Belgium,  EarthCaches,  Geocaching

European Adventure, Day 2 – Belgium

Quick stop for a Virtual

On our second day, we woke up refreshed after a good night’s rest. I had a quick task to take care of before we departed though. At the recent Giga in the States, I had picked up several travel bugs that wanted to travel to Europe. I was unsure how many traditional caches I would find, so I thought it prudent to take two and drop them off in the nearby cache we found last night.

That task complete, we were on our way. By the end of the night, we would be in Brussels, but not via a direct route. We had some sightseeing and geocaching to do along the way.

Our first stop ended up being at the Maeslantkering. Geocaching sometimes requires making a choice. Do I visit this one and forego others that are along my route? Initially I thought we would bypass this one as it was out of the way. The decision was really made while we were driving. It was a great decision.

The Maeslantkering, GC7B996, is a new virtual cache west of Rotterdam. It consists of two huge barrier arms that swing out into the river to prevent extreme tidal surges from flooding inland. Controlled by a super computer, each arm is the size of the Eiffel Tower and when engaged, they come within 80cm of each other.

There was an information center there and we took the time to check it out. The staff were super nice and I when I couldn’t find the answer to one of the logging requirements, they were kind enough to help me out.

Drive to Belgium

The drive to Belgium was quite uneventful…until I needed to stop for gas. This was a bit of an anxiety for me prior to arriving in Europe. Will I have issues finding a gas station? Will my card work or will I need cash? Will the attendant speak English if there are issues? Simple things I take for granted in the States become critical overseas.

We found a gas station with no issues…but it turned out to be closed. Thankfully, there was another right down the street. Of course it would be easier to pay with my card at the pump…but…my card wouldn’t work outside and to make matters worse, my wife couldn’t find her card. My anxiety is up at this point.

I went in and the attendant started speaking French to me. Now, a French three year old child has a larger vocabulary than I do. Once I said, “Hello” though, the attendant immediately switched to English. We were able to work through my credit card issue and moments later I was pumping gas. We both laughed as I thanked him and I told him his English was way better than my French. Anxiety averted.

Wavre

We planned on reaching the Waterloo battlefield today, but made a quick stop first at an EarthCache located nearby. This was a simple memorial to the Battle of Wavre, which occurred on the same day as the Battle of Waterloo. We parked the car and a short walk later, we were collecting the logging requirements. The thing that made me laugh about this location is, once it was the site of a historic battle…now there is a major amusement park located right across the street from the memorial. We could hear the roller coasters and people screaming from our location.

The Waterloo Battlefield

Now on to the Battle of Waterloo, a short drive away from Wavre. As a history geek and retired Marine, I have studied this battle. It was a literal turning point in history after Napoleon was defeated by the Allied forces and had been on my bucket list to visit for a very long time.

From a geocaching standpoint, there are only a few, mainly traditional, geocaches located in the immediate area or on the grounds themselves. You can find them without paying admission. I found two of them easily enough, dropping more of my travel bugs off along the way.

Geocaching aside, this battlefield is stunning and the museum is simply world-class. Having visited most of the world famous Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., without a doubt, I would say that this museum is the most interactive I have ever been to. It brings the history of that time period, and the battle itself, to life in so many different ways.

After the museum, we visited the Lion’s Mound. It was a bit of a climb up a steep staircase with nearly 300 steps, but it is well worth the effort. This monument was created a few years after the battle and provides a commanding view of the entire field of battle. If you study the battle, observing the actual terrain gives you a whole new sense of perspective. Unlike Wavre, this battlefield remains as it was over 200 years ago. The fields are still farmed and the entire place hasn’t been turned into some wicked tourist trap as I once read. I would come back here in a heartbeat.

With Waterloo now checked off my bucket list, we had a short drive on to Brussels, where we’ll stay for two nights. My total for the day was one Virtual, one EarthCache and two traditionals. While I haven’t racked up huge number of finds, I am visiting some fascinating places.

Jon Burgess

Jon is one of the team members of Let's go Earthcaching.