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The tree of freedom...

13 September 2016

The tree of freedom...

Day 9 13th September

Having recovered from the dehydration i set about clearing up camp and got myself the shower i had promised myself the night before. Whilst making final checks i began chatting to the elderly lady who owned the campsite. We chatted about the beauty that surrounded the camp site and the wildlife i should keep an eye out for.

After a while, just before she closed the campsite shop she offered me a short lift to the village a kilometre or so away where she lived. On the way she stopped at a view point where you can see belgium, France and Germany. The views were spectacular and you really felt like you were on top of the world.

At the site was a tree called the freedom tree planted by Napoleon I in honour of the birth of his son Napoleon II on 20th march 1811.

The tree was cut down by the nazis on 11th may 1940 to make way for a lookout and gunnery position. It was a perfect strategic place but on 22nd November 1941 the locals replanted the tree and it still stands today.

We then went on to the village of bourscheid where i was invited into her home to see an old photo of her home taken shortly after the war had finished. Judging by the rebuilding works taking place the house had been left as nothing but a few walls after an American bomb had exploded inside. Bullet holes were clearly visible and i could see by the look in her eyes it was a devastating time for the family. The village had been hit heavily and most of it destroyed.

After listening to a few stories i was then taken to a narrow track just outside the village. The track sloped steeply into the valley below, shaded from the sun and its 32 degree heat by trees i set off with instructions to keep to the path until i reached the next village. From there i would have to continue following the road until i reached ettlebrück.

I wasn't aware at the time but temperatures reached a whopping 35c during the day but stopping regularly and when possible splashing water on my face and pouring it over my head from a small stream that ran alongside the road i managed to keep myself cool. I'd brought along a litre of water from the campsite too knowing full well that i could top up with my sawyer filter at any time.

It was late in the afternoon when i finally arrived at ettlebrück and asking directions i soon found the local supermarket. I, for some unknown reason, was worried about running out of food over the coming days. Maybe it was because I'd not seen a local shop in any of the villages I'd passed through or maybe it was something else.

They say you shouldn't go shopping when you are feeling hungry and for good reason too. Leaving the store i found my pack, bursting at the seams and several pounds heavier than before. I was also now lugging around a sizeable shopping bag.

Before leaving the city i sat by the river side that ran along its outskirts and downed a large bottle of strawberry yoghurt and satisfied my sugar cravings by demolishing a chocolate croissant and two deliciously ripe plums.

Although still very hot but a reasonable 30c i grabbed my various bags and made my way out of the city towards schienren where my goal was to take a left and head towards the woodlands to find somewhere to camp up for the night.

It was truly knackering. The extra weight of my kit weighing me down. Reaching the junction for the 340, I could see the forest and my sanctuary only a mile or so away. I set off, excited for another good wild camp.

Passing a row of houses i spotted a fella hosing down his driveway so i gestured for him to extend the spray and give me a good soaking.

Rue was Portuguese and a charming chap. He looked at my odd gestures and called across "are you sure?". Damn right i was sure, i was baking in my own sweat.

He turned off his hose and beckoned me over. "I get you water" he said. I was really getting good at translating what little french i knew.

Rue disappeared and promptly reappeared with a large bottle of spring water and an enormous apple. "You like apple?" He asked. I sure did and this apple was enormous. It would have given Jamie and his magic peach a good run his money.

As i made my way through the apple swigging the water as i went we chatted about my adventures and where i was heading. At times things got lost in translation so we resorted to the translation app on my phone and wrote numbers approximating the distances I'd travelled or had hoped to on this challenge.

A good hour and a half maybe longer had passed and so had the sun by the time we finished our little natter. It was not getting dark, it was dark.

Taking what was left of the water with me i set off to find a place to camp a few km from the town. There was a woodland not far away and i was fairly sure that as the valley i would call home began to form I'd find a small creek at the bottom.

Using my head torch i scouted the surroundings as i hiked. My pack was particularly heavy with the weight of the supplies I'd picked up from the supermarket but i persevered and eventually found a small disused track that led up into the woods.

I could see very little and after erecting the tent decided not to build a camp fire but to use my little gas stove to cook up some noodles. I may have put too many chilly flakes in the noodles but dipping the bread rolls into the noodle soup eased the burning sensation round my lips.

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Paddleboard the Nile

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