About meandering rivers and swan attacks

What a spring weekend we had in Belgium! Glorious sunshine all day long and 20°C temperatures, we would be happy with that in plain summer. Because of the warm and dry weather, water levels in the Ardennes are already dropping rapidly (they are not meltwater-fed), so it was probably one of the last chances of the season. My plan: rafting the Semois river from Florenville all the way down to… well, where I could get in a weekend.

Because of troubles with the train I lost 2 hours and it was already 4.30pm when I finally could put in near the train station of Florenville. The paddling immediately relaxed me after the long travel. Most of the river was PR1-2, but one more serious PR3 rapid near the hamlet of Martué made some water enter my raft. I floated some 10km before finding a bivouac spot near the Roche Brulée.

After a chilly night I put in again at 8am for a long day on the river. Already after a few minutes, I was attacked for the first time by a swan. A lot of swan couples were making nests in the reeds along the banks of the river, and the males were rather diligent in protecting their territory. Near the village of Laiche I had to make good use of my paddle to ward of an aggressor (I filmed this attack, it’s at the very end of my movie). As I did not feel too comfortable with these attacks, I started portaging when I came along tricky-looking couples. In the end I was more portaging swans than packrafting.

Luckily, when the river entered the Ardennes again the valley got wilder and the swans disappeared. The paddling was very pleasant, notably in the Herbeumont region. The river itself stayed easy throughout (PR2-3 max). Most rapids were already very shallow, the discharge should not be lower than what I had. Some of the veirs could be jumped (up to PR4). I kept paddling until 5.45pm and choose a bivouac spot in a meadow a bit after the village of Dohan. It had been a good day with 49km of progress. During the night, I was awakened several times by the sound of deer and wild boars swarming around my camp.

On the last day I floated down to the village of Bouillon, where I portaged the dam in the village. After another hour I reached the famous Tombeau du Géant meander. I put out, took a long break in the warm sun and walked a 7km stretch towards the bus station in Menuchenet, where my journey home started. My arms had a good tan and no swan bites… a perfect weekend!


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