Routes and stats for the last two days below, although my Garmin randomly turned itself off a couple of times, so there are two entries for each day:
The 12 June saw me cycle 117km in 6hrs and 45 mins. It was already hot when I was packing up, so I knew I was in for a scorcher. The temperature has rocketed over the last few days, got to 22 degrees Celsius by 10.30, and over 30 degrees Celsius shortly afterwards. You don’t notice it on a bike so much as you have a constant draft, but it’s hot when you stop, and you have to remember to drink a lot of water even if you don’t feel like it.
I attempted to pay at reception on my way out of the campsite, however the owner just waved me through with a smile; very nice of him and a bonus night’s free camping! I’ll put the money into the beer kitty. From Alverna and Nijgemen I made my way South West following cycle paths and ‘Nodes’, with a little help from my map. There were a couple of confusing bits when I mixed up numbers, however all-in-all the cycle network in Holland works really well, and the paths and roads are lovely and smooth.
I don’t have any complaints about the drivers either, mostly because I wasn’t on the road so didn’t encounter many, however the few times I did they gave me priority and were courteous.
In Holland they have strangely shaped objects by the side of the road that I was initially unsure as to the purpose of; they’re bins, and perfectly positioned and angled to throw stuff in as you’re cycling along, an excellent invention. Some are metal and some just have nets; here’s one of the latter.
I stopped for a refuel at a convenient McDonalds about 11.30, feeling hungry after a meagre breakfast, but also because they have air conditioning and free wi-fi. I hadn’t realised quite how hot it had got until I went back outside. Shortly afterwards I was pedalling into Eindhoven, an old city but one that appeared very modern. I walked through the centre, which was bustling with activity, but as mentioned in my post yesterday akin to most big metropolis; same shops etc.
After Eindhoven it was on to Reusel, and across the border into Belgium. It was a slightly longer ride than anticipated due to the cycle route going a different way to my planned route, however still got me to the right place. As I rode along I contemplated what would/will happen if/when the sea level rises. I’ve been pedalling across a lot of flat land, over bridges, rivers and canals, and a lot of it is only just above, or even below sea level. I believe Holland has some major sea defences however I fear they’ll need them in years to come.
They speak Flemish in this part of Belgium, so I’m still resorting to English, however I can switch to French a bit further South; probably once I reach Brussels.
Once I’d crossed the border I unfortunately noticed an immediate deterioration in cycle paths, and road surfaces in general. I think I’ve grown used to the luxuries of Holland, and to only a slightly lesser extent Germany, and will need to toughen up again.
Passed a great horse-drawn bus just inside Belgium, being steered with much enthusiasm by a slightly crazed looking and sounding driver; could have been something out of Harry Potter.
I passed through Arendonk, and on to Oud-Turnhout where I stopped to buy supplies at Lidyl. They had tonic water going cheap, which was really refreshing and helped lessen the irritation from hay fever; I think the pollen count is really high at the moment and I’ll have to visit a pharmacie to get some anti-histamines.
When I get to a pharmacie I’ll also pick up some anti-chafing unguent, having discovered I left my chamois cream in Stockholm. Now the weather has gotten hotter I’m likely to need it more, having felt the first signs of rubbing today; something to avoid at all costs.
I made it through Turnhout, passing lots of people sitting out in bars in the main square enjoying Friday afternoon and no doubt the evening to come. I noticed a French look to the town, despite this still being a Flemish area, but it might just be my imagination.
Then it was on to the campsite North of the town, near Ravels; Baalse Hei which I found via ACSI. I used my Garmin to navigate to it, and ended up going a slightly strange route, involving some sandy paths which were impossible to cycle on. It reminded me of one of the initial days of my Bike around Britain tour in 2013, when I tried to cycle down a sandy path on the Norfolk coast and promptly did a stunt (=fell off my bike).
The campsite was a good one, and slightly more populated than the previous. I pitched up as a thunderstorm hit, which didn’t come as a complete surprise after the hot day, and was quite refreshing; my top needed a wash anyway.
After the au-naturel shower I thought I’d better have a soap based shower, then nipped to the campsite cafe for a lasagna, salad and chips before it closed. They have free campsite wide wi-fi so I was able to retreat to my tent once the cafe closed, to update my blog and plan tomorrow’s route; also caught up on the news as I’m completely out-of-touch – not a bad thing probably, however the Greek situation is worrying, as is MERS.
The moth was one of the friendly insects, most of the others were a pain; midges and mosquitos, which was the main reason I hid in my tent. Before shutting out the insects I had a quick chat with a German cycle tourist on a short break, reliving a tour from about 20 years ago; he was describing how things had changed, and some of the language difficulties.
My route planning culminated in a decision not to head to the coast and work my way around to Spain, but to head down to Eurovelo 3 at Charleroi, the Pilgrim’s route, and work my way through central France via Paris. So it’s on to Grimbergen, close to Brussels, tomorrow. I’ll need to buy a new map.
I pedalled a meagre 82km on 13 June, in just over 5 hours, but it was all I’d planned on doing in any case. I’m also suffering slightly from BRF (Belgium Road Fatigue); they’re a lot more bumpy than the ones in Holland and Germany. The cycle tourer I just met, from Taiwan, totally agrees, and has the same problem with slightly painful hands and wrists after riding for a while, because of all the jarring.
After a dry night it decided to rain as I packed up, typical, however I just got on with it and was on the road by 10.00, leaving Baalse Hei campsite and heading back to Turnhout, taking a more direct route back into the town than last night’s slightly adventurous trail.
As I rode South West the rain stopped, but it remained overcast for a bit, which was pleasant after yesterday’s heat.
I crossed several canals as I pedalled through the countryside to Mechelen, a moderately sized town/city, not sure which. I’ve had to cycle on the road more in Belgium, and have noticed the drivers are becoming more like I’m used to in the UK; faster, less patient and more aggressive. This is no doubt a sign of things to come for the rest of the tour, as it’ll only get more frenetic as I head South.
I passed through Putte, where the main street was closed for a fête of some description. There weren’t many people about despite all the stands. I stopped for a break and was the only one listening to a band playing ‘Blue Moon’, very well as it turned out; had it in my head for a few hours after that. They appreciated my solitary applause in any case, but it all felt a bit odd without even the semblance of a crowd.
Anyway, where was I? Skipped back and forward a bit there, however here are some photos of Mechelen; some nice buildings, lots of flags, and lots of people sitting out in cafes.
Both Lobster and I were a bit confused by the fish head and lobster claw fountains, there was an octopus type one too. We both suspect a Cthulhu influence may be at work, which may explain the slightly deserted town fete in Putte…
I cycled on towards Grimbergen, my destination for the night, over a few more canals, and passing some donkeys just taking it easy in the good weather.
I was overtaken by yet another cycle club out for a Saturday ride, this time a large peloton; they didn’t bother using the bumpy cycle paths which would no doubt break their carbon road bikes quite quickly. I’ve mentioned the roads and cycle paths being bumpy already, and this continued to be the case, making me a bit tired and grumpy; the headwind and hay fever wasn’t helping either. A lot of the roads are made out of large concrete slabs, with joins every few metres which give you a regular jolt; annoying after a while.
Grimbergen proved to be a lovely small town, and very convenient for Brussels the following day. The campsite was the only one I could find in the area, is cheap, and had everything I needed including wi-fi near reception.
Almost immediately I met River, from Korea, who has been travelling the world for a few months visiting China, South America, the USA, and now Europe. He’d flown from Miami to Brussels last night, and is due to fly to Barcelona tomorrow; a bit random but the flight worked out cheaper that way. River works in restaurant in Seoul, but has decided like me to have some time off to explore and have an adventure; his restaurant sounds excellent, and he makes his own beer, so I’ll be sure to visit if I make it there some day. We walked into Grimbergen to explore and pick up a few supplies from the supermarket, and enjoyed a cold beer in he sunshine.
Grimbergen is famous for brewing beer, and I picked up a couple of local ones to enjoy back at the campsite. The weakest I could find was 6.7%, and they went up to well over that (10% +), alongside some Trappist brews. There’s a beer museum too, but we thought we’d enjoy drinking it rather than reading about it.
River told me a bit about his time in South America, which reinforced my desire to visit there one day, preferably on a bike. It sounds friendly, cheap, full of life and things to visit. He found the USA quite different; expensive, and unfortunately the people were colder, unless you paid them. He also mentioned the MERS virus which has hit Korea, and I’d read about last night; hope it peters out soon and no-one else dies.
Back at the campsite we met Eugene, a fellow cycle tourer, from Taiwan. He’s been pedalling around Europe for the last 6 months since finishing his PhD, starting off in the UK, and going all over the place since then. He’s only got a couple of weeks left before going back to Taiwan, then on the America to work.
A great evening was had, where I think we convinced River cycle touring is the way forward. Tomorrow I’m off to Brussels, then South towards Charleroi and Eurovelo 3, whereas Eugene is pedalling North towards Amsterdam. River of course is flying to Barcelona, and after that who knows, however it’s possible he’ll walk some of the Camino de Santiago so I might bump into him again; he might have to get a new tent before then, as his one from Wal-Mart, which he was extolling the virtues of, was apparently a bit drafty and chilly overnight!
Be assured that not all the drivers in Southern Europe are impatient. We were really surprised by the Spanish drivers in the Pyrenees. Really patient and courteous. The Spanish have a reputation for being impatient, but this did not seem to extend to their treatment of cyclists. Southern France was similar (but may have seemed good because there were so few cars anyway).
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That’s really good to know. I was basing my assumption in what it was like in Marseille, but glad Spain is different to that!
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Oud-Turnhout sounds a bit Lancashire. Hope the roads improve soon, nothing worse than hour after hour of bumpy roads. May all you roads be smooth ones from now on!
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Thanks Tony. Roads so much better in France; quieter and smoother. On to Paris tomorrow!