Peckham Farm Crater
I entered France at Warneton, where there is a memorial to Maori soldier Charles Sciascia, who survived Gallipoli, only to die in Flanders.
I followed a cycle path along the river into Lille, passing the citadel and the zoo in the centre. Lille covers a large area, and as I was nervous cycling through a city, it took a long time to cross. A couple of camping grounds that I had hoped to stay at were closed, but I found one that would have me close to Faumont.
The gale force winds returned that evening. They were pretty scary. I had pitched my tent behind some trees that looked like macrocarpa, and I worried they would collapse on the tent. My tent thrashed around all night, making it very difficult to sleep. When I got up in the morning, the roof on one of the nearby cabins had been completely peeled back by the wind. The wind killed people in Benelux.
I tried to follow a route through a forest suggested by Google Maps' cycling function. Not for the last time, it got it completely wrong and sent me down a path that came to a dead end.
It rained again. My clothes needed a wash and my electronics needed charging, so I booked a room at the Hotel Baudouin in Valenciennes. It was excellent. They let me store my bicycle in the garage and there was a buffet breakfast where I could load up on energy for the day ahead.
Church in Valenciennes
I left Valenciennes on the 1st of April. I would've hope that the weather was improving by then, but the next few days were truly miserable and the low point of the trip. I think I enjoyed the Ardennes less than anyone ever - and yes, I have seen "Band of Brothers".
In Fourmies, I stayed at the municipal camping ground. It rained a lot the following day so I remained there. I found an outdoor power outlet where I could charge my tablet. I left on the Friday, but the rain continued and the temperature was a high of 6C. I was on a busy road with a lot of trucks, I was frozen, and I couldn't decide whether to go on or try to stop. I changed my mind several times - I assume I was hypothermic. I eventually found a camping ground, but my clothes didn't dry over night and the following day was even colder (5C). I cycled 2km into Rocroi and took a room at a very nice hotel.
I've learned from this trip that while the low points of cycle touring can be truly miserable, one's mood can also be turned around quite easily with a good bed and some nice food.
I visited an art exhibition where the local artist had a painting of Fiordland.
The Square in Rocroi
Monday 30 March (75km): Ypres to Faumont
Tuesday 31 March (75km): Faumont to Valenciennes
Wednesday 1 April (75km): Valenciennes to Fourmies
Thursday 2 April (0km): rest day
Friday 3 April (60km): Fourmies to Rocroi
Saturday 4 April (2km): Rocroi
Total so far: 733km
Total so far: 733km