What is Creeping Blandness Prevention Group?

CBPG is a group of four dashing young folk who will be taking to the road this summer to drive 10,000 miles from London to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia’s capital city.  Why would somebody do this? Well, adventure for starters. Since CBPG is doing this as part of the Mongol Rally we will also be raising a fair amount of money for charity, and once we arrive in Mongolia our car will be donated to charity as well. We’ve got a lot more information for you on this site about us, our route, vehicle, charity, sponsors, and more. There’s even a blog!

Altai to Ulaan Baatar

Well the big news here is that we made it! As tweeted, we arrived in Ulaan Bataar on Thursday August 27th in the evening and made it to the finish line downtown at about 8pm.

The last couple hundred kilometers in to UB is newly paved and feels so smooth and amazing after 10 days of driving on the worst surfaces imaginable. You come in to the city through a pass over low mountains. Coming over the pass and around a bend, we were suddenly presented with the entirety of the city below us at sunset. When we (the Flatlanders and I) saw it like that, after spending so long to get there, we were elated.

With the party tunes cranked up we rolled in to the city and were quickly given the driving equivalent of an ice-water bath: the worst traffic ever. There are no rules when driving in UB, except possibly that pedestrians must always yield.

But let’s go back to Altai. The convoy was feeling a little bit sore that day about Joe and Tim of Rubikcrew taking off without us. In addition to feeling under-appreciated for help rendered two days before when Rubikcrew’s Fiat broke down for several hours, members of the convoy had also loaned several important items to Rubikcrew that we were now unlikely to see again. Bembeltoads lost their air compressor (for inflating tires), I lost my map of Mongolia, and Flatlanders lost most of their food. That said, it was understandable why someone with a tight schedule would take off– we were very slow.

Although that was the mood, the time in Altai went pretty well. We (my car) got there a couple hours earlier than the rest and had some time to visit the internet cafe and get some buuz (pronounced more like boodz, potsticker-like dumplings full of gamey mutton, the national fast food of Mongolia). The other two cars managed to get their tires/wheels repaired and we got back on the road– briefly.

Driving through the countryside, it was normal for the three/four cars to space out a fair bit for various reasons. We’d choose different routes through the terrain, some cars would handle certain conditions better than others, and also just to get out of each others’ dust wake. But even given this we still tried to maintain visual contact (should have been easy this day because the terrain was flat and open for miles).

Maybe 50km outside the city I stopped the Skoda since we noticed we hadn’t seen the other cars behind us for a number of minutes. We waited another 15 or 20 minutes before another passing rally car told us that the two other cars were stopped 13km back.  Somewhere in here the Flatlanders drank an entire 750ml bottle of vodka. Since it was starting to get late in the afternoon, we turned back to meet up with them before dark. We found them near dusk and heard the story: the Bembeltoads had hit a bump and their entire roof rack had come flying off, flinging its contents over several meters in front of the car. At first the rack looked like a goner, but with some intrepid hammering was made to fit again.

Karsten, Juan, and Robert inspect the damage after the Bembeltoads' roof rack goes flying off

Karsten, Juan, and Robert inspect the damage after the Bembeltoads' roof rack goes flying off

Unfortunately by this time it was dark, so we made camp right there where we were, although maybe 1km off the main tracks. The drunken Flatlanders passed out immediately once the tent was set up, and missed dinner.

From that point on the driving was largely uneventful. The landscape continued to be spectacular, and the road continued to be terrible, but the occasional flat tire was as bad as it got for us. We spent a night in Bayankhongor and a night in Arvaikheer, then rolled in to UB the next day.

I feel like I’m not really doing justice to how bad the roads were. It seemed that every other car not in our convoy had broken something major. Suspension problems were the most common. Dave and Alex broke their rear shocks, had some new ones (that didn’t quite fit) welded in, broke the weld, and drove without them (but with springs) for the last few days– it was hilarious to see their car bouncing wildly over the bumps. Dan and Stuart broke their leaf springs a couple times and drove at a snails pace to avoid jarring all the teeth out of their heads.  The garage in Altai was full (literally) with rally cars in various states of wreckage. Probably 20 cars  were inside and around the garage when we were there. Some other Spaniards, friends of Juan and Nuria, broke their timing belt and had to leave the car where it was. Another Skoda team broke their serpentine belt with a similar outcome.

Another common problem was fuel-pump shut-offs triggered by big bumps. Modern cars have an inertial switch that will shut off the fuel pump in the event of an accident in order to prevent fuel leaks, fires, and explosions. The problem was that some of the bumps on the road were so big (or people hit them so hard), that the sensor would think there had been an accident and shut off the fuel pump while the car was still driving. It’s not hard to reset the switch, but for most of us it was the first time encountering this problem and it was unexpected. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear about anyone setting off their airbags this way (the Skoda didn’t have airbags, but I’m sure many of the cars did).

I’m going to credit our success car-wise mainly to careful driving. Slow and steady definitely wins the race here. For instance, if you don’t hit bumps at 50 km/h, you’re not going to trigger the inertial sensor or dent your wheels. Other than that I should give credit to the Uniroyal tires we bought in Austria. I only had 2 flats across the whole of Mongolia, and the first one was more than 1000 km in. For comparison, the other members of our convoy had 4 or 5 each, and other teams had 30 or more (I’m telling you, these rocks are sharp).

That’s all for now. More photo posts to follow as I process the back-log of pictures! See the rest of my Mongolia Pictures here and the rest of Bembeltoads’ here.

Update from Mongolia!

An update from Andrew (apparently the internet was too slow to allow for blogging, but worked for email):

I’m in Altai, Mongolia at the first internet cafe I’ve seen since leaving Russia a week ago. Most of the towns here don’t have electricity reliably or at all. Even cell phone coverage is really spotty.  Mongolia has been amazing so far, in almost all ways.

The border experience was absolutely awful, to the point of some very serious talk of suing The Adventurists in to bankruptcy. Flatlanders, Rubikcrew, and I showed up at the border last Monday evening and got out of Russia in to no-man’s-land Tuesday morning. We drove about half an hour across the giant area between the borders and got in to a Mongolian holding area shortly thereafter. And that’s where we stayed for another full day with almost no information from the authorities about what was going on. Eventually we (39 teams) staged a sit-in protest in the customs office and were allowed to leave after paying $17 each.

Mongolian Border Complex

Mongolian Border Complex

Then it took us a day and a half to reach Ulgii. There’s some craziness that happened in there that is probably better related by one of the other teams. Flatlanders Andrew and Mike abandoned their Citroen Saxo in Ulgii after basically everything broke on it. We spent another night there sorting that out. They’re now traveling with me in the Skoda.

Flatlanders Saxo on its last day

Flatlanders' Saxo on its last day

Since leaving Ulgii we’ve spent two and a half days on the road to go about 400km to Altai. The unpaved “roads” are unbelievably bad. Huge washboard sprinkled with bowling-ball sized rocks. We’ve joined up in a convoy with some Spaniards Juan and Nuria and some Germans Karsten and Robert. Joe and Tim (Rubikcrew) left us yesterday to try to make better time to UB, and I think we may have to leave the convoy tomorrow as well. The convoy has been great but I feel it’s slowing everybody down to stick together.

Sorry the story is a bit disorganized. So much time has passed since the team left in Novosibirsk and I’ve just been driving the whole time. I’ll try to set aside a little time at night just to write down what’s happened that day so I can keep track of it all.

Time to see if the garage in town can pull the CV joints off a wrecked Felicia rally car here to put on mine.

Belated picture update!

I’ve gone back and put some pictures in with the last couple of posts, so make sure you go back and check them out!

I was also going to put a bunch of Sumela pictures up here, but you might as well just take a look at them in situ in my flickr stream.  All my (good) pictures are now online.

Samarqand to Bishkek

After our lovely time in Samarkand with Aziza and her family, we hit the road north to Kazakhstan. We blew through Tashkent around lunch time and made it to the border mid-afternoon. We met up there with two Italian ralliers in a Fiat Panda that we’ve seen a few times (first on the boat to Turkmenistan, then in Bukhara). They made it through the Kazakh border well ahead of us and we agreed to meet up with them and a Spanish team in an ambulance to camp that night. We said we’d just find them along the road somewhere near Shimkent.

Aziza, in her bridal best, shows us Gelin Selam

Aziza, in her bridal best, shows us Gelin Selam

A few hours later after getting through the border and driving maybe 100km in the dark, we found them asleep in their car in a gas station parking lot. Although it would have been nice to stay together, we opted to continue on for a bit and find a proper place to set up our tent. Kazakhstan is pretty empty so we didn’t have much trouble, even in the dark. As we pitched the tent, we kept hearing thunder in the distance. Throughout the night it would rain for maybe 20 seconds at a time.

First Kazakh Campsite

First Kazakh Campsite

In the morning we awoke to an audience of curious policemen across the the highway who were running a checkpoint. They watched us pack up and leave but didn’t seem too interested in our roadside campsite otherwise.

Looking around in the light of day it was clear we were in a different landscape from Uzbekistan. For the CBPG, Kazakhstan was characterized by huge flat expanses of small brush, interupted occasionally by low rocky hills that didn’t take more than a few minutes to cross. Where the road had been carved in to the hills you could see that the ground was hard rock covered in only the thinest veneer of soil. I credit this foundation for the excellent roads we encountered in almost all of Kazakhstan, with the exception of about 50km of truly terrible road near Semey. Although these low hills were the largest feature we encountered on the highway, we could frequently see tall snow-capped mountains rising sharply from the plains off to the right of the highway (between south and east depending on where we were), part of the Tian Shen range.

Rolling plains of Kazakhstan

Rolling plains of Kazakhstan

That day we stuck close to the border and crossed in to Kyrgyzstan near Bishkek in the afternoon. It’s frequently been the case during this trip that a border crossing has corresponded with a sudden change in landscape, and again this was the case in Kyrgyzstan. The moment we crossed the border the open dry plains were gone and replaced by trees and green all around, almost jungle-like. When the Soviets divided the USSR to form the Stans one of the goals was to create resource imbalances that would require the countries to work together (with Russia acting as broker). To this end, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are rich in oil and gas but have no water, while Kyrgyzstan has plenty of water but no energy (only from hydro power during snowmelt).  I mention it because I thought it was interesting, and also because it was clear just looking around that Kyrgyzstan was much more lush and green than any of the other Stans so far.

Just as we were getting in to Bishkek and wondering where we should park, a man in a green Mercedes next to us started waving and offering us apples with a hilarious but evocative biting pantomime. As we pulled over to talk to him, a nearby policeman took exception and demanded Andrew’s driver’s licence. No sooner had he given it over than the man from the Mercedes showed up, showed the officer his own ID and took back Andrew’s license and shepherded him away.

Ernest and the Apples

Ernest and the Apples

As we introduced ourselves to our new friend Ernest (Russian name Nimitz) and received our bag of apples, he told us that he was a police detective in training and had told the previous officer that we were his guests. What a guy! We asked if he could recommend a place for dinner and invited him along.

Cafe Jalalabat with Ernest and Ajana

Cafe Jalalabat with Ernest and Aijan

Sitting on the tapchan eating plov, shashlik, and manti, we struggled with our very limited overlap of English/Russian/Kyrgyz until his sister Aijan showed up to join us. Aijan speaks good English and works at a bank in Bishkek. After we ate, the two of them took us on a walking tour of the central square area of town. They were proud both of Bishkek and of Issiq-kul where their family home is, and rightly so. We thought Bishkek at sunset was really pretty. There’s a large, newly completed (re-done?) open square in the middle of town with fountains and statues. The locals seemed to enjoy strolling around the square as much as we did– it was a lively and fun place. We snapped pictures galore.

Square in central Bishkek

Square in central Bishkek

We next walked over to the park where there are a few carnival rides, and rode the Ferris wheel to get another great perspective on the city. Afterward we were pretty tired, so Ernest and Aijan helped us find a hotel room! Their warmth and openness was really remarkable. It was wonderful for us to have met them and spent the few hours with them that we did. Even if only for them, I will have fond memories of Kyrgyzstan.

At points along the way the CBPG has discussed the idea that being open and receptive to positive experiences will bring more positive experiences to you, and vice versa. We’ve met a couple other rally teams who have seemed concerned to a point of paranoia about being ripped off, robbed, exploited, extorted or otherwise wronged at every step. By assuming the best intentions among the people we’ve met along the way, we think we’ve had some really special experiences like the one in Bishkek. Conversely, assuming the worst intentions can color any benign interaction and turn it negative. As a traveller, it’s largely up to you to set a tone of cooperation or contention when you interact with locals.

Not to say it always works out. We’ve twice so far been extorted for 20 undeserved dollars, first on the boat and later by a cop in Almaty. Occasionally people are nasty and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to ask yourself how much you would pay to avoid an hour of argument that may or may not (often the latter) change anything.

Baku to Samarqand in a nutshell

Well the team is in Samarqand, Uzbekistan safe and sound despite some anxiety on the part of those of our fans who are related to us. We haven’t had internet in about 5 days and then only now discovered that our mobile tweets hadn’t been going through to the website.

We made it to Baku at dawn after driving through the night the day after crossing in to Georgia. Eventually we got on board the ferry about 2am Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. There was much strife and hilarity here but I have to abbreviate in order to catch up. The boat took all that night and half of the next day. Just when we seemed to be getting close to land we stopped and dropped anchor.

So close, yet so far

So close, yet so far

The boat stayed anchored off Turkmenbashi until Thursday morning before we pulled in to port. Entering Turkmenistan took about 8 hours of going to different windows and paying fees (about $420 to get us and the car in to the country, not counting the $625 ferry ride).

Uneventful drive across Turkmenistan. We stayed Thursday night in Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi’s (the former leader) monument-city to himself. We took a few pictures despite being acosted by the military police and told to delete them.

All hail Turkmenbashi!

All hail Turkmenbashi!

Earthquake memorial with golden baby Niyazov

Earthquake memorial with golden baby Niyazov

Market in Turkmenabat on our way out of Turkmenistan

Market in Turkmenabat on our way out of Turkmenistan

We stayed another night (Friday) in Mary, Turkmenistan, then met a few other teams at the border crossing in to Uzbekistan at Farap on Saturday midday. We saw Bukhara briefly yesterday afternoon before driving on to Samarqand, arriving about 1am. We’re staying with Sarah’s friend Aziza’s family.

We spent today seeing the sights around Samarqand. Uzbekistan is a pretty amazing place, and one I (andrew) didn’t know anything about. I guess that’s a bit what this whole thing is about.

Sher-Dor Mosque

Sher-Dor Mosque

The crew rests at Shah-i-Zinda

The crew rests at Shah-i-Zinda

We’re spending tonight in Samarqand again with Aziza and her family, eating delicious osh plov. Then tomorrow we’re on to Tashkent.

Turkmenbashi-bound

Last you heard, our brave team was splitting up along gender lines to retrieve the car (boys) and the new plates (girls).  While the ladies were lounging in Istanbul, they got word that the boys had actually made it through the Greek border, and so they did not need to find their way to no-mans land for a meetup.  So they lounged a bit more and waited for the boys to arrive at the hostel.  Unfortunately, though the boys made it, the plates did not due to an typo in the address which, upon final receipt of the package, appears to be spelling the address – Peykhane Cd. – without the “h.”  I find it hard to imagine that there was a Cordial House Hostel at Peykane Cd. in Istanbul, so this delay was a bit frustrating and silly.  Ah well, we finally got the plates and then headed off toward Samsun.

We did not make it all the way to Samsun on the first night, but stopped at a “family pension” in the middle of nowhere along the highway.  The next morning when we awoke, our anti-freeze leakage problem came to a head when we noticed that as soon as we poured in coolant, it would pour right out the bottom.  We were directed to a garage 15 km away in Tosya where we met a wonderful mechanic who installed for us a new water pump in a mere 2 hours – apparently the old one was cracked when the Maestro fixed the head gasket.

With yet another new part in the car, we headed on towards Trabzon and the black sea.  Our first glimpses of the Black Sea were gloriously beautiful and, admiring all the camp grounds we passed on the way, decided not to push to Trabzon but find a beach-side camp site to pass the evening.  We found one just as darkness was setting after winding through a neighborhood outside of Ordu.

We rolled up to the grounds which had a bunch of semi-permanent tent structures and a man greeted us in English.  “Camping?” we asked, and he said “yes, camping.  Come, pick any spot.”  The man introduced himself as Oz or Oz and offered that we could stay for free.  Later as we played doppelkopf in our lovely tent, Oz announced that he was drunk.  “Where’s the door?” he asked, setting down the little child and beer bottle he held.  Slightly worried that he was thinking of joining us, we pointed at the door and unzipped it.  In came Oz’s hand holding some kofte and lavash.  We had all already brushed our teeth, but we reluctantly accepted and smiled and ate our meaty dessert.

The next morning as we were deconstructing the tent and preparing to take off, some loud Turks arrived honking their horns and shouting for Oz and setting up a large tea-making set-up and other breakfast materials.  They invited us to join them for breakfast and informed us that all 150 members of their family were coming to this spot today for a family reunion that they held every year.  After a lovely breakfast with hilarious “Uncle Khamid,” we took our leave, agreeing to come back next year for the full party.

Breakfast with Amca Khamid

Breakfast with Amca Khamid

We headed first thing in the morning to Sumela Monastery, a serious of buildings barely clinging to the cliffs outside Trabzon.  Pictures do it justice better than our descriptions (pictures to come).

Finally, we headed for the Georgian border, determined to make it to Tbilisi that night.  We were just about through the border when the guards demanded we could not enter until we attached the new plates.  We backed the car up, and suddenly discovered the car had fallen half-way into a stairwell!  Whoops.  This cause much hysterical laughter and elaborate reenactments by the border guards, but the car was easily extracted.  Thank goodness for front-wheel drive and the border guards, who helped us push it out.

Despite our best efforts and the friendly advances of a chatty Georgian border guard named Tango, we could not hammer the rivets into place for the plates, but luckily a kind Turkish trucker happened to have a riveting device and helped us attach them, despite being dragged angrily away at one point by another border guard.

By the Black Sea in Georgia

By the Black Sea in Georgia

Finally through the Georgian border, we stopped at the beach, admired the sunset, Anand had a dip in the ocean, and we headed off to what on the map appeared to be a “major connecting highway.”  After about 20 km the road momentarily turned into some pretty even gravel and for a moment we considered turning around, but then the road turned back into pavement.  “Enh, we’re already 20 km in.  If that’s the worst it gets, we’ll be fine.” We assured ourselves.  “It’s only 160 km.”  Never again will we utter such words.

Jessie navigates us onto our first off-roading experience

Jessie navigates us onto our first off-roading experience

At about 60 km, definitely the point of no return, we met the real road – a rough, rockslide-covered single lane track that ran between forested hills on one side and steep drop-offs on the other.  We couldn’t really see the bottom of the chasm beside us, as it was pitch black and, at some times, foggy, but we were pretty sure we didn’t want to fall down into it and it sounded as if there was a raging river awaiting us below.

We won’t reenact the entire drive, but the highlight was probably around 1 or 1:30 AM at about km 83 when suddenly before us we saw a full-on river that we were meant to cross, with waters pouring in from a rock-slide on the right and off a steep cliff on the left.  After some hesitation and consideration of turning back around, we forded on and on, through about 3 other streams, a strange mountain-top border patrol, drunken Georgians jumping at us from their cars, and other oddities.  We finally rolled into a hotel in Borjomi around 3:30 or 4 and talked our way into a couple of rooms, which we gladly and blearily fell into.

More soon after we arrive in Turkmenbashi.  About to get on the ferry – wish us luck!

Update, and check out Outside!

Creeping Blandness Prevention Group has been blogging at Outside Magazine, so everyone make sure you’re checking out our posts there as well!

Saturday night, when we tried to go through the border from Bulgaria to Turkey, we were informed that the plates on our car did not match the plates on the registration. Apparently we failed to acquire the new plates in France! The border guard suggested we might be able to get through at the Greek border, Ipsala. We backtracked and headed toward Greece. While waiting at the border line, literally 10 meters from Greece, our car suddenly began idling rough and puking white, anti-freeze-smelling smoke from the tailpipe. Uh-oh…

We turned around and headed for the nearest gas station which turned out to be Eurooil 2002 in Svilengrad, Bulgaria. We rolled up and pantomimed with the gas station attendants until they finally agreed to drag their auto-mechanic friend a.k.a “the Maestro” out of bed. The Maestro arrived and promptly shoved a water hose into our coolant overflow tank. After much massaging of hoses, he told Anand to start the car again. About a gallon of water flew out the tail pipe! This elicited much shaking of heads.

Maestro determined that he could fix it, but he wouldn’t get the part until Monday. Rather than spending the night in a field infested with gigantic jumping spiders and who knows what else, we decided to take the night train to Istanbul. This was hilarious on many levels. You can read more about it on the Outside blog (link fixed, thanks Mom Patil!). The team saw the sights around Istanbul for 2 days and then headed to Dikili, south along the Aegean coast, to visit Sarah’s music teacher, Husnu, Husnu’s mom Akile, and his son, Oral. After two more lovely days trying to figure out logistics from the stunning and sweaty beaches of the Aegean coast, we finally hit upon a plan:

Yet again, Camille proved an invaluable ally by getting her mother to make new a new plate for us and overnight it to Istanbul, where the ladies would pick it up from Cordial House Hostel, where we’re staying. With the help of Andrew’s Bulgarian friend Ina and another friend Matt, we have been able to locate the car at the Maestro’s place and the boys went to get the vehicle. Right now the boys are in Greece trying to get through the other border and the girls are in Istanbul and hopefully the car is soon to be united with its new plates (either at the border or in Istanbul) and then we can get the heck through Turkey and on to more Eastern destinations!

P.S. Anyone who’s heading to Istanbul soon should definitely check out our new favorite breakfast place, Erhan Cafe and Restaurant. It only opened a couple of weeks ago, but Erhan is so exceedingly nice that when we ordered breakfast the other day he said “of course, come in” and then had to send out some little messenger boys to buy the vegetables at the market! And when Anand wanted cream for his coffee, he went out and bought that too! Not only was it one of the cheapest meals we’ve had since arriving in Istanbul, it was by far the best, featuring home-made cherry jam and orange-peel marmalade. CBPG gives it 5 stars all the way!

Vienna to Budapest to Sofia

Thursday morning we packed up the car, said goodbye to our host Ben in Vienna, and headed out for Budapest. The car was loaded up with our freshly purchased tires and roof rack on top, and a new stereo inside (the old one hadn’t worked). The drive to Budapest was pretty short. We arrived at our campsite without issue and then spent the afternoon looking around the city.

Waiting at the Serbian Border in 90-100 degree heat.

Waiting at the Serbian Border in 90-100 degree heat

The next morning we woke up and headed out for the long drive to Sofia, Bulgaria. We blew through all of  Serbia in the heat of the day, after spending about 2 hours at the border to get in. We arrived in Sofia after nightfall and managed to meet up with Andrew’s friend Ina, a Sofia-area native.

Ina and Andrew at a fruit stand in Sofia, Bulgaria

Ina and Andrew at a fruit stand in Sofia, Bulgaria

Ina had asked her friend Rumi to put us up for the night, which was great. Rumi lives in a part of town called Stoudentskigrad (Student’s Town) in a large, new apartment block that seems to still be partially under construction. The CBPG was pretty tired and may not have done the best job of preventing blandness that night after we declined to go out to a club with the girls :-( Next time, Ina!

We have some videos to upload but I can’t do it right now. We’re in Turkey and the Turkish government has banned YouTube. Lame, Turkey!

Vienna and beyond!

Checked out of the Czechout party and headed to Vienna to see Ben. Stopped in a poppy field to take some glamour shots of Merdeith amongst the wildlife.

Our car is so eco-friendly, it grows lichen

Our car is so eco-friendly, it grows lichen

Felicia in the poppies

Felicia in the poppies

The team

The team

Upon arriving in Vienna, we grabbed some döner kebab and went to see some sights like a cathedral and a palace, a candy store, and ice cream store, and then to a pizza place for dinner – as we were traveling with Ben, it was naturally the eating-tour of Vienna.

Team relaxes after ice cream at Tichy

Team relaxes after ice cream at Tichy

The next morning we bought some new tires and then went to the museumsquartier to see an exhibit of Klimt and Schiele and the Jugendstijl at the Leopold Museum and Thomas Ruff at the Kunsthalle. After cooling off in the lovely air conditioning (it was HOT in Vienna!), we headed to the awesomely fun trampolines floating on the Danube.

Anand flips out

Anand flips out

Sarah and Anand work on their circus act

Sarah and Anand work on their circus act

Jessie rocks out in mid-flight

Jessie rocks out in mid-flight

We finished the day with the most delicious Halloumi sandwiches on earth, some refreshing beverages, and tortes at Cafe Goldegg.

Team CBPG at Cafe Goldegg

Team CBPG at Cafe Goldegg

Day 3 – Bruchkobel to Czechout party

We made it to Klenova Castle near dusk and set up camp. We parked next to two Dutch guys and right down the way from some other Americans who were driving an ice-cream truck (The Rolling Cones). We put up the tent (Thank you, Sierra Designs!), chatted a bit with our neighbors, then got into costume and headed to the party. Jessie went as a Viking, Andrew was a entomologist, Sarah was a pirate, and – with by far the most original and self-made costume – Anand was a space-man with a jetpack and a drawn-on mustache.

Ready for the party

Ready for the party

Klenova castle was full of revellers drinking beer, eating sausages and chicken, and listening to a progression of live bands. The party was sponsored by Hendricks gin, however the gin room was incredibly crowded and it was a push-shove-y process trying to get up to the bar to get some drinks. Sarah and Andrew managed to get a couple drinks for the Group just as the bar ran out of gin. We decided to get out of there before there was a riot. Later, we met some great guys from the Bharat Express team, and Andrew chatted with a fellow Seattlite (driving a 1982 Toyota Starlet with Washington plates).

In the hookah room

In the hookah room with Bharat Express

Woman about to backflip-skip a burning rope

Woman about to backflip-skip a burning rope

Around 1:30 we headed back to our tent and tried to go to sleep. Andrew offered us all earplugs and in the morning we all wish we’d taken him up on his offer. Highlights of the evening include our dutch neighbors staggering back to their car where they spent a lot of time moaning loudly and drunkenly, another group of ralliers wandering around trying to figure out who spray painted their car with black paint. Over the course of about half an hour, they loudly deduced that only the owner of a black car could possibly have black spraypaint. As we were camped next to one of only two black cars, we were prime suspects. The pre-dawn interrogation through the walls of our tent went something like this:

Angry Rallier 1: Hey, hello, is this your black car?
Us: No.
AR1: Which one is yours, the metal one?
Us: Yes.
AR1: You sure it’s not the black one?
Us: Yes.
AR1: Where are the owners of the black one?
Us: Dunno.

Angry rallier 1 is not convinced and attempts to maneuver us into a confession:

AR1: Well, if this black car doesn’t belong to the guys in the tent, I guess they won’t care if we trash it!
AR2: We can’t do th…Oh, riiiight. Yeah, let’s “trash their car”! (then lots of shouting amongst themselves in some unidentifiable language, banging on the black truck). Hey, did you spraypaint our cars?!

And later, realizing that this tightly-meshed web of intrigue has somehow failed to ensnare the culprit:

AR3: Who was it who dicked our car? AAAA! YOU FUCKING DICKERS!!!

Ah, mob justice.

Our neighbors in the aftermath of czeching out

Our neighbors in the aftermath of czeching out

Needless to say, we awoke not exactly refreshed, but certainly motivated to get out of there and get to Vienna. The aftermath of the Czechout party was pretty hilarious. Our Dutch neighbor from the black truck was sprawled across a small mattress next to the truck in his skivvies, looking much the worse for wear. Another guy passed out by the remains of the bonfire 50 meters away with his head resting uncomfortably on a log and his hands resting comfortably in his pants. Good times.