Thursday, 22 October 2015

Aalst to Ninove to Aalst to Ninove to Aalst to Ninove…

Saturday 17th, Sunday 18th and Monday 19th October 2015

It’s not as complicated as it sounds….

Bidding our havenmeester Mario farewell we began the first leg of our journey back to South Africa after just over a month in Belgium.

South, up the Dender

As the locks do not operate on Sundays in winter the decision was taken that we would cruise back to Ninove and take the train back to Aalst to watch the Springboks play Wales in the RWC quarter-final that evening and then return and have the whole of Sunday to explore Ninove. Which we did.

Some pics taken on our walk to the station.

We couldn't figure out the relevance of this one.

 Much to our delight, and that of a group of visiting South African tourist lodge promotors (and two ex-pats – they were both in BE having “followed love” then somehow received ‘permanent relationship’ long stay permits and, having given up on “love”, were now awaiting permanent residence status. Mmmm…), the Springboks won having put in a sparkling second half following their very sub-standard first session.

The final whistle!

 Then it was back on the train,

Aalst station

a quick walk through Ninove’s shopping area,

and into bed.

Sunday the process was repeated but this time the idea was to cycle the 18 kilometers to Aalst, watch the Ireland-Argentina semi, and cycle back home again. Which we did.

Except that two kilo’s into the ride the back tire of Lynn’s bike, which had been threatening, popped off the rim and, after putting the tube and tire back in place on the rim, the tube burst when I was pumping it. So it was a walk back to Elle to collect my Dutch bike and instead of a leisurely eTrip to Aalst and back, I had a rear-end testing experience, not enhanced by my decision to take a short cut as we entered the outskirts of the city, which added a couple more kilometers to the trip.

Anyway, much to the dismay of the proprietor of the pub who had assumed, as a certainty, that the Greens would triumph, Ireland lost to an outstanding Argentinian team effort and we now have, for the first time ever, an all southern-hemisphere semi-final.

Monday was tire fixing day but on Monday all the shops are closed, aren’t they? Or so their internet sites say. We carry spare tubes but when the tire came off the rim the rim cut through the sidewall so we have to find a new tire; tire repair will now happen tomorrow. So instead, the first part of the day was spent doing chores, me doing engine checks and filling the stuffing boxes with grease and getting myself covered in the stuff at the same time, and Lynn, inter alia, cleaning out the shower strainer…

…and then it was onto the bikes for a look around.

 We found this rather austere cathedral

with a stunning interior – despite the wealth of imagery one had a real sense of peace in the cool white surrounds.

 A late lunch/early supper and a relaxing evening.

Monday, 19 October 2015


Thursday 15th and Friday 16th October 2015

We made the decision on arriving in Aalst that we were tired of the, to us, icy weather and looking at the weather forecast for Charleroi in the east where we were aiming for the lower Sambre River, we decided to chicken out and do this stretch next year. Now we would slow down the pace and plan our route to ensure that we could watch the Rugby World Cup at Irish pubs in Aalst, Tournai and Brugge on our way back to Diksmuide where, hopefully, the coastal weather might be a bit warmer than in the east amongst the foothills of the Ardennes. Probably windier but hopefully warmer.

Aalst is an alive city with some beautiful buildings

 But the highlight of Thursday was the birthday dinner we enjoyed at the Michelin starred T’Overhamme restaurant with Frederik and Josephine, slightly marred by the fact that it was either everyone had a la carte or everyone had the degustation menu, and some sloppy service by the vaguely arrogant sommelier. But very pretty food.

On Friday morning, after having finally received our folding seats, tub of propshaft grease and an oilfilter which Frederik had kindly organised, it was with great trepidation that I unscrewed the old filter and fitted the new. Thank heavens, it fitted properly! And so ended three months of searching for a correctly sized pair. That job out of the way it was off to the shop where Frederik had found the filter to get a few more – one for immediate fitment to the other engine, two for the next oil change when the boat is winterised and two for the first oil change in the summer. The very helpful man at the counter confirmed that they has another of the same filter in stock and that they would order four more which would be there by 08h00 the next morning. By chance I had brought along the old injector and asked if he had any to match. To cut a long story short, he did have stock and after initially quoting me €30 each (I had paid €32 each plus courier costs for not-quite-the-right-ones in Kuurne) we settled on €16 and when I arrived at the cashier, she insisted, despite my protestations, that it was €16 for all four injectors – I wasn’t going to argue further and walked out a very happy fella.

After fitting the second filter we were off exploring

Painting by Reubens

Altar sculpted from marble.

The new and the old.

 and of course, couldn’t resist sampling the famous Aalstvlaam (Aalst flan) – Mmmmmm! No wonder we are looking like Teletubbies but how else do we fight the cold?

Geraardsbergen to Aalst

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Having spent the previous day in relax mode doing not much else than the tourist ‘thing’ in Geraadsbergen it was now off down the gorgeous Dender to the city of Aalst passing through some pretty towns and pastoral landscape.

Pink bridge in Ninove

Neptune left his bike behind.

They held up +60 cars to let us through this one.

Aalst architecture.

Aalst Jachthaven ahead.

Six hours later we finally arrived spotting a gap amongst the boats at the pontoon; we had phoned ahead and the havenmeester had obviously juggled some boats around so that there would be a space for us. With the rain seemingly to have settled in, we decided to stay aboard, do an oil change, and explore the next day.

At about six ‘o clock I tried to get out of the marina to throw away the rubbish but found that we were securely locked in. Madame, who had left a message on the havenmeester’s phone to say that we had arrived, called him again to ask how we could get out. Moments later a slightly embarrassed Mario was at our window; he explained that he had received the message but thought it was from an English barge across the river so he called the lady there who said she had not phoned him. Assuming it was a mix-up, he retreated to his boat (a restored 1950’s American police patrol vessel!) and continued to await our arrival unaware that we had moored up earlier. Anyway, issued with an electromagnetic card for electricity, water and, very importantly, to the key-pad at the exit gate, he presented me with a club pennant as a birthday present (Lynn had mentioned that tomorrow is my birthday), apologised once again and toddled off. A very nice fella!