Day 3: Belgium rocks!

Date: 24 September 2014
Route: Viersel to Tournai (BE)
In the saddle: 09:30 – 20:00
Distance: 150 km ish

I seemed to shave an hour off my getting-ready time this morning, which I was very pleased with! Headed out towards Mechelen, which I thought was very beautiful as I cycled through:

Mechelen

And then onto Aalst for the most welcome hot chocolate with a delicious free cake:

Hot chocolate in Aalst

All for 2,50 Euro (you wouldn’t get this in Amsterdam!). I had a great view of the town hall too:

Aalst town hall

So I decided to stay for a hearty lunch:

Hearty lunch in Aalst

As much as I love Holland, I have to say, Belgium beats it hands down for food. I only ordered a plain omelette and I got a salad bowl and bread on the side too! For less than 10 Euros! Maybe the chef was a cyclist…..

The sunshine had gone, and was threatening rain, so I pushed on through some lovely quiet paths (the first time I actually saw a signpost for the Camino de Santiago!), and I came across this lovely set of twins:

Belgian twins

In the afternoon I hit the French part of Belgium, Dutch disappeared altogether, and it was bon voyage from here on in! I was actually quite surprised how little Dutch they spoke in these parts – on some occasions, my Dutch was better than theirs!

The heavens opened this afternoon, with torrential rain, thunder and lightening for over 2 hours. I pushed on through it all as there was no where to really stop, and once you’re wet, you can’t really get any wetter!

Belgian downpour

Still, I had a nice easy route to follow all the way along the river Dendre which helped because navigating with my map or phone would have been very soggy work indeed!

As the afternoon wore on, I realised I wouldn’t make it to my intended destination, Tournai without completely destroying myself, so I headed off-route to the biggest town I could find close by on the map. It was 19:00 by the time I arrived in Ath, but there was no campsite, and the only hotel I was directed to by a local was completely closed up. I really need to recharge my battery pack, so I needed to find a hotel or B&B, and not just camp anywhere, so I very reluctantly decided to push on the next 30 km to Tournai.

By this time it was dark, and the most direct route was a very busy main road, with cars flying past at around 60km per hour. I felt very vulnerable with my tiny led bike lights! And completely exhausted! I ate my emergency energy bar by the side of the road, and pushed on up a long hill for the next hour.

Thankfully, around 10 km out of Tournai I found a hotel/restaurant right by the side of the road. I was overjoyed when they had a room! This was the toughest day of the trip by far. Everything hurt, and I had nothing left in me.

Worn out!

The brake-light on my head was a very tired attempt to increase my visibility on the road.. I have a feeling it may have just confused a lot of drivers though!

I was too tired to sit at the restaurant and wait for food so I just cooked on my stove in my room, then had an amazing bath and crashed out in my first proper bed of the trip!

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