day 2 included 3 rides to choose from. the ride involving a lot of cobbles only had one taker so the 35 of us split into two parties:
the idea was that whichever group you joined we would meet up to eat in ypres in the evening and experience the last post ceremony at the menin gate.
after a hearty breakfast we were invited by our hosts to make up packed lunches for the day. mike and nive were a little surprised because we hadn’t ordered them* but we put it down to linguistic barriers and pressed on. debutant amosroadclubber zak introduced us to a new method of transporting hard boiled eggs by removing the inside of a baguette and replacing the bread with the aforementioned eggs in a hot-dog style. as a trend it didn’t really catch on but his loving family came to regret zak’s love of hard boiled eggs in the day to come!
i can only really comment about the beer route which took us to watou via poperinge. we made our pilgrimage to st bernadus which was shut but we took some pictures anyway. onward to the real purpose of our ride, the legendary st. sixtus’ abbey, westvleteren where the rarest and, some say, the best beer in the world is brewed. the brewery was shut but, oh happy day, the visitors centre was open and selling beer in the restaurant. there are three varieties of westvleteren, the 5, the 8 and the 12. needless to say we tried them all between us with mike and neil braving the 12.
the next hour or so passed in blissful monk-induced ignorance, when we came upon the ‘cultural’ group coming the other way. the ‘cultural’ peleton was a disgrace to witness with a good 15 minutes separating the lead group to the ‘lanterne rouge’. they had had a great ride via passendale and tyne cot where we were heading next.
visiting tyne cot was a very moving experience. there are 11,956 commonwealth servicemen of the first world war buried or commemorated in tyne cot cemetery, 8,369 of these are unidentified. the inscription on so many of the graves reads ” A Soldier of the Great War. Known unto God“. despite the fact that their bodies could not be identified the soldiers had an identity – they were known by god. I felt a strong resonance between what was written there and the work of the amos trust with forgotten and ignored communities the world over and especially their work with street children.
after tyne cot we raced to ypres and met up with the cultural group to enjoy local delicacies such as spaghetti, macaroni cheese and omelettes. sarah asked the waiter what was in the beef stew – the answer (of course) ‘pork’!
suitably fed and watered we made our way to the menin gate for the last post ceremony which has retained both dignity and solemnity despite the many tourists that snap away each day.
time to head back to the peace village. chris ‘tom tom’ rose decided to lead one group with assurances that he knew the way and raced off in a vaguely southerly direction. it became apparent to those of us further back in the field that we had lost contact with chris and his team of crack sprinters so a few of us took the seemingly-sensible option of cycling along the road that linked ypres to messines. we didn’t hurry but somehow got back to the hostel approx. 30 minutes before chris and some very disgruntled teenagers finally appeared. as is so often the case with the amosroadclub, the fable of the tortoise and the hare, or in our case the tortoise and ‘les coqs massives’ is found to be firmly based on reality.
to make matters worse, the bar was full of a group of marauding morris dancers from the uk. we could have spoken to them and shared stories of amos and it’s fine work, but instead we took beer to the dining room and sulked. much as i am in favour of all forms of folk dancing being exiled from england and sent abroad, it was regrettable that they had to end up in messines! fortunately the revelry came to an end before too long and several of us took up residence in the bar, together with the fridge key, for longer than was really sensible!
* the unexpected packed lunches it seems had in fact belonged to the morris dancers so there is some justice in the world (for both parties)!