The Picnic Bench


It’s 08:30 on Wednesday 20th August and yes I had to rely on my tablet to get that information. I’m sat on a pile of logs which no doubt was cut from the thick forest around me. I’m in a parking lay by at or near the top of Daverdisse heading south-east. After the outdoor laundry I continued to look for somewhere to sleep, I found it, well it found me. I was riding in the dark, I had put my visi jacket on and was routing around in my frame bag looking for my head lamp when a passing motorist stopped, turned around and came to ask if I was okay. I politely said yes and he continued his journey. Unbeknown to me was the reason he was asking, it was about 22:00 dark and I was on a road in a massive forest with nothing for miles in each direction. He knew this, I didn’t, he may have explained it to me but if he did, I didn’t understand a word of it and just said I was fine.

When in a very dark, massive forest on your own late at night, lots of things go through your head, like this would be ideal for an axe wielding maniac to jump out from behind a tree and kill me. No one would know, well at least for a few weeks, maybe the guy in the car now thinks I’m the Axe wielding murderer as I just shrugged off his offer of help in this eerie forest. Gulp!

I rode on, not wanting to stop or look behind me, just in case. Okay I was scared. I came to a fork in the road, one way was the village of Daverdisse on a bike path, the other the main road to the next big town. I went into the entrance of the bike path, the trees got thicker and it was pitch black not even my headlamp lit the path, I turned back and went on the main road but it went up further into the forest, as I couldn’t get a gear low enough to keep peddling, instead of getting off and walking I turned round and rolled down the hill back to the junction. I decided to walk on the bike path towards Daverdisse, it was a concrete path with twigs and leaves all over it, I could hear the wind moving the trees and the odd branch snap, I put this down to wild animals perhaps a fox or badger, it wasn’t the Axe murderer I told myself. I could hear running water and went over a rather creaky wooden bridge over the river lesse, which I had been following since Dinant.

I came across a picnic area, it was about 00:30 so I put my bike at the back of a bench, lay my sleeping mat on the bench, used the groundsheet to cover the bike and the bench, therefore if it rained I would be undercover. I put my shoes in the sleeping bags bag and slide into my sleeping back on the picnic bench. It was surprisingly comfy, I worked on the theory that people don’t wander around forests at night as they tend to think there’s an Axe wielding maniac ready to jump out at them, so if anyone did come across me and they weren’t carrying an Axe they would think I was and avoid me. I didn’t want to think of the other possible scenario.

I setup in the dark, not wanting to attract attention with my light and as my eyes adjusted I could see millions of stars, I lay on that bench for a good hour just staring at the heavens it was magnificent, no light pollution in a dark forest, ideal for star-gazing. I slept for about 2 hours then I set my alarm for 05:00 so I’d be up and away before anyone else was up and out, except at 05:00 it was still pitch black, I lay looking at the stars until dawn broke. This was the first dry wild camping experience, I had been comfy and warm, although the water in my bottles had frozen, I was 240m above sea level. At 06:00 I packed up and I cycled along the path towards Daverdisse and stopped in front of a Chateau style hotel and made a coffee, I checked my map and saw that the best way was to follow the N40 to Arlon.

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About John Holt

John Holt has worked in the travel industry for over 14 years and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor for his practical and candid talks on travel destinations. Spending 18 months as a "Local Interest Specialist" for a leading tour operator John has become known as having more practical information than Google.

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