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“La Houillère” bike track – a travel into social history

By simplyhuman 2013.10.24 in bicycle

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Bringing Your bicycle in the “black land” (Pays noir) around Charleroi isn’t an obvious option for the foreign FS_0913_LAHOULLIERE_ 4visitors in Belgium. Indeed, the bike tracks RAVel are very well used by local cyclists, mainly for leisure and escaping from the busy roads of our overcrowded land.

But “La Houillère” has something special: starting from the Brussels-Charleroi canal, the bike track is in fact an old mine railways (Houille means coal) which links some of the old coal mines to the canal and the river Sambre.

Describing it like that, it looks more like an urban exploration tip than an activity for outdoor enthusiasts. But the coal mines have shut down 40 to 60 years ago and the nature has taken its rights back giving to this escape a strange feeling of green trench through a black city.

The track can be started anyway along the canal for a quiet flat ride. Locks and barges will come to be a distraction in the very rural yet landscape. Approaching Charleroi, the industry becomes more present: huge electric power station, scrapyards, loading docks,… it’s time to cross the old railways bridge and go up in the woods.

 

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The track is romantic in a way with stone bridges coming over the way, the green light through the leafs of the trees and old closed stations. But this aspect won’t hide the social issues Charleroi is facing: an huge old working class city from the XIX and XX th centuries. The factories have closed, the coal mines are shut down but the poor quality buildings and infrastructure remains and the poverty has risen to a very high level.

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Along the track, the “Halte du Ravel” awaits You. This is a social restaurant serving affordable food to the inhabitants of this poor area, amongst other services. You will be well served and participate to this ethical and citizen projects.

The last part of the ride will lead You down to Châtelet, by the river Sambre. You will have crossed a 200.000 inhabitants city nearly without crossing a single street! The very industrial railways station and the surrounding area will astonish You after a 25 Km ride on the green track.

 

 

Charleroi is worth a visit. The city has not a good reputation but it’s truly dynamic and alive. The Museum of photography is one of the best in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No need for fire – this stove works!

By simplyhuman 2013.10.10 in canoe

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Even when going outdoor, a man needs some cosiness and – as far as I am concerned – a freshly brewed cup of tea is what I enjoy the most.

Reducing the environmental impact of our stay in the nature is a challenge and when You can achieve this goal with even more pleasure, it’s a good deal.

 

Sniffing around in a good swedish outdoor store, I found an item that looked somehow weird and even pointless (and more than that: expensive): a wood gas stove. But I decided to buy one as the manufacturer claimed that it could replace a traditional gas burner.

So, the very first day I took it in my backpack, I was ready to skip the afternoon tea scheduled by the lake on Torrskogleden (Dalsland).

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So, all I took was the wood gas stove, matches and a small bag of dry birchbark and twigs. No gas bottle.

Lighting it is easy. Then all You need is to add dry or seasoned twigs (dead wood taken from the tree) and feed the fire. It’s not that simple how much wood You should add and when.

The wood gas stove allows to cook in the nature, using just dry wood, pinecones, bark, … and leaving no trace. The best fuel remains shavings and – what I call – beaver chips.

The first tea took some time. And some others also especially on windy weather. But it worked! Now the stove is part of our equipment when going outdoor. Light, convenient, clean, …

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Paddling in Dalsland, a very close wilderness – Sweden

By simplyhuman 2013.10.03 in canoe

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You don’t necessarily need to go to extreme parts of the world to meet real wildlife and nature. Dalsland is theFS_0813_DALSLAND_ 5 nearest area of wilderness as they like to say.

Very easy to access but remote in the feeling. An ideal place to discover nature with children.

Packing a canoe isn’t as obvious as packing a backpack or a suitcase with limited volume. The needs for some days on the lakes seems huge. However, an overloaded canoe makes the navigation slightly uncomfortable and strength is needed to make it go forward.

 

 

 

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But the navigation is quiet and quickly the landscape around takes most of the attention.

Forest, stones, islands, eagles, osprey, beavers lodges, … the binoculars have to be close of your seat and not amongst the dozens of bags You thought You had to bring.

The evening comes slowly and unveils some of Dalsland’s nicest jewels: the light of a summer night and the silence.

Dalsland and Normaken authorities have built DANO shelters all over the lake system – with the Dalsland canal, you can virtually join the sea from any lake! – making it respectful for the nature to stay in larger group.

But the best spots remain the numerous tiny islands where You barely can stand with a family. Surrounded by water, silence, discreet signs of the wildlife, the children have disappeared, You know You came to the right place.

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Suru valley – a lost world

By simplyhuman 2013.09.10 in himalaya

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Vallée de la SuruThere is always a kind of a hurry while travelling in mythic places such as Ladakh and Zanskar in the Indian Himalayas. The cultural heritage of the monasteries of Lama Yuru or the monatery routes around Leh will keep the focus of the visitors. Hikers will pack as soon as possible and head to the pathes and peaks, expecting great landscapes and breathtaking views.

 

However, on the road from Leh (Ladakh) to Padum (Zanskar) following the Indus River and then crossing high passes, a discreet 110 Milles valley is worth a stop.

The Suru valley ends in Kargil, a not so pretty city a few Milles from the Pakistani border.  Kargil will be the last serious market place if going in the Suru valley. The market is really crowdy and anything from Ayatollah Khomeiny Green Books to fancy dresses, cattle, tea from the british Raj era, … can be purchased.

The atmosphere is heavy and  having bought vegetables, tea, fuel and tsampa flour for the next few weeks, one will be happy to leave and start the journey.

The valley is wide and green at the outskirt of Kargil with many rich villages, public schools, kids playing on the road. Going higher in the valley (up to 15000 feet ASL) it gets Vallée de la Surunarrower, steepy, with very small fields and wild streams coming down from the ridges. The agriculture is an agriculture of survival.

Between the buddhist Zanskar and the mostly sunni Kashmir, the Suru is shiite area, under the influence of Iran. What is the most surprising fact is that during summer, there is no men in the valley. Having left abroad or to southern India to work, the men have left the valley in the hands of women.

Some young boys – dressed the occidental way – play cricket on the road as the girls are in the mountain keeping the cattle.

The higher in the valley, the poorer get the villages: the high altitude and the steepy sides of the mountains doesn’t allow a high productivity. In some places, You’ll need to walk miles before finding a place to settle a single tent as every flat area is used for farming.

Vallée de la SuruAt the start of the valley awaits Nun-Kun, a 25000 feet glacier. In the last ten years, the glasier has melt down of nearly a third, leaving a dirty snow grey hole. This reminds us that every gesture will have an impact on this far glacier.Vallée de la SuruVallée de la Suru

simply human

My name is François Struzik and I work as a professional photographer.

I use to focus on serious and sometimes not very funny issues.

I travel most of the time for work and sometimes just for the pleasure to discover other places. And then I love to bring my family.

We visit very often Great-Britain but we stay a lot in Sweden too. In other words, we love to be outdoor!

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