Cycling in Belgium Limburg

Cycling through the orchards of the Haspengouw

A cycle ride is the perfect way to see the full extent of the Haspengouw fruit orchards - looking particularly fruitful at this time of the year!

The Haspengouw is an area of Belgium that is renowned for its fruit industry, due to the combination of fertile soil, a suitable climate and decades of fruit-growing experience.

About 75% of Belgian fruit originates from this fairly small area. Every year the Haspengouw produces around 360,000 tons of pears and 280,000 tons of apples, along with significant volumes of cherries, strawberries and soft fruits. Total turnover is around 300 million euros. The main fruit-growing municipalities are shown in this map:

haspengouw-map

Mid-September is the peak of the fruit harvesting season in the Haspengouw, so I thought it would be good to see these vast fruit orchards for myself.

And could there be a better way than by bike?

When I saw that cycling club De Marathonfietsers of Donk, Herk-de-Stad, was organizing a 70 km “fruitoogstrit” (fruit harvest cycle ride) I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Especially when they described the route as “a beautiful ride through the country lanes and orchards of the Haspengouw.”

So at 9.30 on Saturday morning I presented myself at the registration desk in the village school hall in Donk, paid my 4 euros, and headed off.

I have to say that it was an absolutely super day. The weather was perfect: blue skies, dry, and very warm at up to 27°C, but with a slight, cooling breeze. The route was perfectly signed. And, as promised, it took me along delightful country lanes and through small villages and largely avoided any major roads.

And the orchards! Wow!

I didn’t realize the full extent of the Haspengouw fruit industry. It is huge. Fields and fields were covered with apple and pear trees, absolutely dripping with fruit. There must be millions of trees, and in many of the orchards the fruit farmers were clearly extremely busy with their harvesting work.

I spoke with one fruit farmer and asked him if this year had been a good year for his business. Yes, he replied, but told me that “September is too hot and sunny. The fruit is ripening quicker than we can harvest it. So we are rushing to try and complete the harvest before the fruit becomes over-ripe.”

It’s difficult to convey the expanse of the Haspengouw orchards as the area is pretty flat, so you can’t get a view of the whole area. So you just have to believe me that in a shot like this, the orchards just stretch way into the distance:

haspengouw-22

And to give you more of a close-up impression, here are a few photos of the apple and pear orchards:

Aside from taking me through the orchards, the cycle route went along some lovely winding country lanes:

Another surprising source of sustenance!

Regular readers might remember the ice-cream vending machine that saved me from exhaustion while walking through the Voerstreek on a sizzlingly hot day. Towards the end of today’s 70k, with my energy failing, I came across this interesting sight:

haspengouw-26
An automatic fruit dispensing machine!

I wasn’t particularly interested in the fresh fruit for sale, but my attention was certainly caught by this on the bottom shelf:

haspengouw-27
A litre of fresh, cold apple juice!

I quickly paid my two euros (excellent value for a whole litre!) and there it was!

haspengouw-28
Chilled, tasty, refreshing, reinvigorating!

I drank most of it, and filled up my water bottle with the rest, to finish at the end of the route. Which I was now able to complete with a lot more energy!

Repeating my route

If you want to follow in my footsteps, or my tyre prints, this is the complete route:

haspengouw-34

You can download it here on RouteYou.

Alternatively, if 70k is a bit too long, you can mix and match by using the cycle network in the area:

haspengouw-31

The fruitoogstrit started in the top-left at number 353, but you could choose to start anywhere you want in this area, and make a cycle route that is as long or short as you want.

As for me, I will definitely be returning to this area in Spring, to repeat this route when all the fruit trees are in full bloom. That promises to be equally spectacular.

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20 comments on “Cycling through the orchards of the Haspengouw

  1. What an interesting ride and an opportunity to see such beautiful farm land. I’m glad you are having such a great crop. New England did not have a peach crop because of a freeze on Valentine’s Day and the apples are smaller and earlier because of the drought. That juice looked mighty delicious. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it’s amazing how a fairly small change in the weather can have dramatic consequences isn’t it Judy. Like the fruit farmer who was complaining about the sunshine. I am sure if we hadn’t had any sunshine, it also would not have been optimal.

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  2. Just downloaded the route 😉 Hope to repeat it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice – worth repeating 3 or 4 times in the year because it changes so much with the seasons.

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  4. This route would be pretty to see at any time of year. I hope the farmer was successful in harvesting all his fruit in time.

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  5. Great ride! Although you did a great part of Haspengouw, you missed the more challenging part around Borgloon. There you can have amazing views after riding up from one hill to the other. The “real” Haspengouw is situated between Sint-Truiden and Borgloon, but more the villages in the south of the road that connects the two cities.

    The part you did is also beautiful, but flat, and therefore less good for taking pictures.

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  6. poetsjasmineblog

    I loved the map given in the beginning.
    Plus all the pictures looked utterly surreal. I was overjoyed to witness warm hues of the fruits and foliage.
    I should visit Belgium (even though I am broke). Oh well, at least dreaming doesn’t cost you. keeps dreaming
    Orchards are fun (never went to one in my life). I really admire your posts, through them I too can witness the beauty that is Belgium.
    Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like them Jasmine. I gather you are living in a city, yes? If my blog gives you a touch of “fresh air”, if even virtually, then I am delighted.

      Liked by 1 person

      • poetsjasmineblog

        Yes, Denzil. I do live in a city. giggles But the countryside sounds lovely. sighs
        Your blog is a breath of fresh air, believe me. 🙂
        Thank you so much for writing such lovely posts.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks Jasmsine. I wish you a pleasant day in the city, with dreams of the countryside. Do you have parks nearby?

          Liked by 1 person

          • poetsjasmineblog

            Welcome. And thank you so much. 🙂
            Yes, a rather large one lies just a few houses away from my place.
            It’s a pretty place, with lots of multi-hued flowers and verdant foliage (Did I mention the swings? Even though I’m too old for them. Oh well, I’ll still take my chances!). XD
            But I don’t like going alone, so I seldom visit it.
            Next month my cousins are coming to visit my family, so I’ll definitely visit the park with them. For the time being, my precious little garden will suffice. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • What country is that Jasmine? If you’re up at this time of day, I suspect the East…?

              Liked by 1 person

              • poetsjasmineblog

                Pakistan. Eastern Hemisphere. My motherland specifically lies in South Asia. I don’t know what time it is in Belgium, but it’s 1:45 PM here in Lahore. And technically, I’m still not up. I’m still in bed because of a backache (I feel old). XD
                What time is it in Belgium, if you don’t mind me asking?

                Liked by 1 person

  7. poetsjasmineblog

    (Reply to the last comment)
    Ohhhh… well at least that answers my question.
    Thank you again for your kind words. 🙂

    Like

  8. Pingback: Biking through the blossoms of the Haspengauw – Discovering Belgium

  9. Pingback: The blossoms of Haspengouw – Discovering Belgium

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