Leaving the UK (again!)
Saturday morning and I finally finished fixing up the bike after the arrival of new pannier straps. Time to say goodbye to Tim and Irene who have looked after me so well and get back on the road, heading for Ramsgate and the ferry to Ostende. It felt good to be back on the bike, albeit my legs were struggling to remember what they’re supposed to do.
It’s cold, very cold. I suppose I’ve been spoilt by the warmth I experienced in Africa, yet I’m finding the cold a shock to my system and not coping as well as I should. The flu has all but gone, except for the dribbly nose and cough which is helping me to clear my chest of the mucus lying there. I weighed myself at Tim’s and was surprised to find I was just 62 kg, my lowest ever weight as an adult. Probably explains why I was feeling so weak and I think it may have something to do with my underlying illness, because I am certainly eating enough. I’m taking it easy though and will continue and see if I can rebuild my strength, I’ll know when the weather improves just how I’m doing.
I had decided to use the BETA version of google maps cycling route to get me to Ramsgate and was a little surprised when once I clicked the bike icon it immediately added an extra 9 miles to the route (making 90 miles in total). I soon learned why – It is totally useless. Being sent down roads with no exits, routed away from perfectly good cycle lanes and generally sent zig-zagging all over the countryside, I soon abandoned following the GPS and just used the road signs and cycle lanes. They need to do a lot more work with this before it will be useful.
I camped after 50 miles, settling down with my evening meal of pasta and mackerel, finished off with fresh fruit. I was warm enough inside my tent as the wind howled outside turning my water bottles to ice and I eventually drifted off to sleep. I awoke early to the sound of church bells, remembering that today was Easter Sunday. I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to attend church and give thanks, certainly after being cared for these last weeks. Breakfast was sorted, everything packed away and I rode on looking for a church. I didn’t have to go far as I’d just followed the sound of the bells into Sittingbourne.
Back on the bike and I made good time, arriving at Ramsgate a little after 4 p.m. Then the bad news, no bicycles on the ferries from this port – apparently not for some time either. I was tired and not really feeling like cycling to Dover (another 18 miles) but decided it would be sensible to do so, find somewhere to camp, then get the morning ferry to Calais. After checking out the ferry port I managed to find a decent camping spot in a farmers field, sheltered by huge bales of hay and finished putting up the tent just as darkness fell. This time there was no ice to clear from the tent and it was nice to pack everything away dry, then make my way to the ferry terminal and a ticket (£25) on P&O ferries across the channel to Calais.
On leaving the ferry I was met with a ferocious headwind as I headed east towards Ypres. It was slow going and I didn’t get far before I decided to start looking for a camp, demoralised and cold. Ypres was just 38 km away and on another day without the wind I would have made it to the campsite, but tonight I finally just pulled off the road and camped under some trees. No need to worry about the noise from traffic as it was drowned out by the wind.
Next morning and it had eased a little, though not enough to make for good riding. I didn’t see much of the route as I rode head down, only looking up as I approached the Belgium border, the guard house not used any more.
I rolled into Ypres just after lunchtime, easily finding the tourist information office and a map of the town which showed the campsite. Tent was put up without hassle and the shopping done, then lunch and a shower before trying to get the wifi working without any success. So into town and a pint of Belgium beer and free wifi, where I’m writing this update from.
For those that are wondering, I chose this route into Europe because I have decided to visit the World War I battlefields of Ypres Salient and make a tour of the area. I’ve always been fascinated by both the first and second world wars and once I saw the area I would be passing through I started planning my trip. Tim is very knowledgeable about the area having visited on numerous occasions and I found his help in planning the trip invaluable, not to mention the guide book and (battlefield) map I purchased from the internet. I’ll update the blog in the coming days on how this all goes.
Having eaten, cleaned up, had a beer and generally looked around I’m in better spirits than when I arrived and the campsite looks comfortable. Ypres is truly beautiful and I WILL take lot’s of photos. 🙂