France - Day 1 : A good beginning
It was raining quite a lot when we departed. I wore my long trousers and a bicycling jacket, the warmest clothes I would bring. I had been packing gear on my bike the entire week and removing the items I didn't need. When I was ready to go to Bram around 8:00, I noticed the bicycle repairman hadn't properly installed my front carrier. The bolt with which it was attached was way too long and only barely screwed into the frame. Luckily, I noticed this before I left because we wouldn't be carrying the tools to fix it.
After repairing it, I was finally ready to leave. It was raining, but not too cold. Bram only carried two bags containing everything he claimed to need for three weeks of cycling. Before leaving in the rain, we first took some photos.
It was raining hard but we were excited to go.
Another picture to show the amount of luggage we carried.
The first part went pretty fast, a straight road through to Hasselt in Belgium. There we took our first wrong turn, we thought, but it only added 100 meters. We typically cycled around 40 km before 1 o'clock during last year's trip. Today, we had already traveled 57 km before noon, so we decided it was time for lunch. We sat down on a bench in front of a church. It was still raining. The churchgoers looked pretty confused upon seeing us outside in the rain. We had a simple brown bread as well as Nutella and eggs.
After Tongeren, the road became more hilly, and it was still raining. In a town near Amay was a car announcing a cycling race. As there were no cyclists in sight, we just continued cycling. 'The cycling vacation stops for no one' just like the Tour de France. There were a lot of cars and people along the road. Some were even cheering for us. After a while, we had apparently left the race track. People were getting ready for the race in the village center, and a Belgian woman told us we had a lot of 'courage'.
The entire day consisted of flat roads until then. Amay lay at a low elevation, close to a river. We had to go down a steep, wet descent to reach it, which was really unpleasant. We couldn't brake hard because then we would slip, but if we would brake too little, we would overshoot the corners. Eventually, we reached a much larger road, towards Marche-en-Famenne. It was a two-lane road that we had to follow for 25 km.
After about 130 km, we were ready for some hot food but didn't have enough water to cook our pasta. We found a drinking trough for cows. That would be a good test for the water filter Bram had brought. Bram walked to the through and wanted to put the filter in. However, he didn't realize that the adjacent barbed wire was electrified. That was quite a shock, literally. The filter worked well, and after a few minutes, we had enough water to cook dinner. We stepped back over the barbed wire extra carefully.
We found a bench near the meadow. When the pasta water was lukewarm, we noticed a party tent across the road where we could find shelter from the train. We crossed the road with the pan in one hand and our bikes in the other. Of course, the tent lay just behind a fence. However, we found a second shelter. The water didn't taste weird, so hopefully, it was OK to drink. Just before Marche-en-Famenne, we wanted to visit a gas station on the opposite side of the road. The road was five lanes wide and took forever to cross.
We decided to make a slight detour to visit the Trappist brewery at Rochefort. We needed to cycle all the way around Marche but eventually made it. There was supposedly a campsite. It did exist, but surprisingly, it had no front desk. The campsite was apparently in the middle of a makeover, as the showers and toilet were also barely finished. We simply pitched our tents somewhere as we couldn't find any place to register or pay. A guy in a nearby mobile home kept watching us, even when we both looked straight at him.
Because we cycled faster than expected, we had already arrived by 20:00, giving us time to drink a good Rochefort Trappist. It was pretty nice there. The beer also came with Rochefort cheese.
We went to bed early.
It tasted pretty good
The route of our first day. Only in Amay and Hasselt, we took a few wrong turns.
From Tongeren onwards, it became more hilly.
Distance 181.92 km
Average speed 20.6 km/h
Maximum speed 63 km/h