Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cycletrip Day 3: Diest - Namur

I think we held our breath for the first few kilometres. As we rode along the paths leading us away from the town, some of which were a little bumpy, we crossed all our bits in the hope that the work of Mister What's His Face with the Nuts and Bolts would see us through. At least today. Just give us one day, little cart. At his bike shop, we had also taken the step of buying some pannier bags to go on Claire's bike, so as to offload the overworked and slightly-disabled karretje.

Gradually we stopped looking at the connection every two seconds (although any chance in surface we took very slowly), and began to enjoy what was going on around us. The path was pretty flat and straight for the most part, and the sun was shining across the green fields of the Belgian countryside. We stopped for a snacky here and there (Marjan's sandwiches still going strong), and found the route we needed pretty easily, following the bible book and the various knooppunten along the way. Knooppunten are little numbers inside green circles, and each one has arrows pointing in the direction of possible following knooppunten that one might be searching for.

Lunch break, Jodoigne
At Jodoigne we stopped by the side of the road to have a lunch break under some trees. Lads in lycra who had stayed at the same hotel as us the night before road past, zooming along on their way to Barcelona doing double our speed, but with about a quarter of our weight and more fancy-schmancy but less lovely bikes, obviously. They were jealous of our sandwiches and chocolate too, I'm sure.

There were moments of pure joy along the straight straight path all the way through to Namur. Sun through trees and smooth paths guided us. There was a brief torrential downpour, but we were conveniently located near a bridge under which we could shelter and put on our sexy rain gear. I felt like I was becoming some sort of weather-reader-woman (which of course I wasn't), judging the movement of clouds and making silent bargains with them, most of which they didn't seem to come at.

Ten kilometres from Namur we were both going at snail's pace against the wind. We remarked to each other that energy levels were feeling pretty low, then the Dutch In Lycra came past again, with some positive, peppy words of encouragement about how close we were to Namur. I'm not sure they helped too much, but our stop for a stretch and the winning banana-chocolate snack attack combination certainly did. The last few kilometres were lovely.

We reached a busy highway in Namur, took 5 to re-orientate ourselves, then found our way down to the river (not before another spectacular fall off the bike from Claire- it's hard when your feet are numb and the bags on your bike are heavy). The surface of the path along the river was a bit bumpy for our liking, so we walked a bit of it. It was a very pretty stretch along that river, old houses either side and numerous quaint cobbled bridges. We came up from the river path in order to cross one of these bridges, just as the rain started to pour again. Taking shelter under a car park entrance, I watched a woman watching the rain from a window a few storeys up on the other side of the street. She looked at me, and did three quite similar movements with one of her hands, and I nodded. It was easy to understand the message being conveyed: “Dear me. Look at this rain. It's a bit crap.”

As the rain slowed, we hopped on the bikes again, and just a little ride down the way found our resting place for the night- a nice hostel overlooking yet another river. We washed up and warmed up, and felt really pleased we had made it. The beers in the bar downstairs were delicious (and can I say I bloody LOVE how everywhere in Belgium gives a little bowl of something salty with your drinks- it feels like such a bonus!), and we were pretty buggered so even ate dinner there like lazy buggers. It did have nice views of the river outside as the sun set, though, and we could have a laugh at the 25 Dutch kids hassling the woman behind the desk about their washing every 17 seconds.

Day's stats
Diest, Belgium - Namur, Belgium
Left 9.30am, arrived 6pm
Distance travelled: 83km
Conditions: nervousness giving way to pride
Funniest bits: "But... do we have to go through Longchamps?" becoming the catchphrase; a million questions about washing from the kids and increasing frustration from the poor lady working

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