Upon moving to Belgium, I did not immediately start investigating schools and where to live – my worries lie elsewhere. On top of my list was wild camping. I cannot live without it – and that’s how I discovered both the great concept of Bivakzones and a lovely web page displaying all the zones in Belgium (of which some are located just across the border in neighbouring Netherland). After seven months and a total of ONE wild camping in France, I was desperate to sleep outside again. Our tour of the Bivakzones is hereby started – with a night at Canisvliet Kreek (in the Netherlands). We brought an inflatable kayak – and unintentionally ended up discovering yet another area of natural beauty. Pure bonus!

Free and legal wild camping

Yes – there is such a thing in the thick of Europe. At the Bivakzones, also known as “pole-camping”, a pole with a sign indicating the zone is placed in the ground – and then you are allowed to camp within 10 meters from it in every direction, with a maximum of 3 tent per night and a 72 hours stay.

The zones have got water pumps but bring drinking water and wet wipes: The water at the zone at Canisvliet Kreek was brown and smelly, and I’m not sure I even would have washed my hands in it. You can not make a fire, so we brought our Trangia outdoor stove and gas to cook pancakes, porridge and hot water. All good.

Bivakzone Canisvliet

Canisvliet is a nature reserve located about half an hour from Ghent and an hour from Brussels by car. There’s a small parking not far from the zone – which gave us an easy and beautiful hike through the bright green spring forest to the pole. Lots of longer hiking and biking routes passes by the zone if you want more challenge – we brought beach tennis and spent our extra time playing instead. Having fun is essential!

 On the way to the Bivakzone a small rabbit was foraging happily in the middle of the path. We (unsuccessfully) tried sneaking up on it...

I had searched the map for Bivakzones next to lakes or rivers. There aren’t that many, but at Canisvliet there’s a beautiful lake, and the pole is located right next to it. Birds, rabbits and frogs were hopping and chirping – and when we woke up in the morning, an inexperienced small bird had moved into the water pump and started nesting. Nice moment for us but not a very lasting situation for the bird, I guess. The presence of water always gives an extra dimension to both the view and the wild life, although the lake is not for swimming.

Alma looking for tiny frogs around the lake...  

Bringing kids into nature, you don't have to entertain much - Alma made a boat with stick people (dressed in green). 

Arriving at a Saturday, we could hear the nearby roads and what might have been some kind of construction work a bit too well. As my husband ironically put it: “You can hear the geese if you concentrate”. I brought earplugs and slept ok anyway. When we woke up on Sunday there was total silence, but for the sounds of nature. The temperature had risen considerably, and we regretted not bringing shorts. The Bivaczone went up from a three out of six stars to a four as far as wild camping sites goes. If you’re sensitive to noise, I’m not sure if I can recommend sleeping here any other day of the week.

In the beginning of April, we were there in total solitude at the Bivakzone. A few nice people passed us now and then on their walk around the lake, and a surprised hiker commented that he didn’t think anybody knew about the Bivakzone – I gather sleeping here is not likely to be crowded later in the season either.

Provencial Domein Puyenbroeck

After playing some more beach tennis, throwing the ball in the lake, fishing it out again and generally having a great time except the half hour spent comforting Alma (10) after she stuck her entire hand into some nettles, we decided to pack up and explore a canal we had accidentally stumbled over the day before.

We drove back into Belgium, unloaded the kayak near a restaurant, called 'T Ou huys and parked our car at Puyenbroeck sports hall. If you do not have a kayak, there’s a place renting kayaks and canoes along the same water way. Call ahead to make a reservation.

Later, when we had a wonderful ice cream at the restaurant, our waiter seemed almost embarrassed to hear we were Norwegians: “Why come here to look at nature, when you come from Norway…” But honestly – don’t be. Your canal is just lovely! We paddled for about an hour, dived under bridges, looked at birds, beautiful trees and happy people strolling and biking and SUPing in the sun. Don’t go here with someone you do not like. This romantic place could make you unintentionally fall in love! Do go here if you have marital problems.

Funniest part of kayaking at Puyenbroeck: There are loads of bridges to dive under - watch out for spiders!

There seems to be several places to eat in the area, but we were happy to have discovered ‘T Ou huys, as they had rabbits, guinea pigs, hens, a tiny horse and tiny goats for Alma (and me) to look at and pet. I really wanted to take home some of those goats. No more lawn mowing and a lot of love. What a deal!

The end

What’s left to tell? We felt completely regenerated and decided to go home to the teenager who had stayed with friends and played a couple of hand ball matches this week end. My nose was read… Wear sunscreen.

Questions? Wanting to share? Duke of Edinburgh or plain Jane? Feel free to contact me.


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