The Wrong Canal – Saturday 20 July

The Wrong Canal – Saturday 20 July

Today’s ride was the second longest of the tour, at 113 km from Charleroi to Tournai. We planned a long ride (of 100 km, not 113), so we had an extra early breakfast at the youth hostel (breakfast is available from 6 am!) and were on the road at around 7.30 am.
The reason the ride was longer than expected is that we started out from Charleroi along the wrong canal. We started on the Sambre canal, which actually goes into France. In hindsight, it probably turned out to be more interesting.
The first 10 km were industrial – like a post apocalyptic video game set.

Then it became quite scenic. There were quite a number of people walking alongside the canal as well – maybe some sort of walking group.

Lock on the Sambre Canal
Passing by Thuin on Sambre Canal
Thuin on Sambre Canal

We realised we were on the wrong canal around 30 km into the ride, at Lobbes. Kris devised a new brilliant new route cutting back across to Mons – to pick up our intended route on the Canal di Centre. This probably added 10 km to our overall distance. We had a lovely long stretch that was probably an old railway line – a gentle downhill through forests where we cruised along at around 25 km per hour. However we later had a “short cut” of a few kilometres on a cobbled road – most uncomfortable.

I couldn’t believe how long this cobbled road was – not fun on a bike

Once we got back onto the Canal di Centre it was like being back on a commercial canal. It is like an trucking route for the transfer of raw materials (sand, scrap metal, etc). So it it serves as an alternative to trucks, as each boat can carry the equivalent of a dozen trucks.
Eventually the canal locks became smaller and the canal narrower – with more pleasure boats.
The weather closed in and we had a sudden thunderstorm and heavy downpour at around 2 pm. We got under a bridge just in time and sat it out for around quarter of an hour until the heavy rain had past.

Sheltering from the rain under a bridge

We were pretty stuffed when we reached Tournai. We stopped at a Carrefour (French supermarket!) and bought a juice to drink immediately, before doing some shopping for our dinner.
Then we had a quick look at the scenic centre of the town before finding the youth hostel not far away. This hostel had an excellent selection of Belgium beers on offer – all local – 19 by my count. We enjoyed trying a good selection of different beers.

Tournai town centre

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