The town of Stavelot, four hours south of Spa, was an odd place. I shall justify this statement by revealing three observations. Firstly, it appeared that only zimmer-frame supported old ladies resided in the town. Secondly, Stavelot had chosen to hang a grotesque looking head of a nun, with a carot for a nose, from many of it's buildings.However, it was my third observation that disturbed me the most; in the centre of the town there was a beach shop selling buckets and spades on the cobbled street. The nearest beach lies 250 kms north.
The nip in the air followed us for the next two days. We stopped to sleep in the Ardenne's conifer forests, on the second of the two nights waking abruptly as a nearby shotgun unloaded three shells.
1,000 kms after leaving Bristol we crossed the Belgium-Luxembourg border. From high on the hill we looked down into a deep v-shaped valley, carved out by the Our River; this would be our route south for the next week. From the forested valley we spilt out into Ouren, a quaint village whose houses were ladden with vines and small shuttered windows. A couple more kilometres passed, when we realised that the fun looking Luxembourg maps were not so fun when it came to exploiting their primary use, navigation. Furthermore, the red and white stripes, which we had become well-aquainted with whilst in France and Belgium, had been replaced by a vague, wavy line. Over the duration of the following week, this GR5 representative would change, no fewer than five times, in both colour and shape, with no warning of it's spontaneous transformation.
Hiking in Luxembourg was magical. The paths dipped and rose, drifting towards the river, then gradually pulling away. At the top of one particularly tough ascent we found ourselves propped up against a wooden post signing the confluence of the E2 (our path) and the E3. The sign read, 'Sentiere de la grande randoneé N°2 - Holland - Mediterraneé'.
Whilst stopping for lunch one day I discovered a tick high in my groin (don't ask why I was rooting about in that region whilst eating), which then spurred Jake into a frenzied groom. By the end of the week my cumulative count had risen to six and Jake's eleven, including one on his 'you know what'.
Kapp Woods sat high on a tapering ridge, which pointed south east. It's steep slopes were covered in mossy stones and boulders, and tussocks of feathery grass beneath birch and oak. Spider webs crossed the path implying our solitude.
Halfway down the country we were forced to spend an extra night in the tourist town of Vianden. I had contracted a stomach bug that induced tremendous spewing out of two unnamed orifices. The bug proved to be contagious, seeing Jake transport a bowl of chips to the toilet, via his digestive tract.
We left Vianden in the dripping rain, weary, but glad to be on our feet again. The scenery transformed from buttercupped hills into deep gorges filled with boulders and waterways. The 25 km section from Beaufort to Rosport was little shy of sensational. Perhaps less splendid, however, was our dinner that night. We had picked up some tins of beans and 'meat' whilst in Echternach, which incidentally is beautiful, from a backstreet shop. After polishing off one tin I curiously read the label in a bid to determine what the meat, that melted so delectably in my mouth, was. We had just eaten pigs head, which made my already fragile belly churn. On opening the second tin I was attacked by a bouncing, jelly-coated trotter, followed by a piece of wobbly skin, bristled with thick black hair.
The Our River joined the Sùre, and the Sùre joined the Mousel, whose waters were wider and banks mildly more populated. On our approach to Grevenmacher I noted the occasional vineyard on the valley slopes. By the time we had arrived in the town, every patch of land, that was neither forest, nor built upon, had a vine in it's soil.
We left the GR5 and branched west, camping for the night in Katebresch Forest. In the early morning I opened the tent to see two deer grazing for new shoots beneath the rusty oak and beech leaves. I crouched down to watch them; they appeared unphased as they ate, bathed in a streak of sunlight that broke through the thick canopies above.
On day 50 of our trip we traipsed into Luxembourg City, our first and last capital, and checked into the aptly named Bristol Hotel. This was our re-supply point and a chance to recharge our bodies before dropping, with a heavy dose of ignorance, into the expansive French countryside.