Did we have good or bad luck? The low clouds and mists that hung over the Haute Fagnes partially obstructed our views of what should be a magnificent wide-open landscape. The drizzle and sometimes outright rain did not always make our struggle through this peat bog comfortable.
But perhaps you actually experience a place like that more intensively because of difficult circumstance. Because you really have to make an effort, and if you do, and your lead your heavily loaded bicycle, sometimes by hand, through the swampy boggy area, then you really know what it takes to be there, and travel through it. It was and still is the highlight of our trip.
In the video we are on the Signal de Botrange, the highest point in Belgium, which is really no more than a roadside restaurant, a large parking lot and a staircase that reaches 700 meters. But what lies on the other side of the provincial road is what is so special. A high moor area, quite unique in itself (the Netherlands only knows three of them, including the Fochteloërveen where we were recently). Whereas the area’s in the Netherlands are just above sea-level, this area is around 600 meters (and more) above sea level.
It is possible to hike or ride through the Haute Fagnes. We started with a paved road that skirted the north-west border, after which we soon turned right and traversed the bog. Sometimes there were wooden boardwalks (also called north shores in Mountainbike lingo) that lead over the wettest and most impassable parts.
We took hauled the bike into and out of dips in the terrain, dipped our shoes ankle-deep in the boggiest bits, we passed beautifully still ponds, rode through sections with a bit more forest, where dead ferns from the previous season contrasted with a beautiful rust-brown color against the yellow grass and the almost white-bleached wood of dead trees.
The monochrome weather and the diffuse light could not hide the subtle color splendor of the High Fens, and how we enjoyed the emptiness and vastness. Only at the very end, where we rode out of the area over wide wooden boardwalks, did we came across hikers again. Our smiles were mirrored on their faces. It was a tough few hours, but incredibly beautiful and very memorable.
Watch the entire travel documentary of our bike pack through the Ardennes below: