Having begrudgingly stuck ugly reflective stickers to my shiny new helmet, solely to meet the French requirements, imagine my disappointment when we arrived at the Belgian border just twenty minutes after disembarking the ferry!
I was especially exited to take this picture at our first border sign however and we continued on the seaside road to our first stopover, Oostende. We found a basic family campsite right by the beach for 23 euros (though we did have to pay an extra 1.50 each for a shower token). I imagined/hoped this was probably a bit more expensive than camping elsewhere, away from the beach and ports. After erecting the tent it was around 7pm and drizzling so we donned our waterproofs and went back into town for some Moules-frites by the beach. Exactly what I wanted from a first day on the continent.
First impressions of our camping set up were great. Bedding was comfortable and our budget £45 tent kept us bone dry despite the torrential rain overnight. This brief satisfaction quickly disappeared however when I realised that it was still pouring with rain and we had a 130km drive ahead of us. After much procrastination, we packed down the tent (soaking wet), loaded up and set off… That’s about where the progress ended.
We rode a grand total of 12 miles that day. I think my lack of confidence in the situation and having never ridden in the rain on the motorway just got the better of me. I was in tears after seven miles and started to have a full on panic attack as we entered the motorway. The tightness in my chest was severe and I remember having to gasp for breath as my arms went numb and tingly. I tried my best to stay calm and hold it together but as we turned onto the exit ramp my vision was starting to close in and my peripherals were completely black. I remember being angry at my body for shutting down at the time I needed it to be most alert. Rich was trying to keep me calm over the intercom and when we finally came to a stop I just sank to the floor in the rain. All of this was completely unexpected. It sounds like I’m being a big wimp but I think I was just completely out of my comfort zone and on this occasion it became dangerous. Blacking out on the motorway, while riding a motorbike in the rain is not ideal, let’s face it.
After I’d calmed down a bit, Rich lead the way to Brugge which was only a 15 minute drive away. The plan was to get some lunch and re-assess the situation. The rain worsened and when we got to the reassess part of the plan, we abandoned the original plan and checked into to nearby st. Christophers Bauhaus hostel.
We stayed in a 10 bed dorm for 17 euros each for the night. It was 5 star in the world of hostels with large hot showers, curtains around the beds for privacy, in-bed power sockets, lockable under bed storage and a locker room for after check out. They had free wifi, cozy reception area and bar with 40 different kinds of Belgian beer. Free walking tours etc etc. The staff were really friendly too! Definite recommend.
It literally poured all day, all night and most of the next day but we did manage to squeeze in a few Leffe Blondes, pick’n’mix truffles from a golden clad chocolate shop and the torture museum – all very worth the effort. We also happened upon Hermanus motorcycle cafe with a triumph in side. Sister shop to the bike shed london I think. We were hoping for a cafe but was really a tiny shop with a coffee machine. Good selection of mens gear though!
So there we are. Day two into the trip. I knew it wasn’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows but I have to say the first few days did not play out as I’d expected. I guess the important thing to remember is that it’s all part of the story. It also meant a completely unplanned stopover in Brugge which I’m so glad happened!