Well I am in Mons on what should be my last night in Belgium and thanks to Nico, what could have been a 77km leg with a stop over in Brugge became a thoroughly enjoyable ten days, with almost 500km of cycling through lovely villages and forests and along some amazing canals.
Admittedly for the three days at Nico’s we were pretty lazy. Saturday saw us have lunch, a ride through the local forest and a tub of delicious home made ice cream to recover. Sunday was lounging around and dinner at Nico’s parents. On Monday we caught the train into Brussels where we caught up with Pieter (another Te Araroa survivor) for some minimal sightseeing with a long lunch and evening drinks.
Most of the time was spent discussing adventures past, present and future. Reliving trails in NZ, Nico’s recent trip to Morocco, Pieter’s trek along the French side of the Pyrenees and a huge list of potential rides and walks that lay ahead.
It was great to be with kindred souls and not to feel (or be told) that we must be slightly crazy to even consider these trips.
I set off from Nico’s on Tuesday morning after he was called into work and we shared the trail – as the first part was on his way to work. A phone call shortly after we started meant he had the day off after all, so we shared the ride through some lovely forests and pastures until 10km before Tienen where we said our farewells.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable four days and my thanks to Nico, his family, and Pieter for their hospitality.
From Tienen I continued south via the forest/pasture trail to Numar where I switched to following canals – firstly La Sambre from Namur to Charleroi (where I stayed last night) and today the Charleroi-Bruxelles Canal and Canal du Centre to Mons.
While the first two were clearly once rivers, it wasn’t long before I realised that the Canal du Centre was definitely a human creation. A 200m long over pass (where the canal crossed OVER a valley) was the first hint, but the ten story high barge elevator I encountered a few kilometres later left me in awe – or more to the point optimistic. A species with the ingenuity and aspiration to be capable of creating such a remarkable structure will survive whatever the ideologues throw at it. Knowledge will prevail!
I reached Mons at about 2:30pm so had a chance to have a good wander around. It’s a lovely little city.
I will continue along the canals tomorrow crossing into France at Maulde. From there who knows!
Having poured over maps at Nico’s my first dilemma was that while there were a number of nice looking routes to France, they all come to an abrupt halt at the border. Maulde is as close to the general direction I want to go to get to Nantes.
Other than stopping at Giverny to visit Monet’s garden I have no firm plans. I don’t need to be at Nantes till the 9th of September (the 10th and 11th are a weekend) so I have 22days to cover what would be 623km by the most direct route, before I drop the bike of for a service and get the train to Paris. So basically I will wander around.
I had thought some classic Tour de France routes might be the go, but all the routes I have looked at include long freeway sections and my guess is that they won’t close them to cars while I pass through (seriously these professional cyclists are so pampered).
So if anyone knows of any nice villages between Maulde and Nantes please let me know.
Best wishes to all.