17 April 2012

France and Belgium Tour, Day 2

On day two of our cycle tour in France and Belgium started with the now-familiar sound of rain on the roof of our tent. We tried our trick of going back to sleep and lo and behold, the rain had stopped by about 9am! We packed up the tent, at a small snack, and rode back through Bruges, turning along a canal and heading south.

About 10km later, we reached the town of Oostkamp, where we decided to stop for a coffee. As we sat down at the cafe, we realised it was nearly 12, so we decided to have lunch as well. The staff spoke very little English but we managed to have a  really yummy meal before getting started again. With still well over 100km to go, we were anxious to make a real start.

We enjoyed cycling through Belgium's quiet country lanes and even some of it's bigger roads, which, almost universally, had amazing, separated cycle lanes. We seemed to be flying along much faster than on Day 1. We took a wrong turn and had to retrace our steps, and we realised why -- we had a tailwind! That was good news considering we had a relatively long day ahead of us.

Quiet roads south of Oostkamp
Late in the afternoon, we were cycling along a D road in the cycle lane, when we noticed a few cars with bikes on the top fly past us, followed by a police motorcycle. We decided to pull over, and a few minutes later a cycle race came flying past!

Unnanounced machacas
We stood and watched the race go by for a few minutes. There weren't any teams that we recognised but they were clearly at least semi-professional. I guess that's just what happens in Belgium! We carried on to Sint Denijs where we stopped for some cakes at a bakery, and ate them sitting in a bus shelter, in true audax style! We were really enjoying the ride by this time, as we had a few more hills to break up the miles and some cute towns to admire as we passed.

We had been cycling roughly parallel to the French border for much of the day, and we finally crossed the border near Callenelle at around 6pm. We knew we'd be cutting it fine to make sure we got food and reached camp before dark, but we were enjoying riding through a Natural Park area and got our first taste of the pavé (cobblestones) that we had travelled to this region to see.

Crossing into France!

We stopped at a supermarket in Mortagne du Nord where Alberto went in to pick up some dinner items while I watched the bikes. He came back out with a week's worth of shopping! I have no idea how we managed to carry it all, luckily it was only 5km or so.

Not amused by my new cargo!
Before we knew it we had arrived at our campsite outside of St Amand Les Eaux, just in time to set up camp in the fading light. We enjoyed our store-bought dinner and drifted off to sleep.

The stats for day two: 137km over 7 hours and 15 minutes of moving time (and 1:45 stopped time); a moving average of 18.9 kph.

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