Our first little worry was that the boat broke down before we had even set off from Hull. We left a couple of hours late with the announcement that we would arrive nearly an hour behind schedule in Zeebrugge. There seemed nothing to do but eat as much as possible in the buffet restaurant. No-one matched Sean’s long standing record of six puddings at one sitting, but I don’t think anyone lost weight over the weekend.
Saturday morning dawned windy and chilly as promised. We left with the wind behind us and, after a few minor diversions, were soon rolling along the canal side towards Brugge, with the wind at our backs and grey clouds rushing overhead .
Our party of eleven quickly reached the outskirts of Bruge where Roger, with the lady from Google Maps whispering directions in his ear, took us round the outskirts of the city.
It was lovely to see so many people of all ages, wearing their ordinary clothes with scarcely a crash helmet in sight, using bikes as a perfectly normal way of travelling. It was wonderful to see a middle aged woman on a sit up and beg bike with flowers in her panniers overtaking us on one of the bike lanes. At one point a little old lady on her traditional bike lead the mighty, lycra clad Sharrow peleton through parts of the city. We should have made her an instant honorary member.
It was clear that after our late start and with the prospect of heading back to the port in a strong headwind we weren’t going to make it to Ghent, so after a lovely ride alongside the canal we turned into the small town of Alter for lunch. We found a busy cafe in the central square where we ate well and prepared for the return journey.
As we pushed northwards into the wind, the rain came down and we settled in for a long slog back to the boat. The rain eased and we we soon arrived at Bruges where we went into town and sat outside a cafe in the chilly sunshine. A massive number of waffles and chocolate sauce and cream were devoured before the sailing deadline forced us back on our bikes for the last leg to Zeebrugge. A fierce north wind had us trying to shelter behind each other, and our slow progress forced Pete and Graham to go ahead to stop the ship from sailing without us. I punctured a few miles from the port. Steve kindly helped me mend the puncture after which sheer panic at the thought of missing the boat forced us into battering ourselves back to the ferry.
We all made it, though Sarah’s chain gave up the ghost as she entered the terminal. Back on board there was nothing to do but shower, relax then attack the buffet as only a group of hungry cyclists can.
Thanks to Pete for organising a great weekend, thanks to Roger for his navigation and thanks to everyone for making it a great social event.