2008/01/30

The way back

Bus number 7 kicks off for home tomorrow, 29 Jan. It will be a long drive…

Some people were interested in buying the bus today, they told really nice prices. Of course, none came back. It was very suspicious from the beginning, that none wore any shoes.

Correction and apologies


I received some feedbacks that in the Savannah article I hurt Gyula. This is not true, buti f someone would feel so, I apologize in here too, as I already did on the bus. Everyone on the bus is 100% thankful to Gyula, that we made it here. If it wasn’t for him, we stay in Budaörs. Turning back from the middle of the savannah was a common decision, not Gyula’s own, although he initiated it. As we heard later, even the 4x4s had difficulties with that stretch. We turned back trusting his expertise, experience and knowledge. It can easily be that this is the only reason we are still alive. Thank you very much, Gyula. I1d like to ask everyone to read the other articles as well, and judge the Savannah post based on them. Neither in style nor in content differs from the others.

In Bamako


The bus reached Bamako at 10.30 am local time. Everyone and everything is fine.

Savannah then concrete road again

The morning shift left the English behind without remorse, so we had to turn back for them from the petrol station. They are here now, we played craps all morning. Today is going to be awesome, as we’ll turn off from this road at some point, and we’ll head to Mali. Sunrise is unbelievable! In the morning we go slow (bus), but in the afternoon Tuti gets the wheel and eat up the miles. The roads are very good, at home I’m sure a Minister would officially open it. A big difference is that around here many goats and camels are passing. There’s more and more grass on the terrain, then desert, then mountains. We pass a few dusty towns then at 3pm we turn to the offroad leading through the savannah. The real adventure begins: go across the savannah and some small villages.

The bus does very well. We get stuck once, Gyula says we got till here, but in the end we continue our route. We get off from the off road to the real savannah; the soil is harder in here. We are passing and turning at trees, the thorns tear the stickers to pieces on the side of the bus. Aravind goes ahead of us with the Norwegians, figuring out the route. We reach a dried out river. We stop. Gyula says the bus wouldn’t make it across. Aravind comes back, tries to convince him that it will. The fake arguments come. That the other bus didn’t come in this direction. Great, here’s the chance to prove! But the bus will fall apart. Then we got this far, that’s it. We are stuck there on the savannah. We have food, we have water, we have a house in the bus, and there are other rally participants around us as well. We’ll need to spend the night on the savannah. That’s awesome; we came for this, right? The fear starts to evolve in others as well. Gyula turns back arbitrary. That’s about Africa! A hole appears and we run like the proud Hungarian soldiers at Győr. Back to a concrete road that is better than the 81 back at home. We go an average 60. I tell Kevin it’s like when a sailor would say I won’t go out to the sea, because the waves are tall. And anyhow, what should we go out to the sea at all, it’s dangerous! We’ll get sick on the road. And it might be that there won’t be ice for the gin tonic where we go. Our heart is bleeding, they would have went through by the Polski.

We go back, all in all we had a 400 km extra, and we gave up at the first difficulty. We stop to chat up some nomad woman with their kids. They are very nice and very beautiful. They didn’t ask for present, moreover, they want to invite us to their tents. Their pride, strength and spine is unbelievable that’s written on their face. Again the arguments come, that is’s gonna be dark soon, and the Norwegians, who don’t have lamp left us. No tea. It gets dar, and we meet the support car of the Dacia team, the owner of the car didn’t let them to go offroad, as he wants to sell the car in Bamako. There are a few policemen around us, they will watch out for us during the night. Everyone calms down, although I don’t think anyone would have suffered anything without them. I’s rather slept with the nomads, I’m sure they have guns too.

We open the last beer barrel in the evening and we invite the soldiers for dinner. Attila tells me the next day that the nomads brought sheep head, and he tried it out of respect. I missed that.

Kiffa

None cut our throats by morning, moreover, there was no gathering around the bus. Most of the teams visited Tidjika, where we didn’t go, so we’re ahead of them. That’s why we left later yesterday. We’ll straight head towards Kiffa, today’s destination 300 km from here, we’ll reach it by 3pm. The terrain is the same: desert, semi desert, a bit of savannah, go to 10. The roads are surprisingly good, even at home the roads are worse in many places, but according to Gyula we can’t push it, because the bus won’t take it. Gyula goes an average 45 kmph, while Tuti 65, and for him the bus holds on and together. Some teams went to straight to Kiffa yesterday already. There’s nothing exciting in the town, the camp is reasonable. We get to know that the soldiers arrived that da, so it’s official by now that they guard and follow us. I don’t know whether it’s a good feeling or not.

We install the sunroof and start to play music. We dance around a bit with the local guys. We could go and watch crocodiles, but none is in the mood or has the energy for it. Aravind tries to fix something on the Norwegians’ car. The mechanic says that it’s dark, and he won’t work anymore. I like it J

Some of the dudes are missing. The English by the Polski, a Norwegian car and some Hungarians. Some teams gave up, the jerks, and went home. Late in the evening everyone arrives. It turns out that the Polski fell apart, and they sold it for 110 Euros. In Nouakchott they were offered 1000 Euro, so the suck. And they even left a lot of thins in the car: shovel, medicines, and stuff like this. The locals took everything in 10 minutes. They will most probably join us from tomorrow.

2008/01/29

Sheep brain at the petrol station instead of Tidjika


Next day the rest of the team woke up with burning eyes and sick stomach obviously. Most of the teams had already left, at least we shouldn’t worry how to get out with the bus. Gyula and Soma were fixing the Norwegians and the Polski, and Aravind left for the town to get a spare part. By 1pm, when it turned really hot, we managed to leave. The other teams left early to visit Tidjika, but we didn’t go there, the bus is not up for that terrain. we headed towards the next destination, Kiffa, which we reach by nightfall according to plans. Abdulay doesn’t come further with us anymore unfortunately. We say a long goodbye to him. We will miss him loads. We still don’t know where he is really from. But we know how he get into the picture. Two years ago Pasha, a Russian guy got really drunk and when he sobered up, Abdulay was next to him. His South African trip sounded dodgy as well. He said he went from Senegal to Mali, then to Nigeria, then to the Central African Republic, and from there straight to South Africa. All this by a car. When we asked him about the other countries between the Central African Republic and the South, he said that they didn’t go across them. I hope we’ll meet on our way back.

Desert and semi desert changes next to our route. Nomads are camping here and there next to the road. Sometimes we pass by a single street town where goats and sheep are crucified, as if there was some deathmetal festival going on. The people are very friendly, many of them wave at us.

We don’t really need to stop at the checking points, the authorities know about us, maybe the prebribing system works well. If someone stops us, Aravind goes and sorts the situation out. He puts on his pink Adidas bossy sunglasses which he bought for 250 money on the Nouakchott market. Usually he’s shouting from next to the driver, according to him in French. It’s very effective. The authorities can’t really do anything to a 16.5 meters long vehicle from which a drunken Indian is shouting and waving a piece of paper in some strange language in his pink bossy sunglasses. I’m curious how he could manage without the help of the Tourism Minister and other mainheads of the country.

The semidesert becomes savannah, then desert again. Slowly it gets dark. According to the itinerary, it’s not advised to drive in the dark. It’s not that difficult at all. Sometime a goat, cow or camel crosses, but we can go around them. If not, we’ll have goatstew. The traffic is very rare, and the drivers are not more insane than the ones at home on a Saturday evening. Aravind wants to stop in the middle of the savannah for the night. It’s a wonderful place. Riots arise. According to the itinerary, we shouldn’t do this either. In addition we’re at the same spot where the French got massacred. Fear can’t be overcome by reasoning. And there’s a lot: someone passes on the road in every five minutes, soldiers are everywhere, they might be watching us even now from behind bushes, etc, etc. We agreed to stop at a petrol station for the night. There you go African wild places!

We find a petrol station, and arrange the thing. In 5 minutes there were 70 people around our bus of course. The usual high fiving, where we are from, who many children we have, and so on, and so forth. A girl approaches me at the petrol station who promises me three times to cut my throat while I am sleeping. It seemed as a local expression of sympathy.

We fry the left over of the goat meat, delicious. We give the locals as well, they are happy. Some kids stay, but the the rest leaves. The shopkeeper and his boss invite us for meal in the shop of the petrol station. The shop is 8 square meters, there’s 1 mattress, 1 desk (which they use as a chair) and a pile of sand in the corner for cigarette ends in it. The food is being cooked on a small gas cooker: greasy rice with greasy veal. Everyone eats from the pan, using our hands. First table tennis size balls, then it can go to our mouth. There’s no spice in the food, hardly any salt, but it’s tasty. I get the best bit: sheep brain. It’s not bad, with some pepper it would have tasted quite good. Tea follows dinner. It’s green tea with some mint and lots of sugar. They boil it in a tea pot, pour it to glasses then back to the pot. This goes on for 5 minutes. We are having a chat meanwhile. It turns out that the throat cutter girl is the shopkeeper’s lover and they are going to get married next year. We discuss which actor or musicians we know. The boss’ favorite is 50 cent and the Wu tang clan. Schwarzenegger among the actors. A third local guy comes in. We just get to the increasing international situation topic when Aravind comes in and tells me everyone was looking for me, Gyula is worrying for me the most, he fears that I was kidnapped and next I’ll be waving on CNN. I was 6.5 meters far from the bus all the time. Aravind tells me to go back immediately as they are closing the door. I tell him to give me the key. No, noway, that’s out of question, he yells and pulls my shoulder. In that very moment three Mauritanian get up and start threatening the Indian. The right of the guest id very strong around here. A smaller argument starts, and Aravind heats it with starting to bargain on the price of the current the bus is using from the petrol station. The card on 19 wins, the locals even respect the mad. We leave, sleep, in fact a bit of thinking as the tea is still effecting my mind.

Nouakchott by night

The rest in Nouakchott was very useful. We went to the fish market closeby. Apparently a Hungarian walked in wearing a ridiculous swimming trunk, unfortunately, I missed that, but it must have been hilarious. We found a very shitty broken car, and we took it for a round. The owner wanted to sell it for 100000 and almost managed to convince the English to change it for the Polski. We saw a lorry, whose owner told us it was 110 years old. Attila and the others managed to make it to the market; I was on the internet meanwhile. We bought 10 kg goat meat, and the German-French couple bought 4 kg shrimps.

The Mauritanian Tourism Minister visited the team. He thanked us for showing how safe his country was. I couldn’t really comprehend this sentence. On the way almost on every single hill there was a 4x4 with a shotgun on it and a group of soldiers next to it. We saw some RPG guys as well. Two days ago a whole army was watching out for us. Unfortunately, they didn’t let us take photos, nor to use guns. Is this country safe at all? On the other hand there’s a lot on stake for Mauritania with this rally. The Dakar means 10% of the country’s GDP (plus the presents and the bribes), so they can’t afford a mistake. We are not the only daring ones though, there are two other rallies organized by English going through the country in the same time. The truth is, that all the havoc went on not to change money on the border, but rather to wait for a certain person, who’ll bring money to the camp. He came, and turned out that he was the camp’s owner. And as he was there, we could sort out the compulsory insurance at him right away. And his exchange rate was 300 for a Euro for the losers. Normally it’s 350-360 and above 380 in banks, but according to the itinerary we should avoid the latter. Security has it’s price.

The Tourism boss fortunately didn’t come in the bus. It smelt like a palinka brewery. At the previous place, the sheriff came on board, we had to show him around. No matter how hard we tried to hide the bier tap, he saw it. He didn’t say a word. Live and let live, we change money they let us drink, thanks.

The function went on for a long while with the Tourism Minister. It was the usual protocol, greetings, shaking hands, the organizers and the Alfa team even dressed in local dresses. By the way, if the Lithuanian fishing deputy minister comes to Hungary, does he need to wear the traditional cavalryman’s outfit and dance a Hungarian dance? I pissed off to prepare the goat meat.

Later on we wanted to go back with Abdulay to see whether there’s a party, and to ask the hotel’s owner (the brother of yesterday’s hotel owner) where we can set a fire. Abdulay took me across the beach to the party. In a big tent a few men in suites and another few in local neat dresses were sitting, a woman and 2 little girls were singing and a local guy was hitting the electronic piano. Apparently our lot haven’t yet turned up. We stood there stupidly. The song ended. The ones sitting inside stared at us. Then another song started. Then we realized that we are in a wrong party. A local ‘top man’ was celebrating. We got to our party, where the function still was on. The group just stood up for the protocol photos. The minister, the rally’s organizers, the Alfa team, etc. Abdulay crashed the photo shoot without a word. If anyone reads the Mauritanian news, he’s the one in the baseball cap at the end of a side. Restecpa.

We found the hotel’s owner, he was sitting in a tent with his wife. She said with big gestures that we can set fire far from the hotel and we mustn’t drink alcohol. According to Abdulay’s translation we can set fire, but shouldn’t pour alcohol on it, because the big flames will set the hotel on fire. The woman later came to check whether we were drinking. I assume she didn’t want to appear in a bad way for the Tourism Minister and bribe him, or what’s even worse to give him from their hidden alcohol. The party was really good though. Half of the goat meat was gone, and all the shrimps.

2008/01/24

Photos

For all photos posted by the team members of Bus number 7, click here!

The dust, the wind and the capital of Mauritania


We are in Nouakchott, having a rest on the beach. Unfortunately we can’t see the ocean of the dust. We were on the fish market, we made friends with a lot of locals. Everything is fine, the bus is cool. We collected zero point until now, but we are keeping up with the rest.

Mauritania 2 – vacuum cleaning


We need to skip today’s B2 beach party, as we can’t approach the site through the sand, so heading towards Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. The route is tough, we can hardly see of the dust and sand. If we close the windows, we boil alive. If we open them, in a minute everything gets full of sand. The situation is even worse back at the beds, the blankets on the ground level get covered in 1 cm thick sand in 1 minute. The wind blows the sand across the road, a good metal video could be shot in here easily. We see the world’s longest train which carries iron to Nouabhibou. It has 300 carriages and makes an extraordinary noise. There 2 passenger carriages attached to it, no buffet carriage.

We stop to have lunch, and 10 single mums approach us with their kids to beg. They are not shy, they sit down on the stairs of the bus to feed their babies. We’re in trouble. If we give them presents, we’ll strengthen bad habits and fuck up all the cars behind us. If not, we’ll have a bad conscience. It’s tough.

By the afternoon we reach Nouakchott, the coty of winds. We meet the Norwegians, who pulled the English in their Polski Fiat all day today. Of course we stop for shopping for one and a half hours and we wait till it gets dark. In Nouakchott there’s no public lights, and Tuti wants to practice driving on curvy narrow streets in the night, because he heard that night bus drivers get a nice compensation at BKV. Not only streetlights, but there’s no current at all between 6pm and 8am. We pass the dark, lonely streets. All the houses look the same, and the whole town looks as it was made by Sim City and forgot to add current to it. We have no idea where the locals are. They either sit at home in the dark, or went somewhere else. We found out that Nouakchott was really planned by Sim City. When Mauritania became independent, they figured that there’s not a single town in the whole country, so they quickly built one in the widest spot of the country. They did it in order to hide the poverty under the crossing dust and sand.

Abduliya takes us to the hotel. He literally navigated us to the garden of the hotel, and it took Tuti 1.5 hours to navigate our bus out of it. Aravind bribed us free parking plus free accommodation for the English and Norwegians. He’s really pissed off, as he was pushed by others at the reception to who WE showed the way to the hotel. Dinner in the evening, then the beach.

In Mauritania. We have booze!


Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world, there’s actually nothing but desert. The biggest note, the 2000 ouguiya tells a lot. It worth 1500 Ft (4 GBP). They became independent from France out of compulsion. They even gave up the southern part of Western Sahara, when Polisario (the feared injection organization) started to kill their camels. 2 years after this move oil was found in Western Sahara, so they put landmines on the border just out of revenge.

We’re heading towards Nouabhibou (Neumarkt an der See) in the sand. Although Mauritania is sparsely populated, the side of the road is full of trash. We reach our destination in an hour, a bay before Nouabhibou. Nouabhibou is a harbour town, the nearby bay is one of the best fishing area in the world. There is some kind of a fishing industry, but the main business and income derives from cocaine smuggling, the underground powder business as Abdulay says.


Neumarkt an der See

We go into town for spare tyres with Aravind. We find a guy who wants to sell us a completely smooth Michelin tyre for a ridiculously high price, 55.000 ouguiya. The Mauritanian bargaining is very strange. I think at first that he’s threatening us or aggressively having a go at us. In the end we leave him and we buy a local SIM card at another cousin of Abdulay. This guy’s face and the colour of his skin is completely different from Abdulay’s, not if it would count, everyone in town is Abdulay’s cousin. In the roundabout there was another dude sitting, waving at us, he was a cousin as well.

Another great problem to solve: 3500 a SIM card, 1000 a top up, the guy says 2 SIM cards and 2 top ups are 12000. 37% of the Mauritanians are illiterate, and maths is apparently not a compulsory subject. Although another funny thing is that shopkeepers always count on their behalf whether they can read and write or not. The shopkeeper tried everything, to change a 2000 note to 1000s, make a phone call, talk. In the end he accepts the truth. We go around town a bit then we go back to the camp. The Alfa bus arrives, it turns out that they buried their alcohol in Morocco out of ‘respect for the Muslim religion and culture’. Yes, sure…The friendship is getting closer and closer with them, and I guess the amount of alcohol we have plays a significant role in this.

No man’s land


Before entering no man’s land we hired a tuareg, Ahmed. He is in the car in front of us showing us the way. The landmine zone is not like the Minesweeper game, where you have to jump here and there, there’s a stone road leading through it. The many burnt out cars on the side of the road remind me of Mad Max. We get across it no problems in 1 hour at a 10 km/h average. I saw some camels in there in the sand, I don’t understand, do they know as well where the landmines are? Is this landmine story is the imagination of the tuaregs or the Mauritanian ministry’s installation? According to the news every now and then someone blows up in here.

Ahmed did a good job, we gave him a good tip, we change money at him, and he even gets clothes. Some cars followed us, even those who wanted to overtake us at the border. None thanks it, obviously.

The Mauritanian border is closed, of course. They swapped the legendary cooling hut ot a tool hut, in which they are sleeping. According to Aravind the country developed a lot in the last two years, there is hardly any soldier without shoes, and many of them are wearing shoes instead of slippers. We make the biggest mistake of the whole trip at the Mauritanian border. We start to cook. Meanwhile 10 cars overtake us, and then cars come from the sides as well. Just like the Ukrainian border. We try to proceed, but everyone is stuck. Neither forward, nor backwards. I go to the front with the passports. A dude collects them and sends me away. For some unbelievable reason, they finish with ours first. They might have thought we have a very important Indian guest on the bus. In front of the customs, we bump into Aravind’s friend, Abdulay. Abdulay helps us sort out the customs, we onlz need a stamp on our papers, which we have to queue for in front of a hut. There are 50 other in undescriptable order in front of the hut, trying to get hold of some papers through the window, just like when banana arrived to the Skala in Szekesfehervar in 1982. One guy in slippers might really like me, as he throws our papers out from the queue. The friend helps in here too, we are done in a record time, and we even had something to eat.

One of the tyres blew up in noman’s land though. After a short discussion next to the road, 3 local truck drivers try to convince us that they would go until the end with such a tyre, but Gyula wants to change it, so work.

Meanwhile I talk to Abdulay. He is half Mauritanian, half Gambian, but his family lives here. He came back from South Africa recently, where he wanted to get a work as a guide. He says that some time back his cousin was the local marshall. Aravind says that last year he was walking around with his brother’s papers. He shows me an ID, with his photo on it more or less as I assume. Mauritania is an interesting place. We need around 200 papers to enter and they stop us for the passanger list, insurance and passport control in every 5 kilometers, although the locals hardly have any papers, or if they do have, it’s just as official and serious as a library card.

I ask how much a bier is. There’s alcohol ban in Mauritania, bier can be found maximum in the back rooms of Chinese shops. Abdulay say a 0.33 Heineken is 1000 ouguiya, and the exchange rate is between 330 and 360 for a Euro, that’s bloody expensive. No, he says a bier is 6 Euros. 1000 ougiya? 1 Euro is 335 here on the border, which makes a bier 3 Euros. No, 6 Euros he says. I run out of arguments and reasoning at this point. Not even arguments, as numbers are quite exact figures, we can’t even argue on such a trivia. We’ll rather pay in ouguiya for biers. Anyway, we have booze. Others Cbed us that they will junk their alcohol before the border. We told them that we’d take it through for them, but none asked. We tried to hide our alcohol (didn’t make a big effort though). The remaining 4 liters of palinka will be renamed as windscreen wiper liquid. Unicum is medicine for caughing, there’s the cross on it. If the officer tries it warm and survives, he’ll definitely will think so too. Wines and the other leftovers go under the beds. The bier tap is a more difficult task, we put put a bag on it, the same we carry the clothes for aid in. We got away with both easily. Moroccans make a bit of fuss, but a bottle of wine made us VIP guests. The Mauritanians didn’t even come in the bus.

Moroccan-Mauritanian border

The tank was fixed yesterday. Gyula drove until 5.15am yesterday, so we could reach the rest of the teams. Respect! He was awake by 10 am, he said that much of sleep was enough for him. Gyulacell.

We’re driving towards the border at our maximum speed, 70 km/h. The terrain is the same as yesterday: flat, sandy, smaller dunes, a lot of camels. We stop to fill up, and I took the role to push everyone. Instead of the usual 30 minutes, we’re ready in 15 minutes, although now some of them don’t talk to me. Anyway, mission completed. We have to push it really hard, because the customs officers will take a longer break at 1pm. It would suck to queue 2-3 hours on the sun. The other thing is, that all the faster = every single car in the race is going to queue in front of us. I wouldn’t mind reaching the camp in time, and look around a bit, or have a swim in the sea for a nice change.

We are a bit worried of the landmine zone, although up till now 150 cars in race passed it without a problem. Taking alcohol to Mauritania is forbidden. We can’t really hide the bier barrels and the bier tap, the plan is to bribe them. We wasted half a litre of coke on bribes until now, which is a great result I reckon. Aravind will be the one. He says that corruption in the Sahara is nothing compared to that in India.

The Moroccan-Mauritanian border is literally a shithole. Visibility is 0, eyes burning, lungs aching. The officers are lazing the whole day off. I wasn’t disappointed in our fellow Hungarians when 2 of them overtook us in the queue. Hungarian is Hungarian even in the desert. Moreover, stupid Hungarian doesn’t know that it’s not the position in line what counts but the speed of the paperwork. And they CB us where to get official forms from and how to fill them out. You idiot, it’s been on the official B2B site for half a year, and it’s in the itinerary as well written in 2 European languages. I want to give advice through the CB radio, but me teammates don’t let me.

We give submit the passenger list approx. 20 times, along with queuing for it, then customs, we watch how they kill a sheep. A Moroccan comes up, he demands bier. I don’t give him the last bottle of Astra, he gets a bottle of wine instead. Looking at his teeth he’d rather deserved a tooth brush.After the wine we proceed quite fast, although 3 officers hold us up when they are getting their pictures taken in front of our bus.

In Mauritania tomorrow


We’re just passing time in Boujdour, they fix the tank back. Still 300 kms to go today. Tomorrow we’ll reach Mauritania, but before we’ll cross the landmine zone. Don’t panic.

2008/01/23

Western Sahara

Yesterday’s party went on for pretty late. It’s interesting that by the end there were only foreigners, hardly any Hungarian. Everyone loved us, it’s really cool to have cold Czech bier in the desert. Let us thank Liquid Gold and Budovar(aka Budweiser)! The local Tuaregs asked us to turn off the music, as it bothers the camels in their breeding. But maybe it was some other participant. The desert was nice without music as well, moonlight, starts, upside down star signs. Everyone could tell how good it was back in the days, when people were close to nature, they told stories around the camp fire and the same two stories all the time. There was no rush, no hassle, and an infected appendix and it was over for you.

Ikarus met with sand first time in Tatooine, but handled it well. The roads are very good, there are much worse roads at home. Yesterday morning Tuti drove, he managed to drive 280 kms in 4 hours on the 1 lane local highway. Today morning Gyula started behind the wheel. We drove on EU sponsored 2 lane motorways, 200 kms in approx. 5 hours. Today we have to drive 6-700 kms, all the way on concrete road. I guess we’ll be there by 2am. Aravind wanted to get there by 5pm to eat the Spanish ham and fry goat on the beach, we won’t. There’s something wronge with the bus and we can’t push it – so they say.

The terrain is flat, somewhere camels and goats, but the promised sand dunes nowhere, apparently they will be in Mauritania. A Norwegian guy popped on the bus, Attila, Aravind and Tamás went for the left over of the bier. We figured how to scare off the beggar kids. Tamás has to hold the camera in their faces, they get scared from him.

We reach West Sahara. We have no idea which country we’re in. Theoretically Morocco. There’s no border, and we can pay with dirhams. Some West Saharan don’t think this, they say that they are the last colony in Africa. It is said that in the hearth of the country fights are going on leaded by an organization called Polisario for the freedom of West Sahara. Their name reminds me of an inoculation. We could organize a nice party on Kossuth square, our Arpadliners would tamtam for Transylvania, the Moroccans for Melilla and Ceuta and the West Saharan for West Sahara.

We reach the city of Laayouane, we fill up with petrol. Another Norwegian joins us. We think they switch. But than a huge blondish read headed waving and running giant appears in the mirror. Oooops. We’re going around and around in the town on the narrow streets. There are a lot of tailors, they sell those tiny dresses with deep cleavage, which I’ve never seen on anyone on the streets, they must be wearing them at home. Tuti wants to drive, he says it’s like the 7th district without cars. He doesn’t get a chance. We stop in a parking lot for servicing. Soma and Gyula get rid of the tank.

Meanwhile we have something to eat in a local Moroccan buffet. The young locals all come here to have a chat and eat, many of them in European clothes. There are much more dressed in European style than the local. The food is almost the same as in any bigger city in Europe, although there was no shawarma or falafel. Nor goathead, although I'm up for trying it now.

Aravind went to change dirham, I stayed behind. I tried to find out how much the bill was, and suddenly a local starts to speak in English with an accent from London to watch out and don’t let them fool me with the bill. Ok. Discussion, who, from where, where to. I ask who he was. He says he’s Moroccan from Marrakesh and he’s just a tourist. Here? There’s nothing to see, and even the sea is far away. He says that he lived in England and he had a Hungarian girlfriend. Interesting. In here everyone either had a Hungarian friend or a Hungarian girlfriend, and they mention right before they get to the business and they want to sell you something. I waited what this one wants; either takes me to his shop or wants to sell cigarettes to me. But neither. He says that back in the day he was a PE teacher, nowadays he’s a policeman. ‘There are many secret agents around here’ – he says. But you don’t have to be afraid, they are looking after you. Wow, great! Aravind came back with the money, shaking hands, we leave. We pop in to the next place for a tea. It’s a very strange place. It’s very posh and suspiciously clean. The toilet is just like everywhere in Europe. And the Wega coffee machine, and even an Italian would drink their espresso! There are not many guests, but when we sit down, interestingly 2 men sits down right next to us. I’m willing to say only complete bullshit in Hungarian slang. Have fun with the translation, guys!

In Laayouane two types of people is usual. The 10-12 year old kid, who begs for cigarettes, and the adults on the streets who want to sell boxes of smuggled cigarettes. The kids might belong to the family, and begs the cigarettes back? It’s a very smart business model, it only fails on the point that I don’t give kids cigarettes. The business is skyrocketing in Laayouane, everything can be purchased for half of the price than in Morocco. I enter the local CD shop, chat with the chaps, they are good guys, they write me music. We’re just getting to the bottom of the topic when I’m told that the bus is ready. They took the tank for welding, the mechanic didn’t ask for any money, he just said your welcome. Maybe the former PE teacher from the buffet talked to him? Or he just welded a tracking device or an African refugee in our tank?

Having left the town we see some sand dunes. Once, back in the day I was asked to bring sand from the bottom of the pyramids. Of course, I forgot it, and who the hell carries sand anyway? At home I went to the first playground, and got some sand from the sand pit and that’s it. I was found out when they found a local cigarette end in it. Dunes disappear, sand stays, and we reach the sea. What a beach, bro! It’s a pity that apparently it’s full of landmines. They know what life is! The sea slowly swallowed the sun, and we’re doing 70 km/h on the motorway.

Daily routine on the bus

The daily schedule on the Ikarus is organized around the long distances and the extreme weather conditions. In the mornings usually one of the drivers and Aravind wake up to start the engine. From a distance it seems like something is burning. Let’s go, off we go. After all this I usually get out of bed and pour some pálinka. In the mornings it’s around 15 degrees in the back, we need the warming up drink. And the doctor said as well that we need disinfection. The pálinka smell wakes up Béla, Attila and Tamás. Bela brought 10 liters – great man! – he said that this much of pálinka will last for sure till the end. After Tatooine there’s hardly any in the bottle…

After the pálinka…Kriszti wakes up and shouts at us why we didn’t pour her. Another round, fat burns, legs and arms warm is, microbes dying. No worries, the drivers never drink. After pálinka we can do with some breakfast, on the bus. After breakfast it’s usually pretty warm already, so Attila, Kriszti and Tamás continues with wine. The rest doesn’t drink. Before midday we eat the kilometers until lunchtime. Lunchtime is usually 1,5 hours. Disinfecting follows. Eating kilometers again in the afternoon, by this time everyone is sick of the heat. Everyone’s sneezing, coughing and croaking of the fine dust. Sometime in the evening or in the night we reach our destination. In Africa every single day someone wanted to fly bak home immediately. But the tension settles quickly, maybe because in 1 hour it becomes very chilly, everyone tries to go to sleep and not to freeze. Some hours of sleep in the diesel smell, and in the morning, the nice wake up tune of the Ikarus’s engine again…

2008/01/19

Planet Tatooine

We got to Tata to the camp by 11pm on Thursday. Soma says that yesterday's 720 kms with the two 1700 high mountain passes counts as 20 000 km on normal roads. Wow. The bus did very well. Soam and Gyula said that by the evening something was leaking, they had to fix it. They managed to communicate it in approx. 1 hour, and by then 20 people gathered. All the problems came to surface after being locked up together for 48 hours. Fuck yous flew like Harry Potter's spells, and all the smaller who if not mes, we're used to. In the end Soma and Gyula took the bus to the nearby petrol station and repaired it there. We went to get bier. Meanwhile a smaller local group gathered by the bus. The stomach of the bus is rottening, the Ikarus need to be lifted. They lift it in 4 points, but still, the iron bends under its weight. Gyula and Soma was very nervous by the time I got back with the biers. Pretty understandable, they are lying under a 20 ton monster, whos lower part is like a wet cookie. If you look aside, you see 3 dudes commenting in arabic. All this at a very badly lit petrol station out of town. Fortunately some company arrived, the others came back and the 2 riders whose stuff we're carrying. They are very serious guys, they came by 350 cc bikes, and after Bamako they will continue their way to Senegal and Ghana.

By 2.30 am the machine was ready, everything fixed, the vehicle is fantastic again. The arguments started again, who to do what and how, and the fear that the bus won't hold on till Bamako. IT WILL.At 7am Tuti sat behind the driving wheel, we did 200 kms in 3 hours. An overresponsible policaman stopped us. We gave him passangerlist, but it wasn't enough for him.He needed the expiry date of our passports, our sing in the kindergarden, and when we last had solid shit. He got what he wanted, he can proudly report to his bosses where the creten whitepeople and the Indian are in their country!He stopped 3 Polish geographer as well. We invited them on for a morning páloinka in the name of the Hungarian-Polish friendship. The policeman wanted a souvenir, but Aravind tore his shirt off and said: 'I'm the present.' The policeman replied: welcome to Morocco.

We're taking the Dakar Rally's route, so all the local kids harrest us, especially that the dakar was called off. Good morning Sir! Give me a present! Give me a pen! Give me one dirham! Give me a cigarette! Go to 10. it's very annoying. Then a bigger guy comes and sends the smaller away. 'They should be in school' - he says. Greetings. He gets where we're heading. Ah, Mauritania. Cigarette is a big treasure in there. Everyone can be bribed with it. and what a surprise! He has 2 boxes of smuggledcigis on him from the Canary Islands, do we want to buy it for a discount price? No. He disappears. The kids come back. Give me your hat give me your coat...Sand desert slowly takes over the stonedesert. Not yet the finesand one, but slowly-slowly it's coming. Thankfully there's a concrete road leading through it. After our many stupidities we reach the finish in dark again, the Planet Tatooine camp.


Camp is a slight exaggeration, there are a couple of huts in the middle of nowhere, just like in a film. It was a great feeling how the bendy bus crossed the sand dunes. The Norwegians (Team Polar Bears, 139) took some really good pictures. The rest is on their blog: www.polar-bears.no

In the evening we had a big party, we opened 2 barrels of bier, we wanted to eat the Spanish ham, but we forgot. The ham is a real treasure, yesterday the Portuguese really wanted it. They CBed for half an hour for it, and left us alone only when I started to sing Elvis in the radio. We’ll eat it in Mauritania.

All of the participants appreciate the performance of Bus number 7. The Alfa bus team is really helpful, one of he drivers promised to pull us to Bamako, just to reach our destination. Team 47 popped in, they are www.gondwana.co.hu. One of them dressed up like a Jedi. He was said that for everyone wearing a Star Wars costume, the entry is for free. Who knows why this is, but that’s for sure that they haven’t seen the owners for years and the hut people costume is traditional folk dress around here.

The Polish from the morning appeared again, I didn’t know that pálinka has such a pull effect in the desert. The biggest challenge of the whole event occurred: Aravind’s music collection. We listened to some Mali music instead, which is at least good. And Sanyi’s Star Wars remix. Thanks!

What can one do on the bus?

We spend daily 22-23 hours on the Ikarus, the question is what can one do for so long on a bus. The TV and the Xbox looks pretty, but we can't use it while we are on the wa, because there's the danger that the aggregator explodes. We don't have any other music source, only our on small private ones, so no big parties on the way. We can use the computers, but the road is so shaky, that our eyes get tired very soon. Typing is even worse. We can stare at the surroundngs, but after a while we get bored even of the most extraordinary sights. We can eat, but we have to be careful not to slice our own fingers, and all the food not to end up in our neck in a sharper turn. We can smoke at the bendy part if the roof window is open. We can get drunk, akthough it's not the nicest feeling to sober up on a shaky Ikarus. We could have a shower if the water wouldn't be that brown, there's no toilet on the bus, so we can hold it back. We can sleep, but it's really cold and shaky at the back, but one can get used to it. It smells diesel, my head ached of it for 2 days, but one can get used to this as well. If we drove a little faster we'd have time to look around a bit at places.Up until now there hasn't been too many sights though. Locals sitting in cafés, funny dudes, funny buildings, donkeys, horses, camels. The terrain: heath, desert, hills, mountains, big mountains, fucking big mountains. Oh, and motorways in Europe, but I've already written about these.

2008/01/18

Morocco 2 – Moon and mountains

We woke up at 7.30AM and it’s still cold and dark. The Szatmári healing drink helps. We have to pay attention to the amount, as it’s gonna be hot in a couple of hours and it’s really dodgy wandering in the desert still drunk from pálinka. Something is wrong with the watertank, the liquid coming out of it is brown. Not if anyone would be in a mood for a shower in 0 degrees Celsius.

The sun comes out and we figure that we’re somewhere on the moon. We’re 150 km from yesterday’s finish and another 720 today ahead of us. It’s gonna be tough.

The Moroccans stare at the bus. Many policemen comes to greet us and ask who we are. Many teenagers take photos of us with their mobiles, and it’s really weird, as theoretically WE are the tourists.

The terrain is the same as yesterday. Heath, hills, mountains, sometimes 1-2 villages or smaller towns. Slowly-slowly we enter the real moonscape. Because of the bad roads we can only go a 40-45 kmph average. Gyula and Soma doesn’t dare to risk a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Tuti would push it, but sometime he does oush it, if Gyula is asleep. He is not worried about the bad roads, he says that Thököly is much worse between Keleti and Bosnyák. But actually the mechanic is there in half an hour there. Because of our speed yesterday we did 23 hours on the bus, we slept on the way, and we stopped only for 3 hours. The atmosphere is ok, but because of the noise the constant shouting among each other is the standard. We stop for a picnic, but none shoots at us.

We reach the mountain pass, the Ikarus struggles with the slope, but the brakes hold on. We passed at 1700 metres. Gyula said that with a bendy but this is suicide. We told him that the route won’t be like A7 between Passau and Kiel in a brand new Mercedes. By now he starts to guess what he signed up for. But he pushes it hard. His new nickname is Gyulacell, after the alkaline.

We get the news from home that a radio station says we are lost. We had lunch, and we’re crazy slow, but we haven’t been lost yet. I assume. Dust is everywhere. Tuti sneezed and I thought the roof collapsed and all that dust is coming from there. A mountain pass again. By now we’re used to it. We tell Gyula to go back and come back again for the pictures. We can’t convince him.

Some racing cars overtake us, heading into the stone desert. As the tohers tell me we passed a stone desert ourselves as well. Hooray!

It’s dark again, and it cools down rapidly. We’re approx. 200 kms from Tata. If everything goes well we’ll be there around 11-12pm. It will be good to see the others after 2 days again. Hopefully I’ll be able to upload the material today. I have some really good pictures as well.

Morocco – the first day in Africa


The other side of the border is more messy than the Spanish side, as expected. We find the fat women’s husbands. They are sitting on small chairs in front of cafés, they are chatting away and waiting for the toilet paper and the gas cooker. Meanwhile the wife is beaten up by a stupid idiot, whose only joy in life is to watch another stupid idiot on Sundays, stabbing a half dead bull. Life goes on like this on the ends.


The northern part of Morocco is very similar to Spain. The same bleak mountains, the same orange fields, where mostly Moroccans work. Ok, in here we can’t see any Hungarians or Moldavians trying to hitchhike home, because they didn’t earn as expected from the orange harvesting.


Proceeding south, there are less and less villages and orange fields, and more and more people wearing hutpeople costumes. This costume is traditional around here apparently, although it’s possible that they only heard how much they could earn if they get in as an extra to a Start Wars episode and they are waiting for George Lucas to appear.


In Morocco there1s a checking point after every 25 kms. Aravind did the Budapest Bamako twice already, he explains. This officially dressed people actually don’t have anything to do, they just exist. They stop us, ask who we are, we answer. From then on they decide whether they will be able to make money from us, and in case yes, they decide how much. The trick is that only the driver has to pay attention, they tell the story with the help of an interpreter, and the rest doesn’t even listens to what they say. If everyone pays attention, the officer could think that something important happens, and Euros would keep rolling in front of his eyes. The trick worked, we were nowhere asked to pay bribes. The max. was when one of them asked a traveler list from Attila, and asked him about his family, all this is the freezing windy night of course.


Many of the teams cross the Atlas Mountains. Our Ikarus wouldn’t be able to handle those roads, so we take another route towards Algeria. The terrain becomes more and more desert like, and the villages are further and further from each other as we proceed towards south. The drivers don’t want to risk a break down on the shitty roads, so we take back from our speed. we manage a 45 km/h average. According to the GPS, by 5AM we’ll be in today’s finish.


Morocco is Prussia compared to India. The towns are clean and organized, there are streets, the trash is little. People use the right side of the road; none comes towards us in the same lane. There is less animal on the roads, and there’s a shepherd with them. There are road signs and they even have boards for holes in the road!

We stop to eat. The food is excellent – salad, goat sausage, goat liver, another type of goat sausage, minced goat meat. Up until now none dared to try goat head, but we agreed with Attila that we won’t leave without trying it. Local tomatoes and onions are huge, and according to Aravind they grow this big because there’s a lot of iron in the soil.


It gets dark. We make a decision: we drive until the drivers hold on, then we’ll get some sleep and early morning to reach the rest of the teams. It starts to be freezing colt outside. In the driver area it’s ok, but at the back at the beds it’s almost freezing. How nice to have an AC inside! There’s cold wind blowing outside. We reach a village. I have coffee on the main square. It feels like when Obi meets Han Solo. Gyula switches to robotpilot, while the others slowly-slowly fall asleep.

Almeira, internet difficulties, ferry


On Tuesday morning we woke up in the harbour of Almeira in the bus. There wasn’t too cold in the back, although a white wine would have been just int he perfect temperature to serve.


In the morning we got a lovely piece of news from our mobil internet provider, that our roaming bill since we left 3 days ago is 312 000 HUF (approx. 900 GBP). I have no clue how we didi t, I posted only twice. According to Aravind, he used the internet a lot, but he didn’t download anything, neither watched porn, so he doesn’t understand either. As for now, we can’t pay it. We’d like to ask everyone in here who has good connections at T, the pink provider to help us get our mobile internet back!


Gyula and Soma fixed the bus. There’s a lot of problem with it, according to Soma the whole machine is rottening and leaking. We managed to fix the watertank, and filled 50 litres of water in it with mineral water bolltes. It feels like school camps back in the day. We make coffe with soda water, cause we run out of normal water in Austria and Attila bought only soda water. Interesting…


In the morning we went into Almeira, lovely town. We had a nice and long lunch before the long journey, there was pig’s ear, fish, crab, squid and some 10 more different types of food.
I wanted to send a mail at 2pm from an internet café, but the guy said he goes and eat, and it’s no point coming back before 5. I like it, I think. I would make a really good Andalusian. I’m arrogant and big headed, and quick tempered, I can eat a lot and I can be under alcohol effect all day without getting drunk. I can sleep anytime for any long, and I don’t mind if for all of this the bill is on the rich Northerns.


I couldn’t go back till 5, because we met up with the others. There are really good guys among the participants, similarly crazy people as we are. There is this team, Werner and co. They drive an IFA with a Raba engine, max. speed is 90-95 km/h. Flying Gizi is on the road without a stop since Sunday morning. The winners of the Travel Channel game, the 2 Kevins broke down somewhere in Italy with their Polski Fiat. They reached us ont he CB radio, and we suggested them to have it checked at a petrol station, it’s an Italian car. In 2 minutes a Polish guy appeared, told he had a Polski as well, and fixed it for them.

We installed the sunroof and the music system in the afternoon. Everyone came up to have a look at our bus. It looked pretty serious int he harbour of Almeira among the approx. 50 vehicles. The sun was shining, finally we didn’t froze to dead in the bus.


Meanwhile, Aravind told me to keep an eye on the bus while Bela and Gyula are fixing it, and they go and buy some alcohol in the town. Max. 1 hour he said. Of course it became 3, but I wasn’t bored, as I had a pálinka with each visitor. People liked me. In the harbour slowly-slowly Moroccans gathered. Many Maroccans work in Spain for ridiculous amount of money, in ridiculous circumstances. Sometimes a Spanish officer comes to show his authority for them. Officers try to tease us as well, but we send them away.


Meanwhile the officer from the harbour patrol came to us as well, he said we had 2 mins to check in, the ferry is leaving. Attila and Aravind are nowhere. Tickets nowhere. Every participating car is already lined up. Gyula and Sora are nervous. A recall my memory, and it says we’re not leaving with the 11pm ferry to Nador, instead we take the 12am to Melilla. The harbour officer keeps running. Finally the town team arrives, 2 hours late. They are lucky that they brought a whole ham, chorizzo and sausage. we tell the running officer that we’ll wait another hour. Internet is impossible fro today. After the case the first big argument takes place. We should discuss who does what. Someone needs to be at the bus all times who knows what’s happening. The all went on for an hour. We needed something like this, we started to behave like a pile of collapsing potato stock. After some difficulties we managed to get ont he ferry, looking for our cabins and sleeping. There was a big storm apparently, but I didn’t hear anything, I was sleeping.

2008/01/17

Melilla

We arrived to Melilla by 8AM. Melilla is a Spanish enclave in Morocco. Moroccans demand the territory back each week. we could organize a joint give us back Transylvania and Melilla demonstration sometime. The town is lovely, there is a castle in it and churches and cafés.


Near the border approx. 500 Moroccans are waiting to get the permission to enter, most of them are female, in an uncertain age, big, wears a scarf, and amorf. 25 years old or 45? They have huge bags in front of them, things they bought on the Spanish side. There1s a lot of toilet paper, gas cooker and corn flakes among their stuff. Apparently they are either short of these things back in Morocco or too expensive.


On the Spanish side of the border suddenly 2 officers appear and start shouting with the women and kick them in the stomach and kick the bags out of their hands. The women don’t seem to be surprised, slowly they move away, the mass starts to clear away, we try to take photos, but immediately 10 officers shout don’t even try it.


It takes them a moment to let us through, but the Moroccans hold us up. Some of them approach us that for a couple of Euro bribe they take us through quickly. We don’t accept their offer, we won’t pay bribes nowhere, we rather wait.


Next to us in a narrow corridor, which is the channel between the market in Melilla and Morocco the women with the heavy bags are crossing the border. It’s very crowded and there’s a lot of pushing and shouting going on. In the mud sea in front of the wall the women are queuing and slowly crossing. A Moroccan officer appears and turns them back, half of the women start to go backwards, but another queue turns up. The turned back queue turns around, mixes with the new queue and they proceed towards the Moroccan border. Two little boy try to jump in from a 5 m high wall, but they get caught in the last minute. The border between Austria and Hungary would look the same if the old regime stays and Austrians create a corridor between Pandorf and Hegyeshalom.


We wait fro an hour here. We fill out 200 papers, officers come on the bus 10 times for checking and off we go.

Correction

Gyula is not 62 years old, 57 only. One of our teammates told me he was 62, but I won’t give him away. Gyula is a robot. He sleeps 3-4 hours a say, he’s doing everything day and night. When he doesn’t drive, he either repairs or argues. He drinks silverwater int he mornings, according to him that keeps him running.

Tuti and the Fradi flag

Tuti says: Go Fradi, kisses for the family and he loves Brigi! A nurse from the Alfa bus took the Fradi flag, and we haven’t seen them since Almeira. They took another ferry, they are ahead of us. We’re chasing them. (What he is capable of for a League II team!)

The longest day – take 2

The Origo team popped into the bus, and a smaller party started suddenly, details on videa.hu. Xbox switched on, we played, there was music and szatmári plum pálinka. Meanwhile Gyula switched to robotpilot. There was none to navigate for him, therefore we took a wrong exit on the Spanish motorway and we headed towards Madrid. We lost half an hour. Then it turned out that we didn’t get lost, we just took a possible alternative route. GPS explains everything.

It’s really interesting, that in Spain there is an orange field next to every single motorway. I’m sure that the settling exhaust fumes have a very healthy effect on the fruits, moreover, it weights more on the scale. Italians grow grapes next to motorways, heavy metals do such good on the day after!

We entered a small Spanish town, this isn’t the right direction, this time for sure. It was pretty dead at 10 pm on Monday evening. But they were really nice, they helped. And stared. People usually stare at bus number 7, many of them ask what this vehicle is and where we are heading to. Most of the time we encounter the respect deserved only by the mentally ill in their eyes.


After that small Spanish town we find our way back to the motorway. There’s no rest or stop until Almeira. Meanwhile it turns out that today’s stage wasn’t the longest. Yesterday we completed 1050 kms, today only 1007 kms plus the shortcuts, but we are still much behind yesterday’s achievement. And the engine keeps rumbling in my head, and I assume this is going to be like this until we reach Bamako.

News from the team

They are climbing the mountains of South-west Morocco at the moment, at their latest sms they were close to the town of Tazenakht. Today’s finish is in Tata, still 350 kms to go.

The Ikarus is struggling with the windy and rocky mountainous roads. Today they were officially announced to be the slowest vehicle in the race. They manage to go at an average 35 km/h in the mountains. This doesn’t, but the Polski’s 75 km/h average bothers the team, as they tought they could at least compete with the Polski.

Good news that the servicing in Almeira seems to have been successful, as the spirit is high not only because of the fantastic team, but because of the working xbox as well. Moreover, we should give some credit to the good old Hungarian pálinka and beer in here, which are followed with long siestas in the back of the bus.


I'm sure Akos would add some must knows about the Moroccan roads: there are many Moroccans on it and everything is in Arabic. Or in French? Are there any boards at all? And are there cars on the roads at all?

Bus number 7 is tearing along int he middle of Morocco

Greetings from the picturesque town of Tinerhir. Typing is a bit difficult, a sin the local internet café the keys are completely at a different place, instead of qwerty azerty, EVERY single key out of place.

Sorry for leaving you without updates for so long. The reason is that with Aravind’s mobile internet we managed to produce a bill of 320000 HUF (approx. 900 GBP) in 3 days, so we had to give up this option.

We reached Melilla yesterday morning (the ferry arrived at midnight sharp), but because of the late start and the held ups during the day (splendid, but 1,5 hour lunch) we didn’t manage and didn’t even want to complete yesterday’s 850 km stage, so we stopped at Errachidia 130 kms from the day’s finish. Int he end we have a sleeping unit.

We had to use the Siesta heater again for the chilly night, again, it was freezing 0 degrees Celsius.
The team and the atmosphere is great, we have loads of food and drink (just in case we bought 25 l of wine and a huge whole ham, chorizzos, etc. in Almeira).

Today’s stage is 580 kms plus our 130 from yesterday, we managed to complete the latter by 10am. There won’t be a problem. We ask you not to worry if you don’t hear from us, there’s no internet on every corner. Mobilphone signal keeps dropping as well.

All in all, everyone is having a great time, the vehicle eats the km sas it was brand new and runs perfectly.

We’re leaving now, we’ll post as soon as we can!

Big hugs for everyone,

Bus number 7 team

2008/01/15

Morning after the longest day

Formule 1 hotel is a really funny place. The reception is open till 7pm, after 7 you can insert your credit card into a slot, they charge you, you get a code, you go in and sleep. There’s no staff. Actually this is quite understandable, as French are on holiday or on strike 250 days of the 365, and the rest is national holiday or weekend. The hotel is made of plastic, it smells like a plane. It’s 40 degrees Celsius in one room and 10 in the other. I’m sure Germans are sad that it wasn’t them who invented it. To our greatest surprise there’s wi-fi. Decent wi-fi, not some upgraded minitel. Of course it was extremely expensive, plus at 3am none was in the mood to log on.

Gyula slept in the bus, and woke up at 5am to repair something. There were problems with the bus. By morning there was a nice big puddle under the bus, we could have had a bath in it. Gyula, Tuti and Soma worked on it, by now it’s ok.

We reached Spain. Must knows about the Spanish highway: it’s full of Spanish, and everything is written in Spanish. We are ahead of the rest of the teams, because yesterday we came 300 kms more than the others. However being ahead of them is only a matter of time.

The others are slowly-slowly taking over us. This Ikarus was constructed to commute between Bosnyak square and Kelenfold, or between Szekesfehervar and Bakonycsernye, have some rest at the last stop, then go to the other end of that route, not to do 1000 km in one go a day. Time by time we have to stop for half an hour, screw or fix or oil or grease this and that. We loaded the watertank and it turned out, that the tank has a hole in it. On our way we have a watermark behind us, like Ariadne with her string. We have 2 100 liter tank, tied together, so whoever wants can follow us till Almeira. Not if it would be that difficult, there’s a straight motorway leading there.

We reach the fishy weather. Around us orange is bein harvested everywhere, it’s approx. 12-15 degrees Celsius, and the driving area is suitable for a sunbath. Good bye winter, it was enough of you. It would be great if back at home the weather would be just like this at the beginning of February. I brought only a pair of trainers.

2008/01/14

2nd day - The longest day

Today’s stage is from Mestre to some French town, 1050 km. With our average 60 km/h speed it will be approx. 18 hours. In case we don’t break down. In one word: we suck. We planned to leave at 6am, and after a minor repair we finally kicked off at 7am. Problems start: According to our mechanics-drivers the engine and the aggregator can’t work at the same time, the chance to blow up is too high. This means that there’s no 220V while on the road. There’s no X-box. No fridge. No microwave. It sucks. We worked out a fitness program on the handle bars, now everyone is hanging from them. By the time we reach Bamako, everyone will have toned muscles.

So far, the highlight of the journey was enivetably the coffee in the Autogrill in the morning. It started raining, and the bus leaks in in many places. Duck tape solves any problem. In the morning we managed to reach a 65 km/h average, but a wrong petrol fill up held us back. We reached the sea, the sun came out. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to stop to eat in Genova, boiled sausage was the menu, cooked on the bus. It was the most painful moment of the journey so far.

Aravind slept almost the whole day through, he starts to recover from his injuries he suffered in the Autorickshaw Challenge.

We drive on the French motorway. Must knows about the French highway: there are many French on it. Everything is in French. The coffee at petrol stations is much worse than in Italy.

We had the first service. Soma and Gyula changed the pressuretube (I assume), and filled up the cooler. It took them approx. 1,5 hours. I got to know that our stage today is 300 km longer than the others’. This means that tomorrow, the distance will be 150 km less, in addition, we’ll have a whole day to rest in Almeira.

We’re speeding in the French night. By 2am we reach our destination, the Formule 1 hotel in Perignon. Everyone is dumb from the constant noise. The smell of the petrol is sometimes unbearable, in the sleeping unit the beer cools down. I was expecting exactly this!

Pictures are coming up soon!

Bus number 7 is going at a spanking pace!

And yes, Bus number 7 kicked off! On Saturday morning in front of the Houses of Parliament more people gathered for the flag off of the Budapest Bamako rally than on a usual anti-government demonstartion. There were no Arpad striped flags, but lovely ham sandwiches yes. We managed to hit the road after a 1,5 hour of delay. Our first stop was Szekesfehervar, where the mayor would have greeted us, as the team is partly from Szekesfehervar, if we had managed to drive in front of the theatre. We hadn’t, so while Attila was shaking hands, we just caused a simple traffic jam. On our way to the border our spirit stock seriously reduced. This happened because the heating didn’t work properly.

Most of the teams in the Budapest Bamako rally just speed through the European stage. But for us and some other crazy teams (Fiat Polski, Velorex, Ural) the adventure started at the flag off line on Kossuth square. Anything can happen to a 22 year old bendy Ikarus. That’s exactly why we chose to travel with it. It worked quite fine on the first day, it was going at a spanking pace, there was no particular problem with it. We had to stop only once, because something was too warm in the engine. Or too cold? Our top speed is 85 km/h on flat terrain and pur average speed is 60 km/h if we stop in every 3 hours. The oilconsumption of our beauty is 30 litres/100 km. On the Hungarian stage on the same distance approx. 1 litre of spirit was consumed by the 7 nondriving passangers. As for now, there’s no water in the bus. No problem, tea and coffee is better from mineral water anyhow, and having a shower is a sign of weakness. The aggregator works with petrol, and it works amazingly. There is 220V, so we immediately installed the X-box.

What can I write about the Budapest-Mestre stage? There’s a motorway leading there. The Austrian motorway is much better and a lot cheaper than the Hungarian. There are mountains on the left, and on the right, and there are a lot of Austrians. Half of the crew fell asleep in the back. In the back, where the beds are, aka sleeping unit, there’s no heating at all, but it is said that it’s healthier to sleep in the cold, and one can sober up much quicker. I can’t remember the Italian motorway. Villam Geza came in once and said hello. We reached our accomodation in Mestre by 11pm, in a completely average motel, next to a completely average Novotel. We went to have a pizza. The pizza in Mestre is better and cheaper than pizza in Budapest. We went ot bed at 1am.

2008/01/11

New passanger on board

Unfortunately, Szabi couldn’t come with us in the end due to family reasons. A new member joined the crew, his name is Gyula. Gyula, 62, was the mayor of Csajag for 12 years. Csajag is in Fejer county, between Balatonfokajar and Balatonakarattya. The train, commuting on the Northern shore of Lake Balaton usually stops here for 20 minutes, so the station’s front view is very well known by many. Gyula drives and repairs buses for 30 years, and his big favourite is the Ikarus 280. He’ll be our driver with Tuti (Csaba).

Dressed up and ready to go

Finally our baby is ready. By now it's completely dressed up. You can see us tomorrow at 7.30 am on Kossuth tér in Budapest at the flag off, or try to have a glimpse of us along the route.





Mechanics at work

our dear mechanics wanted to make sure everything works fine on the road... so they disassemblied half the engine... fortunately they also new how to put it together. Huh.