The road to Wissant


The next day I was on the road heading for a little French village called Wissant.

I must say, the ride started pretty well, okay so the weather was a bit cloudy, but the going was good and I was in high spirits. And then I hit Belgium also known as worst-roads-in-Western-Europe-for-a-motorbike. Seriously, I was on the best highway they had and there were bumps that knocked me off my saddle every ten meters. Then to make it even more interesting there were grooves in each lane where vehicles had been over and over. I felt like I was on some old cart worn Roman road. I hadn’t expected this until at least Eastern Europe.

As I was going along I looked down from the highway and saw a tractor going along what looked like a better road. Where’s the logic in that? And then I needed to go to the toilet. I had needed to go for a while but when I hit the Roman bladder busting road I decided not to like Belgium very much. Not very objective I know but that’s the way it is. We bikers have a somewhat different opinion on what constitutes a nice country. Quality of roads features largely in our judgment. So in the end I finished up stumbling down a bank off the highway desperately trying to undo my motorcycle pants I was so busting.

I then continued to Antwerp where as soon as I turned off the motorway I came onto a cobbled road. Not just a flat cobbled road but the ones which have at least a centimetre gap in between them and are smoothly rounded. I was sitting there fighting my bucking bronco whilst simultaneously hoping it doesn’t slip over, or the mirrors rattle off. All the while I was trying to read the road signs for directions.

You know, I wonder why the roads are so bad. I was so mad at them I decided not to spend any money in Belgium; I was only passing through anyway. But maybe that’s the problem? Everyone passes through without stopping. I managed to go all the way across without injecting any money into their economy, not even to refuel which says something for its size. So people use the roads, don’t spend anything, and the Belgians don’t have any money to maintain them. And because of that they get worse and worse and people just want to get through even more quickly. Hmm, a chicken and egg situation.

Maybe the Belgians could fine people for not spending anything in their country. That would go along nicely with a whole lot of other invasive EU laws. But such things are the conundrum of people paid a lot more than me. I just ride.

Brugge did something to restore my happiness in Belgium though. It was actually a very nice city. It didn’t have the old run down look of a lot of other European cities. It had nice canals, squares, and motorbike friendly old streets in the centre. From Antwerp and Brugge I’ve learnt it’s very easy to get straight into the centre on a motorbike. And I mean right into the centre. I managed to wheel my bike into the market square on both occasions. Flash a smile, make sure the NZ sticker is clearly displayed, and no one says a word. I now want to watch the movie ‘Brugge’ so I can see how many places I recognise.

From Brugge I drove straight across the border into France and tried to find a petrol station in Dunkirk. It was the old story, hundreds when you don’t need one and none when you do. I finally pulled into one running on fumes I’m sure. This and the stumbling down the bank looking for toilet incident in Belgium taught me another very good travelling lesson. Even if you’re only halfway to needing something, take it now. You never know when your next chance will be. And if your lucks anything like mine your chance certainly won’t come when you need it.

The rest of the ride to Wissant on the north coast of France was pretty uneventful, but nice. A lot of Belgians come down here though; I think it’s for the roads.

Wissant itself is a very touristic town, mainly for kite surfers, wind surfers, and any other sport involving the wind because it’s always windy and has a nice wide, white beach. I’m also always amazed at the amount of World War Two ruins in this area of France.

I was hosted by Mathieu and Tiphanie, a very nice couple who are into outdoor sports very much, hence the reason they live there. For dinner they cooked Tartiflette, a typical alpine dish actually, but still very enjoyable for the semi-summer beach area. It’s made of potatoes, a cream sauce, and a cheese topping. Very rich and heavy, and if you eat enough of it the meal can last you two days, which in fact it did for me.