Through the Iron Gates

Our last day in Serbia was perfect. Lovely quiet roads, plenty of food, beautiful scenery, a tailwind. All the things a cyclist hopes for. There was a ferry crossing partway through the day, which was so expensive it caught us off guard. We knew we had another boat crossing to get to Romania, so we quickly went from wondering if there would be any place to change leftover money, to concerned about having enough Dinars left. We paid for the border ferry with about 30p to spare, even buying a bottle of drink that day would have left us unable to pay. The border crossing itself was from a textbook of how to take as long as possible to do a job and use what small power you have to make people wait for you.

The ferry and Romanian border were not where we thought they’d be. We thought we would dock in the town of Moldova Veche, but were dropped a couple of kilometres south. We made the smart decision to detour into the town to get supplies, because it turned out that there would be very few of those on this route, and to use a cashpoint of which we didn’t see another whilst in Romania.

The ride continued to be amazing, and even though it had been a bit stressful with the border crossing, we felt relaxed and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We stopped somewhere before the village of Liubcova, but felt like we could go on for miles. We knew the next day had some climbing, which would be substantial in the heat. We didn’t know that there would be no shops, kiosks or roadside stalls. The morning arrived, and it was already in the 30s before 9am, so we knew it would be a scorcher. Still, the road was excellent, there was almost no traffic and the scenery was jaw dropping. Every corner we turned had me shaking my head at what I was seeing, and being grateful to be here. Don’t worry though, I can find some negatives! Oh god, the heat. It felt as though every bit of me was melting, and when there was a breeze it was the same feeling as when you open an oven door. We pulled over to some picnic tables in the shade – there are lots of parking areas on the route for people to pull over and enjoy the view – and spotted a monument with a natural spring fountain on the other side of the road. There are not many better feelings than to be baking hot and getting dehydrated, and be able to satiate your thirst with ice cold spring water. I filled up our water bottles, 6 litres in total, and had finished it by the end of the day.

A few kilometres further on and we could see the beginning of the climb in front of us, and even though it was hot and the road was steep, I was feeling pretty strong. I overtook Richard when he stopped for a drink, and when I next looked back he was nowhere to be seen. I have never been faster than him on a hill. I even had the energy to go back and get his bike when he was struggling even to push it. He’d had no fizzy drinks during the day, and while I’m happy and used to existing on water on a ride, his body was zonking without his usual sugar. We had a blissful downhill and then a shorter climb, which he could barely make it up. We stopped for the day after that, so he had time to recover. The following day’s climb saw normal service resume, with me plodding along up a hill and him in the distance, full of cola and iced tea.

But the excitement was building, as now we are cycling through the Iron Gates National Park, and a date with this:

Ever since I found out about the rock sculpture of Decebalus, the first couple of months of cycling has been all about seeing it. I’ve inundated Richard for about a year with links, pictures and endless talk about “Stone Face.” He didn’t know exactly which day we would get there (he insists he didn’t look it up, and he does have somewhat more self control than I do) but predicted that I wouldn’t be able to contain myself and would give it away. That part is kind of easy when I’m usually about a mile behind, but the dramatic rock formations and stalls up ahead made it obvious that Stone Face was near. It was surreal to be standing in front of something I’d imagined seeing for so long. It was exactly as advertised, there had been no glossing or shopping the online pictures, and no case of it being smaller in real life. Here he is again:

The road became quite a bit busier after Stone Face (though it’s still a fairly quiet road,) we think because many foreign tourists make a detour to see him, but there is no easy way to get there from the other side. We saw a few groups of touring motorcyclists go his way and then return the same way. The scenery drops off a bit from here also, and with the lack of services we’d experienced, the fact that we really enjoyed Serbia and its cheapness compared to Romania, we decided to cross back across the Iron Gates bridge. The ride between the town of Orsova (after Stone Face) and the bridge is one of the Danube’s notorious ones, but although it was hair raising in places, we lived. The Romanian border guard was a smiley happy chappy who wished us a safe journey onward.

Even though seeing the Stone Face was something I’ve looked forward to for ages, it was the last fixed place we had in mind, and now we can just go wherever we want. We do know we’d like to see more of small town Serbia, so that’s our only plan for the moment.

Hello, Salute.

Here is a playlist for the Iron Gates National Park ride:

Welcome to Serbia!

We had a smooth and efficient border exit from Croatia, followed by such a long stretch of no man’s land which, if you’re an over thinker (hello!) makes you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn and are now in Serbia illegally.

We rolled into the border town (Bačka Palanka) intending to stop for a coffee, when we were noticed by Trivo Ilic, who happily wanted to welcome us to Serbia, and insisted that we look round his business and have a chat and a cold drink. He has owned a driving school in the town for 30 years, and his father before him for 50 years, is also a professional football coach, and infectiously enthusiastic about those things and about how much we would like Serbia. He was adamant that his fellow Serbs would be kind and friendly to their visitors, and indeed he was right.

We’ve had some great cycling, and some awful cycling. There have been smooth tracks through rural villages, where we’ve come upon old school shepherd’s camps, complete with wooden crooks and herding on horseback. There have been long, fast narrow road sections, where the cars pass each other at insane speeds, and the roadside has countless memorial stones – we passed at least 10 in one 2 hour stretch. And we had a morning of lashing rain, which inevitably meant there had to be a long section of mud track. After about 100 metres both bikes became bogged down and we had to drag them back because the mudguards and brakes were too clogged for the wheels to turn, and then do a long detour to find a good road. The one thing that’s stayed consistent has been how warm and friendly the country’s people have been, and that’s kept our spirits up when things have been difficult.

And then nothing could have prepared us for the final part of our ride into Belgrade. There is no city I’ve cycled into that can touch Istanbul for near death experiences, but Belgrade is now second. There was no approach to the city that didn’t involve roads that looked like motorways. The final part was a bridge crossing. The good news is there’s a bike/footpath. The bad news is that sections of the paving were slanted and unstable and we could see all the way down. Not the greatest experience for someone scared of heights. The city itself wasn’t worth it at all. Travel sites probably bore on about the same copy & paste things they do for every Eastern European city – cafe culture, lots of clubs, lots of bars etc and there might well be a nice clean square at the centre, we didn’t go there, but in general it was shockingly dilapidated and run down. It’s very at odds with what we’ve seen of Serbia in general.

We took a rest day in a quiet town called Kovin, not far from the border with Romania. It was the first day off where we really didn’t do a lot. Richard got a haircut (for £2.52, as I’ve heard numerous times) and we both ate a lot, but other than that we just mooched around because it was such a peaceful place. I am not a woo person. Places don’t have auras or energy fields, and such stuff is bollocks. But I do think we subconsciously  receive and interpret many clues about our surroundings, and those add up to our instincts. Serbia feels open and welcoming, and an all round good place to be. It is the first country we’ve been through that we have a strong desire to come back to.

A “road.”

Here’s a playlist for the ride in Serbia:

Different Place, Different Pace

More gruelling riding in Hungary. The road surfaces are just really bad. It’s impossible to avoid potholes, and the constant jarring takes its toll on the wrists, neck and shoulders. Not to mention that it’s reignited saddle sores we thought were gone. And it’s either those roads or long straight gravel tracks where the horizon never seems to change. In all fairness, those trails are flat and the surface in the dry weather is better than the roads, but it’s draining mentally because it’s so monotonous and also very exposed in what is becoming scorching heat.

The driving here can be a mixed bag. When there’s nothing coming the other way, passing cars and lorries always signal and give us loads of space. But if there is something coming the other way, they will not wait behind us and they pass when there isn’t much room. I can’t imagine what it would be like cycling here having grown up riding in Germany or The Netherlands, where there are dedicated bike lanes everywhere, cyclists are given priority to cars in many ways on the roads. One advantage of being from the UK is that we’re used to this kind of thing.

Our first day south of Budapest  we were on some bumpy roads, when we stopped for a rest and were approached by a Hungarian family and invited to join them later at a campsite by the river. They were off on a kayak daytrip, but were camping in the evening. The people were lovely, and the campsite looked great. We were sorely tempted, but it was only 11.30 and we wanted to push on. I was kicking myself the rest of the day. We need to take these opportunities to meet people and to slow down. We’ve been in a kind of frenzy to go as far as possible every day, even though it’s beginning to burn us out. The campsite that night was a bit of a downer, which didn’t help. Dirty, most toilets out of order and no hot water in the women’s showers.

We did our longest day yet after that. One of the long, hot, monotonous days on gravel tracks with no shade and nowhere to rest. We were only a few miles from our destination and desperate to stop, when we took a turn out of the flat plains and were hit with a massive sharp climb. One of those ones where you think it’s over but round every corner is an even steeper part. There was a monument and flag at the top, and a couple of road cyclist who crawled up after us, so it did feel like an achievement getting to reach the end, plus the views and some downhill. The following day we started by riding through rolling hills. Far better than steep climbs, but still with nice views. It was some of the best cycling so far, and I think had we both not been so tired then we might have enjoyed it more. We promised ourselves that we will rest when we get to Croatia – we haven’t had a day off since Austria.

There was some anxiety about our border crossing. The Hungarian government website makes it clear that non-EU passport holders can’t use all border crossings, but don’t list which Croatian ones they can use. We were reasonably sure from looking at maps and pictures that it would work out, but it’s not easy to backtrack and divert when you’re on a bike. Fortunately it was fine, and we got our Schengen exit stamps.

Part of the ride across the border involved some rough tracks, fields, and a ravine, but once we got on the roads we had some smooth sailing. The road conditions here are really good, and there is nowhere near as much traffic as in Hungary. Even so, we were still getting a bit frayed round the edges and very tired. We picked the town of Vukovar to take the day off, purely on geography and exhaustion. We since found out that it was one of the key battles of the Yugoslav wars, and the site of a subsequent massacre and ethnic cleansing. The huge water tower which received heavy shelling has been left standing as a reminder of what happened here. There is now a museum near the top of the tower, and it’s a moving place.  

We’re heading now for Serbia, and planning on some shorter days and taking rest when we need it.

The ride into Vukovar

A playlist for the ride in Southern Hungary and Croatia:

Yodel It

We zoomed through Austria, barely pausing for breath. There are a couple of really stunning sections on the route through the North that we took. The ride from Engelhartszell to Aschach was definitely the most breathtaking scenery of our journey so far, plus we had to cross the Danube on some small foot passenger boats, which I get childishly excited about. There are some sections where it is oddly barren, with no shade and nowhere to stop. But most of the ride is through pleasant cornfields and other agricultural land. We had lots of trouble finding camping spots, so we nearly always did longer days than we wanted. We seemed to always end up with the dilemma of not wanting to stay in a city or large town for a couple of days due to the cost, but not finding campsites that are appealing enough or with enough to do to stop for long. So we just kept going. We didn’t even try the cakes.

We finally stopped just outside of Vienna at a really nice camping spot, and intended to get the bus or train into the capital on a day off. But an overnight storm brought down a branch that ripped through the tent, and by the time we’d fixed that and done our washing and bike maintenance, the temperature was in the mid 30s, and a visit to a city had lost its appeal. Fortunately the tent tear was on the sleeping side and only went through the outer shell, so it was still waterproof when it rained later in the night.

The following day, Vienna was easy to navigate thanks to bike paths, and the ride to Bratislava was very hot, but with pleasant views of endless sunflower fields and the city’s castle atop a hill. Slovakia’s capital is a bit of a stag do destination, I hadn’t heard as many British accents since leaving the UK, but it is good that this pretty city is getting some love and tourist money. It’s a beautiful place, and you should visit it.

We’ve since had some rough days in Hungary. After we crossed the bridge and border from Slovakia, the GPS wanted to take us down a road that was very clearly signposted “no cycling.” That road meant 5km to the next town, but the alternate cycling signs showed a distance of 27km. Bollocks to that. We took a chance and cut through a field, and ended up on a small road to town. The following day it rained every second well into the evening. We had to cross a mud trail for several kilometres, which was almost impassable, and left the brakes trashed. Somehow we stumbled on a self-service car wash in the next town and power washed the mud off the bikes. I tried to power wash my feet as well, but it hurt. After that experience  we decided to follow the main road instead of crossing another field. That evening we spent about 3 hours in the rain trying to find somewhere to stay. Our most draining day so far.

Cycling in Hungary so far has been in intense heat, and either on busy and potholed main roads with very little room to spare, or on trails across fields and gravel. But any rain there’s been has long since burnt off, so those surfaces were at least now rideable. We made it in no time to just south of Budapest. Even though the last week has been very challenging, it’s still an adventure and there are always bright spots and the rest of the ride South to look forward to.

Here’s a playlist for the ride across Austria and Northern Hungary:

Going East

We’ve had some ups and downs the past week or so. There has always been either blistering heat or biblical thunderstorms. There have been long stretches (particularly either side of Frankfurt) that were completely void of shops, cafes or toilets. And there have been days where they have been plenty of those things, but none of them open. We’ve learned to plan ahead for Sundays in Germany, getting food for the coming day the evening before, because absolutely every shop both small and large is shut. We’d checked the list of public holidays, when everything is also shut, and there weren’t any more until October. Then we were cycling through various small towns with nothing open at all in the middle of the week. Odd, but they are small, so perhaps things open later. Then we passed through a large town with an Aldi and everything was shut there. We suspiciously looked up the date, and found it’s a regional public holiday. On a Thursday. Which means everyone also took the Friday off and campsites were rammed for the next 4 days. We got turned away from one, and the others we just had to squeeze in where we could because we hadn’t made a reservation. One site was almost entirely taken up by a multi generational family reunion and we barely found space to pitch. While turning in for the night, one of the dads came over and chatted and said he’d wanted to come over earlier and ask about the bikes and what we were doing, and now wished he had invited us to join the BBQ. It would have been nice, but we had walked into the town of Lohr am Main just to find some shade and have a beer. It was one of those picture perfect towns, and would have been a shame to miss out on.

One of the things I love about Germany is the food, but we’d not tried much traditional fare in the first week which has left some itches to scratch. We don’t stop for a proper lunch, and we don’t tend to camp near towns, so we’ve had the odd snack bar currywurst, but not much else. In Frankfurt I ticked off pork knuckle, which was great but it came with roast potatoes, which are not the ultimate kind. And then I hit the jackpot in Wurzburg, finally finding kartoffelkloesse, potato dumplings which are denser than the Earth’s core, and were served alongside roast pork and creamed cabbage. It was 36 degrees, but I soldiered on.

Having followed parts of the Rhine, Main and the Danube canal, we’ve been on the Danube proper for the last few days. It’s veered between dramatically beautiful, and run of the mill farm land. But it’s been flat and we’ve been able to churn some miles out. We passed through a section with some lovely manmade lakes and since it was the weekend, there were people out with lilos, kayaks, marquees set up on the shore and even some paddling pools. I loathe hot weather. I am quite happy at about 18 degrees, uncomfortable above 24, unhappy above 29, and once it gets into the 30s most of my brain functions shut down and I am just a sweaty pool of misery. This day was in the mid 30s, so it’s amazing to me how much effort people put in to being out in the sun. I would much rather have air conditioning and stay indoors.

Towards the end of our stint in South East Germany it was Johannistag (St John’s night) a kind of bonfire night, and a merging of Pagan Midsummer and Christian homage to John The Baptist, which seemed to be a very big deal. Though thankfully not another holiday. It’s Germany, so the bonfires were perfectly built, with many people displaying beautifully carved representations of St John. This is not like the piles of crates and old furniture we have, or the Guys you’d make out of your dad’s old trousers and wheel round in an Asda trolley. There was an open invite to attend what looked like a large bonfire and BBQ next to a campsite we stayed at. We favoured getting an early night though. It might have been fun, but it might have been a bit Wicker Man.

Our last morning cycling in Germany was flat and beautiful (though hot) and I had mixed feelings about leaving. Then Richard declared we were playing “Last one to Austria smells,” before cycling off. I hadn’t had nearly enough chocolate milk to be bothering with that, but raced on anyway.

It’s no secret that I love this country. The food, the people, the beer, the scenery, they are all wonderful. And I might have painted Germany as almost relentlessly pleasant. But there are still packs of ham which are impossible to get into, bags of pasta which split when you open them, and Audi drivers who are knobheads. And now we are both itching to move on, because the point is to travel, and see new places. 

Here’s a playlist for the last week in Germany:

Going Deutsch

What a difference a country makes. We knew the first couple of weeks would be a test since we weren’t very fit, but it has been reassuring to know that part of it was the headwind and not our failing legs. The cycling has been so much more enjoyable in Germany, and we’re feeling much more upbeat about being able to do this. There’s also a noticeable positive difference in the number of cafes, shops and banks. And there is always Weissbier.

It’s hard to explain how kind and friendly people have been here, so here’s a couple of small examples: One elderly chap flagged us down in a small town, and though I explained we couldn’t speak German, he persistently kept repeating the same words and gestures until I realised he has seen us circling round and wanted to know, what are we looking for? A cafe. So he gave directions, made me repeat them, and then 20 minutes later walked passed us sitting drinking coffee and eating cakes, with an “It’s good, yes?” Another day it was threatening rain and we were in the middle of a queue to check in to a campsite. The receptionist came over to us, and said we could go and pitch our tent first and have a rest, and come and find her later.

The part of the Rhine we’ve been cycling on is fairytale beautiful. It’s hard to have a really bad day when your surroundings are like this. The route is easy to follow, even the city of Cologne was amazingly easy to navigate.

The only downside is that there have been some almighty rainstorms. The kind where tent pegs ping out and we spend sleepless nights worrying if we’re going to get flooded.

We also have an interesting problem with the German language. Because we practice the same phrases over and over again, we give the impression of comprehension, which is the not the one we want to give. What then happens is we are spoken to as though we understand, which we don’t. We need to strike a balance between polite use of a language, and a degree of incompetence. And for those times where we there is true incompetence, we have mime. I have successfully used this (with added sound effects) to buy soluble aspirin in an Apotheke, and Richard has communicated without words that he needs the gears on his bike fixed. The guy who did this just pointed to an honesty box when asked how much he charged.

After some good news from home, we treated ourselves to a hotel room. Duvet! Pillows! But then it was too hot, there was no fresh air, no birds tweeting on until dark and no frogs mating at 3 am. I woke up three times to see lights coming through the curtain, and thought each time “oh wow, our tent is actually really big” before remembering.

After days of glorious scenery and pretty German towns, we reached the city of Mainz. We crossed the bridge over the vast Rhine, with giant flags indicating the State of Rhineland-Palatinate for one side and the State of Hesse on the other. There have been lots of small targets and milestones, but Mainz is a crossroads and the confluence of two great rivers. The Rhine has been good to us. If not for the days of rain storms, it would have been near perfect. But following it south no longer makes sense. It would either force an Alps crossing, something we’re not ready for, or involve long diversions at a time when we need to worry about our time limit in the Schengen area. So we head East, towards Frankfurt, then Wurzburg and the next decision.

Here’s a playlist for the ride on the Rhine:

Electric Dreams

We started this section by having a day off in Namur, Belgium. It felt like ages since we’d had one, and it was good just to rest our legs and drink beer without worrying if we’d cycle into the river. Namur is that nice balance of not enough to do to entice tourists, but enough to do for a couple of cyclists taking a day off. We were drinking outside a tavern, when a woman sitting next to us was very insistently trying to talk to us in Flemish, and it took a while to realise that she had served us in a cafe earlier and had recognised us and wanted to say hello. Her companion, with the help of his phone, translated the history of the tavern, how it had been given to the workers who had built the nearby church, and how proud they were of it. They also had an insanely large beer menu, of which we only had four.

We went north out of Belgium, following the EuroVelo 19 route from around Namur to Roermond in The Netherlands. The section up until just outside Huy is lovely and picturesque. After that it becomes a purely industrial landscape, with large sections of the cycle path removed, and the diversions not always obvious. If this section is just utilitarian for you, then it’s fine. It’s mostly flat, save for railway and road bridges. But if you’re planning on using your precious annual leave on a cycling holiday in this area, then avoid it.

Once past Maastricht, the power stations and piles of aggregate eased off, and the scenery was quite pretty, in a canal kind of way. We were riding into the prevailing wind though, and some sections are very open and exposed, plus the industrial dust is much worse in the wind. It was strength sapping and a bit disheartening. We were getting demoralised that so many cyclists were passing us, some of them easily, until we noticed that they all had electric bikes, which we started to eye with envy.

In Ohé en Laak, we met with a friend from home, Paul. It was very kind of him to come out of his way, and good for us to see a friendly face. Unfortunately he confirmed that absolutely everything shuts on Sundays and holidays in Germany, as it had done in Belgium and the Netherlands. Not the best news with a national holiday that weekend and us running short of supplies. We’ve also met some other cyclists at campsites in the Netherlands – a Danish guy who is riding to Spain and back over the summer because he wants to see Andorra, and a Dutch couple heading for a tour in Northern France.

Just past Roermond, we took a turn to the East, and the relief of not having the wind in our faces was instant. A large chunk of that day was spent riding through a nature reserve and forest. It was tough going, but I found it interesting after long days of very open countryside and same-ish scenery. Richard hated it. It had been forecast heavy rain all day, but it only caught us on the very last bit of trail, which was incredibly lucky, as we would have really struggled to get our heavy bikes through wet sand and mud paths.

Our route from here is to get on the Rhein river and start following that South, hopefully leaving the headwinds in the past.

Just a note for anyone visiting the Netherlands outside of the big tourist areas: Visa and Mastercard (either debit or credit cards) are not commonly accepted. The Dutch use the Maestro system almost exclusively, so if you don’t have a card with that symbol on it, you are unlikely to be able to pay by card in shops and restaurants. You will need to use cash (cash machines do accept Visa and Mastercard, though fat chance of finding one.)

The Netherlands is flat

Playlist for EuroVelo 19:

Belgium Is Not Flat

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 flat part of Belgium, fooling us.

A playlist from the ride through France and Belgium:

On Your Marks, Get Set, Slow.

We had a smooth ferry crossing and a pleasant, but unremarkable couple of days in France. The highlight was trying some bambaloni, a kind of Tunisian beignet. The lowlight was that my sleeping mat has a slow puncture, so by the morning I’m essentially sleeping on just the floor. We can’t find the hole, and the mat is over 10 years old, so I’ve ordered one to be picked up at a camping store in Belgium. Negotiating that conversation in Flemish is going to be fun.  

Our last night in France we stayed at a really friendly campsite, where the owner saw us off with coffee and cake. We were surprised by a bit of a savage climb out of town, but reassured that the local club riders were also huffing and puffing in their low gears. The next hill was thankfully in the shade on a day that got to 24 degrees, and we’d stashed some pastries to eat at halfway as a secret weapon. We both got badly sunburnt, but we wouldn’t be Brits abroad without becoming bright red at some point. We arrived completely exhausted at camp, but the hosts were incredibly welcoming and they had the best shower block and largest beer menu we’ve seen at a campsite. There were also some goats. We had a couple of strong beers and couldn’t be arsed to cook that night, so ate at the cafe on site because they served bitterballen, one of about 950 foods that I cannot resist. It rained heavily most of the night and almost all of the next day. Camping in the rain in a muddy field is godawful, which meant more beer to set us right again.

Today has been a bit mixed. Some beautiful flat countryside, some poignant stops at WW1 cemeteries, a hail storm and a quiche.

We’ll continue making our way sloooooowly through Belgium and trying all the beers we can.

Some cabbages and Richard

Do you REALLY need to take that? (Yes.)

Less than a week before departure, and the eve of Eurovision.

Even though this is without any doubt what we want to do, it’s about now that all the worries have started to kick in. What if we have too much stuff? What if we don’t have enough stuff? What if I get rabies? Will I lose touch with my friends? Should we have learned how to fix our bikes? I won’t wear jeans again for ages, how do I feel about that? And on and on.

We’ve been getting some good rides in this past week, but even though we’re feeling much more buoyant about our capabilities, there’s a slight concern about getting up the ferry ramp at Dover. We’re now doing some equipment shakedowns. We knew the tent had a slight hole in it, but we now can’t find it to patch it up (slightly worrying,) panniers are good to go, the stove seems to work and we have everything we need. Richard has discovered that I’m taking a pocket shower (non negotiable) because if we wild camp I still need to wash my hair. I also may have accidently thrown out most of his socks.

Ferry tickets are booked with DFDS, which sounds like we’re travelling by sofa. By our next update we will probably be on our way, starting with a beer tour in Belgium. What could go wrong mixing beer with cycling?

Home sweet home