Category Archives: Belgium

Day 3

Day three – Widooie (Tongeren) to the Schwarzwald

We said our goodbyes to to Thierry, Francoise and Norbert around lunchtime and bid farewell to the castle in Widooie. It was a perfect day of wall to wall blue skies and sunshine as we rode the few short kilometres to Holland and Maastricht. Even at this early stage we were beginning to notice discrepencies in how our resepective Sat Nav’s calculated the route. Mine was less problematic although  the garmin’s propensity to tell you to turn left or right after the actual turn was really making navigating hard work. Walter’s sat nav gave up after a short time and drew a single ‘as the crow flies’ line across Europe to Ancona. We decided at this point to enter smaller towns that we knew en-route. As it happened the route we took was very picturesque and great fun on a bike.

For anyone that is looking for small foray onto the continent you could do a lot worse than head down to the Belgian Ardenne. We also took the opportunity to stop at the Spa – Francorchamps race track that is used for the Belgian Grand Prix tucked away in the Belgian Ardenne. I have this thing about the Saarbrucken triangle. It’s like the Bermuda triangle except the only thing that goes haywire is the garmin. It sent us around in circles and the only way out was to use the Autobahn. Eventually we managed to get off the autobahn and continue from Luxembourg into Germany, then France and back into Germany.

We arrived into Baden Baden around 9pm. Baden is a very wealthy town and there were casino’s and spa’s a plenty. Not the sort of places for two grubby bikers. We set the sat nav to seek out a campsite and in no time we were headed into the forested hills for a campsite that was 19km away. The 19km turned into 22km and then we we stopped to double check the route the sat nav said 15km to go. We should add that it was pitch black, the road had snow at the edges and there were many switchbacks.

Eventually we reached the town of Enzklosterle deep in the heart of the German Schwarzwald and after a few failed attempts to find a room we managed to find room at the Inn and some food despite it being after 10pm.  But sadly no internet.

Belgian Castles

Well it’s only the end of Day 2, and its already been an eventful couple of days.

The departure from Touratech was a huge buzz. Getting a send off from Austin Vince was pretty special. I like to read, watch and keep abreast of all sorts of biking trips, but for me, none come close to the 2 magnum opuses of the Brothers Vince. There is one thing that sets their projects apart from almost all others, and that’s the fact that they (too) seem to value the satisfaction of being the first to do something on a motorcycle.

I guess everybody gets what they want out of adventure biking films, but for me it’s the trailblazing spirit, the desire to do something that hasn’t been done before that makes a great adventure. Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa both set out to do what hadn’t been done before. That’s why they’re great. There were no trip reports to read to help them do the bits that no-one had done before. It was virgin motorcycle territory.

I like to think my earlier trip, the Tokyo to London Project, shared the Vince philosophy in that way. If I am able to reach some (or all) of my objectives in this current project, then I hope to build on that spirit. I still believe there are plenty of interesting roads out there yet to be ridden. It’s harder and harder to do a trailblazing adventure biking trip, but there is still potential out there.

Day 2 began for both Jonathan and myself in our respective homes in Manchester and London. The plan was to meet at Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal about 10 am. As it happens, both of us were delayed (I had to search for papers in my self storage shed near Gatwick and Jon had traffic problems) and we met at about 12:00 before rolling under La Manche to Calais. The delayed start to the day meant we were squeezed in terms of schedule as soon as we rolled off the tunnel at 2:30pm local time in France. We wound our way through the Flanders Fields around Ypres and Passchendale before realising we were far too late to make a 6pm dinner date in Tongeren on the other side of Belgium with Norbert and family. Norbert was a contact through Horizons Unlimited who I had written to of number of times but had never met. There was no other option – we had to hit the dreaded motorways for over 2 hours.

I had also arranged to meet Stijn and friends, a couple of other Belgian guys planning a ride to Siberia, Mongolia and China for next year, and to meet my 8 year old son Michael – who lives in Holland – that evening. It was going to be a rushed evening and I had no idea how I would be able to link it all together. Fortune favours the brave and the answer was apparent as we arrived at Norbert’s. He lived in an old Castle! Fantastic stuff. So thanks to the fantastic hospitality of Norbert, Francoise and Thierry, all things came to pass that evening in the Castle. After an evening speaking with Stijn and his friends, Jon and I spent the evening in the guesthouse with our motorcycles, while Michael and his mum spent the evening in the Castle itself.

A stressful day, and what was probably the longest day of the trip (about 500 km for me and probably 700 km for Jonathan) ended with dinner and wine in a fantastic castle. The Brothers Vince would have loved this one!