Setting off early was rewarding, as we walked along the Sūre with the mist still hanging fairylike over the river and hardly anyone around.
To be honest, the reason we were up and about so early is not because we had finally managed to wake up at dawn, but because we had skipped breakfast. So by the time we had reached the village Esch-sur-Sūre, we found ourselves a beautiful picknick table and had a real feast for breakfast. While Bart went running around town looking for croissants, Serge and I prepared all the remaining food leftovers we were still dragging around.
We quickly visited the tiny village of Esch-sur-Sūre that sits on a spur of land within a sharp meander of the river. From there we started hiking up towards a viewpoint. It was not even 10am and our backs were wet with sweat again. Luckily, the view was wonderful, as it had to make up for the huge detour we were making. This turned out to be my favourite spot of our entire hike.
In a wide semi-circle, we walked around Esch-sur-Sūre, flicking away the occasional tick that tried to hitchhike. Just before reaching the next village of Kaundorf, we spotted a large fox in the distance. All in all, it was surprising how much 'wildlife' we had seen during this entire trip.
We had been walking for several hours in the sun and were feeling really thirsty. In Kaundorf, I searched every single garden for people, but everyone had gone. It's when we were about to leave the village again, that our saviours appeared in the shape of a couple having appetizers in their front garden. They even offered us wine instead of water. Tempting...
In the nearby forest we immediately found a nice and shady picknick spot. We had water for soup. We had naturally molten cheese (at least one good thing about the heat). And we had the fresh bread Bart had been hunting for in the morning. We couldn't wish for more.
Apart for more water maybe... By the time we reached the next village, just 3 kilometers further, our wells had dried up again. Luckily, we quickly ran into a lady who was very happy to help - in exchange for letting her rattle on for a while.
After Nothum, the route led back into a beautiful forest. At some point, though, our GPS felt creative when he drew his own path through some wild bushes - where no path existed. Obedient as we are, we obeyed his commands and came through with just a few scratches. As a reward, the village of Berlé treated us with some last wide views over the green, rolling fields.
The Belgian border was getting really close now. We had been warned for storm weather in the evening, and at some point we heard some rumbling sounds in the distance. We weren't sure if this was thunder, but upon approaching Belgium we knew for sure, as we saw a large threathening and dark cloud awaiting us. And we were heading straight towards it.
We prepared for the worst, wrapping up our valuables in plastic bags and keeping our jackets at the ready. But our GPS showed its friendly side, as it led us in a wide berth around the dark cloud.
The end was super near now, but the last mile is the longest. We had only 5 km ahead of us, but to me, this part seemed endless. For the first time, my feet really hurt and all I wished for, was having a rest.
Where was that damned sign marking the border?? Nowhere, apparently. Without any warning of us crossing the border, apart maybe for the increased amount of litter in the bushes, we suddenly found ourselves in Bras... a Belgian village.
We had made it! Only, we didn't feel like celebrating yet. First, we had to get back to our car in Bastogne. We considered walking, but it was another (unnecessary) 10km. The moment we had lifted our thumbs for hitchhiking, a bus with destination Bastogne stopped. We jumped on, and half an hour later, each with a local Airborne beer in hand, we sat waiting for dinner in a little restaurant on the Bastogne market square.
All in all, it had been a physically intensive experience that, to be honest, I had slightly underestimated. Walking 30 km a day sounds perfectly doable, but that should be reassessed taking into consideration the hilly landscape, the heavy backpacks and the heat. But exactly for that reason, having pushed through until the end was all the more rewarding.