(61) The Inclined Plane at Ronquieres to Bruges – April 2014.

We spent a couple of days at Ronquieres, during which I drove to my first Belgian Lidl and was pleasantly surprised as it was larger than the French ones I had been used to. The type of merchandise also reflected the change of country.

We drove to the site of the Battle of Waterloo, south east of Brussels. I had visited it on a family camping holiday about forty years ago and my only memory was of a huge pyramid with a lion on top. In fact the pyramid (Butte de Lyon) was a huge grassy mound over 40m high, reached by climbing 226 steps. This was no mean feat and we wondered how many people had failed to heed the medical advice at the bottom. Fortunately we made it ok – although a bit puffed out.

Quite a climb.

The view from the top towards the French positions.

The fine vista from the top was well worth the climb and afforded us a bird’s eye view of the battle ground below. Our ticket also included two interesting films which explained the battle and entry to the Panorama of the battlefield in a large circular building. It was being refurbished as was the nearby wax museum which was shut. In fact there was a lot of building work going on as a new visitor centre is being built in time for the bicentenary of the battle next year.

One of the posters outside the new building works.

Eagle-eyed Peter had spotted some signage from the top of the mound, so before leaving we walked onto the track that ran through the battlefield. There were some interesting memorials and information panels and we were able to appreciate the fighting much better at ground level.

Standing on the ridge where the French cavalry attacked the British lines.

The spot where the decisive battle took place. The British beyond the stone hidden by the ridge.

Description.

Memorial to a French cavalry officer nearby.

The view the French would have had towards where Nicci was standing, not the flat plain as sometimes described.

From near where Napoleon stood.

We were joined at Ronquieres by Lorna and Adrian (‘Ariana’) who were heading towards Brussels like us. We spent a couple of pleasant evenings together on deck enjoying aperros and swapping stories before heading off to Halle where we both stopped on the town quay. We initially missed the mooring and had to turn around in the lock cut, which must have looked rather like a dance as both barges spun around at the same time.

We intended stopping a few days at Halle. This enabled me to cycle back to Ronquieres to pick up the car. My only problem was that Janette (sat nav) wouldn’t ‘acquire satellites’, which has happened a couple of times before. Fortunately, I headed in the right direction and she eventually sprang to life.

That evening we all dined at an expensive Chinese restaurant which banished our unpleasant memories of our previous disastrous meal with Adam in Agde. The wine alone was over 25 euro a bottle…..and we had two.

Unfortunately, the passenger boat which uses the mooring turned up the following afternoon. I had seen it passing through the lock whilst on a walk and headed back in time to see the others preparing to cast off. We decided to leave Halle as Adrian and Lorna were awaiting a parcel delivery at the post office and there was only enough room for one barge plus the passenger boat.

A few km and two locks further on, we stopped at the town quay in Lot, which was actually quieter than Halle although without electrics. When I walked back to Halle the next day the Saturday market was in full swing. I had a coffee and natter onboard ‘Ariana’ before driving back to Lot filling up with petrol en route.

There was no river traffic on Sunday and we wondered if the locks were shut. I drove towards Brussels hoping to find a suitable spot to leave the car. I ended up in the city and found the port area, but did not relish the walk back as I was not sure which way to go. Janette had ‘re-calculated’ so many times during the trip that I’m not sure who was more confused. Eventually I stopped 5 km away from the barge at Ruisbroek Station where I left the car before walking back along the canal.

We headed off towards Brussels and had three locks to negotiate. These were quite deep but had only fixed bollards which were a bit too far apart for us. This meant that the upper bollard was almost out of reach before the lower one came into view…..and no one wants to reach between a barge and the lock wall to move a rope. We waited 30 minutes at the third lock which was in a fairly narrow lock cut. Dredging work was in progress at the lock too – just to make things more interesting. When we eventually entered, the fixed bollards were even further apart and once we were down I couldn’t even see a lower one, so we just floated.

Seen from the canal, Brussels isn’t terribly attractive and we were too large for the Yacht Club, so we cruised on, hoping to find the spot Alex (‘Riccall’) had told us about on a branch canal just to the north. Unfortunately, the lift bridge at the entrance was unmanned and nobody answered the radio, so we headed off through the next lift bridge (Verbrande) on the main canal. To our surprise, we came across a small Yacht Club (Cercle de Voiles) on the right which had space for visitors. A friendly chap welcomed us and although we didn’t access the electrics, it was a good place to stop.

Nice mooring but very busy with big barges.

Fishing in the evenings was good though.

We spent three days there and used the time well. I took the bus back into Brussels (3 euro and about an hour,) hoping to find a train back to Ruisbroek. My journey was complicated by the lack of help at the ticket offices. Despite there being a train station at Ruisbroek, trains from Brussels don’t seem to stop there……..however, a bus does!?! Fortunately, I can read a map (whatever Peter says) and made my way by underground to the Gare du Midi (2,10 euro.) This is the Eurostar terminal and is a massive place. It took me half an hour to find the way out to my bus stop. Fortunately, the bus (2,50 euro,) came almost immediately, but something was lost in translation and I ended up at the station in Lot. This was where we had been moored, but I had moved the car 5 km down the canal to Ruisbroek Station. Nevermind, I enjoy a good walk.

By the time I reached the barge, I had been away 4 hours. Peter meanwhile had spent the entire time reloading photos into the ‘media file’ for this blog. He had previously emptied it in the hope that it would speed up the loading of photos to new posts. What he didn’t realise was that all the photos were deleted from the actual blog. However, every cloud has a silver lining………..and fortunately we had a free wifi signal from somewhere which went some way to facilitate the process. We were also able to fill up with water for 10 euros and had to pay nothing for the mooring.

My problems with Janette continued and combined with a plethora of road works in the area, made shopping and future recces rather a nightmare.

We left our haven and had a sluggish cruise to Klein Willebroek, having to wait for several lift bridges as we were accompanied by two yachts with masts up. We passed easily under the lift bridge at the entrance to the marina and after turning the barge around were soon moored up in a visitor berth (19 euro plus electrics.)

Double railway bridge lifts to allow two small yachts to pass.

Another cycle back to get the car coincided with a big cycling event on the canal. It was lovely to see so many people of all ages and on all sorts of bicycles, enjoying the fresh air and exercise. As expected, my drive back was rather convoluted as Janette had to deal with yet more diversions. Well the Belgian roads are renowned for being rough so perhaps the repairs are finally taking place.

With the last lock before the tidal Zeeschelde only an hour or so away, we drove along the canal and caught a ferry over the River Rupel to the lock. A short windy walk took us through a nature reserve to the lock. There we were able to ascertain the tide times from a very helpful sluis wachter before catching the ferry back. With the prospect of a long day to come we relaxed for the rest of the day.

Our free ferry across to look at the lock.

Think we’ll fit in.

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