September 10, Tuesday
Most of us slept in. The morning was sunny, so there was some lounging on the terrace as we waited for loads of laundry to finish. After lunch, we headed out to La Grotte de Remouchamps, a cave with the longest underground river boat ride in the world. The entrance to the cave is right on the main street of town, so we parked on the street and walked down the hill. After buying the tickets, we walked for half an hour along the street that follows the Aywaille River. Aywaille the town is a well-kept village with the typical brick buildings lining the streets.
At 3:50, we met our guide, who seemed a little nonplussed by our English-speaking presence, but he said he’d accommodate us as best he could. Actually, his English was okay, although towards the end, during the boat ride, he forgot to translate his Dutch spiel for us, unless it was warnings to watch out for low-hanging rock. The first stretch of the tour was to walk through long, low tunnels and up and down stairways, stopping to have certain cave features pointed out, along with explanations about how they were formed. The cave was carved out by the underground river, whose only water source is rainwater that makes its way down through cracks in the rock. The cave was discovered in the early 1800s, and there have been public tours since 1828, although those were illuminated by wax torches. Once we climbed to the “cathedral”, the largest room, we descended stairs to the river. We boarded a boat and the guide took his place at the prow. He used a pole to push against the cave wall and propel us forward. We sometimes had to duck to avoid hitting our heads on the overhanging rocks. After our 4.6 kilometre walk, which included sixteen flights of stairs (according to Maureen’s Fitbit), sitting in the boat was a restful way to take in the cave’s features. After about an hour in the cave, we emerged into the sunshine.
Georgette had recommended a walk called Les Fonds de Quarreux, less than ten minutes from Aywaille. We decided that a walk along the river would be a pleasant end to the day. The path followed the shallow river through the trees, a very pretty walk. The most prominent feature were the large rocks beside and in the river. A sign at the beginning of the walk told the legend of the rocks: A man sold his soul to the devil in return for a windmill. His wife overheard him making a deal with the devil. With the aid of a holy medallion, she secretly stopped the windmill from turning, and the failure of the windmill made the deal null and void. Enraged, the devil sent huge rocks hurtling down the hill at the windmill. The man found his wife dead beneath the avalanche. She had sacrificed herself to save him.
After the walk, we returned home to eat dinner. While the lasagna was cooking, Marilynn made a point of sitting on the terrace to watch the cows returning to the barn. A small white cow had, on previous evenings, been very stubborn about going in, but happily, tonight she went in without a fuss. Like that cow, we all retired to our rooms early without complaint.