The flat country - A country hidden by a large dog - CycleBlaze

August 25, 2019

The flat country

Buissonville to Rivière

The riverfront at Dinant
Heart 3 Comment 0

THERE are two stations on the Brussels métro - that I know of, anyway - named after famous Belgians. One is Eddy Merckx and the other Jacques Brel.

The fact that you know the first but probably not the second may be because you're a cyclist in one case and perhaps don't speak French in the other.

Jacques Brel is remembered for immense sweatiness as he sang and for a song called Le plat pays, which means "the flat country." In it, he plays with words by talking of the waves of the North Sea - les vagues - and how their greyness and the flat countryside merge into a frontier so vague as to be invisible.

Well, there was nothing flat about this morning. Brel was singing about the flatness of Flanders, not about two cyclists struggling against gravity. We climbed hill after hill on concrete roads lined with houses so full of flowers that they looked like discreet florists, and past gardens that the owner thought nothing would suit better than a concrete donkey.

It was no fun at all, certainly as the sun turned from soft butter to inferno. Northern Europe is not supposed to be this hot.

We forced down sandwiches beside a school at Sovet - quiet because it's Sunday - and dozed in the shade of forgiving trees. Eventually some semblance of force and courage seeped into our veins.

As it happens, there were no more climbs. Instead, we had a long drop spoiled only by broken roads down through fields and then the houses of Dinant.

Other tourists got to Dinant before us
Heart 1 Comment 0

The place was heaving, with visitors emptying plates and glasses beside a wide river on which a tourist boat gurgled under its full load.

If you were now to ask why the bridge is decorated with giant and colourful saxophones, it will give me the chance to explain that it was here that Adolphe Sax, another famous Belgian you hadn't thought of, invented the saxophone. Dinant is proud of that. Ever since, cool dudes in dark glasses have been playing in bands and getting off with women - a fact that I, a drummer, especially resent.

Dinant - birthplace of the saxophone
Heart 3 Comment 0

It was beside the river that two tourists came independently to ask about touring on a bicycle. They both fancied it, one dreaming of riding across Canada, but neither knew how to start. We gave them leaflets explaining Cyclo-Camping International and invited them to the cycle-touring festival in Paris in January.

Since then, we've been riding alongside the river towards Namur, sometimes on smooth tar, now and then on cobbles from the era of horses.

We resented the way beside the Great Lakes in America and Lac Leman in Switzerland that rich people had been able to put up houses on the banks, robbing everyone else of the beauty. Here, by contrast, posh houses are separated from the river and therefore the view by a bike path. Everyone benefits.

Halfway to Namur is a field surrounded by hedges. Someone may have bought it with dreams of building a house. But it's still empty except for us and a family of Belgians who came after us and parked a camper-van down at the other end. We are far enough from each other to co-exist. They're not interested in cycling nor we in campervanning.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 9
Comment on this entry Comment 0