Monday, 29 May 2017

aweigh we go

Arriving in Hirtshals on Saturday morning gives us a little time for a raid on Lidl, Netto, and the other supermarkets in the town.  We are not alone.  The town is full of passengers for the ferry to Norway and ours to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.  Everyone is stocking up.  Down at the docks it's barren and windy but the sun is out and everyone is in a holiday mood.  We get to queue with the motorbikers and other cyclists, apart from the cars and camper vans that clog the lanes at the departure gate. 



befriending some German bikers

Five German bikers draw up and get off their BMWs.  They look at our loaded bikes, nod in acknowledgement and talk amongst themselves, laughing.  I say to the one nearest to me "You know in England we say 'Real men ride bicycles'"  He doesn't know if I'm serious or not but he's game.  He wants to know how we can travel for three years with only what is on our bike.  What about money? Insurance? Pension? He's not really fulfilling my stereotypical biker image by now.  Gayle is sorting through her panniers for the ferry journey and suddenly unleashes a pile of newspaper clippings into the wind.  Papers billow about our heads and fly off across the carpark.  The bikers gamely hurry to gather up as many clippings as they can, whilst Gayle apologises and explains that they are only her sudoku puzzles.

We meet three cyclists and chat with Nadine from Germany and Sun from Hong Kong.  They are loaded and heading for Iceland.  We chat a while and then are joined by another cyclist who is from Munster.  He's got only a backpack and two bursting carrier bags full of beer.  Well, he explains, I have three days on a boat before I reach Iceland.
with Nadine and Sun
It turns out the journey is a booze cruise for some.  We are in cabins below the car deck - a strange hot place that might just be under the surface of the water.  I foolishly mention this to Gayle who visibly blanches.  We are in separate sex cabins, sharing with five others.  So we spend most of our journey up in the bar where there are comfy seats and a socket to charge our pc.  We also have to do our laundry and surreptitiously hang it around the place to dry out.  Nadine and Sun stop by to chat.  Nadine has three weeks in Iceland and has researched her trip well.  Sun is coming to the end of a long ride that began in South Korea.  He looks mellow and ready to end the ride - he's met someone from Taiwan and will be heading there soon.

We have a couple of nights on the ferry and a long day in between when there is nothing to do but run my smalls through the hand-dryer like some perverted weirdo or peruse the chocolate selection in the duty-free shop like some perverted weirdo.  The ferry is from the Faroe Islands and in the lounge they show a promotional video to the mostly retired people who make up the passengers.  Later on there's Bingo.  The place fills up and the tension is palpable as the MC turns on the automated Bingo caller.  He's a model of professional cheer and charm when someone gets a 'House' otherwise he looks bored rigid.  This is his livelihood, after all.
we pass Mucklefugger - the UK's most northerly point

In the evening we are lulled to our sleep by the soft guitar melodies and crooning of a 'cabaret' performer.  Neil Young.  Neil Diamond.  The Beatles.  He knows his audience.  We fall asleep humming Crackling Rose.  I'm feeling slightly nauseous in my airless bunk bed......  

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Jutland challenge

We ride northwards through Germany and take a ferry over the Elbe in order to avoid Hamburg.  It's all very pleasant and easy going.  We beetle up through the west side of Schleswig-Holstein, not quite on the coast and arrive in Denmark on a quiet Sunday morning.   Now we thought the cycle paths in Germany were good but Denmark ups the ante with top quality tarmac as well.   And one gloriously sunny day, just as we are flagging, I suggest we stop for lunch.  "What we need", says Gayle, softened by the luxuries that Europe has to offer cycle tourers, "is a picnic table.  And lo! around the bend, beside a stream, there comes a picnic table.
it has to be said we saw an alarming number of flagpoles in Denmark, perhaps so not to be confused with Sweden....

We pass through the picturesque old city of Ribe before beginning to cross Jutland towards Aarhus. And then something weird happens.  After three weeks of fairly flat riding we find ourselves riding up and down some hills.  In Denmark.  Who'd have thought.  There's even a hairpin bend on one climb.
the lovely churches are always a good source of water and shade
Our navigator has plotted a route that cuts across all the main roads and instead takes us along back country lanes.  It becomes clear to us that we are on some kind of Old Way across the country.  We arrive in Jelling (pronounced Yelling) where the country's Viking and Christian roots meet. There are the burial mounds of Old Gorm and his wife which are separated by a church marking the spot where Denmark's kingdom was first united.  In the shape of a Viking long boat are standing stones surrounding the site.  Now I don't know that much about the Vikings but I know a little and even I was amazed to discover that they were using wireless technology back in the 900s.  Harald Bluetooth, Gorm's son, converted to Christianity, built a church and then went on an evangelical rampage.  We sit on a bench in the sunshine, soak up the sun and watch the remote robot lawnmowers clipping the vast lawns.  I bet Harald never imagined that.

Jonas and Linda introduce us to Denmark's favourite snack

the old town centre
In Aarhus we stay with Linda and Jonas who had got in touch to invite us to stay.  They take us out to their local bohemian cafe for a lovely meal and a local beer.  They help us get a better understanding of the country - one we are not familiar with - and offer to show us around their city.  Jonas takes us to meet a local record producer down in the dock area.  He's a warm, chatty guy who shows a lot of interest in our journey.  "What's the wildest thing that's ever happened to you?" he asks and I immediately think about the tick bite I discovered on my penis the morning before. (I discovered the tick nonchalantly ambling away from the scene of the crime and caught him red-bellied.) But instead we make some bland response about how wonderful people of the world are and how cycle-touring isn't as crazy an adventure as some would believe.  Now, when I think about it, he might have liked the tick story. 


Later, Linda interviews us in the hope of getting an article about us published.  I'm slightly amused because I hadn't really considered what we did particularly exciting or adventurous - which, if you're reading this at your desk in an office, might surprise you.  I guess it's because after so many years this all feels quite normal.  However, we do get excited about seeing and learning about new places.   
with Jonas and Linda setting us on our way
We have a wonderful time with Jonas and Linda - but the clock is ticking.  Our ferry to the Faroe Islands departs on Saturday.  We have to move on.  We take the easiest route but not the most direct - trying to avoid the main roads north.  We also miss any big towns, going up the east coast and catching ferries across some of the bigger rivers.  There are some circuitous bike routes that lead us around the country roads but that's okay - it means the roads are more quieter and more enjoyable.
 
hardly the same, are they?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

catching our breath

asparagus season
Imagine the setting: a sun-filled garden, summer flowers blooming, shade under the trees, garden chairs around a table filled with lovely fresh food,  real coffee in the pot.  Sigh with content and relax.  We are sitting with our friend Gertrude whom we last saw in Iran in 2013.   We really had to stop and see Gertrude before she goes off on a short holiday and we are extremely happy to make it to her home.



We spend a few days here in Dorverden and out and about in the region.  This is Lower Saxony and the landscape is large farms and woodland, fabulous old farms and barns some of which date back 500 years.  Gertrude has always lived in this area and we visit her family home (now her brother's farm), the lovely old town of Celle and the city of Lubeck.  She treats us at every opportunity and she thinks about everything.  At first we are swept away in Gertrude's delight in being able to show us these places. The weather is perfect - sunshine every day - and it's lovely that we can relax at her home while she generously feeds us wonderful meals.  But the cycling finally catches up with us and we have to pause for breath.  But this is okay as Gertrude has some things to prepare for her trip.  We get a much-needed rest here and have a great time with our friend before setting out once again.

the traditional houses of Celle

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

back to the low country

Sunshine, bike paths, Lidl. What more could a cycle tourer want?  Our ride northwards shadows the Maas/Meuse river and is a real pleasure after the cold days we've had since we reached the continent.  We are in and out of forests, cruising through small towns, pedalling past fields being ploughed and find our way onto a bike path next to a river, hidden by the dyke alongside it.  We have identified some woods as potential camping but the sun is still up and there are dog-walkers and joggers about so we stop at a bench and cook dinner.  A local man stops and sits down to chat with us.  He obliquely refers to his b&b, perhaps dropping the hint to us, which we let pass.  We have eyes only for the woods, and a little gap away from the path overlooking the fields.  As the sun starts to set a hot-air balloon drifts over our heads, the hot air blower sounding like an asthmatic whale.

BP has a problem with penny farthings
Dick Bruna's memorial
Onwards to Utrecht which is a lovely city.  It's a Sunday so the roads are quiet but there are folk about.  Canals. Miffy. Houseboats. Bike paths galore.  We find the one along the riverbank which bends and twirls past some fabulous houses and gardens.  It's a popular route although the roadbikers get a bit annoying because they really want to go fast and the path is full of Sunday riders.  We mooch along happily, threading our way towards Amsterdam. 








We reach the city via a canal path, what else?  One moment we're in fields and the next we've arrived in a modernish suburb on the south side of the city, looking for Fiona and Gordon's street.  We decide to stop at the supermarket just as Gordon rolls up on his bike.  It's seven years since we saw them last in Bangkok, before we were travelling on bikes and again we have lots to catch up on.  We are introduced to their son, Laurie ,who is now at school.  It turns out that this is the longest time they have ever lived in one place together, so it's no surprise when they express itchy feet. 
obligatory windmill photo - although these days it's more wind turbines
We have a day to wander and explore the city - both our first time in the city.  The ever-diminishing rings of canals might be more charming if they were pedestrianised.  This is a classic European city where people live right in the city centre.  I hadn't really considered this before a friend in England reflected how much Manchester had changed with the development of the city centre making it more residential and more European.  Here we find bustling street markets selling food, clothing and bric-a-brac.  There are lots of tourists but the city is busy with the normal day to day stuff.  We just have to take care on the bike paths - the locals who know their way round are not always patient of tourists who stop suddenly to take photos or gawp at the street scenes.  The one thing that strikes me is the familiarity of the architecture, specifically the brown stone houses - they look just like the brownstones of New York.

say 'cheese'

It's only a fleeting visit and before we know it we're saying our goodbyes once again and heading out eastwards through a green part of the city and out along a huge canal surrounded by wind turbines.  Zwolle has a nice pedestrianised central area where we stop for a picnic lunch. The weather has finally begun to warm up and we still have showers but signs of summer are everywhere.  Our last night in the Netherlands we find ourselves amongst farmland where all the fields either have crops or are being prepared.  It offers little to the wild camper but finally we find some woods where we can keep out of sight.
yep, it's flat alright

Friday, 5 May 2017

Oh, Cologne

We like cycling in Germany.  There are bike paths everywhere - even between small villages - and folk stop to ask us where we are going when we are having our lunch.  We're on our way to Cologne and the going is good at first, after getting through a conurbation early morning we are out on the open road, well, bike path, and flying along when we come to a place where the path ends and we join the road.  But the road is a little fast and busy with trucks and we realise that we should probably not be on this particular road, but hey, we're here now and there's no where else to go except forward, so we might as well continue and go as fast as we can to the next junction. Phew.   
not all German bike paths are perfect...

The rest of the way is calm and peaceful again as we find the quiet roads that finally lead to a bike path into the city around about rush hour.  It's quite a nice feeling riding past all the stationary vehicles queueing along the main road.   Soon we are in the city and knocking on Angie and Peter's door.  Angie is an old friend from England and we are excited to catch up after how many years (?) and meet Peter for the first time.  They both cycle around the city and while we were on our last trip they also had a year off, beginning on bikes in Britain before heading over to explore the Americas.


There's much to catch up with and we have a good rest here with them.  Peter runs his own business and it took a radical shift in his working life to get away for a year.   But we think he hasn't regretted it - he's so enthusiastic about the journeys of other cycling tourers and keeps an eye open for blogs of the more interesting ones.  It's quite funny because Gayle also does this when we're not travelling and she's always looking for ideas for new places to visit.  Peter also has been following people around the world through their blogs.  Since their big journey Angie has knuckled down to learn German well enough to qualify to teach full-time in German state schools - with only the tricky writing exam to pass.  Our time with them is non-stop talking and great fun.  Peter is really helpful finding us a tool I need and that all-important 45mm bolt that enables me to adjust my front mudguard.  I am trying to get everything right on the bikes while we have access to good supplies and Peter goes out of his way to help.

We reassess our planned route north to Denmark - we are conscious of the limits in time and our comfort zone.  Since we left home we've been pushing harder than our usual slothful style.  Regretfully we have to miss our friends Friedel and Andrew in the Hague and go straight on to Amsterdam.  After one more lovely night tasting the local beer and food at a local hostelry with Peter and Angie, they ride out of the city with us, leading us in the right direction to avoid the big roads and find the way into the Netherlands.  It's a fairly flat ride dodging between Dusseldorf and Moechengladbach and not so beautiful, but it's easy enough for us to reach the Dutch border by the end of the day.  It is raining when we find a pine forest to pitch the tent and after a long day we're happy to have such an easy camp.

Monday, 1 May 2017

low country

We camp in woods near to an airfield.  Along the side road we take into the woods are signs warning us away - the land belongs to the military.  But there's a woodcutter's track which is clear and we find a nice dry spot under pines.  In the night there is the bark of a deer, but otherwise it's peaceful.

not a Belgian restaurant
We find our way onto the Albert Canal - a great waterway which cuts through Belgium and connects with Maastricht.  We call it the Fat Albert.  Both banks have a cycle path and it's really popular.  Belgium is awash with cycling clubs and we are frequently swept aside by swarms of lycra clad men buzzing past wherever we are.  You can't escape them.  The Fat Albert has huge embankments on either side and they are lush green with new growth.  Along the canal, enormous barges drift along.  
 
on the way to the Fat Albert

We take a bridge over the canal and then descend for a long time down into the city of Maastricht. And down we go some more onto cobbled streets that lead into the heart of the old medieval centre.  It's lovely and lively with people.  There are cyclists everywhere, mostly on those classic clunky Dutch bikes.  We trundle along through the centre and straight out the other side, crossing the Maas river and onto a bike path that leads almost immediately into a tranquil village.  We then end up alongside the main road to Aachen in Germany.  It's tree-lined but very busy so we're glad of the path running through the fields.  It's a very long pull uphill and we pass by an enormous American war cemetery which looks immaculately kept.  It's a stark reminder of the war and might explain why there are no road signs to Aachen or Germany - nothing to tell us we are approaching the border at all - only signs to the local villages and small towns.
English charity riders

At the border sign we stop for a photo and get chatting to a group of English road cyclists who have rode here in three days.  "Why do you need a fire extinguisher?" one of them asks, pointing at our fuel bottle.   They're all raising money for different charities and they are finishing in Aachen, just over the border.  Our challenge is to get across this city and out to where we can camp. We have paper maps used the last time we came through here in 2010 and manage to find our way onto a small road which takes us on another climb to a woodland area.  It's time to stop and camp but we can't find a good out of sight place.  We also surprise a man walking alone beside the woods - he jumps into the trees when he sees us and this spooks us.  It's only when we see another man just standing trying to look inconspicuous with his phone that we think we've arrived at the local cottaging area.  So we cycle around to the other side of the woods, cook our tea and wait for darkness before camping in a fallow field.  It never gets really dark - there's a full moon and a clear sky - but the only sounds are owls in the woods.  This kind of sylvan wonder is why we don't like normal campsites.  And of course, it's for free.
vorsprung durch technik

Saturday, 29 April 2017

les miserables

We don't really have the time to give Belgium it's due.  Our objective is Koln in five days' time, which does not seem like much, but as the man who chats to me outside a shop points out, the wind can increase your journey time by a third, if it's in the wrong direction.  As all cycle-tourers know, the wind is in the wrong direction about 90% of the time.
a Belgian restaurant

The country is friendly to cyclists, even if it's not a friendly country.  There are cycle paths along most roads - usually sharing the little used pavement.  Plenty of cyclists and plenty of options.  An easy one is to get onto a canalside and motor.  Quite literally, as we share the bike paths with scooters, mopeds and e-bikes.  It comes as quite a shock on our first evening to find blue-rinsed old ladies breezing past us with their shopping baskets full.  Are we so unfit?   The farmland is wide open and flat, flat, flat.  You can see for acres, and there's ne'er a hedgerow or tree in sight.  We pass through a lovely old town with the distinctive bell tower separate from the church steeple.  It is just after five o'clock and everything seems shut.  The streets are almost deserted.  We've just arrived in the middle of a zombie movie.   A bit later we stop at a picnic table near a village to eat.  Dog-walkers, runners and cyclists pass by without once giving us eye-contact, let alone a 'bon appetit'.  It's enough to make you paranoid.  
another Belgian restaurant

We make it to Bruges the next lunchtime, and push our bikes through the narrow streets full of tourists, emerging in the main square.   It's very pretty, very touristy.  The buildings seem to lean towards each other over the cobbles, as if to confide with each other.  At street level everything seems business as usual - same old same old shops.  We are passing through, we have no time - the city deserves better from us.  On the way out through the more modern and plain back streets we are struck by the number of bikes parked on the streets, without locks, clearly left outside the houses for want of space inside. Everyone here cycles, it seems.

 
We much prefer Ghent to Bruges.  Is it because the wider canals and streets give us more to see, more to look at?  Less tourists? Or is it because we arrive mid-morning and spend more time walking around?  The canals and old merchant buildings in the centre are impressive, and the scale and size of the enormous medieval churches leave your neck sore and your jaw aching.  Ghent was known as the Manchester of Europe because it was the first city on the continent to start a mechanised weaving industry. Other than this, there are no similarities whatsoever.  We cycle over huge junctions of locks where the canals connect with the port - a canal leads out to the sea.
Belgian gothic

Oh but we are sick of the dour Belgians already.  Terse, unsmiling.  Cyclists we pass don't let on.  No smiles, or waves, or acknowledgements.  Of course, we are not special or unique in a land full of cyclists, but we are used to saying hello to people.  In the evening we stop to get water in a village and the only place is a bar full only of men, apart from the woman serving behind the bar.  When I walk in the conversations actually stop and everyone listens to what I ask for.  It's a scene from a Trappist Western.  
the only trouble with canal side bike paths...
After a few flat days we finally come to hills as we approach Maastricht and the Dutch and German borders.  We begin to enjoy the cycling again because now we have views.  The Belgian villages have all become strung out as new houses are built along all the approach roads.  This makes the scenery quite boring  - nothing beats the greens of farms and countryside.  So being in the hills is a pleasant variation to this.  We are looking forward to Germany.
typical village house in Belgium - note the use of a moat to keep the neighbours out

Thursday, 27 April 2017

carrefours

We disembark in Dunkirk.  Well, not quite, somewhere between Dunkirk and Calais.  And then we ride like the wind along the coast eastwards with the intention of camping outside Bruges.  This is a dream, because it all takes longer than we imagined.  

This part of France is a string of villages that have become towns and all look modern, clean and bland in that comforting European way.  No grit or grime, no grey or grizzle.  Everything looks spic and span.  At every crossroads there are only directional signs at the junction.  This seems quite bizarre.  We have to stop at every junction to read the signs which are placed on all four corners, pointing down their respective routes.  It is from the age of horse and cart. 

Our time in France lasts about as long as a packet of biscuits.

bluebirds over

misogynists' country ?
Breakfast on the front at Bexhill feels rather civilised.  A nice shelter from the wind, a little sunshine, and public toilets.  What more could you need?  Dog-walkers, joggers, cyclists, and walkers all pass by and many look at us brewing up and say hello.  Amused, bemused?  A man comes to clean the glass in the shelter and apologises for disturbing us.  How civilised.  Less civilised is the bike route out of Hastings.  Someone in Sustrans clearly thinks it's a wheeze to choose the steepest lane imaginable out of the town.  Sure, there's little traffic on it, and sure, it takes us past a campsite and through some lovely parkland before leading us on to the way to Rye.  But it's a bloody long push.  I wondered if I'd recognise anything of Hastings when we pass through because we used to visit my grandparents here around Easter time when we were kids.  I bought my first Tintin book in a WH Smiths here. But there's nothing I remember.  Oh, except for the crazy golf on the front.


The cycle route takes us inland to Rye through fields of vivid yellow gorse.  The big skies darken and it hails just as we get to the centre.  We are having our lunch in the shelter of the supermarket to escape wind and rain when two young dudes stop to ask us where we're heading.  One of them has been touring and is about to return to Kyrgyzstan where he abandoned his ride last year.  We share our experience at Birling Gap the previous day and they seem totally unsurprised. 
 
Romney Marsh
Tucking this social contact under our belts, we head off across the marshes towards the picturesquely-named St.Mary-in-the-Marsh.  There are big skies and a sharp south-easterly wind which brings a chill to our bones.  We pause for biscuits and a breather outside St. Mary's 12th century church.  It's all in quite good nick, considering it's age.   Then we cut left and right around the fields to rejoin the coast and arrive in Folkestone on a good long bike path away from the traffic.  The path ends suddenly at the town with big excavations but we manage to get onto a road which leads us to a chippy.  It's a grey, grim part of the town, full of cheap hotels and booze shops.  It seems like a great place to have our final supper in England, so fish, chips and peas it is.  



There's nothing like a big stodgy meal to help you up the hills.  We zig and zag up steep quiet surburban streets of semis (try saying that quickly.......okay, now try cycling it) and then onto an overgrown bike path that leads back onto the clifftops above the town.  It's getting dark and cold when we finally find a lane that leads to a track that leads to a gap in the middle of a field of rape.   The gap is where the tractor has entered and left the field and it's just big enough to put the tent.  In a plot nearby skittish horses snort and neigh at us.  

It's a cold night.  We can scrape the frost off the tent in the morning.  Happily it's a big descent into Dover where we breakfast in a carpark and dry the tent out in the sunshine.  A man in a van remarks on our load.  He's a cyclist and he wishes us all the best on our way.  We don't have a ferry ticket but we can ride into the ferry terminal, pass the French police check, and then through the security gate before we buy our tickets to Dunkirk.  There are ferries heading to Calais and Dunkirk every hour, which means a phenomenal number of lorries coming and going.  It would be hard to imagine this port when we leave the EU and the customs checks resume........

Blue sky and sunshine as we sail away from England. White cliffs too. And France is just ...là bas.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

oh we do like to be beside the seaside


 Dino acompanies us 'off the premises' as it were - leading us along the bike paths that take us into Brighton and out the other side.  He points out 'Millionaire's Row', five large houses that front onto the west end of Brighton beach and where the beach is closed to the public.  Outrageous.  These miserable celebrities might have a nice view out front but the backside of their houses is a small industrial estate.  As we roll into Brighton proper we pass 'No Cycling' signs on the
 promenade.  But it's spring time and the promenade is quiet.  Dino confesses that Suzi would be displeased to know he was taking us this way and she's not alone.  "Oh look, some more people who can't read" a woman shouts sarcastically at us as we pass by.  I point to her dog, which is not on a leash.  "You too!"  A little later an old man grumbles at us, muttering about criminals.  The cycle path rejoins us as we negotiate the marina and then out under the cliffs at the east end of town, where we finally say our farewells.

 
We head eastwards rolling merrily along in the sunshine. Outside a supermarket an old couple remark on our loaded bikes.  I tell them we're off to Alaska and the chatty old lady nods her head towards her taciturn husband saying "He used to ride his bike everywhere".  Before they get on their bus they wish us all the best.  These kind of spontaneous good wishes always leave us feeling extremely happy - something we wouldn't experience if we were just travelling to work and back every day.

are you sure this is the bike path?

Along this stretch of the coast are the white chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters where we almost get lost on a bike route that takes us across several fields.  Bizarrely we meet large groups of tourists tramping towards us - French school kids, a Chinese family, some Japanese women - all in search of the iconic view of the cliffs.  We have to negotiate a tricky stretch of A road before we can turn off again onto back roads that lead to Birling Gap, where the cliffs part at the beach.  There's a cafe and tourist information place here with toilets and the car park is busy.  We amble out to look along the beach where a few walkers are strolling along.  A motorcyclist in leathers indicates a couple who have just walked off ina hurry.  "They've just spotted a body on the beach.  They've gone to phone the Old Bill."  We are shocked by this.  We didn't realise people actually did refer to the police as 'the Old Bill'.  Out amongst the seaweed and rocks on the shoreline, exposed by the retreating tide is a dead woman with no clothes.  We watch in morbid fascination as a walker slowly gets nearer and nearer to the body.  He is clearly oblivious of the horror before him.  And then he stops, he looks, he steps away, he turns, and very slowly he retreats to the stairs back up to the carpark.  We are all in shock.  Staff from the cafe come to close off the stairs and within a couple of minutes two large policewomen drive up.  We move off and along the road towards Beachy Head, the highest cliff.  It's on this road that we pass a car that at first looks like a breakdown recovery vehicle, and it sort of is.  "24 hour Chaplain Service" it says.  "We are here to talk to if you need".  This might be the UK's suicide hotspot, and it leaves us feeling cold and hollow.
Sluice Lane
It's probably not a great time to pass through Eastbourne, which is a rather depressing sprawl of seaside town, the antithesis of Brighton.  Half an hour at the local Asda store and our depression is complete.  Everyone looks overweight, ill or badly dressed.  Sorry, let me rephrase that.  Everyone looks overweight, ill and badly-dressed.  We are such snobs.  Hurriedly we cycle out of town.  This part of the coast looks quite built up on the map but we are saved by the romantically-named Sluice Lane, which cuts down to the seafront through fields that have deep water channels all around them.
If we carry on we will arrive in the next town, so we stop to cook on the beach and then backtrack to a field with a gate and a stile.  Without much ado, we unload over the gate, pass the bikes over, and quickly hide ourselves behind the hedgerow.  Thank goodness for hedgerows.  Our night's peace is broken only when a car pulls up at the gate at around midnight.  A car door opens.  We expect to be rousted but nothing happens.  The driver gets back in and drives off.  It's only in the morning that we find some flattened cardboard boxes dumped in the turn-off. 

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