Monthly Archives: May 2013

The saving begins (this was supposed to come before ‘The Crew World’

So in order for me to pay for the bike ride the plan was to get work on a Super yacht in the south of France, as the pay is pretty good and a great way to save.

After 5 days of serious job hunting in Antibes, signing up to agencies and dock walking to ask if there’s any work going I’ve managed to get a job as a stewardess on a 30m Motor Yacht. I’ll go into further detail about the job and how I got it later.

I’ll start from the beginning though….

So, to work on any commercial vessel you have to do a STCW95 basic training course (which covers first aid, safety at sea and fire rescue) & get an ENG1 medical certification to state you’re fit and healthy.

I booked the course in The Isle of Wight for 5 days through UKSA.

The first day (Monday) was safety at sea. Once we’d covered all of the theoretical information about the equipment we’ll come across on board,  we went in the pool to see how  our life jackets work, practiced getting in and out of the life raft and learnt how to right it (turn it the right way round) whilst in the water. I wish I’d taken a video of this, as some (including myself) were definitely less graceful than others at getting in and onto the raft. He he.

The second day was first aid, which was way more comprehensive than any course I’ve been on before. The tutor was pretty funny though….plenty of horror stories to tell.

Wednesday to Friday was fire safety. I didn’t realise just how intense it would be. I thought we’d be putting out small fires and learning how to use the fire extinguishers. It went much further than that. We got into teams of three and donned our sexy fire outfits, complete with fire hoods, helmets and masks with air.

As a diver I didn’t think I’d have a problem with the face mask, but it was awful. I freaked out quite a bit.

We were numbered 1-4, with number 1 being the one in charge of instructing the team. I was picked for this role, probably because of my big mouth!

There was a real fire in one part of a container and our job was to find the fire, put it out and save any ‘causalities’ along the way. It was really hot in there with all the gear on, so dark and smoky you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face and it was extremely hard to hear what people were saying through the mask. I was told later on, by the fire man, that the reason the others were ‘ignoring’ my questions or instructions was firstly they couldn’t understand my accent and secondly my voice got so high pitched and muffled it sounded a little like screaming! Safe to say the exercise didn’t go exactly as planned, but we put the fire out and got out alive.  I never want to do that again!

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Race against time

Oostende- Dunkirk

I really can’t remember the last time I was up before daylight.  My ferry leaves at 12pm. The sat nav advised the journey time is 4.5 hours, but with the head wind likely to be the same as yesterday I need to add on at least an extra hour onto that and allow time to rest in-between.

 The first three hours were the most peaceful of all the trip. I love being anywhere near the water, so cycling along the canal until after sunrise was really enjoyable. I even passed a London Phone box randomly in someone’s garden!

 I realised around 8am that I was just about half way…which was not good at all. This meant no time to rest or to eat. I did manage to grab a pain au chocolat quickly once I passed into France. Had to be done!

At 10am I got to Dunkirk. ”45 minutes to my destination” it read. Great- I’ve nailed this, I thought. The last 6 or so miles were the worst of the entire trip. I’ve never experience such soul destroying headwind. I may as well have got off my bike and pushed the thing, that’s how slowly I was going. I was on a straight, flat road with fully pumped up types (I kept checking!) but was on the lowest gear. To top it off it was pissing it down!

 Around 11.40 I made it to the DFDS Counter. I wanted to cry! I’ve done it AND on time! I gave myself a pat on the back and treated myself to a big meal on the ferry. What a day!

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Taking it slowly

Maldegem- Oostende

Early start- on the road after breakfast at 9am.

It turns out that I covered quite a lot of track yesterday, leaving me a nice leisurely cycle to Oostende today. I have somewhere to stay through www.warmshowers.net .It’s a fabulous site just for touring cyclists, similar to www.couchsurfing.net where hosts welcome you into their home for a night (or more).  I had been in contact with Henk, who lives with his girlfriend Katrin. They said i was welcome for the night. More about them later…

According to the sat nav, Oostende was only 2.5 hours away. With headwind that felt like I was cycling backwards this wasn’t the case at all!

Even so, I had time to kill, so headed to Bruges to do some sightseeing and grab some chocolate for my sister.

The Watch Tower

The Watch Tower

Having visited Bruges twice before there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to see/do, but it’s such a beautiful city i wanted to visit again.  It’s such a quaint little city, with canals almost hidden around every corner, the most amazing chocolatier shop windows that make your mouth water and some pretty cool buildings to peruse. After getting my chocolate fix I headed straight for Oostende, arriving at Henk & Katrin’s around 3pm. Straight away Henk made me feel at home and trusted me in his home as if I was an old friend. The same can be said for their little Jack Russell, Spudnick, who wouldn’t stop humping my leg!!

A lot of people are very negative about ‘staying with strangers’. I can totally understand where they’re coming from, not everybody has good intentions, but it just seems such a shame to not take opportunities and suspect everybody.

Henk & Katrin’s house is the kind I hope to have once I’m ‘settled’. It’s a true traveller’s home with nick nacks from places they’ve been too, world maps (and many other maps), photos, guide books & a real worldly feel to it. We sat and talked about cycling, families and of course various travel tales.

When Katrin got home from work she made a lovely dinner and we sat and talked some more. Their English is amazing, luckily, as my Flemish is non-existent! They’ve been all over on their bikes, including a fairly recent trip to Tanzania. They’ve even got their own blog: such a shame it’s not in English.

Extremely early night for me, as I’m up at 5am to make it for the ferry tomorrow.

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Follow the Red Brick Road

Zoersel- Maldegen

After a full spread at breakfast Leo dropped me off at the Hotel to pick up my bike. Just a slight tightening of the screws of the rack and I was off!

10 minutes down the road I hear a beep. It was Leo! I’d forgotten my map and he’d come to give it back to me. I felt awful he’d come out to find me, but again an act of pure kindness.

I cycled through mostly farm land today, with the smell of cow pat sticking up my nose. Had a ‘refreshing’ change now and again and saw some sheep and geese, but mostly cows and their smelly sh*t!

I knew that Holland was very set up for cyclists, but I didn’t realise Belgium would be almost as good. Most of their cycle lanes are red bricked and separate from the road. It feels so much safer that the UK, it’s no wonder no one wears a helmet over here!

Around 4 pm I started looking for somewhere to stay, having sat on the bike for around 6 hours with only a 15 minute break for coffee and biscuits.  Luckily (or not so) the sat nav has an option to find accommodation options along the route. The first one was wayyyy out of my budget. Apparently the next place is 15 miles away. Urghhh! At least this one had ‘hostellerie’ in the name, so surely it would be within my price range. So on I trudged.

As I approached it didn’t look much like a hostel at all. I popped inside to see how much the room would be. 180E. Yikes!! This made the other place seem cheap. The woman sympathised, after finding out how far I’d cycled and dropped the price slightly. Having realised the price was still too high for me she searched for hostels in the area. Success….ONLY 8 miles down the road. It was 17.45 by this stage and I just wanted a big meal and a bed, so I set off again.

Came across this sign, which made me giggle….

DSCF5140

The sign for HI (Hostel International) was finding a huge bucket of water in a desert for me. For under 20 Euros I got a decent room to myself and a breakfast the next day. Sweet! So what if I was in the middle of nowhere in Maldegem with a group if school kids as my only company! Today was by far the toughest of the trip- Over 8 hours on the bike with little break. I now know what all the fuss around ‘saddle sores’ is about. NOT to be taken lightly. They’re dam uncomfortable!

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