Turns out there’s good reason that the greatest ever Tour cyclist comes from Belgium. We are admittedly not very fit yet, but we got our arses kicked in Wallonia. Up to 11% climbs, climbs that went on for miles, climbs on gravel and chippings, there is a full variety! On the upside, putting this work in our legs will pay off in the coming weeks. It hasn’t helped that I was sick for the worst days. One campsite we stayed in had a tap on each pitch of “eau potable”, but I was about a litre into a water bottle I’d filled when I noticed that it had tiny bugs in it. Getting ill is part and parcel of travelling, so why not do it in Europe where there are plenty of good toilets to use?
It’s rained most days, though thankfully it’s mostly been at night or while cycling, and not when we’re setting up or packing up the tent. The tent is as battered as we are – one large tear and a broken pole – but we’ve got some major towns and cities coming up and should be able to get some spares and repairs. We also found that my front stem and fork had come loose and were barely attached, which would have meant a nasty accident, but everything seems fixed now.
Our one really warm day had us on dirt tracks through woodland, where we met a family who’d fled Ukraine. The father spoke some English, and we chatted for a bit before he shook our hands and wished us well, the reverse of how it should be.
We’re doing our best to try lots of beer, and it’s a heavy burden to carry. In Belgium, the abv % isn’t listed on the menu, which is unhelpful when you need to know whether cycling is advisable after one of them.
We’ve meandered our way through Belgium rather than going straight across, and our route now heads north for a couple of days to take in a bit of the Netherlands, before hopping over to Germany for pork knuckles.
A playlist from the ride through France and Belgium: