Windy 500 of 2013

23 countries in 23 days - 14th June 2013

How it all went...

The English Channel. So often seen as a barrier, to prevent various invasions, but also to keep the British in some nice sensible English speaking places. Parts of the World where you can still get a decent cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. Where people wear sensible clothing and quite rightly get sunburnt when the temperature gets over 15 degrees. A country where roads aren't too bendy and are stuffed with other cars. The time has come though to throw off these shackles, get out there and see what there is to see. Experience new ways of life and learn to say rude words in a entirely new languages.

And so, on 14th June 2013, an expedition set off from Weymouth. 16 teams involved, in a variety of weird and wonderful vehicles, all costing less than £500. We had the limousine of Team Newlywed, a Lotus Excel built almost entirely from tin foil and gaffer tape, a Morris Minor from the Bronze Age, plus a variety of elderly camper vans and cars. As the clock approached 9pm, the teams were informed of the following day's destination, Amsterdam. Before this they had no idea where they could be heading! And so it continued, day after day. The teams pressing on further and further in to the unknown, deeper and deeper in to uncharted Europe never finding out where they were heading the next day until teatime. Relying totally on one man and his dubious understanding of on line maps.

Hoping and praying that the trail of daily information sheets would, one day, finally lead them back home to Blighty.

Sometimes the teams were forced to live off the land, or from local supermarkets, off licences or restaurants, whichever was easier. Enduring seemingly endless stunning views and sunsets, tale after tale whilst sat around camp fires, the teams passed through Holland in to Germany and the town of Goslar.

Two teams fell temporarily by the wayside in Germany and in the next country, Czech Republic, suffering mechanical issues, but with the assistance of roadside recovery, both were back with the main group within 24 hours.

Ever onward and the teams found themselves in Prague, followed by Auschwitz and Krakow in Poland and then winding their way up through the awesome Tatras Mountains in to Slovakia.

From Poprad, the route wound in to Hungary via the Ice Caves of Dobriniska and on to the thermal pools of Debrecen, where the group were joined by Team Trauma in their ambulance, Amba.

Brasov in Romania was the gateway to the infamous Transfagarasan Highway, a treacherous, winding road up through the Carpathian Mountains. The sweeping turns and tortuous climbs took their toll. The Lotus boiled on her second rapid hill climb to the top as her cruel owners thrashed her mercilessly. And on her third and fourth.

The slower teams also made it to the summit for a spot of wild camping, including Team Trauma and Doris the Morris. Both beaten to the top by Anna, the mad Swede on her pushbike.

From Romania, the route turned south to Bulgaria. Two tough nights in luxury hotels and then on to the most southerly point of the trip, Greece. With the thermometers hitting close to 40 degrees centigrade, the group were forced to cool off in the Aegean Sea in the shadows of Mount Olympus.

Macedonia was the next country on the list and a night by the banks of picturesque Lake Ohrid. The mountainous terrain of Albania combined with a truly evil sat nav led Team Jezebel on an off roading expedition for several hours.

 

 

 

 

 

The road finally ending up at a camp site on Lake Shkondra with a frog chorus and ridiculously cheap food and beer to greet the teams.

Onward through petite but perfectly formed Montenegro and the fjord of Kotor before entering the southern tip of Croatia and the walled city of Dubrovnik. Mile after mile of stunning coastline and islands as the road headed northwards. Plitvice Lakes was the destination for many, before the group reformed in Slovakia near Predjama Castle.

The flooded streets of Venice were the next obstacle for the teams to negotiate, followed by a night of camping by the Italian Lakes. The following morning the teams found themselves once more tackling a mountain pass, this time the Stelvio Pass. 2760 metres above sea level and with deep snow still on the ground.

 

The beautiful and squeaky clean Switzerland, with a stop over near the ski resorts of Davos and St Moritz followed by minuscule Liechtenstein and Austria. Mountains, lakes and snow, plenty of photo opportunities and refreshment opportunities.

 

Freiburg in Germany, followed by a swift visit to the Nurburgring for the practice sessions of the German Grand Prix. Luxembourg was the 23rd and final new country before the teams drifted slowly back to Calais, via Belgium and the ferry back home. Older, wiser and with a better understanding of the continent that lies over the channel.

  

And so, what next I hear you say..... Grab yourself a space on another epic adventure in Europe.

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves. – Andre Gide