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France - Day 1 : A good beginning

It was raining quite a lot when we departed. I wore my long trousers and bicycling jacket, the warmest clothes I would bring. The entire week I had been busy packing gear on my bike and then removing the items 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 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 he would need for 3 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. During last years' trip we would typically cycle around 40 km before 1 o'clock. Today we had already travelled 57 km before noon, so we decided it was time for some 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. In the village center people were getting reading for the race and a Belgian woman told us we had a lot of 'courage'.


The entire day had consisted of flat roads, until then. Amay lay at a low elevation, close to a river. To reach it we had to go down a steep, wet descent 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, 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. 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 there was a party tent across the road where we could find some shelter from the train. 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. However, we found a second shelter. The water didn't taste weird so hopefully it was fine to drink. 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 and took forever to cross.


We decided to make a small 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 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. 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 had already arrived by 20:00. That gave 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

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