5 Countries in 1 day
We started today by getting off the ferry and passing over into France at about 1am. There were about five or so Mongol Rally teams on the ferry so we convoyed from the docks in Dunkirk, France, onto the main road where we started heading eastwards! We camped the night right over the border in Belgium at a rest stop with a very nice grassy area in the back. Several other rally teams camped for the night here as well.
We awoke this morning at about 8.30am after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep. After an aborted effort to put the spare wheels and jerry cans on the roof (we need to master come-along straps!) we hit the road and continued heading east. We passed near to Bruges and Antwerp , where we got lost. We discovered that European road signs don’t give a cardinal direction, just a destination town, so we took the E19 and then discovered that it was the wrong direction…then we tried to take an exit and make a u-turn only to discover that the other on ramp was closed for repairs, so now we were stuck on the back roads…we managed to get back to where we needed to be eventually though! We have a new mindset though… since we will be seeing most of the countries by highway… when we get turned around it is actually an unplanned jaunt into the country itself and we get to see many interesting and unexpected things… this should keep us from becoming frustrated!
Next, we took a diversion to a small town near the Belgian/Dutch border. Apparently the border was never demarcated properly in this area and so there are a ton of enclaves and exclaves and enclaves within exclaves all within this one town called Baarle-Nassau. Being the political geography freaks that we are, we found this fascinating! Each house has a little flag on their door number to say whether they are in Belgium or the Netherlands. There are little markers on the sidewalks and roadways to demarcate which country you are in! Quite an experience! Speaking of that we also had Frites with mayo at a little take out window in one of the Belgian areas….very tasty actually! Check it out here if you are interested: http://english.baarledigitaal.org/
We made it back to the main highway near Tilburg in the Netherlands, only to have a tire blow out whilst going about 60mph. Bruce was driving and managed to get the Big Blue Bus over to the shoulder without incident. Of course the rain had just started up again, but we fell back on our training, as we had practiced changing the wheel s on the bus. We chocked the wheels, loosened the nuts, jacked it up and took off the SHREDDED tire! We haven’t studied the tire yet to see what went wrong, but it is definitely not repairable!
During our 15 hour driving event we had the opportunity to wave at lots of Ambulances and other Mongol rally team cars on the way to Prague. The recognition of one team to another feels good, it creates a type of camaraderie one only gets on a big event such as this. I think once we reach Mongolia, we who made it, will share a very special bond of conquering something massive together.
On the road: Germany was the biggest part of our ride today, spanning over 400 miles. We mostly travelled on the A3 through Germany, past Frankfurt, Wurzburg and Nuremburg. The German highway system is called the Autobahn. It is infamous for speeding along at absurd velocities. At some points there are no speed limits at all! So of course the Big Blue Bus was up to the challenge… except that the Big Blue Bus is Big and it is a Bus and Detroit engineering of 1995 vintage is not really made for speed. The speedometer tops out at 100 mph, however it would spontaneously combust before reaching anywhere close to that speed! Also Germany is putting a lot of work into its roads right now which will be beautiful someday… but not today… road work, really narrow lanes and traffic made Germany very stressful but still very cool! It is a shame we won’t get to use the great new highways but that’s the way it is sometimes. We also noticed wind turbines everywhere along the road, which made Bruce happy. Also some of them seemed very close to residences, which is a big discussion point in the US wind industry in New England at the moment.
Other thoughts of the day:
Open Border in the Czech Republic totally not expected
Seeing the lights from Prague illuminating the sky ahead
Measuring everything in Km (kilometers) makes distance go by faster… they are shorter than miles so every time you pass a distance marker the numbers click off faster!
Late night… but hopefully the only late night we do not want to drive at night for the rest of the rally
Pros and cons of going to the Czech-Out Party and had a discussion about what we want to do with our 5 weeks and other places we would rather see or other things we would rather do
Tomorrow in Praha aka Prague!!!