We had a few chores to complete before setting off on our European Adventure …collect the sleeping bag and Vince’s liners for his riding pants from the Drycleaner and Alterations place….have breakfast at the local cafe (Eggs Hollandaise)…top up our fuel and make our way to Vines Guildford to pick up a replacement bolt and circlip which came off somewhere in Wales. Keith Ackroyd fitted them for us ….he’s very found of the Animal. Whilst this was going on I was approached by a father and young son who were fascinated by the ANIMAL and I gave the young boy one of our stickers. We scooted down the M25 towards Folkestone and a few miles short it started to rain so we pulled off and put on our wet weather gear wishing to avoid another drenching!
Arriving early, checking in at Eurotunnel was simple and we were able to take advantage of their offer to take a train two hours ahead of schedule (2.20pm) at no additional cost (saving us around 40 pounds) – Bonus! At passport control we told the Inspector we were Australians and followed that up with a rousing rendition of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi …when we told him we are travelling home on the bike his response was “You’re Crazy!” and he waved us through without us even needing to show our passports. We boarded the “Johnathon Linton” along with other vehicles including a motorbike belonging to Chris and Dave …a lovely English couple whom we chatted to on the half hour journey. Vince was approached by Jocke, a Fin, he and his fiancé have BMW F800s and dream of doing what we are doing but with two bikes. He saw the ANIMAL on the platform, Googled our website from our stickers and came down for a chat. He is a HU member and asked to take our photo to put up onto the HU Facebook page (which he later emailed to us – very kind). The journey was uneventful and although getting off was a bit slippery it was all good!
In Callais we stopped at the first petrol station so Vince could get his bearings and program the GPS. We were also hungry as we hadn’t had lunch and it was a bit after 3.00pm but all we could find were coke and mars bars – the riders staple diet! A tour bus had also stopped and we found ourselves swamped by Indian tourists from Mumbai. Photo’s, handshakes and a million questions all at once! The ANIMAL sure attracts attention wherever she goes and we were treated like superstars.
We made our way to Ypes ( pronounce Ips) via Dunkirk and the cross winds were ferocious at times. We slipped across the boarder into Belgium without fanfare – as the boarder was unmanned. We made our way to the Jaeger Stadion Campsite passing many Military cemeteries and tiny chapels along the way. At the campsite the sign on the barrier gate said full! The Manager however, was able to point us to the tent area where there was still some space and it only cost us 11 Euros – another Bargain! Ammenities were more than adequate with toilets, showers and a wash up kitchen area. We quickly pitched our tent and made our way on foot into town (10 minutes) along a country path that passed through two gates either side of a cow (with horns!) paddock….In town we quickly realised that we had arrived the day after VE Day (8th May) and celebrations were still in progress with Military bands playing, a music concert and fireworks. In contrast, everywhere you looked there were things to do with cats …posters, paper mâché models, sculptures, toys, chocolates etc and people dressed up as cats, wearing ears and face painting. I asked one of the shopkeepers, Karol, what it was all about and he explained that tomorrow would be the 44th Kattenstoet where the town celebrates the history of cats being brought in to solve a mouse infestation and then they became a problem and were thrown from the clocktower. We subsequently found out they also celebrate burning witches….this is all reenacted throughout the day. We decided to stay an extra day here so we could see it.
Walking back to our campground after dinner, we stopped at the Menin Gate and listened to the Last Post. Through the city arch and across the moat we were stopped by the Town Cryer and his friends, they insisted we stop whilst they proclaimed the opening of the festival….so entering into the spirit of things, we did!