Europe

Cycling along the L’Eau d’Heure Lakes and in the south of Hainaut

Soooo, the ban to cross the Belgian borders is still in effect – and constantly up for debate -, so that means it’s time for another episode of my series called ‘Tourist in your own country’. This time once more in combination with my series of ‘Tourist à vélo’ and in the province of Hainaut.

March 30; the first real day of spring, with a temperature of 22°C and lots of sunshine being forecast. Ánd I had a day off work. Per-fect! Time to hit the road! Our main destination of the day was the beautiful L’Eau d’Heure Lakes, a complex of five artificial lakes of which the dams were built during the 1970s. It’s Belgium’s largest lake, so a pretty big bucket-list item within the country.

I’d passed this area many times on my way to Les Ardennes and every single time I’d see the direction sign for the lakes, I’d say to myself ‘I need to go check that out soon’, but soon never came. Until earlier this week. Finally. And, spoiler alert!, it was worth the wait! What a gorgeous region with so many possibilities!

Around the lake over 30 kilometers of paved paths have been laid out, making it perfect to explore by bike. The paths aren’t entirely smooth, which isn’t exactly ideal for a race bike, but if you’re approaching it as a leisurely ride, it’s definitely more than okay. The views also make you want to slow down and enjoy your surroundings to the fullest.

When I did my research before departure, the many kilometers around the lake “scared” me quite a bit. Wouldn’t it be too dull and monotonous? It’s just riding along the water, between the trees? But I couldn’t have been more wrong! There wasn’t a single boring moment along the way. Simply because the lake isn’t circular. You’re going from inlet, to inlet, with a new view around every bend. The water also seemed to have a different color depending on your viewpoint, either right along the water, or a little bit further away or looking down on it. From a green-ish blue to almost turquoise, shining in the sun. Gorgeous!

And the path also isn’t entirely flat. There are quite a bit of uphill bits, so be prepared for a bit of an effort to get to the top! But then you can of course also enjoy the effortless kilometers downhill. Such a variety of experiences!

With it being the end of March, the trees around the lake were still quite leafless. This way we could continuously enjoy the view on the lake between the trees. I assume in summer you’ll more have a feeling of cycling through the forest than along the lake at certain parts, so do keep that in mind. I really liked being able to see the lake at almost every point along the way, but that might be just my personal preference.

Surprisingly not yet tired of the lake views, but eager to discover more in the area, we left the L’Eau d’Heure Lakes behind us, and headed south, in the direction of Froidchapelle. This is where we discovered that Wallonia had some pretty bad roads. And that’s even putting it mildly. From one ‘Route dégradée’ (bad surface road) onto the next, hobbling kilometer after kilometer. At certain points we couldn’t even fully enjoy our surroundings as our full focus had to be on dodging potholes and tree roots. Shaken, not stirred, very much so!

But fortunately after Froidchapelle, the conditions improved drastically. All the way to Robechies, we could follow a RAVel, a bike path, through the Forêt Domanial de Rance. Over ten kilometers of smoother surface through nature. Even with the headwind it felt like flying! Such a difference!

Robechies and Bailièvre were our most southern destinations of the day. From there it was time to head back north, flirting with the French border on our left side. But that trek north wasn’t effortless either, even though it was tailwind. This part of Belgium may not be considered the Ardennes yet, but it certainly isn’t flat either. There were quite a bit of hills to conquer, but these are my favourite type of climbs. Not too steep, but still steep enough to make your legs ache a bit. I’m not being too picky, huh?

But what was once my main motivator was our gorgeous surroundings. After the lake views and the forest views, it was now time for the rolling, lush, green hills.

Time and kilometers flew by that day. We clocked off at 90 kilometers and I didn’t even feel one bit tired. The weather was amazing – not too hot, not too cold – the area was gorgeous and we got a nice variety of lakes, forests and fields. What more could one want? It was probably one of my favorite bike rides so far in Belgium, so definitely one to remember.

So yes, another successful day exploring Belgium! While I’m yearning to cross borders again, and mostly hike some more mountainous trails, I’m not yet tired of my Belgian conquests, so hopefully more soon! And if you have tips, you know where to find me!

♡ Ellen

You can check out my entire itinerary on my Strava page: Les Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure

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