It was still dark when I became aware of the pitter-patter of rain on the tent. There was a moment of ‘oh my goodness’ but then trusting to the forecast that it would not be heavy, I drifted back into slumber. When I did awake properly later, it was to the sound of Mr V unzipping the tent and issuing an expletive as a small army of ants marched forward. There then ensued some frantic swatting leaving the floor of the tent littered with tiny corpses. Time to get up!
We packed up with alacrity although the rain had stopped a while ago, the sky was still heavy and could not be trusted to hold on to it’s burdensome precipitation. Moving packed bags to the more sheltered picnic tables at the site, I went to carry out my morning ablutions and on returning found Mr V had completely decamped to the area, conceding defeat to the ant mob. We were therefore on the road, not entirely bright, but certainly early. We quickly found our way onto the LF11 heading towards the city of Breda, which until now had been the name of a sunken WWII ship that Mr V and his brothers had dived many times some years before, retrieving some crockery headed for India. We hit the city around morning rush hour; not ideal but the going was fine initially other than a couple of small detours due to road works. Breda did not seem the prettiest of places that we have travelled through, though there were clearly areas that have been gentrified.
Once out of Breda we soon crossed the Belgian border, it became evident where we were by the number of flags being flown in support of the national team who had reached the semifinals of the World Cup. We had not been in Belgium but an hour when we had been diverted and finding our way back to the LF, but Mr V was having to push Talula through deep gravel that had been laid on the path. On passing a friendly workman, we enquired as to how far the current surface extended, to be informed, about 7 km! He said that a little further on it got better, or we could detour to the roadway. Mr V pushed on and we reached the fork in the road, the new surface here was firmer and rideable so we saddled up and gingerly pressed on.
Reaching further into Belgium we were travelling through acres of farmland, all seemingly growing corn (maize). It seems to be the main grower of the crop. The problem with this type of countryside is that there is a distinct dearth of places to stop. However we had been going so long, and were in need of a break so stopped at the first bench we came to, regardless of the fact that the view was of a farmyard. We did not stop long though as the chill of the wind soon made itself known. After our brief recharge we progressed around the seemingly endless corn fields, sometimes with the wind at our backs, often not.
Change the scenery did though, eventually, and we were travelling the straight smooth path alongside a canal where we could lick along at quite a pace, pushing our legs to work harder. This was not exactly a pretty canal though, but rather uninspiring initially as there were numerous weirs, which excluded boat travel, giving the canal an uninhabited air, not helped by the large concrete emplacements left over from the war that were dotted along at regular intervals.
As with all things this changed as we moved on, and there were locks and wide pools where boats were moored. Passing by one of these small marina areas, I noted in my peripheral vision someone fall from a boat and heard the splash onto the water. Urging Mr V to stop, we backtracked to see if the fellow was alright. He seemed to be struggling to get himself into the boat’s tender, when his wife appeared and then ran to get help, however the marina looked deserted so we quickly peddled to the next bridge (fortunately close by) and down the opposite bank where, along with another boat owner, Mr V was a hero and helped the gentleman out of the water, to the relief of both him and his wife. Evidently he had been cleaning the boat and tumbled in, but due to his Parkinson’s did not have the strength to pull himself out of the water.
Pleased we had been able to help, we bid farewell and then continued further until Mr V spied an establishment that is the purveyor of the choco waffles so loved by him. He is down to his last pack so starting to get twitchy. Despatched to replenish supplies, I searched the shelves in vain. This was the same store in name only. This side off the border there were waffles aplenty, but not the particular type so beloved by Mr V. A substitute was purchased to tide him over until we cross back into Holland. They are a pale imitation though.
We skirted around Brecht, so I cannot comment as to it’s charms, and pushed on to Antwerp. The weather was starting to close in after lunch and by the time we were in Antwerp it was cold and miserable. Now I have really enjoyed our camping experience so far, but the weather has been fabulous. The thought of setting up camp and sleeping in the cold and damp just bought flashbacks to the traumatising experience of camping at Findhorn in the highlands of Scotland with 3 small children. As much as he is used to this kind of weather having worked extensively in the outdoors I informed Mr V that we would not be doing that, and not caring about the cost, set about finding a dry bed for the night.
We are now ensconced in the cosy and relatively glamorous Marilyn Monroe room, with our own bathroom, a bath big enough for two, shower like Niagara Falls and a massive comfortable bed with real pillows, oh and the real towels were bliss!
Having dined and shared a bottle of cheeky Merlot, whilst the rest of Antwerp endured the trials of watching their national team lose their bid for the World Cup, I am ready for a delicious nights sleep and if the forecast is correct, shall wake to a lovely sunny day. I think I may need to set an alarm for the first time in a couple of weeks!
Further into Belgium we go, heading first for Ghent, Mr V will have to seriously ration his remaining choco waffle supply.