As we sat having our campers’ breakfast in our room this morning, what was Steve watching on TV? He discovered an Australian series! I think it was called Packed to the Rafters. I didn’t watch it when it was on at home, but apparently it was super popular and Steve discovered it this morning, on Belgian TV! So he got his soapy/drama fix. Between you and me, I think one of the reasons we’ve been staying in hotels is because Steve is secretly hoping he’ll find a subtitled episode of The Waltons on telly, so he can find out what happened to Jim-Bob. Sadly, no luck yet, so this morning he got his fix with Aussie drama instead. I left Steve in peace with Rebecca Gibney and read my book 😊
When all was well again in the Rafter household, we packed up the bikes and set off into the streets of Ghent. I found the traffic situation really confusing. No traffic lights and many intersections didn’t have give-way signs or markings, so I had no idea who was supposed to give way to who and who had right of way. The cars, bikes, buses, pedestrians and trams all seemed to be mingling together and everyone knew what was going on and what they were supposed to do, it was just the Tasmanian that was completely clueless! At times it felt almost as hairy as London, because I was looking every which way, making sure I wasn’t getting in the way of traffic because I had no idea when I had right of way. In amongst all this, there were also the tram lines just waiting to grab hold of a front wheel and send the confused Tasmanian crashing to the ground. The drivers were great though, stopping to let us cross roads and letting us into traffic, so we got through the streets unscathed. Steve did a superb job of navigating our way out of the city, with conflicting messages being given between signs and the direction the map was telling us to go. In the end, we made it out of the city centre and onto the LF5 cycle route, that would lead us to Bruges.
We passed people who gave us a wave and a smile and it always gives the day an added brightness when that happens, or when people return my greetings. The cycle path took us beside the river and then out on to country roads. It was lovely. This was our first taste of the Belgian countryside and our first ride out of cities or city surroundings. We passed farmland, rode through avenues of trees, through quiet streets with charming houses and then beside the river again. It was a terrific ride. The only slight downside was that Bully Boris the Big Black Cloud tracked us down and dumped on us again! I thought he’d had his fun yesterday but noooo, why stop at one day, when you can chase the two cyclists for another day and have some fun playing ‘Precipitate on the Pedallers’ again.
By the time elevenses rolled around, we were in need of some shelter, so we took refuge under an overpass bridge and had our snack leaning up against the wall. It’s probably not the most comfortable elevenses we’ve had, but we were at least hiding from Bully Boris.
The good news was, the camera spluttered back to life. It was still behaving strangely and flicking between settings with a life of its own, but so far it’s remaining very ill, rather than becoming completely deceased. Maybe it’s just tired of being rained on and wet too and just needs some time to dry out and let all its inner bits feel dry rather than always being on the verge of damp. We have looked back at our records and of the fourteen days we’ve been back on mainland Europe, it’s rained for twelve of them! Hear that… 12/14 days it’s rained! We left the rain and cold of England in search of warmer weather and we’ve discovered more rain! This is why we’ve had such a hard time camping, the weather has made many things more difficult. In fact of the last 23 days, we’ve had rain for 18 of them! There’s a pattern that’s made to be broken.
We passed some more roadside vending machines selling bread and then I came upon one and stopped. This one had jars of homemade jam, so I stopped to buy a jar, since I hadn’t bought any local products so far in Belgium. That would do nicely on a rice cake for lunch.
On we rode, by the river, saying hello and waving to passing cyclists and watching the barges chug along the water. It was nice to be back in the countryside and look around and see the fields and trees and open space. Delightful. With about 10km to go, we stopped at a bench for a quick lunch. Steve got off his bike and said, “I’m officially over it! I was just riding along and thinking, that’s it, I’m over it, officially. I’m over riding under grey skies, in wind and cold, I want some warm weather.” We’ve handled some pretty vile weather in places in the last six months, we’ve ridden in gales and pouring rain and thunder storms and done it all with the acceptance that the weather, good or bad, is just what you take when you’re travelling this way. Regardless of the weather, we’ve just powered on. There comes a time though, when a change to some fine, warm conditions would make the journey that little more pleasant and enable us to see places in all their glory, rather than their grey. It’s not that we can’t take the weather, it’s just that a change would be nice! We’ll have to make some decisions over the next week and decide if we are riding on in the direction we’d planned, or do some leap frogging South to find some warmer weather. I guess that’s part of how we travel, we make things up as we go, so plans can change in the blink of an eye and the turn of a wheel! That’s freedom travel!
We pedalled the remaining few kilometres into Bruges, totalling only 47km for the day. We found our hotel and the bikes, unfortunately, have had to be stored in the underground car park at the train station next door. Hopefully they’ll be safe and happy there. With the afternoon all but gone, there wasn’t much time left for roaming, so we decided to spend some time on the necessary housekeeping and walked the few kilometres to the nearest laundrette and settled in to watch the laundry tumble and roll. On the way back, we had a nice stroll through a park, the sun was coming out and it was a lovely evening walk amongst the trees.
Today was also a little personal milestone, well more of a little anniversary really. Today marks one year since I made the switch to being vegan, after 25 years of being vegetarian. So today is my ‘V Day’! It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and only wish I’d made the switch a lot sooner. I love reading about all the elite athletes who are vegan, and while I’m certainly no athlete, I love that I’m able to do the exercise I love, like running, or riding the bike 5000+ km around Europe, all fuelled by plants.
Tomorrow we’ll begin our exploration of Bruges. The sun is supposed to shine, so we will roam and stroll and wander and look and wonder and discover and enjoy experiencing another new place. We have already seen the beauty of Belgium, and I’m sure there are many more gems to be mined here. We’re going to have fun digging for those sparkles!