DAY 2: DOVER – DUNKERQUE (FRANCE)
The ferry got in at 3 o’clock French time and as I cycled off the ferry it was cold and windy. While cycling the 15 km into Dunkerque I was on the lookout for somewhere to camp. Couldn’t really set up camp till just before dark. So I did a little tour of the Centre. It was a bit tiring pushing my bike around and I was still feeling the effects of yesterday’s big ride. But I was very reluctant to leave it anywhere..
Town was dead and there was nothing open except Subway. So after a feed I headed down to the beach and cycled along the promenade and went exploring the old wharfs. Continued along the coast and came to the British Memorial to the evacuation from Dunkerque in 1940. From a map in the window of the tourist office there was a municipal campsite near the beach so when I came across an area with a couple of caravans and a tent I thought I had found it. It was a bit strange and I quickly figured it out…………..they were Gypsies so I moved on in the nick of time.
The real campsite wasn’t that far away. I know I told everyone I would be wild camping……………I will be because at some point I will have no choice. But for now when I can get a campsite I will take it because it is so much easier to be able to put the tent up and leave the bike and all my gear while I head off to explore or do a supermarket shop.
Also at the campsite I can get a power source to recharge batteries for phone and computer. A hot shower is always nice as well. I would recommend taking two adaptors so you can recharge more than one thing at a time. The batteries alone take 5-6 hours.
DAY 3: DUNKERQUE
Today I visited the Operation Dynamo museum in the old fort. This was about Dunkerque in the Second World War and the allies’ evacuation in 1940. In the afternoon I couldn’t resist heading to McD’s to check out the Wi-Fi. Worked a treat so hopefully the free Wi-Fi will continue. Decided I would cook tonight so I went to the supermarket for some sausages.
Fired up the stove and cooked myself pasta and sausages .To be honest it wasn’t that great. To make things worst I had built a barrier around the stove because it was so windy. Was a great idea at the time. Unfortunately while I was eating my dinner my back pack blew over and landed on my stove melting a big hole in it. I guess that’s all part of it and won’t be the last incident. After cleaning the melted plastic off the stove I set off for a long walk through the sand dunes and along the beach.
Built into the sand dunes were massive bunkers from the Second World War. There wasn’t just one or two. There must have been 50 over a 5 km stretch. Some of them had been undermined and were now collapsing into the sea. After about 5 km,
I came across an old ship wreck. It was one of the boats that were lost during the evacuation. It is only visible at low tide and I was lucky. Walking back through the sand dunes I nearly walked into some old barb wire left over from the war.
DAY 4: DUNKERQUE – IPER (BELGIUM)
START: 10:30 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 75 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 30.
I awoke this morning at 7 am to the sound of rain. So I decided the best option was to stay in bed and wait it out. 2 hours later. Not much had changed. So I decided just to go for it. Wasn’t up for getting lost, so I took the most basic route along the coast. Turning right when you get to Belgium.
It wasn’t much fun cycling along in the constant rain and I had a lot of time to think about it too, on the very straight and flat roads. Getting closer to Iper I decided to be a little adventurous and take a little detour to Poperinge a town where some of the New Zealanders were stationed during the First World War. I headed out of Poperinge. After getting directions from the local pub I headed out along the small country lanes. Firstly I paid my respects at Lijssenhook Military cemetery which had the graves of 291 New Zealanders and secondly to Nine Elms British Cemetery which had 117 graves with one of them Ex All Black Captain Sergeant David Gallaher for whom a trophy is played for every time New Zealand play France in rugby. Close to Iper there are more than 150 cemeteries scattered around. Often just in small corners of a farmer’s field. They are immaculately kept by the CWGC.
Riding into Iper I again had no idea where I was going to stay. I had hostel on my mind. But with the help of the locals I found a campsite just outside the walls of the city. That evening I went back into the centrer for the nightly ceremony at the Menin gate Memorial where every day at 8 pm since 24 July 1927 the last post is played and wreaths laid with the only exception being between 1940–1944 due to the Second World War.