I was initially excited about cycling through Belgium. I researched the best way home during the Dusseldorf break and found the Flanders Cycle Route. It’s a segment of LF6 that goes from Maastricht to near Dunkirk and so would have carried us nearly all the way back. In reality, it was useless and we ended up going more diagonally towards Lille (which was a huge mistake!)
The first bit was cycling through Germany to Maastricht (Netherlands) where we found a statue memorialising d’Artagnon who died during the Seige of Maastricht in 1673. It was a must-stop for both of us as we had read the Three Musketeers series when we were too exhausted to do much else.
The next day we cycled into Belgium and proceeded to get lost in a town whilst looking for a shop. It was divided in half by a large road and the map app route looped around and was completely mystifying. A guy yelled at us from the top of the building during one of our map checks and then came down and guided us to an Aldi on his bike. He said people often couldn’t find it and we weren’t the first he had shown.
That evening we camped in a ‘legal wild camping spot’, along with a tramp who was camped right next to the water pump. We couldn’t get the pump to work and had to go on a phone signal hunt to translate this sign:
The first paragraph translates to “best driver (?), please always leave a round bucket with pump water for the next visitor. It is the intention that you first pour water into the pump and then the pumps start.”
That puzzled us, then I decided to take it literally and poured water into the top of the pump where the handle is. That worked but the water was filthy, it stank of iron and had dirt/rust floating in it. The bivouak site quickly dropped from being great (free!) to being absolutely useless and frustrating. We made do with the water we were carrying then walked around the lake.
Yes, I did see a few dead fish. On the plus side, there was a large watersport facility further around the lake that had an outside tap which I may have used to wash whilst my brother kept a careful lookout.
The main problem with the Flanders Cycle Route was that it felt like they dropped a piece of spaghetti on a map and decided to use that as the basis for the route. It twisted and turned up every big hill and most of the small roads. We only followed it for a day but the majority of the route was over cobblestones which rapidly became uncomfortable. Not to mention worrying, we were cautious after breaking a spoke in Poland going along rough roads.
On the final day of Belgium, we were cycling towards Herne, a small town that has a campsite when a local chased us down the road and yelled at us. We carried on cycling and he chased us down the road so we figured we should stop, he switched to English and offered us his garden to camp in. It turned out the campsite in Herne was caravans only.
Throughout Belgium we found beautiful graffiti by their resident graffiti artist, he is called DZIA and paints urban areas throughout Europe. This was the best one I saw, though there are hundreds of others that we missed.
The cycle tour so far:
England – Cornwall to Wales
Ireland – Winding Westwards
Ireland – Starting the Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland – The Wild Atlantic
Ireland – Causeway Coastal Route
England – Stopover in the Peaks
Netherlands – Bicycle touring through the Netherlands
Germany – Hamburg and Lubeck
Denmark – Reaching the Baltic Sea
Denmark – Exploring Copenhagen
Sweden – Cycling Southern Sweden
Sweden – Destination: Gotland
Sweden – Cycling to Stockholm
Finland – Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea
Finland – The King’s Road
Estonia – Our first Baltic state
Latvia – Disaster strikes in Latvia
Lithuania – Border troubles in Lithuania
Poland – Bicycle touring through Poland
Germany – Bicycle touring in Germany
Belgium – Navigating Belgium