It was a day of planning... we need to have these days every now and then. Planning timeframes, dates, ferries and planes for the next leg of our journey.
We found free wifi at the Peebles library but got in trouble for plugging in the laptop into a power point... we inspected the entries in the 'postcard for Peebles' competition but the winner wasn't that good, there were many better entries... we checked out the museum and local gallery, and we ate a hearty meal at an English pub.
The sun shone most of the day and it was enjoyable to stroll the main street of the beautiful town or simply sit in the sun.
Late in the day we rode out of Peebles, and turned into a national park not far down the road. We rode up some mountain bike paths for maybe a mile (you cant use kilometers here) until we found somewhere discreet to camp in between a creek and a pond.
The final squeals of amateur mountain bikers died with the sunlight, and we easily fell into a restful sleep, tucked snuggly into our sleeping bags.
Last night we had dinner with Jessie and Susie, it was vegetarian, but you'd never have known. Spag bol with a vetetable/soy substiitute for mince, funny thing though, it tasted and looked exactly like mince, even more so than some of the real mince we've been subjected to since we left Australia.
Anyway, it was a good night, thanks for that one guys!
The next morning we got up late, and stumbled downstairs for breakfast. Three hours later we finally left Jess and Susie's massive house in Tynemouth, said goodbye to the Rangie, and sadly parted from our fully awesome new friends.
It felt great to be on the road again, clean freshly washed clothes and bikes we headed off in anticipation, expecting to find a beautiful English countryside full castles and ancient buildings.
With dusk arriving we found a good looking (and free) campsite, so hoping for a good sleep and an early night we eagerly began setting up the tent.
But, early in the morning disaster struck, we'd been ambushed...
Note to self- If the national icon of a country is a windmill, there's a good chance it's going to be windy!!
Woke to the sounds of rain pouring down... But the tent and all our gear (except for my stinky socks) had dried overnight! Guess that's the benefit of sleeping under a bridge.
I put my stinky socks back on, still wet and we start heading towards Germany... past Veghel... but we spent more time looking at GPS, maps, signs than riding... the bicycle paths stop... were not allowed on road, but have no choice... drivers lean on horns... we give up and head towards Oss.
Around lunch time the rain stops, and although it looks threatening, never starts again, woohoo!
Sometimes the bicycles paths are great, sometimes they are horrible, so far it's been a fairly even mix. But I've got to give it to the Dutch, they really do love cycling rain, hail or shine!!
We'd been told you can't free camp in the Netherlands (or is it Holland, I still have no idea), but last night went well, and when we find the perfect spot beside a beautiful lake with ducks flying everywhere (reminds me of the Mighty Ducks, 'Ducks fly together,'). There's swans gracefully gliding across the surface of the water whilst frogs jump across palm fronds and lilly pads..
This will do great. We cook some spaghetti bolognese and set up the tent amongst a grove of trees.
During the night it begins to rain... and I dream that it keeps on raining and that the tent is floating on a sea of water... Maybe I can make a sail and set off to England...
We awoke in the caravan park (near Weebosch) to the sound of horses munching on grass. It was a clear, sunny morning. Perfect for having a rest day - washing clothes and cleaning the bikes.
The weather was perfect all day, warm in the sun but not too hot, a light wind to dry the clothes... and the evening cool enough to fall asleep in our tent. We had a pleasant time with the oldies, telling the story of our trip many times to the curious locals (everyone we spoke to was from Holland).
The next morning was grey and cold. We took our time packing up and showering for the fourth time during our short stay... as if hoping we could put away the showers as storage to use over the coming showerless days...
Our first mission of the day was find a McDonalds to use the wifi... we had a few things that needed to be sorted out and we'd just made the discovery that there are no ferries from Norway to England... so our itinerary was completely changing. We rode to Eindhoven but the wifi at the McDonalds wasn't working... We decided to just ride, we didn't know what else to do...
After getting directions from three different Dutch people on how to use the cycle path network and which way we should go, we stumbled upon a retro McDonalds in Best, and the wifi was working. It was a strange shrine to dead Rock 'n Roll legends - Elvis, Marilyn Munroe and Michael Jackson (check out the massive statue). The strangest and most eclectic McDonalds we've ever seen...
For hours we waited while the rain poured down outside. We wanted to wait for it to ease before heading out, but at 7.30pm time ran out. We had to find somewhere to camp. So into the downpour we went. Luckily, Sam found the perfect spot not to far away, under a bridge.
We awoke to a pleasant surprise. No rain. And the sun was even shining while we packed up. With high spirits we set off through Belgium.
It didn't take long for the rain clouds to gather. And when we stopped for lunch (7 euro for two burgers, a coke and a HUGE chips that we couldn't even come close to finishing) the rain began to fall. We took shelter under the awning of a kindergarten, but the stares of the staff through the window forced us to take refuge in the supermarket around the corner. Here, Sam found an English Top Gear magazine, his first English magazine for seven months... it's the little things that really brighten your day...
We rode for half an hour while the rain took an interlude. Luckily, we stumbled upon a bus stop with a shelter just as the second act began.
All this rain was really dampening our enthusiasm for cycling in Belgium.
Our enthusiasm was suffering anyway as we cycled deeper into the Flemish section. Cars beeped at us and gestured for us to get off the road. They've built paths alongside many roads that are apparently for cyclists, but the condition is so terrible that I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to ride them (there are cyclists on them, but surely not by choice)- holes, poorly patched asphalt, drains, gravel... you name it.
Sometimes we use the paths when we get sick of the abuse from drivers but our bikes take a serious battering. Plus we're mixed with two year olds on bikes (seriously), pedestrians, road works, cars reversing from driveways... we feel safer on the road shoulder, even with the abuse!
But McDonalds, with its 1 euro burgers and free wifi, dots the country at regular intervals and the cold nights, last night definitely being one of them, mean we're sleeping well.
So that leaves us two down and two up... Smile trooper, It could be a lot worse.
And what is a Friterie anyway people, how can you just make hot chips and nothing else...?
It's been raining for three weeks.
Or close to it at least.
Actually we really are starting to feel a little water logged and if you look closely enough you might see some moss growing on us. In fact, it's now said by some that we've begun to blend into the green landscape so well that we're barely visible...
Today we got pelted with rain. Eventually we couldn't tell what was wetter, the rain or us. Sloshing (is that even a word) around on our bikes we rode some fantastic streets and alleys in the Belgian countryside.
Despite the relative obscurity of the roads on the map, traffic was heavy, so the scenic route wasn't quite as scenic as it might have been.
Another thing. The architecture here is dramatically different to that in France. We haven't been to Germany yet but it looks more like what we imagined that would be.
So as I was thinking about this blog It stops raining and we start to dry out...
Haha, I spoke too soon... rains again.
We ended up in La Hulpe, and predictably no-one noticed us in the bushes, putting up our green tent amongst the green trees and green grass we started wondering if maybe the joke was on us, maybe you can turn green after all...
Northern France is definitely not Southern France, or so we learnt today.
Our clothes were still very wet after hanging on the bridge last night, and we couldn't wait all morning for them to dry, so we reluctantly put them on and continued cycling along the canal.
But pretty soon, after a few putrid wafts we began to wonder where the stinky smell was coming from. And then we saw it, just beside the canal, a huge sewerage plant! 'Whoa that stinks' we yelled at each other.
And the smell just wouldn't go away. We're going to smell like this town Shanna yelled back at me while we were riding along. 'You already do' I yelled back, laughing. 20 kms later and we could still smell the sewerage, but maybe by that stage it was us...
Another thing we learnt today was that the canal we swam in last night has some big fish, pretty damn big for fish that swim in a river.
At a small cafe/supermarket we stopped at, the first shop we found open for 30kms we saw some photos of some of the fish that have been caught in the river, they looked almost 3 feet long, or as big as a small boy. I wonder if we'd have swam in there if we had of seen those photos first.
And then, sitting outside the cafe a thing, an event you might say happened. And I still can't work it out but we'll write about it at some point in the future, maybe when we write a book or something...
RIding towards the Belgian/France border and it begins raining, first a sprinkle and then it steadily becomes heavier. We see a camping sign, it tells us to turn right. We follow it and eventually find the campsite.
'No tents,' he says, 'only caravans and motor homes, next camp sites 30 km's away.' Wet and feeling sorry for ourselves we keep riding, and cross the border into Belgium.
Riding through the rain, desperately searching for somewhere to camp we see a forest behind some houses and make a dash for it. Is it somebody's land, maybe, but it's late and the rain won't stop. Amongst the blackberrys and the dense trees we push our bikes through the undergrowth.
'It'll do' we say to each other.
We set up the tent in the rain and eat some scraps of food inside to try and stay dry. Then we dry the tent inside where it got wet when we set up.
Laying down we can hear the rain pounding into the forest.
Exhausted and ready for sleep I struggle into my sleeping bag, but somethings not right. Somethings funny.
'Damn it, we stink like the sewer!'
We kept thinking about Paris, the comparative ease of life when you're based in one place (kind of), hot showers, easy access to food... it was a reminder of real life, and it was hard to forget.
In the afternoon we ventured away from the roads and followed a path along a canal. It was flat and protected from the wind; and mostly easier riding away from the cars and the trucks.
We rode past houses with angry dogs barking at the gates - I think they were jealous that we were out enjoying the wind on our faces and they were stuck behind a fence.
We camped next to the canal near Ribemont - and predictably bathed in the murky water... It felt good to wash away the dirt and sweat, but did we really end up much cleaner? Have a look at the photo, would you have washed in here?
Distance: 20km (on the day we left Paris)
We feel so lucky that wonderful friends - old and new - let us stay in their homes and helped make our six days in Paris memorable. To Marc, Cammi, Ali and Darren a BIG thankyou!
After three days we left Marc and Cammi's place to head to Alison and Darren's for the next three days. We spent more time exploring Paris in detail - walking down small arcades, going to the Latin quarter, tasting the world renowned ice-cream on the tiny island of Ill de Saint-Louis, visiting galleries and, of course, tasting the flan in many bakeries.
On our final day in Paris we went to Disneyland with Alison and Darren. It was a long but fantastic day on the rides. Sam even managed to survive the Indiana Jones roller coaster (only just) and the teacups! We were reminded of what it feels like to be a child - filled with the magic that comes with knowing dreams can come true, especially for disney lovers like me!!
It was hard to leave the comfort of friends and a roof over our heads, but we keep hearing strange noises in the air, and we figure it must be the road to Norway, beckoning... Either that or we are losing our minds...
Saying good bye to Paris we caught the train to Campeigne on the outskirts of the metropolitan area - a fast train that carried our bikes for free. We almost missed the station because a rude conductor told us the wrong arrival time but we managed to get our bikes and bags off the train just in time...
Last night we stayed up too late talking, so today we are really tired.
Not much of significance happened other than we spent a few hours between riding at McDonalds on the free internet trying to update this blog.
So, we'll spare you the details and just leave you with some photo's of our riding through Sens and, eventually on to Pont Sur Yonne.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia