WE ARE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC. Specifically, in a converted farmhouse near Klinovice. We are staying with 20 teenagers who were invited to join a camp here; they come from all over the world (USA, West and East coast, Georgia in Central Asia, Italy, Spain…) to stay here for just under a month. On our first day we were sucked into Chinese character painting, sing-alongs and dynamite manufacture (cereal); it made for a mind-boggling transition from the day and a half we had spent in the car. It has been thunder, lightning and torrential rain since we arrived here, which we take to be an excellent omen.
The rally begun at 7.30am on Sunday morning at Battersea Park. The charge was led by our friends, team ‘Eddies’ Delicious Ice Creams’ in the 1988, pink Ice Cream Van; check them out here. Each car passes through a massive ramp to leave the park and begin the adventure. We eyed it up suspiciously. With its aberrant length and supercar ground clearance we couldn’t see the limo making it. “Just go around it to the left” said the official fairly insistently. We stared mutely at him as if we didn’t understand. “We won’t get to Mongolia if we don’t go over the ramp” we replied. As we climbed the ramp, there was a slightly jubilant atmosphere in the car; we’d make it even in spite of the fact that we definitely couldn’t make it. I think that catches a lot of the feeling of the Rally. We reversed back down a few seconds later.
Reactions to the limo so far have been very mixed, with highly varying degrees of forgiveness for the inconvenience of sharing the road with an amateur-driven stretch limo; the Belgians are the least impressed (by the looks on their faces, or they might just look like that on Sunday afternoons; it’s hard to tell through all of the moustaches that seem to be in fashion here).
The route has been entirely made up on the fly, with directions sleuthed from patchily downloaded maps (“No, I don’t think we have France… Or Luxembourg) and so far this method has only lead us slightly astray. I suppose a pretty good example is our ill-fated attempt to get to the racetrack at “Nurberg”. We were convinced by another team we met on the ferry that it would be wicked fun to drive our car around the world-renowned raced track with its sharp corners and cambered turns. But wires were crossed and we headed stoically towards Nuremberg, which turns out to be a very substantial distance from the Nurburgring. Even a day later, writing out this blog post, we were split between whether it was actually “Nuremberg Green”, “The Nurburg Ring” or “Nurburg Green”; none of which turned out to be correct. Word of mouth, eh?
We managed to get fuel consumption down to 29mpg using a variety of techniques which we have labelled “Eco Driving”. The first rule of eco driving is to find a really good lorry. One famous example is the Skynet.be logistics lorry of Day 1. The second rule is to get close to the lorry and hover just under 60mph. This did lead to a near miss as I took a wrong turn and swerved to correct it, not seeing a line of bollards obscured by our unsuspecting convoy.
We have also come up with a way of parking anywhere. You just pull up (for example, in the middle of the road in Heidleberg’s town centre next to a tram line) and whack up the hood. At least one person must pace worriedly nearby, but everyone else is free to get on with their business.
Tomorrow we shall continue to the ‘Czechout Party’, the official European start of the rally. More updates to come!