The spots of rain which were falling as we set up the previous night intensified throughout the night but had cleared by the time we awoke. Knowing we had to ride out to the Hotton War Cemetery and then all the way back to Marche-en-Famenne and Rochefort, before getting back to the original planned route, we set out early. The morning was cold and we followed a great little bike path, through the mist and fields, out of Marche-en-Famenne towards Hotton.
Congratulating ourselves how we had managed to leave so early and how nice the little bike path was, Emilie’s chain dropped off the front chain ring. I put it back on and after a few meters it dropped back off again. After some head scratching, I located a link which seemed stuck and discovered that the chain seemed to only drop off when changing gears. With my limited bike mechanic skills I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I put the chain back on and asked Emilie to change gears as little as possible. Google informed us that a bike store was just up the road but when we arrived it was closed. As we pushed on the problem seemed to disappear for a while.
Into Hotton we headed directly to the Commonwealth War Cemetery, which lies up a steep little hill on Rue de la Liberation
The cemetery was as I had remembered, it is perfectly and lovingly maintained. The girls were of course happy to escape the trailer and they wandered about playing, skipping and singing between the rows of tombstones. There was something especially beautiful about that scene, the juxtaposition of laughter and smiling children with the cemetery. Something that brought the gravity of the sacrifice which was before us into focus. Knowing that those children, that I, that my brother and father would not have existed if my grandfather had not survived, whilst also standing before the graves of his entire crew.
Someone before us had left a little floral tribute.
We headed back slowly, trying not to aggravate Emilie’s chain issues. It came off a couple more times before we made it back to Marche-en-Famenne and we started to wonder how we would continue – without perhaps changing the chain (which I had a spare). There was another bike store on our map, Benoit Lambert, we headed for it. Although it was closed, someone appeared to be inside and Emilie knocked on the door. The owner (Benoit??) came out and we had a good chat about our trip. He repaired the chain for us then and there in about 30 seconds by working the chain backwards and forwards, no charge other than affixing a sticker for the store onto Emile’s bike. We can’t thank him enough! If you happen to be in Marche-en-Famenne and need a bike – check them out! http://www.benoitlambert.be/fr/accueil
Just outside of Humain and still riding on the RV6 we stopped for lunch. Just before we pulled in to a little roadside shelter on the edge of a little forest to eat, we passed a couple of unmarked civilian cars surrounded by fully equipped military personnel. As we ate our lunch we were treated to more jet fighter training exercises. The guys in the car were clearly calling in mock bombing runs and the planes, in pairs, were coming down at speed to a very low altitude just behind the cars and us, before peeling up and away. The girls took no interest whatsoever and practised their dancing.
Shortly after lunch we joined up to the RAVEL150B, which after two days of mostly cycling on my self-mapped secondary roads was fantastic. We headed east all the way to Houyet where we anticipated (based on their website) an open camping ground.
When we arrived the reception was unattended and the campground looked empty, apart from full rubbish bags dotted from place to place. Looking at the time we thought we might be able to make for Dinant. We crossed the river and headed along the road/trail which I had mapped out. As we followed the river we could see the campground on the other side and noticed some activity further down where all the caravans were located. The trail was boggy and very quickly we realised we could not pass, perhaps by mountain bike but certainly not with our fully loaded touring bikes and the trailer. We headed back to the campground, thinking that we would investigate further or perhaps be forced into our first hotel of the trip.
We rode around the boom gate and along the river towards the caravans. After riding around for a while we heard some activity in one of the caravans. Emilie asked the gentleman if the campground was still open. Apparently all the caravans were semi-permanent residents – but he thought that someone would be at the reception soon and that the camping was still open. We waited near the reception for someone to arrive and checked for hotels for the night – there were none nearby. As the light started to fade we made a choice to pitch our tent, even though no-one had arrived. We set up right below the reception in the open, so as not to be accused of trying to secretly camp on the grounds. Luckily all the toilets etc. were still open, although with no electricity.
To see the route, elevation profile, etc., click the link to Ride with GPS below (it should be able to be embedded but WordPress does not allow this).