Ardennes - Day 1 : Finding the route
Around 6 in the morning Bart left home. We were planning to hike in the Ardennes forest in Belgium for a few days. He told me that by the time he had reached the bus stop it already felt like he had blisters. His shoes were about 10 years old and, while they hadn't been used much, they had been lying in his parents' garage for several years. He didn't had time to break them in.
I had already left home and met Bart in the bus. Upon arriving in Eindhoven we bought tickets for Maastricht, a city in the south of the Netherlands. The train rode for about an hour in the dark before we caught the train to Verviers. We knew we had to transfer again somewhere in Belgium but weren't sure where exactly. After getting off in the Belgian village of Visé we figured it out, it wasn't in Visé but Liege. We had gotten off one stop too soon. As the next train wouldn't arrive for another hour we explored the village.
The next train that arrived was a slow local train instead of the intercity we had been in, but it eventually took us to Liege. While waiting on yet another train we saw some people on cycling vacation that were worth inspecting. After arriving in Verviers we wanted to take a short bus ride before ending up in the Ardennes' forests. It was a regular Friday but of course the bus wasn't riding on Fridays. There were no alternatives. We had no choice but to walk the 20 km to the village we had intended to start from.
After a few hours we took a break near a church. Bart's shoes were completely the wrong size and super stiff. He already had blisters on both his heels and one on his little toe. It was only the first afternoon and we still had several days to go. While it was getting dark we arrived at the village. There was supposed to be a marked hiking route but we couldn't find any signs. Instead, we continued to the next village. The route crossed a river there so it should be easy to find it at the bridge. However, as it was getting dark we first needed to find a good place to sleep. After some searching we found a forest with a secluded area. Bart carried a lamp but we didn't want to use it in case we got caught. Suddenly he walked into something, it turned out to be a fence, his lip was bleeding.
As there was no level ground we pitched our tents on a slope. At night it was pretty cold, around 0 degrees. I carried a 900 grams sleeping bag that was at least a little bit warm. Bart carried his 'Gelert extreme-lite 600', which wasn't only extremely light, but also extremely cold. We each covered our sleeping bags with all the clothes we carried.