10 years later (Day 4) Leaving the white cliffs behind

Wed, Apr 24, 2013

Trip Date:Thu, Apr 24, 2003 Distance:53 miles
Start:Dover, England - 11:20 End:Bruges, Belgium - 17:30 (after Ferry)

Wake up early to cycle down to the port. I have a ticket for a ferry going to Dunkerque which is a slower crossing, but takes me further north in France and will limit my time in France to 2 hours. To get on to the boat I have to cycle along with lots of lorries, which is a strange experience and makes me feel very small.

The sea is very foggy as I leave England, and the reality of my decision to just get on my bike and see where I end up is beginning to dawn on me. My diary states that I spent a lot of the trip thinking about how long a year was and wondering whatever drove me to do this. Excitement and deep trepidation would sum up my emotions on the ferry.

Cycling down the massive ramp off the boat is a hoot and I loved doing it - free wheeling into France and the rest of my year.

I quickly find that I don’t actually have a map of where I am. I have cut the map up about 2 inches too short and will have to cycle in a rough northerly direction until I can find something on the map. The sun is baking and within 20 minutes as I cycle through the bleak industry around the port of Dunkerque I have to stop and apply sun cream.

At the border I stop at a cafe and put my bike up next to a long list of bikes and create one of those domino moments you see in films as 14 bikes come crashing down on top of each other. It takes me 20 minutes or so to get them all standing up again, I am not in a good mood for lunch especially as not one person offered to help.

My first Belgium town is De Panne which seems lovely, great weather and lovely long sea front.

Belgium is flat - this is great after the hills of Kent. I hope it continues.

At 3pm I stop in Niewpoort for a snack and a rest, read a bit of war and peace and the park keeper of the park I am sat in comes over for a chat about cycling. He tells me that I will stay very cheaply in Youth Hostels in Belgium as a cyclist - is a good tip and I use it to find a Youth Hostel in Bruges that evening.

Spend the evening wondering the streets and canals of Bruges and end up eating a massive bowl of pasta in a restaurant to build my carbs.