Two nights in Bruges and we still hadn't had enough of Belgium, so we decided to head to the city of Ghent. We toyed with the idea of going to Brussels, the country's capital city, but everyone we asked said to not bother and spend the extra time in Ghent. Not only is it another beautiful canal city filled with history, it is also a university town so there would be no shortage of people our own age.
After two days off the bikes, we welcomed the opportunity to get back on them for the 50 km ride to Ghent. It just so happens that there was a severe weather warning for the day with a hurricane expected to pass through our direct route. We were stoked... At this point in the trip rain is just water and is not much of a hindrance as you may think when we are cycling, but when you mix 40-60 mph gusts of wind into the mix, raindrops feel like piercing bullets, and riding is near impossible if it is not a tailwind.
After a quick pit stop at a local bike shop for some new tires, a new front rack for Ryan, and a fixing for my rear rack, we set off from Bruges for Ghent. Decked out in our rain gear we quickly warmed up despite the rain and wind. Back on bike paths we passed through small towns and farms as we inched closer to our destination.
About an hour into the ride we pulled off the rode at a horse stable that had a Café sign tacked into a wooden fence. The big man upstairs works in mysterious ways, because 5 minutes after we pulled off the road, the eye of the hurricane passed right over the cafe causing the entire place to shake and the tarps covering the owners hay stash to catch sail and blow violently in the wind. Without even having to ask we quickly jumped up and ran over to help the farmer, owner, stable master, whatever you want to call him wrangle the tarp back over his hay supply. A few old tires and cement slabs later we had managed to cover up the supply and went back in the cafe to wait as the hurricane passed, sipping on espresso and munching on a candy bar.
Seeing a break in the storm we hit the road again and took advantage of the tailwind the hurricane had created for us. We were racing with the storm along the canals and 50 kilometers turned into 20 real fast. The last 20 we changed direction and that wonderful tailwind turned into a brutal head/side wind making our legs and core work extra hard to just keep the bike in a up right position. That's about when my tire got stuck on the side of the gutter and I went down again. Hitting the same bruised spots from when I went down a few days prior. Not wanting to wait around for the pain to set in, I got right back on my bike and continued to ride.
We eventually made it to Ghent, and immediately we knew we had made the right decision coming here versus going to Brussels. The streets were bustling with university students, the buildings just as beautiful as they were in Bruges, and we had managed to find another awesome hostel in a great part of town. To top it off our new friends from Canada we had met in Bruges had decided to join us in coming to Ghent so we had some familiar faces to go explore with.
After a well needed shower and a dinner consisting of noodles, canned sausages, and tomato soup someone had left with a sign that said "free", we rallied a group together to head to a local Jazz bar someone at the had hostel recommended to us. Finally got myself some Delirium Tremens on tap in Belgium and I was a happy camper listening to the sax and trumpet players vibe off of each other. We followed up the jazz bar with some more live music at another pub and called it a night.
Every day we have spent in Belgium has been incredible, and coming in with lower expectations than some of the other countries we have been through, Belgium has quickly moved its way to being one of my favorites of the trip so far.