August 5, 2013
Distance: 30.5 miles Climbing: 534.8 ft
We woke up with the sun shining, in great moods and excited about the day ahead of us. We were going to another Trappist brewery, Westmalle and the land of chocolate and waffles: Belgium.
The road leading away from the campsite was covered in sand, making it slow going. Chandler was able to power through it, but I ended up having to walk my bike. Thankfully, the sand didn’t last too long.
We crossed over into Belgium almost without realizing it, except that the bike path ran out and we were suddenly sharing the road with traffic. We also noticed a small section of a tall electric wire fence. This barrier, called the Dodendraad or the “wire of death”, was installed by the Germans during WWI to prevent Belgians from escaping into neutral Holland. The fence was electrified with 2000 volts to ensure instant death. The fence we saw was a replica and a visual history lesson. It definitely served as a reminder to us that we were in an area that had been witness to a major war.
After our history lesson, we continued on to the brewery. The monastery did not allow visitors, unless you were making a purchase. So, since most monasteries in the area make their own beer, cheese and soaps, we figured it was time to buy some cheese.
We rode up to the building and rang the doorbell. A little old woman answered the door and ushered us into an office. While Chandler purchased the cheese, I was able to scope the place out a little by asking a nearby monk if we could fill our water bottles. He immediately took me to a spigot in a courtyard with statues and manicured grass. I was hoping to see more, but its was more than most get.
They didn’t sell beer at the monastery, but there was a nearby official cafe. This place was a little more low key, and reminiscent of one of those tacky, generic brunch restaurants in the US. So the atmosphere was a little weird again… The beer was pretty tasty, but boozy and pricey enough, that we only enjoyed one each. Chan got a blend of the tripel and the dubbel (which they called a half and half) which was nice, but we couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with our so far rather anticlimactic pilgrimage to the home of Trappist beers.
We called it an early day and cycled to the nearest campground. It turned out to be affordable and have an area for just tents, with everyone being a cycle tourist! We spent the night chatting with several of our neighbors late into the evening.