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The Sketch

Deux Sans Frontieres? What? Shouldn’t that be Jeux Sans Frontieres? Probably, but then I’ve been here before. Or at least I’ve been to one of today’s locations before, so it’s “Deux” not “Jeux”. Can you see what I did there?

So for the sake of completeness and accurate references, the previous visit is the one described in Jeux Sans Frontieres.

Back at the plot, as if there’s ever anything resembling a plot anywhere near any of my blog posts, this was the third and final day of our 2018 trip to the GeoNord Mega geocaching event in Dunkirk. It began once again with a modest breakfast at the hotel. There quickly followed some rapid packing of bags and checking out. Boo, hiss ! It’s “going home” day. At least we had booked a very late train. We had a pretty long day available for a bit more caching before having to give in to the inevitable.

Cleaning Up

Our first stop was the beach at Leffrinckouke, a place too small to have its own entry on Wikipedia. It does have a very big beach composed of miles and miles of flat sands, though. This beach is remarkable because of the rather fantastic restyling on one of the old WWII concrete bunkers.

We were here because it was hosting the “Cache In, Trash Out” event that traditionally follows each Mega Event. Because of this it was a bit of a nightmare to get parked. Flaming geocachers, turning up with their bin bags and shifting all the rubbish. Not that there was a great deal of rubbish on the beach there anyway, as often seems the case. I’m pretty sure that when land owners allow a CITO event to take place they clean the place up beforehand. Much like your mother would always make a point of hoovering before anyone came round to visit, even when that visitor was the cleaner.

Anyway, there were so many cleaner-uppers already at work that it looked like it was going to be slim pickings. We took a token bin bag and wandered off in search of some other caches in the area. This was one of the locations where the GeoNord crew had planted a few new ones. We didn’t want to do many here as we’d got other plans. But we thought we’d do a token few while we were on the beach.

When we’d done all this we decided that was enough of the CITO, though, as we’d got an appointment elsewhere.

Getting the Sand Between Our Toes

The villages of Ghyvelde and Adinkerke sit either side of the French – Belgian border about 3-4 miles in from the sea. There’s an area of fossilized sand dunes between the two villages, which sit about 2 miles apart. The GeoNord crew saw fit to replace the previous series of caches around here with a completely new set. Obviously as it was a different set of caches I had no objection to walking around again. My two companions on this trip hadn’t been there before anyway.

We walked the same way round as I’d done last time – anticlockwise. This time, though, I parked on the Ghyvelde side rather than on the border. This meant we did the caches in number order, initially heading east from France towards Belgium. There weren’t as many other people around as I thought there might be. Maybe most of the other cachers were exploring other nearby series or had gone home already.

It was a pleasant enough walk on a very warm day. We found pretty much all of the caches apart from the one that was obviously miles up a tree. None of us fancied the climb. It was slightly higher up than is advisable for someone of my stature (or girth).

Having done that series, and racked up a pretty handy total of finds for the start to the day, we’d still really got time for a few more. I’d solved a series of puzzles on another cross-border loop down at Houtkerque / Watou which looked like they could be done in the car. That seemed ideal given that it was quite warm, and that we wanted to make sure we were able to just stop caching and drive to Calais whenever we needed to.

More Border Confusion

So we pootled off towards Houtkerque down a fairly slow country road. As we made the final turn we saw a group of pedestrians loitering around a group of roadsigns. There was a convenient place to pull off the road right next to them. That’ll be the start of it then.

While we were there, another car pulled up behind me. It was evidently going to be a bit busier here than it had been during the morning.

We started the loop at some random number, and found our way around the rest of them in approximately ascending order. Each was very conveniently positioned at the roadside right next to a place where you could pull off. That made the whole trip very easy, especially for me. Because I was driving, I didn’t even get out of the car for several of them. We kept seeing two or three other vehicles that were doing the same thing. We all kept seeing the same family of pedestrians we’d seen at the start. At the time we saw them for the second time, they’d done about 2/3 of the caches on foot in about 4 hours and we’d done about 2/3 of them in the car in about 90 minutes.

I was kind of glad we’d decided to do these in the car. It would have been a long walk round. By the time we’d finished we’d done all 40 or so on the series in under 2.5 hours and had therefore got ourselves up to about 80 finds for the day.

Just Desserts

It was still only mid afternoon, so we could have continued on and tried to make 100 finds if we’d wanted, but I think we were all cached-out, so instead we decided to go off in search of refreshments.

We decided that cafes and bars in France would be no good at this point, because it was the day of the 2018 World Cup Final and the French were playing. The Belgians weren’t, having been edged out by France in the semi-final. So the French were all out down the pub watching the football, while the Belgians were all watching it at home, or, like us, not bothering.

We found a couple of ladies who were filling their “not bothering” time by staffing a bar / cafe in Roesbrugge and making us some very nice desserts. So we had our just desserts, in the sense of “only sweet things” rather than in the sense of “what we deserved”, although it did feel like we’d had a busy day, so I’m happy to go with either definition, to be honest. Once we’d finished we thought we should pay a token gesture to geocaching while we were there, and completed one solitary cache round the side of the nearby church. There were others in the village but I think we were cached out for the weekend. When I got home I discovered we hadn’t coloured in a new Belgian district/commune because both Roesbrugge and Watou are in the district of Poperinge.

The Quietest Drive in France Ever

At this point it seemed like a good time to head home. The football had kicked off, and as a result the roads just over the border in France were quieter than a minute’s silence at a Trappist’s funeral. We got back to Calais in short order and began the extra special form of chaos that is reserved for the Calais Eurotunnel Terminal on a Sunday night in summer.

We’d got absolutely ages in the terminal building to get something to eat, but somehow we still managed to only just make it in time, as a result of the pizza restaurant not actually having any pizzas to sell, which then caused a moderately long and ultimately abandoned period of queuing at Burger King and then a further period of queuing at the pizza place once they’d decided they could do individual slices but not whole pizzas. I’m not quite sure how that works. I think they were just regulating the sales of pizzas to something near what they could produce. Did I mention it was busy? While we were eating the pizzas the French won the World Cup.

Please Let Us Go Home!

We tried to blag our way onto our train immediately it was called. But by the time we’d left the parking space and got 20 yards up the road apparently our train had mysteriously been delayed. We got sent for another lap around the car park, which basically just involved us joining the back of the same queue we’d previously been at the front of. Not quite sure what was going on there, but we eventually got ourselves into a boarding lane. We didn’t get onto to our assigned train though. Ours was full, even though there were supposedly two leaving within a couple of minutes. We got pushed back to the second of those two and were among the first 3-4 cars to get on it.

Back in the UK, all was much as we’d left it and I lost another layer of rods and cones from my retinas driving back up the M20 just as he sun was going down and, essentially, shining directly into my eyeballs. This happens every time we come home on a Sunday night through the Channel Tunnel. It took a little while to get home. We had to drop off the Happy Hunter at his abode before heading back to MK. He’d be upset if we made him walk home. It had been a busy old weekend.

The geocaches we found on this day were :