Relatively early the first sign posts to Santiago de Compostela appear.
I couldn’t believe that one; somewhere in Borgloon a lady started talking to me in Flaemish and I didn’t understand a word. Than she asked in English, where are you going and I said Santiago. She said, oh my god, wait a moment and entered the bakery next to her where she bought me these cakes. I found that so amazing that I had to hug and kiss her all over. Already some meters away from her, she called: remember me and I responded: I will. She definitely made my day!
The tower of the Sint Truiden town hall belongs to the Belfries of Belguim and France UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In Tienen I stayed in the first kind of pilgrims hostel. I asked the owner, why there aren´t more of it on the way and she told me that this is not very much liked in Belgium (and I believe in France its the same story). According to her, the pilgrims have very often little financial resources, sometimes a lousy appearance and most important the pilgrims albergues which are relatively cheap (in Spain its 5 – 7 Euros a night) bring down the prices of the other private accomodations and this is not wanted.
The route through Belgium really surprised me, I didn´t expect so many cultural heritages in these realtively small towns.
Leuven is the capital of the Belgium province Flemish – Brabant, home to the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and has a fantastic gothic town hall in its city center.
Never come to Brussels when there is a seafood conference. The cheapest room I got at 7:30 pm was 250 Euros, without breakfast of course. Outside it was raining cats and dogs, pretty cold, so unfortunately there was no other way.
The guy from the reception even apologized to me. Sorry, he said but we are already like the airlines, when there are only a few rooms left, our hotel computer automatically increases the price. You can look somewhere else but it will be difficult to find something cheaper anywhere.
I left Brussels at about 11 am because it took me 3 hours to take photos of the city.
I reached Halle, 25 km south of Brussels, at about 07 pm where in both hotels they keep telling me they are overbooked because of this seafood event in the capital. Initially I planned to stay on a park bench in Halle but after a warm diner in one of the restaurants I decided to continue towards Nivelles.
I reached a little village, about 5 km from Nivelles at 03:40 am the next morning where I put my matress under the roof of a bus station. I hated seafood conferences and dark forests.
Nivelles – Seneffe is probably only about 15 km one from the other but even so I thought I wouldn´t make it. I was more stumbling than walking, partially with hallucinations and sitting down to rest every 10 minutes or so. When I finally reached Seneffe at about lunchtime, I entered the first supermarket to feed myself and than called the first pension that appeared on google maps to reserve a room. The landlord was a little surprised that I talked so little but I just wanted to have my peace. I think I went to bed at about 15:00 and slept the whole night.
I had learned that the nightwalks are killing me and that I needed to have some quality rests. I remembered a documentary about the Iditerod husky race in Alasca, one of the toughest races in the World where a multi times champion commented that if you compare the race times of the slides, they all have more or less the same speed. However, at the end there are significant time gaps between the slides, so how is that possible. It is mainly because of the resting intervals, the slide that can keep the resting time to a minimum but efficient and with high quality is the one that is going to lead the race.
With me it was more or less the same, you can do a night walk or two and make 50 to 70 km on the short term but than the next day you are toast and do 10 km. So as a consequence of this I started focussing more on my resting times and even in Spain where you have a lot of albergues every 3rd day I preferred to pay a more expensive guest house or hotel where my sleep would be definitely better.
Accomodation in Belgium was really a nightmare. Even in Binche, a relatively large city which I reached about 5:30 pm, there was just one B+B which was full and the only Hotel shut down some time ago. So I decided to continue to the French border.
At about 09:00 pm, in the Belgim – French borderland, close to a village called Estinnes, I suddenly heard drums in the distance which came from 3 young guys who were drumming in the middle of nowhere. Of course they were curious about me, didn´t speak a word other than French but new that Santiago was in Spain. Even though it took them some time to understand that I intended to walk there, I guess that didn´t make any sense to them (and who is going to blame them?)
It took me some time to take photos with each one and each camera of them but I was more than happy about it, at least I had some social contact. I continued to walk into the night until I reached the French border, in Vieux Reng, at 11:30 pm. I found a church at about midnight, where I put my sleeping back in the surrounding garden. As it was Friday night, there were still some younger guys hanging around and drinking, so I only fell asleep at about 02:30. I woke up at 05:00 because it started to rain.