We’re staying at an aire outside the town of Genk — it’s pretty much a car park, beside an equestrian centre (slash-mini golf course-slash-skiing centre-slash-planetarium), but we’re at the edge of the parking area, surrounded by woods. It’s the one place I could find — Belgium-wide, amazingly — that was pleasant and not an extortionately expensive camping area, and luckily, we’ve found an open WiFi network! Every now and then, a horse trailer will park right in our WiFi antenna‘s line of sight, and our Internet access will promptly vanish, but in general, it’s a good spot.
But first: on our drive across Belgium to Genk, we’d stopped at a supermarket and I’d noticed quite a bit of liquid dripping from beneath Nettle’s engine — upon closer inspection it appeared to be pretty much odourless and watery, and I’d figured it was probably just rainwater from the many showers we’d had. However, we realised when we arrived and noticed an odd hissing noise after shutting off the engine, that we had yet another Mishap on our hands: A fuel line had cracked and was spewing diesel!
Nettle’s been a Bad Motorhome lately!
After a slightly nervous phone call with my step-dad, Chris, who reassured me that diesel isn’t particularly flammable and we’re not too likely to go up in a raging fireball any time soon, we relax, and get it taken care of at a nearby garage. Thankfully, no more drama there.
Our days are spent with me working on Loopy updates and interacting with customers, and Katherine painting and doing some A Tasty Pixel marketing stuff as well. Our plan was to spend a relatively brief time catching up on our blogging: we’ve been rather lax, lately — a thing we repeatedly decide never to do again — and our ‘buffer’ is full. Any more new experiences, and the old ones will fall out of our heads.
However, we don’t seem to quite get into the blogging spirit straight away, and our time is spent on our various projects. We jump on our bikes periodically, and explore the quite pleasant network of tracks around us, winding through the woods. The ride into town to visit the supermarket is great, through the park and beside the lake. We meet some lovely motorhomers from Lancashire, who invite us for dinner, and we have a very enjoyable evening sitting around chatting, safely sheltering under their van’s awning while a thunderstorm rages around us.
We meet up and have dinner at ‘our favourite’ burger place, with great veggie burgers (we have a ‘haunt’ in Hasselt!), then we ride along and across the canal to visit Kris’s lovely grandparents, who welcome us warmly. Their garden is amazing, a verdant mini jungle, lovingly nurtured by Kris’s green-thumbed grandmother.
Kris’s grandfather takes us around the corner and introduces us to his small flock of sheep, and we pay a visit to a pen of ostriches nearby (those’re big birds).
Shortly afterwards, as evening settles in, pounding bass announces the passing-by of one of the town’s quite charming weekly activities: A ute, equipped with huge speakers and a DJ, leads a crowd of hundreds of rollerbladers, followed by another truck with a different DJ, and hundreds of cyclists. This sporty parade spends hours navigating around the city one evening each week, a chance for the locals to get some social exercise. We see them pass again an hour or so later, on our way back to Nettle.
Kris presents me with a very exciting birthday parcel from a dear friend of mine who sent it to his address for me! I’ve never met Tara, but we’ve been following each other’s vagabonding tails and trundles since we were both in Tunisia at the same time. We’ve been emailing each other ever since! She’s a kindred spirit and I adore her and to receive this parcel filled with all sorts of tiny delightful things and a card filled with her handwriting, just a couple of days after my birthday has made me happy as a clam. There are vintage postcards with illustrations of lovely whimsical things, earrings and a bracelet that are precisely my style that make me squeal with delight, and a little owl that’s travelled all the way from Laos, amongst other things!
The next day, we cycle with Kris to the Japanese garden. I’m wearing my birthday skirt from last year, the earrings and bracelet from Tara and I’ve done my hair and make-up (a rare occurrence). I’m cycling through a Belgian town on a cute vintage bike, in a cute skirt, adorned with jewellery lovingly sent from a dear friend on the other side of the world, and it’s a beautiful day! We could be going anywhere, I’m just enjoying the ride and feeling good and blessed and grateful. Thank you Tara!
The next day, Kris takes us on a bike tour of the city, and we have a very pleasant day out in the sun. We drop in on an abandoned glue factory and meet some guys who make models of animals and things for exhibitions and other displays — they take casts of real animals, then fill the casts with silicon to create the models. They’re currently working on a big savanna display and there are massive lifelike elephants standing around in their workroom.
Kris had mentioned a life-size whale that they had sitting outside once, and when I mentioned it, we were informed that apparently an eccentric artist had commissioned them to turn it into a living area, with fittings inside!
The last part of our tour, we swing by the Japanese garden, owned and maintained by Hasselt’s Japanese sister city, Itami.
After a few weeks in the area, we finally decide it’s time to move on — we’ve found a couple of Camping a la Ferme sites (the closest thing we can find to UK’s lovely Certificated Locations) over the border in France. We’ve almost finished packing up ready to go, when Katherine reports a dental mishap: The same ex-tooth that’s been a problem in the past has just had its filling break. It just so happens, Belgium is one of the most popular spots for “dental tourism” — cheap, and high-quality dentistry. In fact, operations that would cost thousands of dollars back in Australia, like crowns and root canals, are just a few hundred euros, here.
So, Katherine makes an appointment with a Hasselt dentist on Kris’ recommendation, but the appointment isn’t for another fortnight.
In Genk, we stay, but France is calling.