How it started
I've always been a rather fanatic cyclists and in the period 1988 - 2006 have done my bicycle holidays varying from a week in the Ardennes, go east-west and back trough the Pyrenees mountains, tours in the Alps and 6-week tours in New Zealand. I was for sure planning to keep doing this until age would prevent me from getting on a bicycle, but unfortunately things went different. In January 2006 in New Zealand I suddenly go stinging pain in my right knee and it was too painful to coninue. Lucky me, it happened in the final kilometers of the last day of cycling, literally on the last hill. So the last part to the camping site I pedalled with one leg. After 2 weeks, back in The Netherlands, the pain was gone so I forgot about it. But no, when in March I wanted to go for a short tour on the racing bike the pain was back within 10 minutes. And that was the start of the medical bureacracy mill: in and out of the hospital, second opinion, x-rays and MRI-scans but no idea what the problem was. However, it seemed to get better during 2006 and 2007 and even did some cycling (e.g. in Rio de Janeiro up to the Corcavado statue of christ) and some 80-90 kms tours. Somewhere in the winter of 2008 I woke up in the morning and again my right knee had the stinging pain. So again to hospitals etc. until finally they concluded there were several things wrong with my knee, but most importantly I had damaged cartilage behind the knee cap, something that could only be overcome with an athroscopy.
In September 2008 I got the arthroscopy and afterwards the surgeon told me that I had lost 30% of the cartilage behind the knee cap, the meniscal disc was damaged and he removed some bone growth on one of the tendons. Half a year physiotherapy was the result but basically the right knee remained painful. Since then I can sometimes go 70-80 kms on the bike and sometimes it starts hurting within 30 kms. Anyhow, cycling holidays were no longer an option, but sitting at home of lying a the beach were no option either. So hiking turned out a good alterantive and where it uses to be my plan B, it now became plan A.
In the mean time Lupita had moved in 2006 from Mexico to The Netherlands and being born in Mexico City riding a bicycle was not something she had ever done. Neither was camping, but the way, and hiking just a little. Now I couldn't ride a bicycle anymore, but to give up camping? So in 2008 we went on a trial camping weekend with nice weather and she liked it. So then we started walking with the backpack, in Luxemburg. The first time we walked 55 kms in 4 days and after that we slowly increased the distances. The good part of Luxemburg is that there are lots of camping sites and it is easy to walk from one railway station to anothe in a few days and take the train back to the starting point. Like this, we walked from Clervaux to Ettelbruck in 2009, in 2011 from Ettelbruck to Kleinbettingen en later that year in the Jura from Malbuisson to Mouthe and further. In 2012 we walked from Diekirch to Echternach and Wasserbillig, which is in fact a piece of GR5. In winter 2013 we concluded that there wasn't that much left in Luxembourg to walk, at least not along camping sites, and we should come up with something different. Since we already walked some piece of the GR5 we decided to walk a bit more. Spring 2014 offered the helping hand: Queen's Day weekend was wet in the Ardennes but sunny (and cold) in The Netherlands, so why go to the Ardennes? We decided to walk some GR5 stages around Rotterdam, which is very easy for us since we live there. At some moment that weekend we considered that we might as well just keep on walking all the way to Nice - in a 10 years time frame or so.
Ok, so we want to go to Nice. How are we going to do it? We are not (yet) long-distance walkers so a maximum of 20 kms a day is more than enough. The first weekend (Queen's Day weekend) we walked from Hoek van Holland to Goedereede as day hikes. We could simply every day travel from home by public transport to the starting point and from the end point back home.
The second walking weekend (Ascension Day) from Goedereede to Bergen op Zoom this still worked out. It needed some arrangements with on-demand busses and so and we decided to do the first part from home by car and park it at a convenient location. But ok, it was still dayhiking and at night we slept at home.
The third weekend (Pentacost) we walked from Bergen op Zoom to Kalmthout in Belgium, again by driving the first part and the rest with public transport.
Once arrived in Belgium we wanted to go on with day hikes with minimum luggage, but going up-and-down from home every day was no longer an option. So we pitched the tent somewhere on a camping site and from there used car and public transport every day to starting and end point. We planned that this should be possible until Vis&eactue;. The expection was to reach Vis&eactue; in 6 walking weekends and that would end 2013 so that in 2014 we could start with the Ardennes. Unfortunately 2013 was not as good as we hoped and due to a long lasting summer flue we only walked 2 more weekends arriving in Westerlo in Flandres. In the winter of 2014 that never became a winter we caught up what we missed in summer 2013 and for a while we thought that by Ascencion Day 2015 we would probably still be in Visé. We almost made it: we got to Kanne and so in the Ascencion Day week we continued from there. With some searching and planning we could continue in the Ardennes using public transport and day hikes and so we made it to the Luxembourg border.
In summer 2014 we continued in Luxembourg hoping to make it to the French border, but due to the very unstable weather we didn't completely made it that far and we ended the year in Remich, just over 2 days short of the French border. We still used public transport, but in Luxembourg any tarmac road has a bus passing several times a day so that was not so hard to arrange. Well, actualy we had to walk 2 days with full gear because we managed to find a camping site without public transport....miraculously.
In 2015 we continued from Remich and we did some serious mileage. In spring we walked in one week from Remich to around Metz (130 kms) and in summer we made it all the way to the Vosges (another 230 kms). To our surprise still as day hikes with public transport and an occasional B&B. Ok, we had to be more creative with the busses and where to park the car, but we managed.
And now it's 2016.....not a good hiking year. I have medical problems and constant pain prevented me from walking. We tried, but we did a pathetic 67 kms this year and that's it....
When do we arrive in Nice?
No idea. Are we going to arrive in Nice? We are in our 40s and maybe in 10 years we don't want to walk anymore. Or maybe at Lake Geneva we quit. But we need and aim, and so the aim is to do it in 10 years and thus arrive in Nice in 2023. To do so we should walk just over 200 kms per year and we feel that is doable.
THrough this website we wil try to tell where we are and how we are doing. It's a nice reference for us and it might even inspire somebody else (another former cyclist?) or others may find useful information, who knows?
Hiking greetings from Dennis and Lupita