Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hallerbos Extra Vaganza

Every now and then I do something crazy. One of those things is riding long distances offroad on a mountainbike. Today was the perfect day for an extravagant ride. The plan was simple. Connect the Meerdael Forest to the Sonian Forest, move on towards the Hallerbos and there I would do a 35K/670hm ride I have on GPS. I've done this ride last year on the first of June. Today it was a bit earlier in the year but the weather looked promising and I was eager to find out whether the blue hyacynths would be in bloom. There was someone who would accompany me from the Sonian Forest onwards but at the last moment she cancelled her attendance. So it was a solo ride. And a long one.
I started out over a new track I discovered only last week. First riding to Sint Joris Weert through the Meerdael Forest, then climb up the ridge of the Smeysberg but stay close to Neerijse. From there I could ride towards the Ganspoel and past the Duisburg water towers. I then disappeared into the Sonian Forest to connect in a straight line to Jezus-Eik. From there it's still about a 10K ride to St Genesius Rode and then to Dworp and the 7 Fontaines. After 35K and 1h46 or thereabouts I was at the start of my loop.

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The loop first goes around the lakes at the 7 Fontaines and then follows the GR track along the edge of a field. A steep climb up towards the edge of the forest and then back down again to ride up to the forest again. This time I would spend a long time into Hallerbos. I noticed immediately that the bluebells weren't out in full force. I am not sure whether they already bloomed or if I just was a week too early. At any rate there don't seem to be as many of them as in previous years. The white flowers where already in full bloom.

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After a couple of trails in the forest I set towards crossing the highway and make my way towards Braine l'Alleud. There were a lot of small singletrails here, sometimes I had to look for them but whomever built the track was surely at home in this area. The track ondulates up and down, sometimes very steep but always fun and surprising. My legs began to feel the kilometers and I paused for a bit to eat. Before long I was at the Leembeek bos where the trailbuilder had incorporated a nice section into the lembeek area.

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Crossing the E25 again and I was back in Hallerbos. There were a lot of people around, some walking, some on horseback and others on bikes. Obviously they all were looking for the bluebells. Again they were there, but not as plenty as one would expect. Crossing the last ridge and I am back at the 7 Fontaines. Phew, 73K on the counter, only 35 left to go. Another bit to eat whilst I make some pictures of ducks and tortoises (!) basking in the sun on a tree that has fallen into the water.

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The ride back only varies a couple of times from the trails I took getting here. My neck starts to make me feel I'm not 25 anymore but I am more concerned with my GPS. I noticed the battery was nearly dead. Luckily I would make it home but it was a close call. I should have fully loaded it before I left, never trust it to be full. When I drop down the Smeysberg I have to wait for a local road race to pass. After the green flag car I can continue my way towards home. The ride was long and took a lot out of me. But the sun was out the whole day and even though I felt the northeasterly wind from time to time on my way back home, most of the ride I was in forests so it didn't bother me that much. As far as the bluebells are concerned. I could be wrong but I hope they still need a couple of warm days to reach full bloom. I spoke to a guide in the forest and he told me the next week would be prime time for the bluebells. Although he also had to concede the harsh winter took its toll. Like he said it : 'we can't command nature'. So true.


Ride Stats : 110K and 1350/1440 heightmeters (Polar/Garmin) in 6h2mins