With seeing so much each day, I’m having trouble remembering what even happened this morning and what day it is. Thankfully my computer tells me it’s the fifteenth. It’s coming back to me now. I was awoken early by yet more rain, and as this sent me into despair I lay in so long that it had stopped raining – the day got better from then on. It was not far through the forest to the first town of the day, Lanaken, yet another with a fun fair set-up in the town square (I’ve seen a few since Iepers). More importantly, I found a bakery open so I was able to supplement my meagre breakfast of baguette and danish with a divine waffle filled with stewed plums.
This fuelled me well past the large Dutch city of Maastricht and another crossing of the Albert Canal. More WWII memorials to downed Allied aircraft. I think I skirted the border for quite sometime, eventually the cars parked at people’s homes told me I must be in the Netherlands. Around this time it started to get hillier, finally, and almost imperceptibly the language changed. Slowly I realised that streets were now called Rue, not Straat; houses for sale were no longer marked Te Koot but A Vendre and I was riding a VTT, not a mountain-bike. This must have been when I crossed into Walloonia.
Fewer people speak English out this way, so with my few words of French ordering for lunch was amusing. Nonetheless I was satisfied with lunch in the sun, with a beer and crepes to finish off. The GR5 was generally pretty good today – with some fantastic rocky downhills to enjoy. I had to keep reminding myself that as I was very much alone and with a heavy bike, I had better be careful. It would be easy to say I’d like to be riding such trails with a more normal mountain-bike, but of course I’m only here riding in these places I’ve never heard of because of this particular mode of travel. However, there were some muddy sections – not too surprising considering all the rain. My least favourite was an unmade path through a field – the farm traffic had turned the dirt to that special type of mud that clogs everything up within about twenty seconds so the bike is hardly able to be pushed; such joy.
I was excited when I made it through one hundred metres of altitude, now that I’ve gone through two hundred and eventually reached three hundred and fifty metres I’m almost beside myself with excitement. My knees aren’t; well, the left one started reminding me of the muscle I pulled in it about a year ago on the South Downs Way – but it stopped complaining after dinner. A notably lower average speed today as the amount of climbing was twice that of my previous biggest day – still only a modest amount, but my bike has not been this heavy before. Perhaps I’ll make it over the border into Luxembourg tomorrow, but more of a chance I’ll be just a little short.
For those wondering, here’s my home set up for tonight. It very much looks the same every night, just the location changes.