5 countries in 1 day – an inspiring cycle tour
Here is an extract of Karsten’s adventure and maybe it attracts to do the same during your next cycling trip this spring?
“ At 6.09am, shortly before sunrise, I set out from Gemmenich. The weather was very good, with 15° C, only a little sun and wind, and no rain expected until the next day. I returned through Vaals to Aachen and took a rural road to Eupen, where I dropped into the town hall and was briefly interviewed by the local newspaper ‘Grenzecho’ (which translates as BorderEcho, very appropriate for my challenge).
Next the route climbed south into the desolate boggy landscape of the Hohe Venn/Hautes Fagnes (meaning ‘high fen’ in German and French) where granite rocks prevent rainwater draining away, leading over millennia to the formation of peat bogs of sphagnum moss. The Ardennes have been a classic cycling region for many decades and a handful of racing bikers were on the road over Belgium’s highest point, the Signal de Botrange (694m). This has a concrete staircase at its peak to increase its height to 700m, but I did not attempt that final climb by bike! After a rapid descent I crossed the Robertville reservoir, followed by a fast and very pleasant ride on the Vennbahn cycle-path, part of the RAVeL (Ligne 48). However, near St Vith, I met a dead end due to construction work on the RAVeL(I should have consulted the RAVeL website for updates.)
To make sure that my trip remained something of an adventure, and to stay aware of the local environment, I had decided not to rely on GPS for navigation outside the towns, instead following a map and signposts. This worked well at first, but near Oudler unfortunately led me onto gravel forest paths instead of the Vennbahn. Emerging from the woods, I crossed the unnoticeable border into Luxembourg and cycled up to a field which a half-readable plate identified as the country’s highest point (Kneiff, 560m). Again I accidentally chose an alternative route, this time the E421 expressway towards Luxembourg City. Thankfully cyclists were well respected; in fact during the whole journey, I was only honked at twice (and once sprayed with windscreen wash, by a Stag Tour with UK number plates). Finally, near Erpeldange a sign commanded errant cyclists off the motorway and down the scenic Alzette valley to Luxembourg. The city of Luxembourg sits above a dramatic gorge but happily the shops were now closed and commuters were at home, so my crossing of the high bridge over the Pétrusse was uneventful. I continued south along already very French-looking avenues, lined with trees in bloom, towards Thionville.
Approaching the French border, the dashcam that I had set up to record the final approach ran out of power. Undeterred, I used my hand-cranked charger. It was very rewarding to generate such important electricity with my own hands. With the camera again active I crossed into France at Évrange around 8.45pm, just as the sun set, and stopped for a photo at the church. Searching for someone to officially witness my arrival, I heard music from a nearby school, where I was greeted by volunteers preparing for a charity event the next day: a motor-bike rally where riders go door to door selling roses for a cancer charity. I joined them for a while before retiring to the nearby hotel.
In total, my journey had taken 14½ hours. I had been in motion for about 8½ hours, and spent the rest of the time collecting signatures on the official witness forms, eating and just enjoying looking around and taking photos.”
If you are interested to read more about Karsten’s route and equipment planning in advance or how he travel to his start point by public transport and headed back again, you can read his complete story here.