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Published: August 20th 2008
Exactly a month of travelling, everything OK till August 4th, a day curiously full of setbacks...
I had peacefully pedalled for 74 flat Kms and I was only 22 Kms away from Gent, stage's final for that day. A puncture at the rear wheel, apparently nothing serious. I decide to push the bike up to a gas station where I could have changed the tyre without being then forced to inflate it manually. I took a few steps and the inner tube came totally out of the tyre, which in turn lost its natural place inside the metal rim while the same inner tube, now totally deflated, ended up inextricably interlaced around the wheel axis. It had never happened before to me, something wasn't right. The tyre was new, I had replaced it a few days before because its tread was totally wore out. I'm so forced to stop and change the tyre there on the road itself, with cars fast running next to me. I unload the luggage, take the wheel apart, replace the inner tube, inflate it and nothing: the tyre doesn't want to stay in its place. I think about calling my friend Vanessa in Gent and
ask her to come and pick me up: 22 Kms are nothing by car. I take the phone, press the letter "v" in the contacts and -panic- doesn't appear any Vanessa there. I got my personal book from the pannier, I've certainly written it there, then. No, I haven't written it there either. I am a disaster of disorganization. So told everything might seems just as a little problem but in reality it is not, because I should stay at her place but I do not know her new address. I think for a moment, the best thing to do is to find an internet place and send her an e-mail admitting my total stupidity and telling her to call me. I ask two boys who were passing by where I could find an Internet café. There was none. So I think, I take the train, get to Gent and send this bloody e-mail from there. There is no station. I could always take the bus. The bus doesn't carry bikes. Maybe I find a bike shop, fix Rocinante and resume my journey. There are no bike shops.
Fuck: the Flanders are one single, infinite urbanization, when at night
I would like to find a space to pitch my tent I have to search for hours before finding 100 Sqm of unbuilt fields; Thelma and Louise, had they been Flemish, wouldn't have had time to leave the city behind them that the film would have been already over (nor Brad Pitt would have found room enough to hitchhike); and I go and have a breakdown in the only place in the country where there is absolutely nothing! Where is the nearest station? At Zele, 7 kms.
I sadly start walking in the opposite direction to that I was headed to and after over an hour I'm at Zele. I Reconsider the whole thing and decide that the best thing to do is perhaps to take lodging in a hostel and next morning searching for a mechanic, fix the bike and finally cycle to Gent. I ask around where I could spend the night. Nothing, apparently a town of considerable size like Zele doesn't offer any accommodation. I must continue until the next, larger city, Lokeren. I ask about the station, they tell me it is right at the other end of town and -given the kind of day
I was having- I am not surprised in the least. While walking towards the station I randomly find the public library, from which computer the kind clerk let me send my SOS mail to Vanessa despite I did not have a membership card.
I get on the train to Lokeren: a mere six minutes journey. At Lokeren an international music festival is ongoing, there is therefore a huge number of people partying around and -consequently- no accomodation available either. I can't believe it: what else could go wrong? I pick my phone to check if there is any message from Vanessa and -puff- dead the telephone too.
Back to the station, rather demoralized this time. Another train, another city: Gent. 15 minutes of travelling. Again: there is more space between two cells of the same beehive than between two Flemish cities. Walking and pushing my bike again, this time through the center of Gent. The city is so beautiful that every now and then I stop pushing to take a picture. The Flemish awful deficiency in natural areas is (partly) compensated by the unique charm of its cities: Brugge, Mechelen or Gent itself have nothing to envy to
the most ancient Italian or Spanish cities.
I find the youth hostel. It's full. I don't have any more ideas, really. They recommend me a camping ground outside town, but is several kilometres away, it's late and my legs are like melted cheese after 74 kms pedaling a bike and 15 more pushing it. Nearby stands the city castle and the idea of illegally camp in its gardens suddenly appears as excellent. I circumspectly cross one of the bridges that save the many Gent's channels, when I hear a call. It is a rather elderly man of ascetic appearance: white, prophet-like beard and three fingers of his left hand missing. He asks me what's the problem with my bike. I explain it to him. He invites me to have a beer with him and -I admit it now with a certain feel of shame- I diffidently refuse like a child who is upset for something his father had told him and now behaves unfriendly with everyone. The man -André- tells me of being a former biketour's guide and that therefore could maybe fix my bike. And, in fact, time five minutes and this man miracously sprout out of nothing
has fixed Rocinante. And with half a hand missing! Then he also buys me a beer. Then he talks about Jesus and goodness. Incredible. A generous prophet with mechanical skills met after a day of tribulations. I finally get to the camp outside town, I pitched my tent that was already dark, but I've never slept more soundly. A few days before...
When I arrived at Bastogne I asked the local tourism board to tell me the route of the famous Liege-Bastogne-Liege road race and I then followed more or less faithfully its itinerary. Continuos ups and downs through the Ardennes, in every town a mausoleum to remember the great battle fought here during WWII by Germans and Americans. On the last and more challenging climb, the Sprimont, I begun to meet groups of people on the edge of the road, their number constantly increasing until, reached the top of the hill, I crossed what seemed to be the final line of a Mountain's Grand Prix. Spectators were present here in larger number and they jokingly applauded and cheered at my arrival. Not wanting to fall shorter of it, I lifted my arms towards the sky as cyclists do
when they win a race, which fuelled further celebrations among the crowd. I stopped to ask to what was due such a receiving party, and in fact, it was not me who were they waiting for, but the arrival of the Tour de Wallonie, a professional race of world fame. I waited too for their arrival. Some fifteen minutes later they arrived: police, publicity caravan, a small group of fleeing racers, the main group with a delay of 2'55" (as written on the organizator's blackboard), team cars, more police and finally the ambulances to close the parade. Once they were all gone I also started the final descent down to Liège. From there on only flatlands awaited me.
July 28th: Strasbourg 0 Kms
July 29th: Strasbourg - Vosges - Saarbrucken (Germany) 129 Kms, 7h02', 18.2 Kms/h
July 30th: Saarbrucken - Mondorf les Bains (Luxembourg) 103 Kms, 5h43', 18.0 Kms/h
July 31st: Niederkorn 0 Kms
August 1st: Niederkorn - Bastogne (Belgium) 58 Kms, 3h05', 18.9 Kms/h
August 2nd: Bastogne - Liege 90 Kms, 5h01', 18.0 Kms/h
August 3rd: Liege - Aarschot 95 Kms, 5h15', 18.0 Kms/h
August 4th: Aarschot - Heikant 74 Kms, 4h21', 17.4 Kms/h
August 5th: Gent 0 Kms
August 6rd: Gent 0 Kms
August 7th: Gent 0 Kms
August 8th: Gent 0 Kms
August 9th: Gent - Breda (Netherlands) 116 Kms, 6h09', 18.8 Kms/h
August 10th: Breda - Utrecht 74 Kms, 3h56', 18.8 Kms/h ITALIANO
La versione italiana di questo blog è disponibile sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Cavalcando Ronzinante IV: Utrecht (Km 2273)
Tot: 0.05s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 12; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0092s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb