Weekend Trip 6 th to 8 th February 2004
_ Keeping up a tradition of sampling caving worldwide, a team of crack(pot) IC 3 cavers ventured into the beer-laden lands of Belgium. This is their story ... from the Jan Evetts viewpoint. _
Trip goers: Jan, Colm, Andy, James, Dan, Rik, Goaty, Clewin, Tom, Lyndon, Steph, Darryl
Photos here .
- You can fly there, hire a car, eat out, drink and be merry for ÂŁ150.
- Hans-sur-lesse is an hour from Charleroi. Likewise for Liege, and if you are getting the UBS key at the Maison de Speleo print off a VERY GOOD street map.
- Apparently Bar 'Bus-Stop' is THE place to be seen in Hans, on a Friday night.
- You can get cash back at the Spar.
- Trou Bernard and Trou d'Eglise are both in Mont-sur-Meuse. Bernard is all P bolted.
- Abime de Beaumont is in Esneux despite what the Avalon site says!
- Topos and descriptions are on the Avalon website.
- If you miss your flight from Stanstead, Shadhona is a good takeaway curry house in Bishop's Stortford and you can blag forks from Myster Fryer next door.
Friday - The Horror
'Oi you, you f Welsh p*'
Said the guy behind me, as I headed with my curry back to the station. Then I saw a guy coming straight towards me across the bridge.
'You f* want some do you'
At this point I was a bit concerned that, A, someone thought I was Welsh, and B, him and his mate wanted to beat me up. Fortunately I just happened to be in between the two antagonists.
Back at Stanstead I tried to find a spot to consume my curry and beer where the smell wouldn't annoy people trying to sleep. But there where lots of people and every seat was occupied, besides in the sterile atmosphere of an airport a Lamb Korma could probably be smelt a mile off. About 2am I found a quiet counter to sleep under and awoke early to check-in. So ended my unplanned stay in Essex.
Saturday - The Arrival
James and Andy arrived around 9am at Charleroi to pick me up. We zoomed back to Hans-sur-Lesse and grabbed a delicious, and huge, ham and cheese omelette with chips, for breakfast. By the end of breakfast we had a plan, 3 hours later we had packed four tackle bags. We finally headed out of town at 2pm, stopping briefly to buy a map (and Hoegaarden for apres cave). We located Mont-sur-Meuse and the hire car convoy continued through the rolling hills of the Ardennes, before coming to a stop outside a very strange looking church, with Trou d'Eglise across the road in an enormous shakehole. After a group photo on the village green in the late afternoon sunshine, the intrepid cavers set off.
Trou Bernard, Central Route - Jan, James, Darryl
There seemed to be a whole lot off faffing going by Andy, Rik and Goaty. When I ab'd down I saw the cause; their route was an awkward side passage leading off 3m down the entrance pitch. We slithered on down a series of narrow, well smoothed pitches - les Chicanes, Puits de l'Oppo, Cureton - and we reached the surprisingly big final pitch. We then waited for two French guys, who for some inexplicable reason were using dynamic. So we had some time to kill, discussing whether it was actually impossible to teach some people to learn certain concepts, not sure where that one came from. I admit, I was faffing on the rigging a bit, but it required a big stretch over nothingness. Then James and Darryl helpfully started debating how unstable the boulders for my backup looked - cheers guys! A nice free-hang to a large ledge and then a sloping pitch brought us to the bottom, and a maze of twatty rifts (la Labyrinthe). After considerable effort not finding the connection through the Meandre SSN, we headed out. Of course James, going up first, then spotted the Meandre leading off the from the large ledge, but we didn't have time to explore.
The bitch of this cave revealed itself on the way out with the evil combination of smooth tight pitches that were slightly wedge shaped and obstinate tackle bags. But with healthy amounts of swearing and grunting we extracated ourselves and, in what we thought was excellent timing, ascended the final pitch at the same time as the others were gratefully squirming out of their hole.
The Apres Cave
Our evening's meal consisted of some slap-up complimentary peanuts back at Bar Bus Stop. Washed down with copious amounts of Belgium beer - in the interests of drunkeness all varieties were rigorously sampled. Driven by hunger I was briefly tempted to buy an ice cream. Around 2am the excitement of the last 36 hours and lack of food caught up with me and I stumbled back to the hostel, though I negotiated the stairs with ease.
Sunday - The Faff
Sunday seemed to consist mainly of searching for petrol, then searching for the Maison de Speleo and then searching for a cave. We eventually succeeded in all three, but unfortunately just a bit too late to do the cave. We were really torn up about that one, so we had to eat our sorrows away in a nice cafĂŠ across from Guillemins train station in Liege. We said farewell to Goaty, as he returned by train to the flat lands and we started our own journey back to Blighty.
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