• Day1044

    Passantenhaven de Welvart, Neerpelt

    May 6 in Belgium ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    N.B. Those of you who read our previous blog post on Puurs will notice the overnight shot is the same as on this post. Sorry! We messed up and attached the wrong photo to Puurs 🤦‍♀️. This has now been changed and fingers crossed all the correct photos are uploaded to this post! 🤞

    This wasn't our first choice of overnight spot, nor was it our second, but we are here, overlooking Kanaal Bocholt-Herentals and grateful to have somewhere for Martha to rest tired her tyres!

    We'd only planned to drive 80km from our leisure centre stopover in Puurs, so we nipped into town to pick up a few groceries from DelHaize supermarket, delaying our set off. Although we encountered no traffic congestion, the Belgian's preference for prefab roads, narrow lanes and sharp turns rattled our nerves as well as the crockery in our cupboards.

    Our sat nav tried to take us to the first place programmed in via a cycle track alongside a high security enclosure surrounded by a razor wire topped fence. Vicky found an alternate route on Maps.Me but we soon encountered a 'no entry to unauthorised persons' sign and decided to cut our losses.

    The second place sounded perfect; a car park beside a pancake boat, with access to the canal for canoeing and towpath for cycling. Much to our disappointment barriers blocked our entry. Feeling dispirited, we searched Park4Night once again and found this official site for €6 a night. With around 10 side by side bays looking out over the canal, Passantenhaven (Passerby Harbour) was well away from roads and close to a small mooring area for visiting boats. The ticket we bought from the machine included electric hookup but the end bay we had chosen was too far away from the socket for our lead. We were tired and made the decision to stay where we were, with a view of the towpath out of our side window instead of squeezing in between two other vans. We felt grateful that the solar panel we fitted has been doing such a good job keeping our batteries charged!

    A few fishers stood on the bank but now we have crossed into Belgium, Will isn't licenced. Instead he got out his new toy; a camera drone. The fishers' eyes lit up and he was soon chatting away to them, answering their questions about it. One thing he didn't tell them was that we've named it Peggy (short for Pegasus). We hope it will really enhance our ability to capture the essence of places we visit. Talking of licences, Peggy needs liability insurance to fly in many EU countries, including Germany and Lithuania, so that was a job Will set about that afternoon, taking the mandatory and rigorous online test to prove he knew the regulations, in order to aquire said insurance.

    After tea we took a stroll along the towpath, meeting other walkers, cyclists, ducks, geese and goslings along the way. The route is part of a long distance cycle track. This 45km North Limburg section connects with others to form 270km of mountain bike trails. It inspired Vicky to an 11km morning tandem ride. Away from the groups of pupils cycling to school it was really quite peaceful in the dappled light cast by lines of tall trees. She even spotted a woodpecker.

    One of the things we liked about the Passantenhaven site was the recycling facilities it provided. We always find the Belgian system problematic, so our bins were overflowing when we arrived. It was therefore disappointing to see the refuse collector emptying the compost, paper and packaging bins into one black bag before tossing it in their van with the rest of the rubbish.

    For lunch we walked into Neerpelt in search of Belgian frites. It didn't take long to find a frituur and we decided to eat in, so as to try and avoid waste packaging. Unfortunately our shared portion came in a plastic tray, but they tasted good! We spent a little time window shopping, but even more time in the large cookery store. There is a long list of cooking related items we are looking for but despite their wide range, nothing but a digital thermometer quite fitted the bill.

    We'd planned to go canoeing in the afternoon but it was chilly and began to rain as we made our way back. We half decided to drive on and upon inspecting the motorhome facilities at our site we confirmed this decision. We found that the large bin required tokens to unlock it, available from the tourist information office or boulangerie when you presented the tear off portion of your parking ticket. There was also a sign next to the water tap indicating it wasn't suitable for drinking. We stingily didn't want to pay a further €6 when we knew we could get a free site with free services elsewhere, so we hit the road towards Germany.
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