Read about this trip from the start – here.
Our next stop was Huy. We clearly were pronouncing Walloninan place names all wrong. People did not know what we were talking about. Huy, which we were calling hay, as in straw, is actually pronounced like the French word for yes, as in Oui. When asking for a Carrefour, a French supermarket, we were saying – Carry For – but it’s pronounced – Khar Foohr. Given that it was still the height of summer, and France is a boating Mecca, we were expecting to see a lot more boats on the waterways. Belgium is a through route to France for a few countries. The Meuse River from Liege is mostly unspoilt by heavy industry and I think beautiful. I would rate it up there with some of the scenic routes we have passed through in France or the Netherlands.
|Approaching Huy via the canal
The marina at Huy was a pleasure. Nice clean showers with 24 hour access, a restaurant, full strength wifi, water and electricity included in the €13 fee. There were 5 other boats with us in the marina. My husband and I took a day out and went to explore Huy. The marina is about 1.5 kilometres from the town centre. We walked along the river and over the bridge into the town. It was market day. There were some familiar faces from the Liege market. We found what we thought was a Tourist Info office but later discovered a proper one near the fort. The woman there tried to be helpful but could not speak a word of English. She gave us a map and marked key attractions and shops for us. We got by with a mix of our awful French and gesticulations. She probably wondered what the hell we were doing there but was kind enough to help us anyway. I’m sure that scenario would have made a great comedy sketch.
|Stair to the fort
The cable car to the top of the fort was out of order so we walked up. With all our purchases from the market. It’s a steep walk up. Not the smartest idea, but we managed. After that we walked out of town to find a hardware shop. My other half wanted empty gasoline canisters. We’d been asking about fuel top ups en-route and discovered that not many marinas sell fuel. A bit of a problem. Our solution was to buy diesel from regular car fuel stations when we encountered them in close enough proximity to our boat. We had bought a shopping trolley which we used to wheel our groceries back to the boat. It’s possible to remove the bag from the frame. We could roll the fuel back to our boat on the frame and not have to carry it.
We were just over a month on Shangri La. Heading steadily south and the time of year was edging closer to the end of summer. The sun was setting earlier. When we left Zwartsluis it was light as late as 22.30pm. Now it was dark by 21.00pm. With the passing of time, our boat had become home to a few insects. Spider webs were popping up all over. I don’t like bumping off creatures but I was removing spider webs from the rails and awnings regularly.
|Friendly swan hoping for a snack
The next place on our itinerary was Namur. Before we left I dashed round the corner to pick wild berries from the bushes. They are yummy. And free. After about four hours motoring – excluding time spent waiting for locks – we arrived in Namur a total of 32 kilometres later. Both locks went smoothly with minimal waiting time and we berthed around 14.00pm. A person can almost always spot a hire boat in the locks. I’m sure the lock keepers must have a laugh. Not that I know it all, and for sure a few years back I made those same mistakes. But people on hire boats have no idea what to expect or how to handle a boat in a lock. They put out a single rope. They leave it slack. They focus on having a holiday and basking in the sun. They don’t know how to manoeuvre a boat. Once the water starts flooding into the lock it creates turbulence and surges causing a boat to bounce all over the place. Which is why two ropes – a front and a back rope are critical. They need to be reasonably tight to stop the boat bashing about. And keeping an eye on all corners of the boat. Using boat hooks and fenders to stop bashing is rather important. We saw a hire boat sink before our eyes in a lock in France. It happens.
|Marina in Huy
We chose not to use the private marina but to rather moor up next to a quay at the municipal mooring spot. As we came in we recognised a few boats from other places we had stayed. And gave a recognisory greeting. We chatted to one or two people. A Brit/Belgian couple told us they had sold up everything and now lived on their boat. All year round. They usually find a marina with all the trimmings for the winter months when the canals have limited services or close before they freeze over. They gave us some handy boat wintering tips. Another Dutch/Australian couple were making there way back to the Netherlands from a few years spent in France. He commented that things are a lot cheaper in France but nothing works. I hoped he was a cynic.
Once tied up securely we consulted MapsMe app to locate the centre ville (town centre) and once there, looked for Tourist Info signs. They’re usually easy to find – but not always. You might remember in Ghent the signs pointed in the total wrong direction. One new thing to get used to is making sure we had ID on us. A Belgian requirement is to carry some form of ID.
The lady at the Info office was wonderful. She made suggestions and gave handy leaflets. We asked about places to buy our kind of food – read organic, fresh, wholefoods and vegan – and she gave a host of options. It was too late to start any serious exploring so we went back to the boat and read up on Namur. The guide book had a mini walking tour which was a must. There was also a mention of a Friday organic food market from 15.00pm to 19.00pm in the car park of the Omnisport Hall in chaussee de Dinant which is off avenue de Plante. Another must. While it may not be strictly sight seeing we like opportunities to engage with locals and meet like-minded people.
The story continues – here.