Heading South through Belgium

Waving Marg and Doug home on the Eurostar, we spent a final night camped alongside the moat at Ypres before leaving the Grote Markt rocking to its bank holiday weekend beer and music festival.

A pork pie hat-wearing singer called ‘Wibley’ had an excited crowd “do wah do wah shimminy shimminy wah wahhing” in true Eurovision style.

“Hallo Eeepurrr”

We drove south through flat and fertile Belgium to Han-sur-Lesse.

This small village on a forested escarpment has made itself a fortune since opening a tram line one hundred years ago to its pre-historic grottoes.

It was a real treat to rattle up the steep track in an open carriage past fields of quietly grazing deer to enter the grotto through a narrow cleft in the towering granite rocks.

Grottes de Han

We joined a Dutch tour so understood nothing of what we were told by the young and enthusiastic chap guiding us, but were mesmerised by the magical and other-worldly subterranean landscape.

We descended steep stairs and inched through narrow passageways to gaze upon giant stalactites and stalagmites, dripping with water and backlit by colourful lights.

A rush of deafening noise brought us out above the river bed at of the source of the Lesse, and we followed its winding way through cavernous halls, sliding along its rocky slopes and slipping onto the dimly lit sandy floor.

River Lesse in the cave

Not understanding why we were being asked to stand silently in a dark corner we were shocked by the alarming blast of a scare charge that ricocheted around and through us.

Our chuckling guide led us around the next corner to welcome daylight and the sight of the Lesse flowing out of the rocks and into the town, where we treated ourselves to a local blonde beer to recover our nerves!

Views along the Ravel cycle path

We spent the next day cycling more than 40kms through surrounding countryside along an old rail track. Our route took us past old station houses and small pretty hamlets.

Topping up on local bread and Rochefort cheese from the tiny village (not to be confused with the French version) we tucked gratefully into our picnic lunch as we realised the various posterior pains of not cycling for a year or so.

On the Ravel cycle route

It’s always daunting finishing up work for three months and starting a new trip. While we always have a rough route in mind to get to the big destinations, we rarely plan the bits in between. We certainly hadn’t planned to come to Han-sur-Lesse and it was an early treat to stay somewhere so lovely and on such a nice aire.

We spent the evening walking around (perhaps like John Wayne after all the cycling) the small tourist village and sampling the local brew. The Han blonde beer and local picante sausages tasted good that night back in Bertha!

Surrounded by vans at Han-Sur-Lesse Aire

Local treats!