Westvleteren - Day 2
My bivy bag is supposed to be waterproof, but I had noticed that when it rained very hard some water would seep in, probably because puddles would form on the zippers. This time it leaked a lot worse than usual. The zippers might have been in a bad position, although it also looked like their glue started to let go. As it was cold, I went on my way again quickly. My phone had gotten wet, so the following pictures look blurry.
I again passed a bank and tried to get some cash, which again didn't work. Fortunately, I managed to get some at the next one, so I could survive. I wanted to buy food at the local supermarket but discovered it was closed. That was strange. Then I reached the center of Zottegem and realized it was only 7 o'clock. That explained a lot. Later I bought some bread and continued cycling through backroads and farmer fields. The route was nice, but I wasn't sure if I was going in the right direction. That didn't matter as I had more than enough time. There also was a nice part with real Belgium cobblestones. Not those pretty ones you sometimes see on tv, but those with 5 cm spacing and height difference. Afterward, I felt like I had finished Paris-Roubaix and was completely shaken apart. I decided to just navigate by the sun and see where I ended up. After a few hours, I discovered I was only 3 km south of the town I was aiming for.
Encouraged by my success, I continued navigating using the sun. I ended up in the center of Kortrijk, which is a strange city. I passed through it in 45 minutes and there was construction EVERYWHERE. Finally, I found the right road to Izegem where I asked for directions to Ierp. It was about 30 km away. I started to really want a nice Westvleteren beer and felt tired. I forced myself to eat again and put on some warmer clothes. Upon arriving in Ierp, I saw a sign saying 'fat intestine blood sausage', suddenly I wasn't that hungry anymore.
In Ierp were again no signs. I asked four people for directions, and they all gave me a different answer. Fortunately, I found a map showing Westvleteren, another 30 km away. It was precisely in the direction the wind was coming from. This was actually useful because I could use it to orientate, although there are better ways to do so. After a while I arrived, which felt great although there was no sign of an abbey.
The border of Westvleteren
The Abbay was another 5 km away, through open fields with gale force headwind. Eventually, I made it. The people there looked a bit surprised when they saw me. There was little to see at the abbey because there was a big wall around it. However, there also was the bar 'In peace' where you could drink Westvleteren.
The Westvleteren abbey
The bar 'In peace"
I entered and sat down with a big smile on my face. The bar sold a few different types of beer: Westvleteren blond, brown 8, and brown 12. The last one had the strongest flavor and the most alcohol, so the choice was easily made. The waiter came to bring me my well-earned Westvleteren, for which I had cycled +300 km through rain and wind.
I took a big sip and immediately felt myself relax. By the time I had finished the glass, I was even more relaxed than before; I had made it! Afterward, I had a look in the store. I wanted to buy a box with all three types of Westvleteren Trappist and a glass, but I didn't carry enough cash and couldn't pay by card. I just got the glass instead; it was the journey that mattered anyway. There was a map at the store showing all Trappist breweries (Chimay, Westvleteren, Westmalle, Achel, Rochefort, Orval, and La Trappe), and my hometown of Westerhoven was also indicated.
A map indicating all trappist breweries.
Westerhoven was also shown.
When I went back outside, I saw that the clear blue sky had turned into rain. This wasn't great as I had left my panniers open so my sleeping bag could dry. Now it was even wetter than before. The wind had also turned, so I still wouldn't have it from behind. I decided to cycle as far back as possible today so that I would make it home by tomorrow. Spending three days and nights in the rain isn't too bad, but it is if you can't dry anything. Cycling went well, this time I passed through the center of Ierp, where there was a big church.
Around 21:30, I passed Izegem and started looking for a place to sleep. There was a protected forest in the area, which looked promising. That night I slept without my sleeping bag and mattress because they were too wet. I did keep my clothes on. It again rained super hard throughout the night. No water came through my bivy bag, but I still wasn't warm because it was wet.