on your continent Carol, meeting a wild boar is just like feeding the ducks in the park! But yes, I am glad she took one look at me and went “yuk” 🙂

      • Denzil, I think you need to come and visit. We don’t come across those venomous animals often. 🙂 And if one decides to come into our house, a quick whack with a shoe fixes that. Except if it was a snake. Mr ET would have to deal with that because I would have run a mile away. We have wild pigs here too and you wouldn’t want to run into one.

  5. Maybe you should have walked in swim trunks – though it was probably way too cold. But what an adventure you ended up having. Isn’t it always the unplanned event that makes something truly spectacular? Boar mama and babies may have been out hunting for truffles – if truffles grown in Belgium. And at the end of that very wet walk, I bet your tiny eco cabin felt like luxury on a postage stamp.

    BTW, please send some of the rain to us – we need it here in Southern California!

    • Rain has been duly dispatched Sharon; it might take a while to reach you though. I am glad you are in south California though and not Texas. Yes, it could have been truffles, which do grow here.

  6. Hello Denzil,
    I really enjoyed your post about the adventures of walking in the wet through the Ardennes. Seeing the little boarlets would be adorable.
    The little Eco cabin is a great idea just for a bed for the night and your host’s meal and packed lunch are a nice extra.
    I appreciated your touched of humour throughout too Denzil.
    Just for the record, my hubby and I would also keep walking in the rain…you’d have company…

      • Oh that brought a giggle, Denzil.
        Yes, please keep reminding me…🙂
        You have my permission to reprint it in every comment from now on! Reinforcement, I should imagine 🙋🏻🌈🌈

      • Hi just wanted to apologise for not reading your reply until today.

        For some reason I am no longer getting notifications of replies to my comments on other blogs!

        My settings say I should get them so not sure what has happened . . .hoping it is a temporary fault. In meanwhile I am today popping round to see everyone I can remember I have left a comment with to alert them why I have not been continuing the conversation.

  7. Wow, they did a job plowing up that clearing!
    This is why they’re never invited to join country clubs.
    Even if unprovoked attacks are rare, I’ve always read that wild boars/feral pigs can be extremely dangerous. Texas now has a couple of million, and you do see mentions in the paper of human fatalities. And when you see they’ve got their litter with them, I’d be pretty worried! Glad your rainy day hike turned out well and certainly very memorable!

    • I’m glad I read your comment about fatalities after my walk and not before it, Robert! I hear they ruin golf courses from time to time. (Not that I have much sympathy, not being a golfing person.)

      • I think when you have a such a huge population of these creatures, as they do in Texas, and yet serious incidents are still so rare, it’s a good indication that the animals will avoid people, whenever an avenue of retreat is available, just as your boar avoided you. But I would still look for a tree to climb!

    • Hi Agness. There is no best time! Each season offers its own delights. Personally I prefer spring and autumn. Summer can be too hot for walking (or too wet, as on this walk), and winter can be too cold and wet (although if it snows and is sunny it is beautiful). Whenever you go, it won’t be busy; it’s not a major tourist destination.

  8. Haha… laughing at your description of the outdoor shower in your wonderful overnight lodgings… 😀 and yes by the looks of you the rain had soaked you enough.
    Now I have to say I do like the odd trek around a Museum .. And like poking around in history more so when I am abroad than here..
    Loved the pictures and rain, yes plenty of it has been around this Summer for sure. 🙂

    • While acknowledging the great value of museums, for me personally I always find a museum quite soporific. I think it’s the lengthy descriptions of objects. And the slow walking speed. I prefer to be walking at a good pace or standing still; nothing in between!

      • 🙂 I can quite understand.. My hubby marches through them at speed, while I on the other hand absorb and ponder.. LOL.. And Iike you would prefer a cuppa.. and some cake.. 🙂

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