Though the holiday is not technically over – I have another three days off – the cycling days are over, so it’s time for a summary. I’m not sure what kind of feeling you get from my daily posts, but remember that they are always written pretty late in the day when I’m half asleep. The general conclusion is that trekking in the rain can still be fun if you have the right gear!
Currently I’m sitting in my Grandma’s living room, where she and my Mom are playing Scrabble – occasionally I have to consult the dictionary. Ideal, because I can ask my Mom for any details I don’t quite remember and my Grandma about any details about this area. Soon I’ll have to head out in the bad weather to get milk and cream: we’re making waffles! Later today my husband Arne will come and pick us up: we will load the bags in the car, the bikes on the rack and return to Antwerp, so we’re skipping the rest of the planned route through Zeeland. I don’t know what’s up with the knees, but since they’re warm to the touch and a bit swollen, I suspect that rest is required. No worries, I’m Zen about it, we had three fun days in the rain and I’ll find something equally fun – but more easy on the knees – to do for the two remaining days of my holiday.
Due to meticulous preparation, we had delicious food every day. I had selected the best lunch spot and added it to the route, as well as a grocery store right before the camping. On top of that, we packed good chocolate, healthy snacks (nuts and nut bars), good choco paste, tea and coconut butter for baking.
Notes about Packing
There’s only two items that we packed but didn’t use: the folding chairs and the actual tent. We felt that these items were particularly unmissable:
- a travel pillow
- a good cooking set, including sporks, a metal fork to use in the pan and coconut butter for baking
- decent watertight layers, we used Gore-Tex
- a laptop to load/sort pictures and write a blog – this takes me a few hours every day
- decent navigation: Mom used to have a Garmin Edge but the battery was worn out, so I did some research, even called Garmin for advice and in the end we decided to move to navigation on smart phone. A decent smart phone these days is watertight and can easily be mounted on the front bar. We use ridewithgps, prep the trip on the online platform and use the app for turn-by-turn navigation
- extra battery and short CEE plug: this allows you to plug into the electricity network on a camping, charge all your smart stuff as well as the extra battery, which you can then use during the day to charge the smart phone again.
When you drive through Flanders by car, you see nothing but houses and industry because we’ve always tended towards ribbon development. If you take the bike and follow the bike trails along canals and railroads you see a whole other side: long stretches reserved for nature, surrounded by fields and pastures.
We encountered masses of birds:
- arrows of geese in the sky
- moorhens – easily scared
- stately cormorants, noisy when they take off from water
- different kinds of ducks
- pheasants – calling out from hidden places and once a large group of hens strolling around the grassy verge of the path
In West-Flanders we also encountered masses of vegetables and had fun trying to identify them:
- leek was easiest to recognize
- maize is easy as well, both in its highest incarnation right before moving as in its lowest, right after
- brussels sprouts, they look funny in the field: little green balls growing in the armpits of the high leafy plant.
- winter potatoes – looks like weed with little yellow flowers
Apparently this area is famous for its potatoes and there are a few big producers of potato products: potato chips, frozen French fries, .. Honestly I get hungry just looking around.
About the Weather
I wouldn’t usually devote a whole paragraph to the weather, but here it was pretty much the determining factor and often the subject of conversation. Aside from an hour or two every day, it rained from morning to evening. The cloud cover was so dense that we could not even see the location of the sun and everything was wet: road, benches, bikes, bags, clothing. We took off every morning covered with Gore-Tex from neck to toes and were able to shed it rarely and briefly.
Unusually but fortunately for us, the wind was mostly from the north or north-east, so we had a bit of free push a lot of the time. The meandering Schelde meant we changed heading every kilometer so that was a bit harder, but the straight canals give you maximum profit of a tailwind.
Notes about taxonomy
This has always been a watery country (and no, this time I’m not talking about rain) and this means that various water-related features have specific but obscure names, explained on information panels by the road.
|wiel||If a dike breaches, the water flows out with such force that it digs out a hollow right near the breach. After the breach is closed, a deep pond remains.|
|broek||A piece of land that regularly overflows when the water level in the river gets too high. When dry it can be used as a field or pasture.|
|A piece of land outside of the dikes (so on the river or sea side) that is inundated with salt water only during times of exceptional high tides. You can find these in the coastal regions of Belgium but also near Antwerp, because the Schelde estuary is brackish.|
– tow path
|a track on top of the river bank or dike that was used by horses to pull the boats up river. Often these are now asphalted to allow easy access for service vehicles and by cyclists. This type of road has its own set of traffic regulations and is forbidden for motorized traffic.|