05
Oct-2015

Extreme Belgium: Our Ardennes Adventure

Oh sure, that sounds totally doable. Rock climbing, zip-lining, quad-biking (whatever that is), canoeing. I could totally do that in a day. And the death-ride thing shouldn’t be a problem! As if I was the type to avoid anything with the word “death” in it. It’s like this was designed just for me!

This is what happens when I lose myself in networking and this is why I should not be allowed to go to conferences and “just go out there and meet people. Make contacts.” I end up stepping outside of myself and into the skin of a confident, sporty adventure type. Seriously—this happens every time.

Once I told the family about our upcoming Ardennes adventure, they were so excited I had no choice but to re-up the gym membership I had let lapse when I-can’t-even- remember-which-child was born so I could keep up the sporty charade long enough not to 1) hurt myself or 2) bring shame to the family on our Ardennes adventure.

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Via Ferrata

We arrived at Wild Trails’ base camp after a short drive on meandering country roads from the Floreal Hotel in La Roche, where we were had spent the night in a roomy two-bedroom apartment. After a brief introduction to via ferrata—a climbing technique in which you clamp yourself on to iron braces lodged in the rocks—we set out for our climb. We spent the whole morning climbing up the rocks, with periodic pauses to take in the serene views of the valley below.

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Every so often, we traveled by zipline or rope bridge to the next rock. We split up occasionally, with the older boys taking on a more challenging climb while Jeremy (8) and I took the easier route. Our guide Matthias was astute at gauging what we could and couldn’t handle.

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Death Ride

And then we reached it: the death ride. And it seemed to be the only way to get down the mountain. It’s basically a giant zipline. You grab on with both hands and speed down until you reach the ground. I took a deep breath and volunteered to go first before my brain could even register my terror. It was over before I knew it.

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As I wobbled away on frightened knees, I smiled to myself, proud to have done it (and without tears, no less!) but not keen on doing it again anytime soon. The boys, however, found it exhilarating and could have done it all day.

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Canoe building

A small river runs along the base camp but unfortunately, it wasn’t high enough for kayaking while we were there in late August. A perky counselor announced that not only would we still be able to have some watery fun, we would be building our own canoes.

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Pitted against three other teams (one good-looking family with older teenage girls, a couple of moms with younger kids, and a kid-only team composed of 11-yearish-olds), we were given inflated inner tubes, rope, and boards and left to our own devices, then put through a series of races and challenges. Not to brag but we kind of crushed it—although it was a close race against the teen girl family.

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Quad Bikes

Full confession: I was pretty much adventured out by this point and we might have reneged on the quad bike experience, had the boys not been so enthusiastic about it. But I was intrigued. There are less than two hundred QBX quadbikes in operation in the world and Wild Trails is the only outfit in Belgium to carry them, a fact they are deservedly proud of. We traveled up to one of the highest peaks in Belgium, with the bikes secured to a trailer behind us, passing small villages and forests. After a brief demonstration, the older boys and John careened down the mountain while I drove back to base camp with Jeremy. This ranks pretty high on the extreme-o-meter and the boys loved the adrenaline-fueled descent through the woods.

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I, however, was pret-ty happy with my decision to return to camp to skip rocks in the river with Jeremy while we waited for them.

asterix collage

Wild Boar

I did it! I survived! If I were Asterix at that moment and I had just defeated a Roman army instead of a mountains and a river, I would head back to the village, make a fire, roast up some wild boar, and have a big swig of magic potion. Would you believe that’s exactly what happened? Well, pretty much. Just as the day was ending and a chill started to float through the air, we followed our guide down a path to a rustic wooden lodge by the river with a fire roasting, a wild boar ready for carving, and a selection of local potions—that is, a local beer for the grownups and soda for the kids.

The day was one of the highlights of our trip and we can’t thank Wild Trails enough for hosting our fantastically wild day in the beautiful Ardennes.

Look for me at the next conference. I’ll be the one willing to try just about anything (as long as I have a couple of months of gym time to prepare).

A huge thanks to Wild Trails for hosting our adventure-filled day. Wild Trails offers family days and custom-made itineraries. Contact them for details.

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  • Shelly Rivoli

    I was laughing out loud at your introduction (I can so relate)! Glad you all survived and had a good adventure. 😉

  • Jessica Voigts

    This is so funny! I laughed throughout – it’s so ME, as well! Brava!

  • Elena Sonnino

    Oh my goodness–I would love this. But yes, I too tend to get over zealous in my thirst for adventure. :)

  • Louet Colaco

    I was browsing randomly for stuff to do at the Ardennes as my husband booked us and the kids a spring time break, I think I am chickening out with the first intro bit ! thanks for doing this, we go back and forth every year and I love how the expat crowd has made discovering Belgium a bit more easier.

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