We left Antoing on a day of scudding clouds that successfully obscured the sun for much of the time, so there was little need for the sunbrella and on occasions, we could have done with heavy duty umbrellas.
Within half an hour or so, we were on the outskirts of Tournai (known as Doornik in Flanders), following a huge commercial. Koos wanted to keep up with it so we could follow it through the any bridges that needed to be lifted through the city. For the large barges, they are done in sequence so it was worth going with its flow so to speak.
|Tournai Church from the water|
|Pont des Trous, Tournai|
Tournai is impressive from the water and the magnificent Pont des Trous, which dates from the 13th century, remains as a testament to the city's historic importance. It is still more impressive to see modern barges inching their way through its central arch (heightened during reconstruction after WWII). I watched with baited breath as the barge we were tailing manoeuvred its way through with great care and skill. But I then realised the skippers who ply this route probably go through the bridge at least once a week if not more.
When we were out of the city, the tree-lined, Wallonian section of the Schelde continued. We shared the first lock out of Tournai with the same barge we'd been through the city with. The locks on this river are not as big as they might be and there was only room for one large commercial, so we snuk in behind it. Despite our mere fifteen-metre length, I have to say that even this felt too close for comfort.
Over the next few kilometres, we were both drenched and sunburnt by turns as those scudding clouds I mentioned earlier hid some pretty heavy showers. The river was lovely, though, and I enjoyed this stretch of Wallonian scenery very much. As we passed the entrance to the Canal de L'Espierres where we'd been just three weeks before, I almost shouted to Koos to turn left. How I would have loved to start over again.
|Wallonia stretch of the Schelde/Scheldt/Escaut|
At the next lock, we pulled up to wait our turn, and as we tied up, a smart white van sped along the towpath and stopped next to us. On the sides, I read 'Police de la Navigation'. Here we go, I thought. We'd managed to do the whole trip so far without being inspected, but it seemed our luck was about to run dry even if the weather hadn't (sorry). But, I reasoned, this was the last lock in Wallonia, so it was as likely to happen here as anywhere.
Out of the van stepped two smartly dressed officials.
"Have you been inspected yet?" they asked us.
"No," said Koos.
"Well," they said. "We may as well take advantage of your waiting here to do it."
My wicked side wondered what they would have said if Koos had answered 'Yes', but it seemed that they would have had the details on the computer in any event, so I suppose the question was just a courtesy.
As it turned out, it was just a courtesy inspection too as all they wanted was our paperwork details and off they went with a smile and a cheerful wave. After all the stories I'd heard about Belgian inspections taking an hour or more, this was a relief.
We were now back on the stretch of the Schelde we'd started on, but instead of continuing to Oudenaarde after the Ecluse d'Hérinnes, we turned left onto the Bossuit to Kortrijk canal. Waiting before the massive door of the lock, I realised it must be a big one, but nothing quite prepared me for the surprise of seeing its cavernous size.
|Commercial lock on Bossuit/Kortrijk Canal. Ten metres deep|
It was (is) massive, as in very deep and is one of three that replaced eight smaller ones so as to service the industry on the canal. However, there is little of that left, so pleasure boats are often alone and moorings are few. We went on, hoping to find somewhere to stop for the night, but the environs became busier and ever noisier with highway road bridges creating a roaring sound and wind that was actively unpleasant. Eventually, we came to the first of the last three locks: all small, all hand operated and all subject to prior arrangement. It was time to stop. Koos pushed the Hennie H's nose into the lillies in front of the lock. I climbed off onto the bank and found an old bollard to tie up to. And there in the sunshine, we spent the evening on the outskirts of Kortrijk.
|Where we stopped...|
Once out of the Bossuit canal, we made a left and then another one and moored up in a side branch of the Leie running through the town of Kortrijk itself where we spent the night alongside another Dutch barge and were treated to electricity and water for a modest fee.
|Mooring in Kortrijk|
Our next leg of the journey was downstream on the Leie, a busy commercial river, fully canalised with very large locks, but there were only two of these before we turned off onto the old section of the Leie, which wiggles its way through pretty country with very rich riverside homes all the way to Ghent. We spent one night at Astene, the place where fifteen years ago we'd stopped on the way to Lille and learned about the 9/11 WTC attacks. Tragically, this time we heard about the Nice catastrophe while we were there. But it was as beautiful as I remembered; just busier. In fact the whole of the Leie was busier and more populated than I recall. Memory can be deceptive, can't it?
|Deinze on the old Leie|
|Astene on the Leie|
|Unofficial mooring at Drongen|
|Ghent - so beautiful from the water|
|That there low bridge? Koos wanted to go under it.|
Thankfully, he decided against it.
Not wanting to get back to our own harbour until really necessary, we made a last detour off the grand highway home (the Ghent-Terneuzen canal) by taking the Moervaart, a beautiful meandering twenty seven kilometre waterway that leads to Lokeren. Just seven kilometres along it, we were able to moor up for our last night at Wachtebeke, where the marina's harbour master made us very welcome. It was good to stop as it was very hot; it was also a fitting and lovely close to our fabulous four week adventure.
|A perfect last night's mooring at Wachtebeke on|
|The Moervaart: the big waterway on the left is|
the Ghent to Terneuzen Canal