Cycling in wonderful Hasselt
Only a few people know about the rich environment that is around Hasselt and I’m luckly for considering myself one of those small amount of people that have had the opportunity to travel around such a special landscape. And also to do it riding my bicycle.
The Cycling Junction Network in Limburg was set up by the engineer Hugo Bollen in the 90’s in the Eastern side of Limburg. It was an effort to made cycling attractive again. Nowadays, the Cycling Juntion Network includes approximately 2000 kilometres of cycling routes properly indicated by blue road signs with GPS co-ordinates. All of them are available on an online map since a decade ago. It was so successfully that in 2010 Tourism Limburg started to introduce e-bikes and provided 50 charging stations along the road. In the meantime, the Junction Network is being visited by 2 millions bikers per year.
The bicycle routes are so popular in the province at this moment that Tourism Limburg has a special section for bike lovers with different thematicals: recreational routes, sportive routes, cycle-friendly accommodation routes… Moreover, along the route you can find 160 labeled Cycling café’s, 210 lodging facilities and bike rental and repare services. That is why the model has been copied in several countries.
The day we explored part of this project was a really cold morning. Our tour guide explained us that we were going to do a 20 kilometres itinerary by the routes 96–97–98–91–95–96. Inexperienced in cycling long distances, I only wanted to start our trip to get rid of the cold.
Along the Albert Canal
We finally started our excursion from PXL College and passed next to the Japanese Garden of Hasselt, the biggest authentic garden in Europe with 2,5 ha. Then, a long and interminable slope would take us to our first stop: the Albert Canal.
The canal is the connection between Antwerp and Liège and the rivers Meuse and Scheldt. Its construction started in 1930 and finished 9 years later. Now it is the most important economic waterway which transports tons of cargo per year but has a “little” problem: meters of difference in depth level that is overcome by 6 sets of canals locks. It makes the transport less fluent because it requieres some minutes to pass each lock, as we could observe when we passed there with our bicycles.
Further on, we passed the cable-stayed bridge of Godsheide which probably have to be rebuilt because it is not high enough for big ships. From there our excursion by bike was involved of nature while we were arrived at the Provincial Domain of Bokrijk, where you can find the biggest open air museum in Europe with old farm houses and mills of the area.
Throughout the water
We continue the path between farms and dense trees until we arrived to De Wijers, the biggest pond area in Belgium with more than 1000 ponds over 700 ha. Their origin is the 13th Century for peat and iron extractions. Here there is a lake divided in two, where the byclicle path crosses it and you have the water and the swans at the height of your face. A stunning and unforgettable image for all of us.
After this poud, the lovely environment didn’t fall back as we pass next to a big lake, an area of flora and fauna where bitterns, egrets and tree frogs are being protect by Endurable Nature Projects and where fish farming is still the major activity.
In our way back we passed by the village of Kiewit, never leaving paths covered by tress and green. We crossed the canal again and, still enjoying the trip, we arrived to the point our exit.