So here we are, standing on the Goodwood race track to make a lap around the circuit together with 250 other cars. This is the official start of the Mongol Rally 2016, the largest event of stupidity this year. We are all revving the engines, everyone is honking and after one year of preparations, we can’t wait to test our little cars. Let’s see if Niki, our Lada, can survive this trip. We’re even not sure if we will survive it!
MONGOL RALLY 2016 LAUNCH
The rally officially began on the 17th of July in Goodwood, a motoring circuit in Chichester, England. When we drove to the start event we already heard that our rear suspension was making an awful noise when we hit some bigger holes. So we were already wondering if we even could make it to Germany. The Adventurists, the organization of the Mongol Rally, invited some Mongolian wrestlers to give an initiation about their national sport. After this, we all showed up onto the race track to make a lap around the circuit of Goodwood. The Mongol Rally 2016 has now officially begun.
THROUGH THE EUROPEAN MOUNTAINS
We took the train underneath the channel because when we booked it, this was much cheaper than taking the ferry. And it’s much faster too! You just put the car onto the train and you’re on the other side in 20mins. Because we passed through Belgium again we went home to get more stuff sorted out and have a last good night rest. The day after we said goodbye to our families and we were off to our first stop, somewhere near Freiburg, Germany. From this time on, we figured out we had to add an extra couple of hours of driving time on top of the estimated time of arrival on the GPS because our car just goes too slow. We drove through the city of Freiburg pretty late after dark and still needed to find a place to put up our tent so we hadn’t had the time to visit the city. However, it looked really cool so we will definitely visit Freiburg when we’re back in Europe.
The next day we went through the mountains of Austria because our next destination was Hallstatt. We went off the highway, through small villages in the mountains. This was a hard day for Niki because the brakes were overheating on the steep hills when we went back down. Some of these steep hills were for more than 5km long and 15% downhill…
When we finally arrived in Hallstatt, we wanted to camp at a camping site but unfortunately there’s only one and it was full. While we were BBQ-ing at a rest stop, another Mongol Rally team came by and together we found an awesome quiet camping spot at the side of the lake. The perfect place to wake up!
After waking up early in the morning we had a dive in the lake and went to Budapest for a Mongol Rally party. We found an AirBnb right in the old city center which was pretty cheap. It was quite late when we arrived there so unfortunately, we hadn’t much time to see the city. First, we went to Kandalló Kert, a burger & beer bar right down the street. Because we both like spicy food we ordered a Jalapeño burger. This was most definitely the hottest burger in the world! But the taste was very good though. The party was located in Club Fogas, one of the most famous ruin bar and party temple of whole Budapest, which is located in the old city center. It even has a hostel on the first floor!
After a good but short night rest, we started driving towards the Transfăgărășan in Romania. The border between Hungaria and Romania was the first border where we had to wait a lot longer than the others in the Schengen-zone. We waited 1 hour to get through. Just enough time to learn to count to ten in Russian. When entering Romania, you immediately feel that you entered the Balkan. This was the first country where we needed to watch out for street dogs, cows and sheep crossing the road on random places. After driving for 11 hours we reached the start of the Transfăgărășan where we camped together with twenty other teams. Going up the Transfăgărășan wasn’t always so easy because of the steep hairpin bends. Sometimes we even had to get up in first gear. But it’s all worth it. The guys from Top Gear said that this is one of the coolest roads in the world. And we must admit, the view was amazing! Although the roads aren’t in a very good state… Along the way, there are small shops where you can buy some local food or gifts.
We were a bit scared of going back down since our brakes overheated in the Austrian Alps. But actually it was less steep now and the brakes did alright. It was definitely fun to test our Lada over there. After this, we drove to Constanta where there was the Mongol Rally Beach Party. On the way to it, we even saw the Dr. Oetker HQ in a random small village. This was a very special moment for Myrthe because these are her favorite pizzas. In Constanta, we swam in the Black Sea and camped together with all the other teams on the beach.
After a long night, the burning sun pulled us out of our tent early in the morning. We took a plunge in the Black Sea and left Constanta at noon together with team Silly Coincidence, another Belgian team. We first wanted to go all the way to Turkey in one day but that didn’t work out because the other team had some problems with leaking oil. We went as far as we could and eventually found a really nice camping spot on the beach just outside of Burgas, Bulgaria. We cooked some food, did some vodka shots and the next day we woke up with a perfect view of the Black Sea. Now it was time to go to Turkey. When you want to go into Turkey from Bulgaria, make sure to have the road vignette of Bulgaria because we were sent away after one hour of waiting. After we’ve got the vignette from the nearest gas station it was pretty easy to get into Turkey. This border crossing took us 1,5 hours. On our way to Istanbul, we stopped at a gas station to eat something. There was another Turkish man who lives in Belgium and saw our number plates. He sorted a mechanic out to help the other Belgian team to fix their oil problem, on a Sunday! While they went to fix their car, Myrthe and I went straight to Istanbul to our AirBnb apartment. There was a massive queue 70 km before Istanbul and we did 4 hours to get there. On top of that, there are no rules in traffic! If there is a 3 lane road, they will make it 5 lanes.
We were a little bit scared about the situation in Istanbul. There were some manifestations going on and everyone was driving around with a huge Turkish flag outside of their cars. But eventually, Istanbul seemed a really nice city. Because of the situation in Istanbul and Turkey in general there weren’t a lot of tourists in the city center. Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule and couldn’t find the time to explore the city. But we will definitely do it one time!
The next day we crossed the famous Bosphorus Bridge to leave the western world behind us. We have now entered Asia!
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