As we pulled up at Enigma, April and Athol were raring to go. The Enigma team had pulled off a phenomenal job to produce these extremely unique and technical custom builds. They had managed to overcome the equipment traffic jam happening on the rear hub by handcrafting a custom steel plate to attach the pannier racks and all the other bits that we discussed in the previous post. The result looks bombproof and very neat.
My new handlebars are brilliant and I have to mention here the enormous help I have received from Josh at SJS Cycles on St John Street, Bridgwater. SJS Cyles specialize in cycle touring and have not only been able to supply us with the tools for the job, so to speak, but have offered us their wealth of knowledge, experience and sound advice. Choosing my handlebars was not an easy task, but with my thanks to Josh, I have made a great choice.
With the compass set for Dover we pulled away from Enigma HQ and pedaled East. We passed through yet more striking scenery and incidentally caught sight of our little blue signs for Sustran’s National Cycle Route 2, heading all the way to Dover. Although it takes a little practice to get used to using the cycle network, it has been very useful on this tour. The routes will not necessarily be the quickest, most direct or even the easiest for that matter, but they are deigned to lead you through the scenic trails, past interesting landmarks and away from the busy roads. The other big bonus is it saves you having to stop and look at the map every five seconds. DO keep a track on your own map however as some of the signs can be misleading, missing or even mistaken for the ones that are directing you back to where you came from!
Having filled our boots with chicken wings and BBQ ribs, we ambled around to find our nifty camp for the night. There was a clear, flat, dry patch, just ample enough for our tent on the edge of a wheat field, it got the nod of approval and there we pitched, 3 up in the tent tonight!
The morning delivered an early wake up call with a healthy dose of sunshine but a stiff breeze. It bought Rohan a world of pain as he peeled himself up from the entirely deflated camping mat that we had lent him from our old kit, sorry mate!
The stiff breeze gathered force and became a relentless headwind. The terrain was all but flat all the way to Folkstone (just before Dover) but we were pushing through 30 – 35 knots of head wind. For non-cyclists, this is like trying to run in sinking sand and with something constantly rustling loudly in your ear. It was irritating and frustrating but we had enthusiasm on our side.
Eventually, we found sanctuary. The Royal Military Canal running 6 miles into the town of Hythe. The trees formed a canopy over the cycle trail and offered us half an hour of calm before joining the promenade along Hythe sea front.
Rohan caught up with us and supplied us with energy gels to help with the battle against the breeze. We have never indulged in the selection of high priced, high glucose sports bar and gels and I have to say, I don’t think we’ll fill our panniers with them either, it was the texture of hair gel and tasted of Canderel, not my cup of tea (excuse the pun).
From Folkstone we climbed abruptly up a nuisance hill that separated us from Dover. The climb was steep but rewarded us with great views over Folkstone and also took us to an impressive memorial site that commemorated the remarkable efforts of World war ll. This was our final stop before the White cliffs of Dover.
We had a fun descent into Dover and arrived around 6pm Saturday evening.
As I round up this post, we are snuggled into our sleeping bags camping on the dunes right on the border of Belgium. The wind is still howling! Tomorrow, we are off to find the best Belgium chocolate to celebrate my birthday!