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2024 The Condruzienne

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In 2019, we bought our Santos mountain bikes and did our first  bikepacking trip, the "Rota Vicentina", from Lisbon to Sagres.

Getting the taste of cycling  offroad, we started using our mountain bikes more often for short bike tours. For longer trips, luggage stayed a challenge as we could not evenly distribute the weight on the bikes because of our Lauf suspension fork.

Last year, Santos revamped their 4.29 mountain bike in to an adventure bike with a fixed fork and we decided to also get our bikes up to date again, adding cages for drybags, a new rack and bikepacking handlebar and  fixed lights to increase visibility in bad weather, tunnels, etc..

We decided to test out the new configuration on a short bikepacking trip, fully loaded with all the stuff as if we would be on the road for 2 months. 

A few years ago, we had subscribed on the bikepacking.com mailing list and when we received their notification of a new route in Belgium, the decision was quickly made. We would do an attempt on the "Condruzienne".

While the original route's technical difficulty is normally within our reach, our timing for the trip was completely wrong as most of the tracks were so wet and not really cyclable due to the heavy rainfall of the last couple of weeks and months.

With our next "bigger" trip coming up in just a few weeks and only having 5 days time in between other engagements, we decided to ignore the bad weather forecasts.

And that's what happened (the blue line), the original 320 km was reduced to 200 km.

You can download the original track from the bikepacking.com website and can also download the route which we did from Wikilok, following this link.

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Namur - Gesves

The Condruzienne is a loop of 320 km and starts in Namur. The easiest way to get to Namur is by train. There are 2 direct trains per hour from Brussels and you have to pay 4 euro extra to take your bike. As we arrived the evening before, we first headed up to the "Citadel" for a beautiful view of Namur.

The first part of the trip goes along the river Meuse and then bends towards the east, quickly bringing you in to the forest.

As per the Bikepacking.com website, about 2/3 of the trip is on unpaved tracks and while non of those tracks should be to difficult to ride, it became rather quickly obvious to us that we were cycling this in sub-optimal conditions.

More than half of the unpaved tracks were like mudpools and we probably should have done this with other types of tires.

While the cycling was sometimes very challenging, the sights were just beautiful.  We also passed  the Condroz-Famenne Art Trail, a 155 km long distance hiking trail within the Condroz Famenne region. All artworks are displayed in a natural environment and are all made from natural materials. As most of these artworks only survive the elements for a few years, there are always new and different pieces which pop up.

Instead of the planned 60 km on the first day, we only managed to do 35. A flat tire with 3 punctures inspired us a little bit later to look for a sleeping place.

As it started again raining after the tire was repaired and the predictions for next day were a full day of rain, we decided not to go camping and search for a nice B&B in the neighbourhood. Not to far away in Gesves, the Chante-Pierre B&B still had a room available.

To forget todays hard labour, we treated ourselves with a nice dinner at La Petite Gesves which was just a 5 minutes walk from our B&B.

A fancy 3 course dinner with amuses for a very reasonable price.

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Gesves - Celles

After contemplating to stay here for another day, we decided to continue with the trip in the rain. The first kilometer was downhill but so slippery that we left the Condruzienne and tried to stay as close as possible to the track but on paved or more hardened gravel roads. Linda and Dirk happy again.

While this area has a lot to offer when it comes to nature and history, it's sparsely populated and that also means that you do not have many places on the way where you can stock up on food or stop for a drink.

We had our lunch, sheltering for the rain, in a manmade cave in Crupet honouring Saint Anthony of Padua.

We stopped for a awhile in Spontin for a coffee and cake, mainly to take a break from the pouring rain.

We cycled up to Celles where we booked a room and dinner in La Clochette.

When we arrived, we recognised the place from a previous trip, a long time ago. We even had the same room.

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Celles - Herock

After the tradional morning-photo, we headed direction Anseremme to get back on the Condruzienne, following the river Lesse upriver.

Once you're up the bridge, it's easy.

Getting there is sometimes another ballgame. 

Unloading the bikes and pushing them up bike by bike with the 2 of us.

And yes, it makes you really hungry before it's lunch time.

Back on the track, we realised that we should again carefully review our packing list as every kilo counts when you have to start pushing your bike uphill or when you have to lift your bike over fallen trees. Of course, some helping hands are always welcome.

The plan was to camp at Camping de la Lesse in Houyet. While opening was published for the 1st of April on several camping websites, reality was a little different. We suppose the campsite was wiped away with the floods a few years ago and except for some abandoned buildings, there was absolutely nothing.

After talking to some locals, we were able to find a place to sleep some 5 km further down the road in Herock.

Camping will be for tomorrow.

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Herock - Hastiere

Day 4, as from today, there are no real alternative cycletracks anymore which run close to the Condruzienne. 

After about 1 km, we realise that even om flat grounds, our tires do not have enough grip in the wet tracks and we turn back our bikes.

With a big circle, we will also be able to reach again the valley of the Meuse, allowing us to get back to Namur via the Meuse cycle way.

We are using the app Pocket Earth on our iPhone and when using the "Cycling" map, all National, Regional and Local cycle paths are highlighted in different colours. (This is similar to other well known apps like Komoot and RouteYou). Most of the time, these cycle paths will be on lower traffic roads or just shared with hikers. 

In the late afternoon, we were crossing the border in to France for a few km (and a hot chocolate in Givet).

As this was the last night of the trip, it was also the last opportunity for using our camping gear.

The first camping in Hastiere was again a deserted place but a little further, we found a nice spot next to the river at Camping Castel Mosan.