On the weekend I met up with Michel, a guy I had been put in touch by a friend. He works at a bike shop here in Belgium and for the last couple of decades has worked in mechanical support for various MTB teams, from Volvo-Cannondale to today's USA team. He's also a gentleman with a very good knowledge of the local trails and how to string them together into a fun long ride for a sunny day.
I had a 45 minute ride to get to Michel's place from Enghien, where I am staying temporarily since my arrival in Belgium last week. It was a Sunday morning, and the village was still sleeping..
Most of our ride consisted of narrow little rights of way between fields of corn, potatoes, peas, beetroot etc, and unlike anything in Welington. Shouldn't have been all that surprising though, as you don't tend to come across many fields of corn on Mt Victoria or Belmont.
I had been warned about the weather in Belgium before coming here, and I have to say I didn't think it could be much worse than that of Wellington. But if it changes quickly back home it's nothing compared to the sudden showers that can pounce on you over here, and I've only been here a week and in the middle of summer. Thankfully on this day it was brilliant sunshine. Fishing the canal Charleroi seemed to be a popular pastime
About 4 or 5 hours later we wheeled back down a hill to Michel's place. Little had I known we had ridden all around the local French-speaking area, and even up into Flanders. I wondered why at one point after greeting with a bonjour people we saw I suddenly stopped getting responses, and instead slightly gruff mumbled grunts. There's a certain antagonism between the different language speakers here, which was well illustrated to me.
At one point we went fairly close to the 1812 battleground of Waterloo, famous for the defeat of the French, (thanks Oli!) and inspiration for Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture. You can just make out a sort of pyramid shape in the background, that's it.
So although the cyclocross doesn't start here until next month, once it does it really does. From what I've seen of the calendar it's chocka every weekend until the end of February, so I've got a busy and exciting few months ahead of me. In the meantime I'm on the lookout for work and somewhere to live. I've got myself sorted with the jet lag that got me early on, and the long days of sunlight until 10pm aren't so strange now, so I can appreciate life a little more now.