This story is about my attempt to travel from Maastricht (NL) to Coo (BE) and back in 3 days, without a map. Maybe you want to read the first part or maybe you want to know why I do this. But for you who keep on reading I can tell you how I woke up from the last night. Full with energy, and ready to cycle to Coo! At this point I didn’t really know where I was, but knew which village I wanted to go to. Directly I knew asking people for directions was the best thing to do. Now my French is really bad. Or, better to say, there is no French. So it would be a matter of talking with my hands and feet. Within 2 hours I was on 180 degree curves going up, and I knew it was the right direction.
At 9 in the morning I started cycling because I had no idea how far it would be towards Coo. The day before I just cycled 2 hours, and crossed the same bridge 4 times, so of this 2 hours, 1,5 was really cycling… I HAD to reach Coo quite early today, otherwise I wouldn’t get my deadline of being back in Maastricht at 16:00 the next day. The hills were getting steeper, the forrest became more dense and i noticed the area just became more beautiful. Things were going well!
The map I’ve drawn for myself was working pretty well. In every village I asked a person for the next village and how to get there. Mostly I pointed to the way I thought was right, and said the name of the village, with a question mark behind it. That seemed to work pretty well. The best thing was that all the villages seemed to be just 3 or 4 kilometers apart! This meant I rapidly from place to place on my map, and if nothing weird would happen I might arrive in Coo in the evening!
It was a bit further then I thought and saw that it was not possible to get to Coo in the evening. This evening I wanted to have a nice place to make a camp, somewhere in the forrest, and I wanted to make camp before darkness would fall. There is nothing nastier then setting up camp in the pitch black darkness. By this time I was in the true ardennes, and knew there must be beautiful places to camp. I set off to the forrest, made camp, cycled a bit around and sat down for a well deserved glass of wine. I cycled 11 hours up and down in the hot autumn sun, and was exhausted but satisfied. In one and a half day I almost reached my destination without a glimpse on a real map!
Tonight would be a meal of kings, made on my little stove. Bacon, beans, onion, carrots and spicy sauce. It smelt really good, and I think I was not the only one who thought that… It was pitch black dark at the place where I set camp, and all of a sudden I heard a loud roar about 50 meters away. The roar went trough my bones and all my senses were immediately working for the whole 100 percent. I heard the animal walking, and don’t know why but I turned off my headlight. Now I was sitting in the pitch black dark, and couldn’t see anything! The animal came closer and closer, and I felt my heart beating in my throat! After some seconds I heard the animal was so close, so I turned my light back on, and shone the animal straight in the eyes. It was a huge red deer! It wasn’t further then 10 meters away from me, and when I stood up, the deer slowly walked away… Now I don’t have any experiences with these kind of animals, but when you’re alone in the forrest, in the middle of nowhere, it makes your heart pump faster! For the night I decided to put my bike in front of my bivouac so no animal could get in, and I had at least some feeling of safety.
It was pretty easy to find my way towards Coo. Everything just took a little more time, since I had to ask people for direction every 30 minutes. And in French. But it worked out, the people where helpful and somebody even drew me a map of how to get to the next village. It seemed traveling without a map wasn’t too bad, as long if you find your own way to get around.
I would reach Coo, thats for sure, but would i make it back in time? Two days were left, and for sure I wasn’t taking the same way back! But that will be for the next time!