The Ardennes stretch from North-East France, across Belgium and into Luxembourg, and are well-known for their enchanting forests, meandering rivers and culinary delights. The landscapes are said to ooze with authenticity, doing away with the rapidity of life. Yearning to experience this, a friend and I decided to travel there with a backpack, tent and a cooking stove for one week. No plan, just the curiosity to explore and the luxury of time.
Hitchhiking south from the Netherlands in one day, we heard the stories of eleven different people. This was the weekend following the floods, and while we had the privilege to be able to go on holiday during this time, others were just overcoming the tragic events that had unfolded a few days previously. Hearing stories of lost businesses, house evacuations, and schools full of mud all left a mournful feeling with us, as the flat monotonous landscape of the Netherlands rose into the rolling hills of Belgium.
Upon arrival in the Ardennes, the first task was to find a river. Hearing water flowing in every creak, it wasn’t hard. We pitched our tent up the hill from the first one we crossed and rested after the long day of travel. These flowing bodies of water were where we would collect water, brush teeth and bathe for the remainder of our week. In this moment, it was hard to imagine that these beautiful pristine bodies of water had caused so much tragedy such a short time ago.
Moving through the Ardennes, passing the rivers Lesse and the Lomme, we hiked over hills and set up camp every night in a new Bivouac spot (areas to camp for hikers). Although beautiful, the paradoxical experience of us versus the many local people we encountered was a reminder of the diversity of experiences that flow through this landscape.