After the excesses of the Thieu rally it would have been good to give our livers a rest, however, the DBA bunch are a boozy lot so after the "Port Party" and most of the others had departed, Jane, Ray & Beryl and ourselves took it in turns to host each other on our respective boats. Jane decided we had been too lax in our research of Harmonies past and so decided to do some research of her own.
You can see the result here.
We finally tore ourselves away from Thieu, waving goodbye to Jane on Vrouwe Antje who was waiting for John to return from flying Airbuses between London and Frankfurt and dropped down the lock out of the Historic Canal du Centre onto the new Canal du Centre and up the modern ship lift about which I wrote extensively on our last visit in 2006.
We were in the tank with a trip boat, Ray & Beryl on Vrouwe Catharina and a big Dutch barge pushing another for the 80 metre vertical ride to the top then a sedate cruise to the junction of the Brussels - Charleroi canal where we turned north again towards Brussels.
Our next objective was another Belgian engineering masterpiece, the Ronquierès inclined plane.
Ronquierès has two tanks of 85.5 metres in length and 11.5 metres wide travelling down an inclined plane dropping 70 metres in altitude in a distance of 1.5 kilometres. It is capable of transporting vessels of up to 1,350 tonnes. At the top of the plane is a 150 metre high tower in which you can see a video of the workings of the plane plus an audio-visual presentation depicting the life of bargees, that is the commercial variety not our sort. We arrived at Ronquierès with not another boat to be seen. We announced our arrival and travelled down in splendid isolation, in fact we could have easily stripped off and sunbathed naked on deck for the 20 odd minutes it took to descend.
The countryside was really pretty here and we tied up at a delightful mooring just above the lock at Ittre, cycling into the town the next day for provisions.
Another attraction of this pretty mooring were the ducks. Now I am not one to enthuse about ducks but this lot were quite the most attractive of the species I have yet seen. No doubt you duck experts will appraise me of the variety.
On our return to Ronquierès we had an equally solo ascent and resolved to visit the museum, however, we were unable to do so as they did not provide access from the canal. You need a car to visit unless you take a very long walk!!
So we hurried on down to Charleroi as we were anxious not to get trapped for the night in that dreadful place. You pass through the middle of a huge steelworks which is incredibly noisy and dusty. It is also very busy with commercials loading coils of steel but as it was a Sunday, commercials are not allowed to move so it was easier that usual. We even had time to admire the graffitti.
We managed to get a good way out of the city and moored for the night above a lock with an easy mornings sail down into Namur the next day where we found Cedar tied up underneath the citadel. After a feast together at Clives favourite Chinese we cruised with Cedar up to Profondeville, a lively little place that has everything bargees are likely to require for their everyday needs.
They even illuminate the cliff face opposite at night. After a few pleasant days we finally said goodbye to Cedar leaving Sheila brooding over their tax returns to continue to Dinant. We called the Gent Harbourmaster who informed us she had not received our deposit cheque for the winter mooring. We rang our Belgian bank to stop the cheque then debated how we might get the cash to her before leaving Belgium as, in our experience, French banks are worse than useless if you want to transfer money unless you have an account with them. We tried to get the IBAN number of VPF who manage Gent harbour but their internet connection was down so we drew the cash out of the bank, caught a train back up to Gent and plonked the cash in her hot sweaty little hand! We now take a step backwards in time to la Belle France!