France - Day 1 : A good beginning
The morning we were departing was not great. It was raining quite a bit. I wore my long trousers and bicycling jacket, the warmest clothes I would bring.
This entire week I had been busy packing stuff on my bike and then removing the things I didn't really need. When I was ready to go to Bram around 8:00 I noticed the bicycle repairman hadn't properly installed my front luggage. The bolt with which it was attached was way too long and could only barely screw in. Luckily I saw this before I left, because we wouldn't be carrying the tools required to fix it.
After repairing it I was ready to leave. It was raining quite a bit, but wasn't all too cold. Bram only carried two bags, those contained everything he said he would need for 3 weeks. Before we left in the rain we first took some pictures.
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 already took the first wrong turn, we thought, but it only added 100 meters. During last years' trip we typically cycled about 40 km before 1 o'clock. Today we had already travelled 57 km before noon, so we decided it was time for some food. 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, which we would really appreciate later, as well as chocolate paste and eggs.
After Tongeren the road became more hilly. It was still raining. Before we arrived in Amay there was a car with loudspeakers announcing a cycling race. We didn't move aside but just kept cycling. 'The cycling vacation stops for no-one' just like the Tour de France. There were a lot of cars next to the road as well as some people. Some were cheering us on. After a while we had apparently left the race track. In Amay's center people were getting reading for the race, a Belgian woman said we had a lot of 'courage'.
The entire day had consisted of level roads, until now. Amay lies at a low elevation, close to a river. There we encountered a steep, wet descent which was really unpleasant. We couldn't really break hard because then we would fall, but if we would break too little we would overshoot the corners. Eventually we reached a much larger road, towards Marche-en-Famenne. It was a 2-lane road with a middle section that we had to follow for 25 km.
After about 130 km we were ready for some hot food, only we 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. We walked to the trough. Bram wanted to put the filter in but didn't realize that the barbed wire next to it was electrified. That was quite a shock, literally. The filter worked pretty well and after a few minutes we had enough water to cook. We stepped over the barbed wire extra carefully this time.
Near the meadow we found a bench. Went the pasta water was lukewarm, we discovered there was a party tent across the road where we could find some shelter. With the pan in one hand and our bikes in the other we crossed the road. Of course the tent lay just behind a fence, we should have known, but there was another shelter. The water didn't taste weird, so probably it was fine. Just before Marche-en-Famenne we wanted to visit a gas station at the opposite side of the road. The road was 5 lanes wide at this point, so it took forever to cross.
We decided to make a small detour to visit Rochefort. We needed to go all the way around Marche, but eventually made it. There was supposedly a campsite. It did exist, but there was no front desk. The campsite was in the middle of a makeover, the showers and toilet were just finished. We just pitched our tents somewhere as we couldn't find anywhere to pay or register. There was a guy in a nearby mobile home that kept watching us, even when we both looked straight at him.
Because we cycled faster than expected we already arrived by 20:00. That gave us time to drink a good Rochefort Trappist. It was pretty nice there, the beer came with Rochefort cheese.
We went to bed on time.
It tasted pretty good
The route of the 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