Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting Leie

The first after-work packrafting trip of this year on nearby river Leie takes me from Leiepark Deurle to the public jetty in Sint-Martens-Latem + return on foot. About 16 km in all: 10 km paddling and 6 km walking.

I call it a day at work at 5 pm and a half hour later, I am already on the water. The evening is quiet, sunny and almost windless. The month of April has been unusually chilly thus far, but today temperatures are pleasant.

A bit before 8 pm, I reach the jetty in Sint-Martens-Latem, start walking, and by 9 pm get back to my car, just in time to witness the last bit of sunlight over the meandering river.


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Packrafting Demer

Descending the river Demer from Diest to Aarschot with Evert and Tom. This river marks the border between the Hageland and Campine regions and for some reason is one of the few scenic rivers in Belgium that none of us have ever paddled.

We put in a bit after 11 am and are pleasantly surprised by the current of the river, the nice tailwind blowing from the northeast and the sunny conditions. After a lot of greenery, several meanders and some small rapids, we reach the village of Zichem with its 14th century lookout tower (which plays a role in the Flemish heimat novel “De Witte van Sichem”).

A while later we pass through the village of Testelt and enjoy a series of 3 rapids that bring back memories of packrafting trips in more hilly areas such as the Ardennes. For paddlers without any experience, these rapids may offer a bit of an unexpected thrill.

The river is strongly embedded in the landscape and taking out is not trivial. We hence have lunch in our boats while floating down the river. It is only many kilometers further, in the village of Langdorp, that we are finally able to get out and have a longer rest.

The last stretch towards Aarschot is easily taken care of and at 4 pm we take out at the Demervallei sports center, after approximately 20 km of paddling. To be honest, we didn’t have overly high expectations of Demer, but after today’s experience we have to reconsider. No doubt the unforeseen fine weather plays a role in our appreciation.

(Zichem: 7.10 m3/s)


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Packrafting Ourthe Moyenne

One week after Easter, I am back at the Ourthe river, however not (only) for hiking, but rather for packrafting. During the past week, there has been considerable snow and rainfall, and the flow of the river has therefore risen to good levels, possibly for the last time this season.

The plan for the day is to paddle from Nisramont to Maboge and return on foot via Le Cheslé and Le Hérou. Joining me on this trip are fellow adventurers Evert and Tom.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the day is not good. Even tough we are April 11th, temperature down by the river will hover around +2C, whereas higher up the plateaus it will be around freezing. Precipitation will be constant and consist of rain, sleet and snow.

We put in at the Nisramont bridge and start paddling while sleet is coming down abundantly. We reach the rocks at Le Hérou and pass by the rock scrambling trail (secured by a chain) that we will have to descend on the way back.

We pass a number of smaller rapids, attempt to do some wave surfing, and eventually end up at the rapids at Les Ondes, which are the most “technical” on this stretch of the river. With the current flow, the rapids are good fun and we do them a good number of times.

In the meantime, sleet has turned to rain and on the remaining section to the take-out in Maboge we set a good pace. We reach Maboge after noon, but don’t bother taking a break for lunch, as the weather nor the environment are inviting to do so. We rather start hiking as quickly as possible in order not to get cold.

Eventually, we end up on top of the rocky outcrop of Le Cheslé and as the rain temporarily lessens, we have lunch whilst admiring the panorama. After lunch, it is then quickly onto Le Hérou by following the valley rim.

At Le Hérou, we take the very wet and slippery rock scramble trail down to the river, and at this point all that is left to do is follow the river back to the put-in. Sometime after 5 pm, we finally get back to the car after a trip of 27.5 km.

On the drive back, we cross the heights of Baraque de Fraiture (652 m) and end up in scenery that looks very much wintry. We make a couple of short stops to enjoy the snow and then take on the remainder of the drive home while weather conditions quickly improve.

(Nisramont: 13 m3/s rising to 16 m3/s during the course of the day)


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Flemish Ardennes: Makegemse Bossen

A 39 km family trip by bike via Eke, Vurste, Baaigem and Munte to a wooded area named “Makegemse Bossen”. In the woods we find a couple of beds of bluebells and some secluded ponds that are among the few in the province where 5 individual species of salamander have been spotted. The WWII bunkers on the 40 m high sandy ridge of Munte are a nice playground for the kids and offer a fine view of the surrounding area.

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Vinderhoutse Bossen

Vinderhoute is a community to the northwest of Ghent that is surrounded by quite a bit of greenery and several castle grounds. The area is currently being developed for outdoor recreation. Last week, the central wooded zone was opened to the public, after having been acquired from a private land owner some time ago.

We make a 36 km family cycling & hiking tour that takes us from home to Vinderhoute and back, passing scenic sections of the Leie river around Drongen. In Vinderhoute, we explore some of the new hiking trails.

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