We are not planning on driving at night
Yeah, right. The word plan has a completely different meaning for us now. The last few weeks have been a statement that this adventure is not going to be free from some interesting twists and turns. Relax? What is that?
A new sponsor
On our last Monday in London we received an email from Ring Automotive confirming that they wanted to join our panel of sponsors. This was great news of course, except for the tiny little detail that we were due in Belgium just a few days later. But Mr Bisson was confident that there was plenty of time for he to deliver some of Ring products to help us in our trip. And boy, did he deliver! A box full of goodies including a 12V Air Compressor, lanterns, head torches, auxiliary lights, a battery PowerPack and many more!
However, it wasn’t all good news. As we were ready to go, we realised that there was a big stain under the ambulance that looked suspiciously similar to engine oil. Lola had a leak? Our first breakdown?? Dear oh dear. Fluid levels seemed to be ok so we headed off anyway. First stop was not far from home to stock up on all the basics that any good rallier takes to this journey: noodles and peanut butter (we’ll get the beers on the way). Not far you say? Well, it wasn’t far, but along the way we came across our first traffic jam. It only took us 2 hours to drive the first 9 miles of the rally. At this rate we would be in Ulaanbaatar in April next year.
That is if we can make it across the Channel of course.
About crossing the Channel
Our ticket for the Eurotunnel was on Thursday 10:00am and our plan was to drive far away from the always unpredictable London traffic on Wednesday and head South towards the coast. The previous delay meant however that by the time we hit the motorway it was already nightfall. There we were joined by 3 brave riders from Hitchin and started a convoy down the M20 ala Top Gear, but without the walkie talkies – fail!
Crossing the Channel to France in the last few weeks has been some sort of lottery, only reserved for a few lucky drivers. A strike on the French side had caused severe disruption on not only the ferry services but also the trains. On top of that there were hundreds of migrants breaking into the tunnel trying to cross to the UK in search for a better life. Add a few faulty trains in the mix and you get chaos. You also get thousands of trucks queueing up. And what do you do with thousands of trucks stuck at the port? Operation Stack is your answer, well Kent’s policy answer anyway: you park them up on the motorway and shut it down to traffic. Yes, the main motorway leading to Folkstone was closed. Fun times.
What was meant to be a hassle free leg of our journey turned into a 7 hour trip. At nearly midnight we finally arrived at hour hotel. Dinner was served: a pint of Guinness and a pack of peanuts.
Next morning, escorted by our friends and powered by our last cup of tea in the UK (at least for a long time) we headed to the Eurotunnel terminal. Delays? What delays? No one even checked our passports!
Nous sommes a Bruxeilles
Once on the other side (of the channel and the road) we headed straight on to Belgium on a lovely sunny day. After going through the second traffic jam of the journey and overtaking a house we arrived at Brussels, home to the best beer of the world.
Our good friends Eva and Savvas have taken good care of us and our family has also arrived from Spain. On Friday evening we hooked up with the rest of teams taking part in the official launch and realised what a great mixture of people we have in this year’s rally. From New Zealand to the US and with a variety of occupations that range from doctors to students, mechanics and IT guys. All together in this one big journey half way across the world. So many things have happened since we left on Wednesday and we have not even started yet!
Driving Lola has some interesting side effects: other ambulance drivers wave at you as they drive by. People ask questions like whether you are on a call and whether you are carrying a patient to the hospital. The best one yet has come from a Belgian mechanic:
You are going to Mongolia on that? What for? To rescue yaks?
Let’s see who has to rescue who in the end.
Finally, if you are wondering what happened to that oil leak… well, it was indeed an oil leak, but not the kind of leak you may be thinking of. It originated in a broken 5L can of oil that we had in the back of the ambulance. I hope all our mechanical issues are as serious as this one.
Captain, we are ready for launch, ready for the unexpected, ready for the Mongolia Charity Rally 2015!