Ukraine to Romania

Ukraine to Romania

From the Ukraine we drove quite fast on to Moldavia (Land of Sunflowers). In the somewhat large city of Bălți we had a delicious dinner. Unfortunately there is no hostel in Bălți, but we found a cheap hotel, 7€ per person, a toilet down the hall, tiny rooms and no showers. It was definitely enough though. On the way to the hotel Robin and Rob were about 200m ahead and were pulled over, allegedly because of a red-running traffic light. The officer attempted to charge 50€ (exaggerated). After a long time they asked for an official ticket, but the officials probably didn’t want to do paperwork and in the end they didn’t have to pay.

Between Moldova and Ukraine there is an independent territory which is not internationally recognized: Transnistria. The secessionist part of the country is beyond the control of the Moldovan government. That sounded interesting, so we decided to go to Transnistria. The entry was quite unproblematic – we got a transit visa for 10h. There is actually only one larger city, the capital Tiraspol. Here we made a short stop for lunch, a little sightseeing and to exchange some banknotes that have no value anywhere else in the world.

At the re-entry into the Ukraine there was a complication, because we only had an entry stamp from Moldova but no exit stamp. Makes sense somewhere since there are no Moldavian border posts at the border of Moldova/Transnistria, since Transnistria is not recognized. After some back and forth and the support of a nice French EU official we were able to re-enter the Ukraine without any problems. And got the necessary exit stamps from a Moldavian border guard who happened to be there.

In the late afternoon we reached Odessa, a large city on the Black Sea. After hours in the city traffic we also found a nice little hostel. After unloading and stowing away all our stuff we went out for a few beers and a delicious dinner (2×0,5L beer + food for the equivalent of 3,27€). It was really good after all the driving from early to late the last few days.

Bulma successfully completed the first off-road test this afternoon without any problems. A dirt road next to the fields was more pleasant to drive than the actual concrete road, as it was are often unspeakably bad and had more holes than a Swiss cheese. The self-made skid plate has already paid off several times.

Unfortunately there is no border crossing between Ukraine and Romania so we have to enter Moldavia again for less than one KM and leave for Romania after 5min. That unfortunately meant every border crossing added an easy 1-2 hours for paperwork and customs control.

Slovakia – Ukraine

Slovakia – Ukraine

After the start we spontaneously joined Robin & Rob to head east, instead of heading southwest as we had planned. After some detours we arrived late in the evening at a camping site in the Tatra Mountains (Slovakia).

After a delicious breakfast that only cost 3€, we moved further east and stopped at a lake and later at a castle, which we had seen from the motorway. We hiked all the way to the top. A little movement, when you otherwise sit in the car for almost the whole day, is great.

At noon we spontaneously decided to drive to Ukraine without any preparations; after all, that’s the point of the rally :D. Hours later at the border our car made a good impression, and when one of the border guards had to radio our license plate, he laughed. We got through mostly without problems, but had not received a stamp from customs and had to drive back to another post. It was all a bit disorganized and just not clear to us. Robin & Rob did not have all the papers with them; specifically they did not have all of the insurance documents that the border guards wanted. After much back and forth, the guard asked them for money. Both simply played dumb and at some point the queue of cars was so long behind them that they were allowed to go. Done, all across the border, after over 2 hours. That was about 8:00 p.m. Welcome to Ukraine.

After several hours of driving we stopped somewhere in nowhere around midnight in a motel, three double rooms for 12€ each. So 6€ per person, can’t say anything bad about that. Because we couldn’t read the menu, we ordered something random for breakfast. Was quite tasty ;-). Lunch is served for breakfast in Ukraine.

We’re now heading for Moldova. The roads are often so full of potholes that you have to be very careful. Everyone drives swerving around both sides of the road to avoid the holes.

Start – Lets go!

Start – Lets go!

The start area was awesome, constructed in Mad Max style. Shoutout to the organizers for the great work!

mongolian wrestling

(Photo with the Turkmen ambassador and her husband – she gave a speech about what to consider when you are in Turkmenistan, what you can and can’t do.)

After a long night and the official launch ceremony this morning, we are now on our way east. Budapest was our first idea for today, but it changed, now we’re heading towards the Tatra Mountains.

Prag

Prag

On the way to Prague we ran into our first rain shower. At the time, our things on the roof were not covered with a tarp or anything. Fortunately it was just a little shower and everything stayed dry. In Prague we were greeted extremely nicely by our couchsurfer host Dennis (who was originally from Canada). After a delicious dinner and some tasty local beers we went to to the pub opposite Dennis’ house. The next morning we noticed that our packed car was not locked over the night, but luckily everything was still there… After a very tasty breakfast Dennis led us to Vitus Cathedral and gave us a small tour. Around noon we picked up Robin (Team Fat Penguin) and took him to the start party. His rally partner Rob was still stuck in Austria.

Dover -> Frankfurt / T-2 days

Dover -> Frankfurt / T-2 days

After a short night we got up last morning at 7:15 a.m. to move on quickly. After all, we wanted to catch the convoy on the ferry. On the way to breakfast we met another team that had stayed around the corner, and after a breakfast together in their hotel we started towards the ferry.

This time the border control took much longer and we missed our ferry by 5min and thus also the convoy, sadly. Happily, we didn’t have to pay a surcharge for the next ferry, which was about 45 minutes later.  After arriving in France, we needed to find a gas station near Calais. Unfortunately google didn’t prove to be very helpful this time. The first filling station was only for trucks and the second was a specialty store of Total which was listed as a filling station. We weren’t the only ones there though, another team was already in front, as they had also missed the convoy. Fortunately, thanks to the help of a nice older gentleman, we were able to find a actual gas station around the corner. From here we set off together and formed our own convoy.  While on the ferry I used Couchsurfing and managed to find a host in Frankfurt to take in all four of us. Tobi from Frankfurt.

Since we had to pass Aachen anyway and I could not yet say goodbye to my sister Anna, we met at short notice in a rest area near the A44 near Aachen. Anna was waiting for us with a big stack of pizzas. Throughout the day, our convoy had grown to 4 cars. Thanks to Anna we didn’t lose much time and were able to continue…

So far everyone is very enthusiastic about our car, we are often honked at and photographed. Around 23:30 we arrived at Tobi’s, the beer was already cold. Luggage was unloaded and then we were taken to the party cellar. A planned beer turned into a party that lasted until 5 o’clock in the morning. Sleep is overrated. The rally has not even officially started yet. In any case Tobi is by far the coolest host I have met so far. There aren’t many people who would host four crazy guys at the same time, let alone have enough room. After packing up, we got breakfast at Aldi and are now on the way to Prague. Tomorrow’s the launch party. Of course we missed the convoy this morning, due to the prolonged stay up last night :D. Let’s see if we can catch up with them with our racing machine.

T-4 days

T-4 days

The Car is ready. Left to England at 5pm from Düsseldorf and catch the unofficial convoy to Prague tomorrow morning. According to Google Maps, we should have been at the ferry an hour before the ferry check-in time, but as it turns out there was a few wrong turns along the way. 22:45 was the latest check-in for the ferry. And we managed to crawl into the terminal at 23:00. Luckily the ferry was 30minutes late.now we are spending the night in a “cheap” hotel 20min from Dover and we take the ferry back with the other teams tomorrow at 10:15. It says we are going to England on the car, so thats what we are going to do! We are now sitting on the pier waiting for the ferry, in the cold weather  Luckily I packed some warm clothes. So far, the car is running tops. We found out the car (bulma) can reach 110 kmh uphill and 130 kmh downhill with a full load. Quite impressive yet also a tad scary!

Intro Video

Intro Video

Finally we’ve made it. Blog entries for the last days will follow. Proudly present our Intro video and the making of:

Intro Video:

Making Of:

We just left my place – heading up to England – trying to catch up the convoy from England to Prague – Official Startline.

Update Update Update

Update Update Update

I’m so busy with the preparations for the rally that I barely have time to blog ;-).  Got the first stamp in the passport (Uzbekistan) and the passport has now been at the Iranian Embassy for the past week. I am happy every time the passport comes back in one piece.

About two weeks ago I received a package from the event organisers with the official rally stickers for the car. After some consideration I decided to adapt our team logo to the official rally logo for technical design reasons. After countless hours at the computer I can proudly present our new team logo.

While it wasn’t really necessary, it is really fun to be particularly creative and to think about what the car should look like. When I have a creative phase like the current one, I sometimes end up with funny graphics :D.

For the design that will decorate the bonnet there were also dozens of designs. Over time something always comes along and it always gets a bit better… After a total of 40+h in the last three weeks, this is the final design which will be shown on Bulma’s bonnet soon.

Next item, how do you want the sponsor stickers? No matter how I moved the logos back and forth. It never looked satisfactory.

Maybe just print it out and stick it on, is perhaps a little better to be able to imagine that. But in the end it looked just as stupid as it did on the computer :D.

Finally I got the idea to just take pictures of Bulma in the different side views so that it looks more realistic in the image editing program. Much better than the blueprint. Well, after another tens of hours at the image processing program the final design is fixed. Of course it is not yet published and is only slightly teased in the following photos. In short, Bulma is painted. After I had compiled a list of the colours I needed for the design, I first had to look into paints and varnishes. For example, there is a colour standard called RAL and if the code is the same, no matter from which manufacturer I buy a can, the colour is 100% the same. So I made a list of possible RAL colours that could fit, 14 pieces should fit. In a DIY store a can costs 10-15€ depending on the colour… On eBay classifieds I found an ad from a guy from Dortmund who bought up remaining stock and sold cans for 2€ each Of course, it was all unsorted, so I grabbed my cousin Johannes and we went to the market in Dortmund last Saturday, at half past six in the morning.

After more than an hour of searching we were quite successful and had gotten almost all colors. And all this for only 28€!

In the afternoon the first test took place, the rims are now a bit colorful 😉

Not bad for my first experience with spray paint, but looks a little better on the photo than in real. But I didn’t expect the can to be empty after 3 rims… dark rims, several layers of paint etc. So one day later in the afternoon I drove to Dortmund again. This time I even got all 4 cans I still needed as a present from the guy, really cool!

One day later, stencil made of crepe tape, paper and newspaper. At the end the rims should look like the Dragonballs 😉 Stars stars stars.

Since yesterday I am with our extremely cool and especially helpful sponsor B&L Carservick GmbH in Hilden. Here I have space to work on the car and if I have any questions or if I needed any tools they could provide me with extremely competent help. If one of you ever need a car repair I can highly recommend B&L Carservice in Hilden, the guys there really rock. First, the side trim came off. All in all this is much more work than I had imagined, but it is also really fun!

Warning, Spoilers!

After two hours, my MacBook Air 11″ said goodbye. Used on eBay just two weeks ago for 450€, top condition – 1A everything ok but after 2h on theprojector the graphics unit has left, suddenly no picture, neither internal nor external. It’s really great. My first broken Mac after 12 years. I’m really annoyed, of course it’s no longer guaranteed – The 11″ is also not available at Apple either and it would have been a good value for money for travel. Repair in my trusted Apple Store should cost 540€ and even if I would buy a spare part on the Internet and do the repair myself, the part still costs at least 300€++. Well, just silly. Luckily I have more than one Mac at home so I can continue working without problems.

I learned a lot today, was never so the car wrench until now, but actually that is not soooooo difficult ;-). Depends on what needs to be done.

Bulma

Bulma

After weeks of car-searching we finally managed to find the perfect. I was calling salesmen and dealers almost every day, arranging appointments to visit, test drive and getting a mechanical inspection, usually the condition was too bad after all, so on to the next car… THEN WE FOUND BULMA!

Bulma is a beautiful 2003 Opel Agila, I was really lucky, checked out mobile.de search in the morning, the car was just posted on the site and I was the first caller/interested person! I checked out the car that same day, the price was great – it was a very good deal and the condition seemed to be ok. So after a short consultation with the others I bought it. It was time for it because we absolutely needed vehicle documents (customs forms etc.)  for the first visas (Iran/Russia). For Iran we are in a group of four teams and we were the only ones without a car. We are very happy, now we have already checked off a big point on our ToDo list.

The first donations have come in, mostly from the family but it works :). We are also on the hunt for more sponsors!, now with a car we can go on a real sponsor hunt. The story with the old car is also over, What an impact a letter form a lawyer can make!… the previous owner picked up the car yesterday and refunded the purchase price. One thing less to worry about. Thumbs up. And we got our beautiful stickers and business cards :)!

Our Sponsor No. 1!

Our Sponsor No. 1!

We are proud to announce our first official sponsor!

Mr. Grundmann, management director of the “carstengrundmann consulting gmbh”, official apple consultant and former snowboard superstar, is actual the no.  1 address in Düsseldorf for the IT on-site service of your medium-sized company. Was a pleasure to meet Mr. Grundmann in his office to receive the possibly biggest cheque i ever got. Mr. Grundmann: “It is an honor to support young people with spirit – we wish you a successful journey and enjoy your adventure!” As thank-you he received of course the official sponsor no 1 certificate.