September 6, 2010

Bike ride II

Well, I can add another thing to my list of firsts: Saturday was the first time I've ridden my bike 40 km alongside a canal to visit the largest boat lift in the world.  You never know when that'll come up in a conversation.

It was really impressive, actually-- Frederick (my host dad) and I visited two giant-- I mean giant-- boat lifts. I have some pictures of them, plus some of the countryside. 

A little background: canals have to be completely flat so boats can go either direction without fighting against a current. However, Belgium isn't completely flat. So either locks or lifts have to be built. This canal used to have locks, but locks are slow and can't carry huge ships. So they've built boat lifts like the Plan Incliné de Ronquières.

How it works: basically, canal boats are put into a giant box of water, and winched up or down a giant ramp. That allows them to navigate the 68 meter elevation change.

This canal had two ramps, so more traffic could go at the same time.

Here's a picture of the ramps from underneath.

The ramp is 1,432 meters long (Thank you, Wikipedia), and can hold boats up to 1350 metric tonnes.

After they get to the top, the box is opened, and they can continue on.

This lift also had a giant observation tower, which we went inside. The view was great.

Those are the tracks for the cassions. 

And here's some Belgian countryside: 

That farm doesn't look like anything around Cortez, does it?

Finally, a last picture of the tower, and we were on our way down the canal.

It was strange-- I've never ridden a bicycle somewhere completely flat. It's not like anything I'm used to. It was very easy, though!

After a while, we came to another lift. This one was different-- it wasn't an inclined plane but basically a giant elevator. A seriously giant elevator.

Called L'ascenseur funiculaire de Strépy-Thieu, it winches the cassion 73.15 vertical meters, making it the tallest boat lift in the world.

A panoramic view from the bottom:

We watched one of the cassions move:

A last photo of the me and the lift--

And then back up the canal. I realized why it had been so easy-- the wind was behind us. This time, however, it wasn't. We rode single file, having to switch off now and then.

By this time, the light was better, so I got a few more pictures:

So, another beautiful bike ride in Belgium.


  1. Salut Austin
    Ou as-tu cherche le velo?
    Les etudiants veulent savoir :)
    Bonne chance!

  2. Ah, le vélo...

    C'est un supplémentaire vélo de ma famille d'accueil. Je le tour pour notre expéditions dans la campagne belge-- c'est génial!