After completing the Camino de Santiago I was back in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (see previous blog post). I started cycling again September 17 2019. As I wrote in the previous blog post, I found it a little nervous to sit on the bike again. Ahead of me I had many miles and days of cycling through all of France. I did not know where to spend the nights until arriving in Gent in Belgium.
Through no-mans-land in France
The road home through western Europe was less hilly than the road south when I touched the Alps and crossed the Central Massif. Despite my many mysterious directions from Google map, I continued to use it until I came across a road that consisted of sand. Anyone who has ever cycled in sand knows that it is almost impossible. And with my trailer it simply did not work. I had to cycle back and it was a detour of at least one hour. From this moment and onwards I quit using Google maps and relied on another bike app instead. It worked very well until the third last day in Sweden. Then the asphalt was changed to a dirt road through the forest.
France is a difficult country to camp in. There are private signs and fenced areas everywhere. Sometimes I almost found it impossible to find a place to put up the tent. One late evening I found a perfect place; a private park and I could start putting up the tent behind some bushes. I thought that the people in the house couldn’t see me. But just after a few minutes an older guy, maybe the gardener, came and told me in france that I had to go. I went on and eventually I found a spot beside a field and put up the tent in the darkness. In the distance it looked like a nuclear plant and when I laid in my sleeping bag I heard some strange sounds from some wild animals. It was a little spooky and it took a while before I fell asleep.
Footsteps in the night
It was always a little nervous to put up my tent. Maybe someone would come and chase me away. One night when I was slumbering in my sleeping bag I could clearly hear some footsteps close to my tent. I laid perfectly still and pretended to sleep. The next thing I heard was how someone opened the zipper of the tent. Now I pretended to be dead. A minute passed by, maybe two. When I turned around and looked I saw no trace of anyone.
After cycling through Paris (it took almost the whole day!), I ended up in a business park between an airport and a highway. It was raining and I stood for a while with the poncho over my head. I was afraid that a guard would come and drive me away. Eventually there was a little pause in the rain and I quickly set up the tent. I tried to sleep accompanied by the traffic noise from the highway and the sounds of airplanes taking off and landing.
Riding day and night
The next morning the tent was wet. I packed the wet tent and set off again. I didn’t want to put up and sleep in a wet tent, so I decided to cycle all day and all through the night until I reached Gent. It was my longest distance during my trip without sleep, and from the morning until the afternoon next day, I cycled 260 kilometers. It was also the only time during my entire trip that I got punctures, and not once but three times. When I got the
first puncture, I had to change the tube below open sky while it was raining. It was grainy and sandy so I had to rinse my hands in the water puddles now and then, so as not to get gravel between the tube and the tire. I felt on the inside of the tire to see if there was anything sharp, but found nothing sharp. After a wet hour, I was off again.
After only a few kilometers, the wheel got flat again and I realized that there must be something sharp still left in the tire. Now I found a bus shed and I could change the tube under the roof. While the rain was beating on the roof I started to mend the tube. I took out the tube, filled one of my jars with water, and located the hole by the air bubbles. I examined the corresponding spot on the tire and found a fragment of glass that I managed to peel away.
Crossing the border
I continued cycling and it became afternoon, evening and night when I crossed the border to Belgium. During the night I was indescribably tired and sometimes it was difficult to keep my eyes open. As I approached Gent, I got a puncture again along the river Schelde. This time I was able to change the tube in protection from the rain under a footbridge.
After almost 30 hours of constant cykling I arrived at Marcus and Carol’s place in the afternoon. I had a long bath and my hosts served me some tea and a malt waffle before going to sleep for a few hours. We had dinner together and they told me they were in the middle of the transformation of their boarding house into a center for workshops. This is something I long for myself and I got very inspired by their vision.