It should be an easy tour, mostly along rivers, no hills or mountains and Madeleine knew the tour, so there was no logic reason to be nervous, but I started waking up at 4a.m. and then every half hour until I gave up at 6:30.
In the end, we left at 9:40 and from beginning to the end Madeleine was always a bit faster then I would have gone on my own. You can partly explain this by my luggage or by her great bike but in the end, it is also because she just can go fast. We had many detours because of construction works but this was only hard for Mr.G, who many times complained that we were off his route. We made a small detour on purpose to Saarburg with a very nice little river and a little watermill.
We also made a bigger detour on purpose, because we followed the meanders of the river Saar, so the tour was 115km instead of 100 and also Madeleine was tired in the end – my chance for a slower tour tomorrow?
We had a nice apartment with kitchen, 2 bathrooms, living room etc for less money than my last tiny room with toilet outside in Aywaille, talked for a while about Uganda, tried to plan the tour of the next day but gave up, because we were too tired.
The later the night the colder I felt, but in a way or other I could sleep until 5:30, which is a lot anyway, because I guess I had been falling asleep not much after 21:00. When I got out of the tent (to do what had to be done) I could understand quite well why I was feeling so cold, because it was that cold. And wet, without rain. So my cycling short was the same like directly after washing in the evening, only colder. The toilets were without paper and I profited from my habit to collect all paper napkins in restaurants for emergency cases and this was one. The light in the toilet room was an automatic light, but only reacting to movements outside the cabins which made the experience even more interesting. At 6:30, they opened the washrooms where I spend some time to warm up, charge my phone and write this first part of my diary. The plan was to warm up and maybe even dry my cycling shirt, too, but only after at least having warm hands…
I didn’t feel warm but more and more people came to the washroom and I had finished what I could do on the PC in such a situation (writing this and roughly cutting some videos to safe space on the drive), so I packed my tent and went off. My first stop was at a supermarket. I found Belgian chocolate, but I also found German BIO (=organic) chocolate and without knowing, which is nearer in that case, I bought BIO (+fair-trade). I also could get cookies and soy pudding and I even bought 1l of mixed juice and drank it completely as my first breakfast. Then I went on to Lux-city and cycled around there by chance and sometimes following signs.
On a hill opposite to the old town is the center of the European institutions and I wanted to go there from the side, not directly by the big bridge, and by that see more of the older parts of the town down at the river.
So, I had to climb again the hill on the other side. I visited some spots on that side, called the Kirchberg, too and when I was ready to go to Madeleine’s office, I also got a message from her that I better come to the office to get her key, so I can go to Godendorf independently. I told Mr.G that now I want to go to that office, and he told me that I am off the route, but he generously would bring me there. I was too grateful and not suspicious enough, just made a small check and thought, oh that office must be in the valley down of Kirchberg. And now I followed one of the silliest detours of my whole trip. As I later saw, the office was just a short way behind me, nearly on the same road, ON Kirchberg. But Mr.G sent me back to the old town, down the valley and again up the hill of Kirchberg. This was 7km and 127m climbing.
Even now I cannot laugh about it. Maybe tomorrow or next week. Of course he didn’t send me to the right side of the building, so I had to go around the block, but maybe this is partly my fault, because I might have just clicked on the building when I planned the tour instead of typing the address. Madeleine came down, gave me the key and went back to finish a workload that had grown bigger than expected, because originally she even wanted to go by bike with me. So I made those 40km on my own and on my way I had a problem like on my first day in Iran (see day 049) but no one to help me. A or some cogs of my small front gear are bent, and I couldn’t use it anymore. Luckily, the rest of the road was not too steep, and I could go on with the other gears. I came to Madeleine’s house before her and started with my daily digital work until she was back home. Then we controlled the fridge to see what must be eaten and had a big dinner with 1/2 kg tomatoes and many other things. Then Madeleine packed her stuff and I continued emptying the fridge turning those things into food for the trip. Then we changed the route for the first day and it was 1a.m. when we came to bed.
It was not possible to eat as much as the indicated price for the breakfast, 15€, but I had a could starting package for the day. I was not hungry again before 14:00 and that means a lot, because one Ardenne followed the other forming an endless row of Ardennes and summing up to 2100hm on this day that in total was 127km, which in combination, is enough. I wanted to take a photo and to talk my camera when I crossed the border to Luxembourg, but there was nothing to see. Only later I realized that the border must lie behind me, because in front of the houses you now mainly saw Luxembourgian cars,
I saw a street sign in German and when I opened my phone at a break it connected to a network of Luxembourg. So, another step towards home is done, from now on German will accompany me home. Today, I didn’t see any supermarket, only one sign to a “Lidl” in the wrong direction. So, my chance to get another Belgian chocolate in Belgium was done. In the evening, I ate the last pack of Taiwanese chocolate instead. I had decided to do camping, and Mr.G had a funny way to get …near there: he led me to the bridge of an highway and made his happy sound of “Here we are!” and when I looked down, I saw caravans and tents. But now I had to find a way to get down. It was impossible to do it by climbing with the bike, so, I went back to the last big street and made another round to arrive there as it is meant.
At 20:30 I was ready in the tent for sleeping, just writing this and hoping that the children who played football in front of my tent, would finish soon. Not so much because of the noise and their laughs but I had seen that they had hit a caravan and a car before, and I don’t like the idea of slowly falling asleep and being awakened by a ball hitting my tent. The mosquitos started their evening labour, but I seem to be alone in my tent. It gets dark around 22:00, I guess this will the time when life slows down around.
Moni and Andreas woke up earlier just for me, Moni prepared a breakfast and offered many things for my trip, like fruits, muesli bars or bread. After a last photo, I started my 3rd day of cycling back to Vienna, to Liege and the plan to go on a bit. Today the wind was less strong and sometimes behaved like West wind, blowing from the west! First I came through empty streets in Brussels, because the were blocked for the Tour de France, but I was early enough to be allowed to go there by bike. Later, I came to other blocked streets because of a youth race and was surprised how many kids and teenagers participated. I was allowed to pass by on the shoulder of the street. In the morning I saw many cycling groups doing training and one couple on a bike tour with the next stop Brussels. In the afternoon, I was more alone, only more cars than in the morning were on the streets, but still you could feel the peace of a Sunday. In one village, a supermarket had been open, and I again bought chocolate. I try to eat other things, too, to “balance” my diet, but today chocolate might have been 50% of my intake.
After Liege, I had to climb a bit, but it was not long and not very hard. Tomorrow it will be double of the height meters for the same distance and I will not be much earlier on my wheels because breakfast in my hotel will start hat 8:00. But if I arrive at 18:00 at my next stop or a bit sooner or later makes no big difference. I plan to go to a camping place, because the cheapest options in or near Luxembourg (City) start around 80€ and this is a good occasion for camping, because Madeleine and I had agreed to sleep in hotels during our trip starting on Wednesday.
A mosquito woke me up, and after killing it, I wrote my diary etc., because the rest of the house was still asleep. At 10 I arrived at Madeleine’s house and we went to town by bike. At the royal park we locked the bikes and went to the place of the starting event. By accident we entered the VIP zone being in direct touch with the cyclists, their staff and other VIP’s.
But to see the real start, we wanted to move on, so we looked for the exit and the security was surprised that we had been inside. When the Tour started, we were near to the starting line.
After that, we sat down in a park to eat something and then drove around by bike or walked when this was not possible because of Tour-related events. There was the very beautiful Great Market Place and then the small Rue au Beurre with many chocolate stores, where I bought a taste bar and 4 truffles, that compensated the bad luck 3 days before. Then we moved to that street where the finish would take place.
In the next 1-2 hours, more and more motorcycles and cars belonging to the Tour passed by, that caravan became slowly denser and then the cyclists came in as one big group and within seconds were out of sight again.
Over. Again, many cars with the spare bikes etc followed, then the barriers were put away and it became a normal street again. Madeleine met her friends Matea and Peter and we talked for a while. They had been to Malawi Peter has even been raised there. So maybe, we will meet again in Vienna in December if Madeleine throws a birthday party. We cycled to Moni’s home, seeing the preparations for the next part of the Tour de France. Moni and Andreas had invited us for dinner and then we three talked until midnight, while Andreas and Markus were at a cinema late night show of Spider man.
Moni, Andreas and Markus left after breakfast, the parents for work and Markus to get his school reports, he had finished the year on the day before. I could stay at home and write my diary and edit videos. On the way to Brussels, I had forgotten to turn off the gopro and now had 90min of video, so I couldn’t finish this one. But on youtube, I now publish one video everyday automatically and the last one, from Dunkerque to Wevelgem is planned for 19th, this is when I am nearly at home. That means, on my way I only must manage to upload two other videos and it can be a continuous output until August, if I do the rest at home. I am quite sure that this is only important for me, because in average 0-20 people watch them and it will get less and less interesting the nearer I am to Vienna. The same with the blog, I want to keep it up to date, not only because otherwise I would forget too much before writing it down, but also because of an assumed and non-existent expectation of an audience. But it is better to have this extra motivation to keep things running. By bike I went to the Parlamentarium. At the Place de Luxembourg was a demonstration against human rights violations of the Uyghurs by China.
China became what it is now by the greed of capitalism and can do whatever the leaders there want, because all countries with potential influence depend on trades with China. No one really wants to stop them anyway but even less because of economics. In the Parlamentarium, many things work or would work interactive. For me, that started with the lockers, I had no idea how to use them. (Press “c”, then press four digits and the key symbol). In the exhibition, there were symbols, like “i” for information and you had a device with audio and photo function to activate by holding it to that “i”. When it didn’t work you needed to find out if it is the problem of that exhibit, of that device or of your handling of it. So far, I never experienced such a problem with old-school information signs. I find these electronic things less convenient and too prone to disorder and often get the impression they only get implemented because you can and if you don’t do it you are old-fashioned. I also dislike that at school where they want to have beamers in every classroom so you can make “contemporary and up-to-date” teaching. And then, teachers change their material to power-point presentations buzzing around with the beamer and the computer, adjusting the light, balancing the volume of the loudspeakers, it sounds bad, it looks bad and it is a waste of time (and, by the way energy and material) but you can bore the kids on an other level than before, because now it is contemporary. What they only need is an enthusiastic teacher with knowledge and charisma who likes to communicate with children. I guess this will not change even in future times, even when they are very modern times, at least when children grow up like it always was, according to their nature, be that contemporary or not. So, reading information to the exhibits was more complex and maybe this is better because after clicking, pressing, wiping and swiping for a while the information is more precious and you read it.
At the end you can write a message what you find important for EU and Parliament and I wrote two sentences in German and was surprised to see them on a screen soon after pressing “send”, because I thought I would send them “somewhere” and “someone” would read it (or not). I bought a t-shirt “I love EU”, because I love EU although there are so many things that make my upset or desperate.
Through parc Léopold I came to the house of European History with an even bigger exhibition on 5 or 6 floors.
From level 2 on you should have a tablet and I had missed to get one. There was nearly no written information and many exhibits needed information to understand what they should show but I didn’t want to be forced to go back, take that thing and again struggle with tech stuff. After that I went to the famous Maison d`Antoine on Place Jourdan to get pommes frites and in a bio-supermarket nearby I got some Belgian truffles.
I went back and soon after me Moni and Andreas were back, too. In the later evening, Madeleine came. She is another former school mate that now lives abroad and came from Luxembourg to Brussels because of the Tour de France start. We want to see that event together. But at 23:00 we gave up chatting and talking, because Moni had a long exhausting week behind her and a tennis morning in front and was looking forward to a long sleep between that.
At the Hotel Cortina I had a good breakfast with many sorts of cheese (I tasted 4 of them), did some video editing but not finishing it, because I was too nervous although even leaving at 10:00 would have been enough to do 100km and arrive around 18:30, the time Moni, a class mate from 1975-1983 now living in Bruxelles, had arranged with me for meeting and hosting. The tour lead again through nice villages and towns and some rural areas, with enough sun to leave me sunburnt (I thought I can deal with that sunlight, but it was too strong). No technical problems, no big detours, only some 750 height meters on 99km. The wind was maybe less but for sure at no time coming from the back. “Back” is the keyword for my biggest problem of the day, not exactly the back but still not the legs, somewhere in the middle, I felt a bit uncomfortable, so I profited by the hilly surroundings, because when it was going uphill, I pedaled standing and when it was going down, I also left the saddle. In one street of a little town, maybe it was Oudenaare, but I didn’t find a sign there was a street market and I had to push my bike.
But at one booth they sold pralines and the looked delicious. Yesterday, at the hotel I had got 4€ back when I paid, but it was in 20cent coins. So, I thought it would be a good idea to change all those coins with pralines, but it was not. It is not easy to get me to that point of saying a chocolate is bad, but this one was. Later, when I already had reached Bruxelles, I went to an ALDI and bought my first Belgian chocolate, and this was much better.
I arrived at Moni’s house one hour too early, but a neighbour saw me waiting and invited me to his house where we had a lively conversation in German. Moni and Andreas came home, showed me a nice room and invited me for a great dinner. We talked for a while and I showed some things from my trip but time flew and we had to stop.
I woke up at the usual time, a bit nervous, a bit excited and a bit calm, at the same time and continued packing and clearing the room, that means putting off the bed clothes, rearranging things in the cabin as they were and so on. After breakfast, Jean Marc and I exchanged our helicopter videos, then we finished packing and went down saying good bye to the crew and the remaining passengers, Jochen and Graham. A taxi should bring us to the port entry but we waited for a while and then I decided to go on my own by bike, a truck driver showed me the way and it was easy to leave.
I started my GPS and saw nothing except a line from nowhere into another nowhere. For a while I didn’t care too much because I thought it should be easy to find the way from the port Dunkirk to the town Dunkirk but later, I stuck on a road that only led to another part of the port.
After a while, I remembered that the map for Europe might be deactivated and it was. But now I only saw the map without any route, only the message that I am off the route. But at least I arrived in Dunkirk and came to the train station. And there, I saw Marie and Jean Marc again 😊. They had seen me before somewhere on the road and 2min before Marc had written and SMS that I wanted to read when I stop, but then we met anyway.
I was too nervous with my diverse problems that I didn’t make a break as long as they waited for the train and they didn’t ask me, maybe because the SMS could have been understood as a suggestion to wait together. I went on and after a while I checked the direction and saw that I should go North-East anymore, it should be southeast. I was annoyed by these routing problems, so, I started the same route planner, komoot, that I normally use with Mr.G on my phone. First, I tried to see it on the screen, but this was not easy because of the sun, and the battery began to get empty fast. I thought, I can load it with my dynamo USB, but it didn’t work. So, I changed to listening to the voice telling the route. First, he suggested to adapt the route to Wevelgem because I was off the route. I thought this is a good idea. But then I saw that he just brought me back to a point where the original tour from Dunkirk should start and this was near the train station, so, I had made a circle and I would meet Jean Marc and Marie again what would be strange. I made a small detour to avoid that and hoped that my tour would be visible if I begin exactly at the starting point, but it was not like that. At least the tour was clear, I was guided well by the voice until the battery was empty. Then I remembered that sometimes a cable was loose, and it was but it didn’t help. I changed the batteries from my spare part phone and went on. I made a list of the villages I would go through to have at least anything when all batteries are empty and nothing else works. And then I had another idea and rebooted Mr.G and started with another route, showing the complete route to Bruxelles. And suddenly Mr.G woke up, I don’t know because of which part of the therapy, but now I could go on. On my way I found a passport of A British citizen and after that for 30km no police car or station. When I finally found one it was closed although I could hear voices inside, so I just put the passport there and went on.
I was getting tired, the wind was strong most of the time and when I had expected to be pushed forward by west winds I learned that they also may come from the east . After 100km instead of 65, I arrived in Wevelgem after 18:00 and luckily found a hotel there, not quite cheap, but I wanted to have a room with Wi-Fi to download more offline maps in case of more problems. Today I had learned that it is not enough to have double security, because you can have double problems, too (Mr.G and the charging problem in this case)
I had started packing my stuff and wrote the last emails from the ship’s address. The departure had been delayed again a bit, but it makes no big difference for me because leaving the ship in Dunkirk tomorrow morning should be possible anyway. Dirk from “warmshowers” had cancelled his offer to host me in Wevelgem because of this always changing arrival time, so it will be a night in the tent I guess. For the French couple and for me, this is the last day on the ship, they had been traveling by ship for 4 months and they are in pension anyway but they still don’t want to go home. I wonder how it would be for me if it would be longer. My days until now had been full of (more or less useful) activity, partly motivated by the thought that later I will have less time to do that. And I get the feeling that this kind of life could continue for a long time, because I would lose gradually lose the ability to cope with more complicated life. Here you have 4-5h between breakfast and lunch and 5-6h between lunch and dinner and some after dinner. You have the options to talk to others, to walk around the ship, read, play something, go to the gym or, at least in my case, do something on the PC. And in my case, I only did one walk on the whole trip instead of 5 rounds every day, I only read 1-2 books (the lonely planet for East Africa is not completed) and the conversation with my fellow travelers is not that fluent, so I didn’t look for it extra. But both options would enlarge the variety and I maybe could have learned to relax, to enjoy just watching the sea, maybe I even missed something when I didn’t go to the bridge as often as the other passenger, I saw less sunsets than they, less other ships and less thrilling manoeuvres of the ship, that means the 3-4 hours procedure of landing. Well, I lived my days, too, and 3 weeks at sea apparently is not enough to change my personality, also a year of travelling did not. My head is full of lively memories and at the same time this trip is unbelievable like a dream. To be more precise about memories, I suppose that I had forgotten 10x more than I remember, but besides the blog and the photos and the videos also my memory stores many moments and scenes and sometimes I am surprised about details that still are present. When the ship left the berthing place it had to make a 180° turn to leave the port and I saw that from my window. For a short time, I was not sure if I should go up to the bridge and film this, but I am a bit tired of filming those slow procedures, then having 10GB of material to edit. And in the end, who wants to see that? Well, I watched for a while the turning of that big ship that is only possible in one part of the harbour but I took only one photo after that, because I like the view of the calm water with some stripes caused by ships that had been going some time an hour ago and you still could see the traces.
I had my last training in the gym, we had our last lunch together and later our last tea party, again with cake, Jochen was good at organizing that! I showed the ship exploring video we had made before Jochen had had his accident, so there was only a German version, not that exciting for the others. After our last dinner, I spontaneously had the idea to ask Graham for an idiomatic translation of the text Jochen was telling in our ship video. I had made a translation in that kind of English you must read here and after 15min, it sounded great. Well, not sound in the best sense of the word (regarding a video), so I also asked him for a recording. And then I was very busy incorporating that in the video, putting a third layer of voice on it (the original words of Jochen on our tour, his over dubs in German and now Graham). Suddenly the loud noise of a helicopter sounded, and I rushed out with my camera seeing the pilot on a rope coming down to the ship from the helicopter. This camera has a very lovely feature, making recording videos so thrilling: sometimes pressing the rec-button starts recording and sometimes not. Then you must press a second time. And many times, when I really wanted to have the video, I forgot to check and only the camera pointed on the object and no video existed afterwards. Ok, you know now which version the camera offered this time. I was very sad when I realized it, but then came a second pilot out of the helicopter and I could film it partly.
Another “nice” feature of the camera is that it likes to lose the focus although you only film in the same direction, the same object at the same distance. By that a 10 second video of a pilot coming out of a helicopter and down on the ship can shrink to 5 seconds that are not blurry. After finishing my editing labour, I went to the bridge during landing. I took a photo of Graham, Jean Marc and Jochen
with the harbour in the background when the captain came to me, with fast steps and a grim face. And traumatized from Suez I started to excuse for taking a photo and talked until he interrupted me because he just wanted to tell me that at 9:00 in the morning a taxi would come to the port for Marie, Jean Marc and me…
In all other ports, I didn’t see that the crane drivers had a break together. Maybe in Southampton it was only, because they knew that they will have more time now, because of a delay of more than 12 hours additional, but both at last evening and this morning all cranes stood still for a while at the same time. I also wondered when I saw that they didn’t use all available cranes. But for sure I will not be the one who sees things that could be done better that others, who are responsible, wouldn’t know. Although there are some things one the ship that could be done better for sure. I sit in my room with two jackets and 3 t-shirts and still have cold hands, because the room is cooled down too much and I cannot regulate it. The temperature of all fridges is much too low. My bicycle is in a big empty room were the light is burning 24h all the time and that is not the only room where this is the case. And the food waste is terrible. This is not only a matter of organisation it also depends on each person. For example, on the first day we passengers had agreed that we don’t need bread at lunch and the messman didn’t bring bread the next days until once a passenger asked where the bread is. The messman explained that we had told that we wouldn’t need it, but the passenger now wanted bread. And since that day we get bread again at lunch and since that day no one took any bread and since that day for each lunch a complete baguette has been cut, put in the basket and thrown away when it became hard and dry. In some cases you will hear that compared to the big consumption of energy this small changes are not relevant. It might be only a thousandth, but I want to bring two examples: If a package of milk is empty, I usually fold and squeeze it and pour out the last drops and get a mild smile of some people watching that, because I maybe safe a thousandth of the milk. But compared to those who don’t do that I could through away every thousands package of milk completely because I had saved the milk before. And now I wouldn’t earn a mild smile. Or: if there is a big room with thousand lamps some people would not switch of the one lamp they don’t need any more because it is makes no difference compared to the other burning 999 lamps. But if there are 1000 rooms with one lamp in each, they would switch it off when they leave their room, because it makes a difference of 100% if the light is on or off, regardless of all 999 other lamps in the other rooms. Hm, at least when they must pay for the current, maybe.