The second leg of this journey took us from Brussels in Belgium to Passau in Germany following the Danube, upstream.
But first there was a special event we needed to attend, one that would send us off in style.
One can tell by looking at previous years’ launch days that they are pretty special. It is like going back to school when you had to present your science project in front of the class. Some teams, including us, had to rush in the last few mods to their vehicles such us fitting in a new stretcher or adding some fancy looking stickers. Others, spent the time just walking around checking the other projects. A fire truck (yes, with lights, hose and everything), a few ambulances, vans and pick up trucks, there was something for everyone’s taste.
And as when you present your project in school, our family was there too, our numbers only matched by the Australians and a Belgian team who was playing in home soil. Having our supporters with us made the whole day a lot more emotional. It was there and then when they finally believed we were not doing this alone. There were 15 other teams taking part in Launch Day with a further 9 teams who could not make it to Brussels.
The final show got all teams lined up in the most bizarre parade ever to cross under the arches of Jubilee Park.
Ready, set, go! … well, almost.
The Autobahns of Germany
After launch we took the rest of Saturday off to spend a few more hours with our family. We loaded Lola with loads of goodies from Spain, including some Rioja wine which we’ll save for when we catch up with some other teams. And a million thanks to Eva and Savvas for hosting us in Brussels!
Sunday morning we set off bright and crisp and left Brussels behind before crossing into Netherlands and finally Germany. We had a long day ahead of us so we decided to just hit to motorway and carry on driving as far as we could get.
Driving in the continent is pretty straightforward: hundreds of miles of beautiful tarmac with the odd road works here and there and the same currency nearly everywhere. The downside of this is that it can also be a bit dull: there are no channels to be crossed or border controls and the music on the radio is the same as back home. Judging by the little we can see from the motorway, one can’t help but feeling that we are missing out on loads of hidden treasures by sticking to the main roads and not using some of the secondary ones. But there is no time to be wasted. Mongolia awaits!
So Germany. I know what you are thinking, no speed limits and delicious curry wurst! Lola does not need the former anyway, with a top speed of 55mph uphill there is absolutely no risk of breaking the law. Downhill is a different story though, and all the extra weight Lola put on Brussels pushes our trusted companion to unthinkable speeds. The sky is the limit. Now we are talking and everything is shaking. It is true though, for most of the time there is no speed limit on motorways. It is remarkable then, that on the occasions where there is a speed limit, everyone slows down and respect the rules. They must be doing something right.
Just when we thought that the only thing we were going to see in Germany was going to be motorways and their toilets – quite tidy and they even come with toilet paper! – we decided to pull up before the Austrian border hoping to find a place where we could spend our first night in Lola. We were quite fortunate to find the perfect spot just outside the town of Passau, by the Danube riverside. And what a spot that was:
Time for dinner, and no, no curry wurst for us. Instead, olives and fungi risotto accompanied by belgian beers – who said camping food had to be canned ravioli?
We drove into Austria, Hungary and finally Romania, home to the Transfagarasan highway. Stay tuned!
A few facts for you:
- We have been driving for a solid 8 hours each day, split into 2 hours shifts. And we have already found a pattern: Paula gets all traffic jams and Enrique all the uphills.
- We’ve crossed 8 countries since we left the UK and Lola has drunk 230 litres of diesel.