We came back into Belgium above Maastrichtand & went up the Kanaal Herentals-Bocholt. The northern section of the Belgian waterways has been described to us as looking like ‘two bikini cups’. So this is the first ‘cup!
We found it pretty in places but still with quite a lot of heavy industry along the way. These waterways really are in constant commercial use. We stopped a couple of nights at Neerpelt where we found a really good Lidl supermarket – couldn’t overcome our Colruyt prejudices! It was very hot while we were there so the ice cream vendor on the quay was very welcome. And not just by us – saw a 70m commercial barge literally pull into the side so that the kids could run over to get ice creams for mum, dad & the kids!
By this time we were beginning to worry that we hadn’t yet bought a Belgian vignet (waterway licence) which we were supposed to do at the first lock in the northern part of Belgium. There are 2 parts of Belgium – Région Wallone (no vignet required) & Vlaams Gewest (vignet required). But we worked out that because we’d gone off into Holland to Maastricht, we hadn’t yet been through a lock on the northern system. A little research showed us that if we waited until 1st Sept we would only need to buy 1 x 80 euro vignet until the end of March!
So we took a little detour to use up a couple of days and went to visit Leopoldsburg up the little Kanaal Naar Beverlo. Nice detour, quite pretty, lily lined canal but Leopoldsburg was nothing to write home about! The biggest excitement was watching a couple of army guys in full gear ‘swimming’ up the canal, presumably some kind of training exercise.
We came back down this canal and moored up at the end, at Lommel. Quiet mooring in wooded area which was most pleasant. Got to watch the big commercials come up to the turning area in front of the lock to do ‘a u-ey’! Impressive how they can virtually spin in their own length using their thrusters and rudders.
It was a peaceful evening – I even had a go on Adrian’s folding bike to see if I could perhaps overcome my fear / reticence – jury’s still out as I hurt everywhere next day! A Dutch couple stopped to talk to us – their boat was moored a little way away and they were out on their folding electric bikes.
Next morning (1st Sept) we were up and into the lock to buy our vignet! Such a nice guy – obviously not something he had to do very often but we managed together – easier for me to type in our address etc than to try and spell it out! So we now have the necessary orange sticker on the stern of the boat! Legal at last!
And we were ready to tackle the other bikini cup ie the Kanaal Schoten-Turnhout-Dessel.
But first there was that pancake boat (Tim and Jo had told us about this gastronomic delight) to visit! Great excitement! Particularly as we saw the Dutch couple’s boat (‘XL 12’ – called that cos its a big boat they bought in 2012!) beside it. We had coffee with Anneke & Gosse on XL 12 but no pancakes – the pancake boat was shut! Signs said it was closed on Fridays but it has since become clear that it really is shut. Shame – I was so looking forward to sampling their wares and Heidi was expecting a full report!
So onwards to the town of Turnhout at the top of the canal.