Day 6, 7 and 8
On day 6 we drove from lake Ohrid to Tirana in Albania, there we made a stop at the Dutch embassy to say hello to some former colleagues of Leander. There were also happy to trade some things with us for our challenge.
Next up was leaving Tirana in the direction of Skohder and head for Montenegro for the second get together/ party with the other teams. Traffic was slow and the roads not that great, especially the last part to the campsite was, again, a challenging one. Again we arrived in the dark, with a lot of teams already there, and so the ‘frei bier’ was gone as well… 🙁
Nevertheless we enjoyed the food (at that moment) and the party.
The next morning we decided to try and fix the Saab, as one of the rear suspension bars had come loose 2 days ago… Thanks to a helpful taxi driver, his local friend, and a mechanic we managed to get it fixed. We waited longer for someone who could help us than the actual fix lasted, but hey, a €30 fix you won’t find at home 🙂
After that we headed for Bosnia Herzegovina, which gave us some trouble crossing the border with a green card that was not green and therefore not accepted… Eventually we got in after buying an insurance for a week. In Trebinje we decided not to go to Sarajevo as that would take to much time. So heading for the border with Croatia, we had a quick cervapi diner in Bosnia before leaving the country. Late in the afternoon we arrived in Kupari, here we visited the abandoned hotels at the coast which were shot and attacked in the Yugoslavian war. Detour mission done!
We found a campsite past Dubrovnik, and spent the night there.
On day 8 we left the campsite with Leander already being a bit sick and Ewout and Wesley also not feeling very well…
Goal for today was passing Split. Which meant going a through Bosnia again for a short stretch, we looked forward to the border. But to our surprise, no passport or green card checks, just go one… Phew!
Here in Bosnia we decided to set fire to our two Balkan Express timber blocks to gain some extra points!
During a lunch break Wesley’s stomach went bad. We were still on the coastal road, going up and down, turn after turn. Eventually I (Redmer) started to feel sick as well, and so bad we needed to urgent stops to ‘relief’ my stomach… Now all feeling sick, we took a hotel just past Sibenik. Due to our sickness we forgot to take pictures for the road missions.
Day 4, 5 & 5, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia
Today a trip from Banffy Castle to Bucharest is on the Programm. Larger distance than actually necessary according to the road book, but as we can sleep at a friend in Bucharest we’re going there. We got up early and left around 8 in the morning.
First up is going to be the Transfagarasan mountain pass. Known as one of the best driving roads in the world. I don’t know why because the roads are just as bad as in the rest of Romania… And it was a popular day trip as well so we were not the only ones going up. The road uphill was foggy until the last 200 meters, so we had no views at all. Coming on the top we tried some local specialties, took pictures and filmed a bit before heading down to Bucharest. Luckily on the other side the sky was clear and we had a great view into the valley! When reaching the bottom we had some rain showers but we left them behind quickly as set course for Bucharest.
Unfortunately due to time restrictions we were not able to find Dracula and get a picture with him…
After a long day of driving we arrived in Bucharest at 19.00. After a quick shower we went for dinner with our host.
The next morning we left Bucharest around 8.45, heading for Bulgaria and in particular Buzludzha, a former ‘partycenter’ of the Soviet party. Being impressive because of its location on the top of a hill and it’s UFO kind of shape. From there we had quite a way to go to the Golden Bridges in Sofia. Which technically are not bridges, but a river from big boulders. Arriving there just in time for a photo with the last bit of daylight, we successfully fulfilled two missions today. As Sofia has only 1 very bad campsite we stayed in a hotel close to the Golden Bridges.
Day 6 takes us from Sofia to Serbia and the final destination of today Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. A long day it will be.
On the way to the border we manage to find some sheep a the roadside. We pull over try to explain our mission to the owner. He must think we are mad, but he helps and we put the sheep in the car, mission done! We gave the man a bottle of Dutch Jenever!
Continuing towards Serbia which we will only pass through within a few hours. Around 16.00 we arrive in Skopje, and drive to the office of national TV for our second mission, getting on tv! We will be interviewed on Macedonian national tv, live!!! The show last about half an hour, but hey we can say we have been on national television in Macedonia! Mission fulfilled! And what a coincidence there is an Alexander working there as well, so we can tick off our Alexander the Great mission as well!
After that we race up the hill to the Millennium Cross, unfortunately they won’t let us drive to the top, so we take the cable car there. We take some photos eat an ice cream and go down, we have some distance to cover…
Driving towards lake Ohrid takes about 3.5 hours, and is not particularly fun in the night… we arrive 23.00 at the campsite, put up our tents and went straight to bed, tomorrow Albania and Montenegro to the second party location!
Day 2 & 3, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania
We left Olomouc in the rain after a breakfast at McDonalds and a quick visit to Decathlon for a new tent. We planned on skipping Budapest and heading for Miskolc in Hungary. That meant we skipped the detour and road mission, because they were in Vienna, Bratislava or Budapest.
What we could do is the Task of the Day, ‘Carpool Slovakia’, to meet some fellow rally drivers. We swapped co-pilots with a German team and their co-pilot actually made us laugh with his jokes, but our jokes in the other car were better 🙂
After that we went for the Hungarian border, unfortunately we didn’t managed to trade our goods in Slovakia…
We entered Hungary late in the afternoon and had dinner in a local restaurant to save time. We found a campsite on google somewhere in the mountains, but how to get there? It was dark, the map insufficient and nowhere a sign for a camping… But we found it around 9pm, and it was a nice place as well, we pitched our tents and went to bed!
Monday was the 3rd stage, destination Banffy Castle, in Romania, were the first party was taking place.
We left the campsite around 9am, and as there are no Task of the Day, detour or road missions, it was all driving today!
We crossed the border just after midday, but hence the time difference we lost an hour… We drove the main route for a while, when we decided to take a detour more inland. Driving over a (mainly) good road and through beautiful scenery! We tried to convince a sheppard to lent us one his sheep for a minute to complete the ‘Sheep Charlie’ mission, a sheep behind the wheel. Unfortunately their dogs were not cooperating, despite having a Romanian translator with us.
A few villages further we found someone with a horse a he was willing to help us with the ‘Horsepower’ challenge, check ✔️
Next goal (not a mission) find a local Palenka ‘brewer’, for some homemade booze. After asking around a couple of times we found the man. Now it started, glasses were taken and filled, taste my friend!
-Is it good, yes!
-cough, that’s strong, it burns!
-Good, here try this one, from pear!
-cough cough, this is even stronger…
-Yes, good isn’t it?
And so on…
We left the man, with 3 0.5lt bottles, and got a 1.25lt bottle as a gift!
Oh man, we will make friends!
Now it was only a 40 minutes to the party location/castle. And like yesterday we arrived in the dark, quickly pitching tents and BBQing are Romanian meat! We eat and drank with 2 other Dutch teams who seemed to be very interested in our Palenka and our Romanian team member…
Next up, Transfagarasan, Dracula and Bucharest
On the road!
We’re officially started our Balkan Express rally!
On Friday we left in the morning with the two cars from Apeldoorn, in Enschede we picked up team member 3 and set course towards Dresden. After about 7 hours and many short delays, thanks to roadworks, we arrived in downtown Dresden! First stage done! Not long after team member 4 arrived from Frankfurt, we had diner and a team meeting to set our goals.
A good nights sleep led us into Saturday, Starting Day, YAY!
In the mean time team member 5 had arrived from Romania!
We arrived at the start around 10, checked in, got our road books, helped some people with there CB-radios (and got some beers), put some stickers on other cars and walked around. Finally it was time for a short briefing, a massive group picture, and a then the start!
Not as 2 years before we started in a complete random order, but we rolled under the start at exactly 12.00
Setting course to Czech Republic, trying to complete our Road-mission. We visited 2 castles and 2 big rocks, mission completed!
Eventually we found a camping place in a garden of friends in the surroundings of Olomouc, but late but we found it!
Tomorrow, heading for Budapest!
IF YOU DONATE MONEY TO CHARITY YOU WANT IT TO BE WELL SPENT, ISN’T IT?
So, where are your funds going?
We choose to support a small charity, Tomoka Support.
Let us tell something about Tomoka Support and what they have done in the last 7 years (and the first 7 years of their existence).
In the past years the main projects have taken place in Avégamé (Togo); wells for safe drinking water have been build, new latrines have been build, the school building has been renovated.
The major problem in our target Area is the total lack of water. In the rainy season, people drink turbid unsafe water, which collects in pools. In the dry season, women walk a distance of 5 (!) kilometers and more in search of water from a small river.
Thanks to fundraising by Tomoka Support the financing for the construction of wells has been build. The community can now use 3 water wells, and there are more to come!
This has greatly reduced the suffering of women and children who do not have to walk very long distances before having water. Since the construction of the wells equipped with rope pumps, the local community has informed us that their children have less diarrhea related incidents. The community thanks Tomoka Support for its assistance which helps us achieve our goals. They pray that STS will assist us to progressively increase that number of water wells and reduce further the walking distance to access of potable water.
The local population of Avégamé and the Kpékpéta Zone, had no latrine before the beginning the Tomoka project activities in the area. Improper disposal of feaces leads to diseases, especially during the rainy season. Hence the importance of latrines. In order to reduce diseases, water and latrines should go hand i.e. proper hygiene and sanitation
significantly reduces the number of diseases. With Tomoka Supports funding, the community built the first community Latrine in Avégamé. Even before the commissioning of the latrine, Tomoka received numerous requests from the local population in and around Avégamé requesting for more latrines in the area. We hope this is the beginning of a beautiful journey, of latrine construction in our target area.
In short the money you donate is well spent, and a lot of people and children will benefit by your donation to Tomoka Support!
Donations are still more than welcome, donate here!
Since we are going on a new rally, we need to get you informed of course!
I might be a bit late as we are currently less than a month before the start.
This year the 1st Balkan Express from the SAC people is taking place, and we are part of it!
10 days of undiscovered terrain. Down dusty roads, along white beaches, overtop rugged mountain ranges and through the secluded wilderness—right through the heart of the former Eastern Bloc. Experience the pulsing metropolises of Southeast Europe and discover cities and towns where time seems to have stood still. It’s the ultimate old-school auto rally: The Balkan Express!
In short a new and awesome adventure in the making!
We are getting excited as time is getting limited and a few things need to be done, but we’ll make it on time in Dresden before the start on the 25th of August. This year we will travel with 2 MidSummerMadness teams, 5 guys in one car would be tight, and once again with start number 1, and 2 for the other half of the team! For team #1 we have a SAAB 9000 CSE ready to go, and team #2 will drive a BMW 528i Touring. Both cars should be able to make it back in one piece (fingers crossed)…
Our MidSummerMadness logo has been updated by Echelon Creations, so we look fresh again! 🙂
So, that’s about the technical aspects, as it is a SAC rally we need to raise funds for the good cause.
And this year we are raising funds for Tomoka Support again, all donations will go to this cause. All the raised funds will go to this year’s ‘water well’-project, the goals is to create at least 3 new wells this year. This will provide the community with fresh and clean water ‘around the corner’, so they won’t have to walk long distances to get their daily water.
At this moment we are about €35 away from our €1000 goal But more is always better, so if you want to donate some money, big or small, every € is welcome, click here; Geef.nl MidSummerMadness actie
More updates about our preparations and pictures are available by our Facebook page!
We made it back to Hamburg!
It took us;
- 15 days
- 4800 miles
- 10 countries
- 30 fuel stops
- 23 coffee stops
- 2 (sort of breakdowns)
- countless hours of waiting at borders
- 16 hours of drone flying
- a 1000+ pictures
It has been a wonderful experience; the sceneries have been mindblowing (Lofoten) and sometimes boring (Murmansk – St. Petersburg), the people were stubborn (border partol people) but most of the time they were great (thanks to the girls from Matjesmadels, and the boys from Juggernautracingteam and Stauleitung), we camped in the wild and had a luxurious hotelroom, we ate fastfood and had some great BBQ’s (or grills in German 😉 ). We tried to fullfill numerous Road Missions and Photo Challenges, not every challenge as succesful as the other, but we tried and had fun 🙂 (and sometimes smelled very bad, see Facebook)
We had an adventurous trip without a lot of problems, luckily, and we’re grateful that we could take part in this great event!
Thanks again for donating to our charities or our Kickstarter and of course for following, liking and supporting us on our Grand Tour around the Baltic Sea (which we’ve hardly seen by the way…)
We reached St Petersburg on Tuesday around 14 pm, since camping in the city is not really an option we arranged a hotel. And like driving in rural Russia driving in St Petersburg is a whole other level… The rest of the day we did some sightseeing and fulfilled our task of the day by showing up in the only beach club of the city, we got a sticker! 🙂
Next challenge was to leave the city and Russia the next morning. Both took quite some time, but eventually we hooked up with the other 3 teams and we reached the party location in Estonia. And honestly, it was a wonderful place, the food was good and the people great, another great night.
Thursday we did took a quick little look in lovely Tallinn, a beautiful city but unfortunately we had to keep going… Our goal for the day was in Latvia so first we drove through Estonia and Latvia, and found a camping spot on a lake side. The weather was great so we had another bbq together.
Next morning we took off towards Russia again, Kaliningrad that is 🙂 We went across Latvia, in to Lithuania, made a stop at the Hill of Crosses and placed our own MidSummer Madness cross! Of we went again towards the border. We took the road over the peninsula, a beautiful drive but many teams had the same idea. Waiting again…
Finally we got through and went on search for our sleeping location, which we had arranged in Priboy, a private house we hired from a friendly Russian lady. We had a bbq again and too much vodka for some of us… 😉
Today we made a quick stop to Kaliningrad itself, and then took of for another waiting session at the border, this time 2hrs to get out of Russia and another 1hr to get into Poland, in a 30 degree heat… Eventually we were free again and took of. To finish our road book and its missions we had to print out pictures, which we did in Malbork, so we got to take a quick look at the enormous castle.
Now still driving to our campsite.
Tomorrow last day on the road….
June 29, 2016
After visiting the North Cape, shooting the obligatory pictures with the globe and Brutus, we made a quick detour over Finland to drive to the Norwegian-Russian border. Due to the refugee crisis the 2 most northern borders between Finland and Russia are closed and our original route couldn’t be completed. Hence, it is busy at the Norwegian border, but after filling out all the forms and the obligatory taking apart of the car and checking all bags, we finally have arrived in Russia!
We have teamed up with 3 other teams and in convoy drove to Murmansk to take a picture of the Russian atomic icebreaker ‘Lenin’, visited a much craved McDonalds and headed south towards St Petersburg.
The nights are still not getting dark and it is such a weird feeling to be cooking in the wilderness at 23:00 hours. We found an amazing spot off the main road in a very small and pittoresque village and had a cosy time around the campfire.
The goal is now to get as close as possible to St Petersburg for the night and tomorrow still have some time for sightseeing. The road are wobbly and even with the comfy captain chairs in the back, it is still not a great ride. Brutus however is holding strong and keeps on doing good work!