Westvleteren - Day 3
Last nights' camping spot.
I left when the sun came up and bought breakfast two hours later. I tried to get my wallet out of my pockets but couldn't because my fingers were still frozen. Afterward, I continued to Gent, which was easy because there was a 'Gentse weg (=road)', so I followed that. It was a three-lane road, but after 5 kilometers it reached a small village and split into a few small dirt roads with no signs. After taking a wrong turn three times and only finding out in the next town, I continued in the right direction. There were also many towns with strange names like 'Zeveren' and even 'Nazareth', making it seem even more like a pilgrimage.
The cycling path to Zeveren
No star but a traffic sign indicating the way to Nazareth.
After another industrial area I got lost again. Fortunately, there was a rare map by the side of the road. Unfortunately, there was no indication of my location on that map. In Belgium, they not only don't put down any signs, but the ones that do exist are as useless as possible. Another map I saw had an enormous 'you are here' sticker over its location; it was so big I still couldn't tell where I was in that 10 km radius. After accidentally guessing the right way, I passed a bread vending machine. I didn't need bread but was curious about how the machine worked. I bought what was advertised as 'Danish bread', which was pretty bad.
Then I continued towards Gent. I passed a brewing kettle with the logo of Duvel beer, but that brewery was entirely elsewhere. I will visit it some other time.
Then I came to a canal with many people waiting in front of a metal construction. I wanted to cycle over the bridge, but to my surprise, there was no road. It turned out that the entire road got lifted when a boat needed to pass.
I continued towards Lier. Along the way, I passed a supermarket. I still had yet to eat Bart and my usual cycling-vacation-food baguette with chocolate spread, so it was time to buy some. I noticed they also sold Oasis, the lemonade we always drank in France. Unfortunately, they didn't also have the ground-up duck we often ate. To my surprise, they sold actual Kwatta chocolate spread (see the story about our cycling trip in the Veluwe). I didn't know that it still existed. Only when I got outside I remembered I had been carrying a whole bread as well. However, the nice thing about baguettes is that you can easily eat them while cycling.
After passing through Lier I reached Herentals. I (again) had to ask for directions here because only Brussels and Antwerp were indicated. On the way to Kasterlee I realized I had cycled entirely around it on the way out. That didn't matter, though. From Kasterlee it would only be another 50 km to get home. There also were 'mushroom' signs with directions. This was one of them:
It clearly indicates Kasterlee being 8 km to the right. It indeed was 8 km, but not to Kasterlee. It took 8 km before I returned to the sign because the right road didn't go to Kasterlee but the left one. On the way out, my goal had been to drink Trappist in Westvleteren; on the way back, I had set the goal to eat ice cream in Postel (for the people who have never been there, the ice cream cones there are about the size of your head). When I got close I saw an ice cream van drive home, so I feared the worst. I remember how Stefan and Bojan had canceled their trip because of the dire weather predictions for Tuesday. I decided to take some pictures of the horrible weather; I was completely sunburned from all the rain and storms.
I passed a man who started talking about how fast I cycled; then he realized I also carried two panniers. He asked if I had been gone for a single day or longer. That was probably good because it meant I still looked half-human, which hasn't always been the case after my 'vacations'. Then I arrived in Postel...everything was closed. Then straight to home. I was super tired but also 'proud' I made it, even though it was partly my fault it had been so challenging. When I got home, I went straight to the shower and slept until the morning. I did take a selfie. It turned out to be out of focus, but that is probably for the best.