Monthly Archives: July 2011

New photos!

Hey ppl,

Just a quick post to let you know that there are new photos up on my flickr page – head over there and check them out.

I’ve almost caught up with the photos, which has been a marathon effort. Here’s roughly how it happens:

  • I’ll take a lot of photos each day – for example, yesterday in Istanbul I took ~650 (2x 8GB memory cards).
  • After I suck them all into Lightroom, I’ll do a rapid first pass, spending perhaps 0.5-1 second on each one and flagging the ones that look decent.
  • Filtering on the ones I flag, I then go through and work with each one – adjusting contrast, colour calibration, cropping and removing dust specks (I have a heap of dirt on my sensor, which is really annoying. Not game enough to try and clean it myself). Each photo gets a rating out of five.
  • I then go through and apply keywords, titles and descriptions to the photos rated five (now about 5-10% of the whole). I’ll then export these to a folder as smaller JPEGs and dump them to Flickr when I get an Internet connection.
This misses a lot of photos that are probably worth publishing, but it lets me get the best ones up quickly; I’ll probably go through the whole trip again once I get home and upload some more. It’s a time consuming process, which is why you don’t have any photos of Turkey yet 🙂 Hang in there, and I’ll try to get them sorted today.
In the meantime, here’s a few of my favorites so far:
More chillin'
Kit, who joined us in convoy in France
Laters,
Patrick
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Timelapse update

Adon has been uploading more videos to the timelapse playlist on Youtube.

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We Might Be Giants

Howdy readers! It’s Cameron here, bringing you delayed live updates of life on the road to Mongolia.

It’s Saturday 30th as I write this and we’ve made it alive to our first designated rest day of our journey, in Istanbul (not Constantinople). So we’re now in the first country outside of the European Union, first country where we had to get a visa (of the “fifteen Euros, buy at the border” variety), first country where we had to buy car insurance at the border and yet actually feels more developed than the last couple of countries we’ve been through.

To recap, our last update left you on Wednesday as we were autobahn-storming along the M1 in Hungary towards Budapest, foot to the floor at our maximum speed of about 115 km/h. We stopped for lunch in Budapest and I (Cameron) faced the first time where vegetarianism appeared to not be an option. That’s going to be a bit of a theme from now on. Budapest was pretty run down and we got our first parking ticket of the rally, deciding that it’s probably going to be too hard for them to actually track down and fine international tourists – another sentiment that we expect to be a bit of recurring theme.

Hungary was a bit of a drive-through country for us. After our lunch stop (because we were hungry in Hungary), we set off again on the highway to Oradea on the Romanian border. This was mostly a one lane-each-way affair with a speed limit of 110 km/h but trucks dawdling along at 70. Hungarians solved this source of irritation by overtaking at literally any possible occasion, including blind summits and corners, and long straights where there was clearly visible oncoming traffic. We’ve taken been referring to dangerous overtaking maneuvers as “Hungarian overtakes” from then on.

As soon as we crossed the border into Romania, we immediately felt a change in “feel”. Nobody was in a hurry here. We left the main highway (truck route) for a smaller road which passed through a mountain range, dotted with small towns where pedestrians wandered the streets with abandon and cars were completely okay with just giving way to them whenever necessary. The on-road population seemed to be about 90% cars, 10% horses. As we drove through the villages in the late evening as the sun was setting, locals were sitting on their porches just watching the world pass them by.

Unfortuantely, all of this meant that our progress was a bit less swift than originally hoped, so after a stop for dinner at what seemed to be a Romanian roadhouse – petrol station plus restaurant plus hotel – we ended up driving twisty mountain roads until we reached the largish town of Deva at 1am and collapsed into the nearest hotel bed.

Twisty mountain roads were the general flavour of Romania. Leaving Deva we presesed on towards the city Sibiu, near where the Transfagarasan Highway begins. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Transfagarasan is a 90km long mountain pass that climbs two kilometres up into the air and then down again. Originally built for strategic Communist reasons, it’s now known for its fantastic views. Words completely fail to describe how awesome this drive was, though we’ll have pictures up soon which will no doubt also fail to capture the full awesomeness.

The Transfagarasan took a few hours to complete in our overloaded Skoda, almost entirely in second gear. Afterwards, we took the main roads and freeways into Bucharest, then immediately out again to Bulgaria. In this time we were pulled over a few times by friendly police officers who sensed we were lost and offered us directions. At long last we reached the Bulgarian border, which apparently required crossing a toll bridge. The bridge trolls required six Euros. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any Euros because none of the last few countries we’d been to used them. We’d also used up the last of our Romanian lei. There were no credit card facilities and the nearest ATM was several kilometres away and we couldn’t drive to it because we were half-way across the national border. Eventually we found some left over Euro small change and gave it to the bridge troll who seemed surprised we didn’t just drive off without playing.

While we were parked there and Patrick and Adon were trying to locate money-obtaining facilities, I (Cameron) attempted to sleep in the back seat. Unfortunately the parking spot we’d found blocked trucks trying to leave the toll gate. One of the border officials came out and gabbled something to me in Romanian. Giving her a blank look and pointing to myself saying “English!”, she gestured a truck hitting me and said “Camion! Booooof!” After moving the car, and returning to my back seat pillow, the official said something like “Schleppe! Si grande, eh?” So I attempted to sleep.

Bulgaria, too, was a bit of a drive-through country. It was the first country we’ve been through that used the Cyrillic alphabet; luckily, Patrick had been boning up on it before we got there and could attempt to pronounce / transliterate a few of the place names.

We stopped for lunch in a country town somewhere and attempted to order food from the bartender who didn’t speak English. Adon ended up with something yellow and greasy containing probably chicken, I ended up with roast beef completely covered in cheese, gravy and broccoli and Patrick ended up with a T-bone steak with gravy and mushrooms. I also ordered a vodka; for about 75 Australia cents I got 50 mL of something very drinkable and highly alcoholic. Just what I was after when it was my turn to drive next! After some more gesturing and attempting to speak Bulgarian we managed to get some water, too.

After that, it was more driving along some mostly fairly rubbish roads to the Turkish border. The Bulgarian passport control dude found it difficult to believe that Patrick was actually the same person as the one in the passport photo, thanks to the blonde hair and mohawk. The Turkish passport control officer complimented me on my bow tie. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so keen on our car’s insurance situation – I thrust our UK motor insurance certificate (which covers all of the EU, i.e. not Turkey), and he decided it was inadequate. Fortunately for 74 American dollars we could purchase a piece of paper written in Turkish which supposedly covered us.

With the formalities completed, we were out of the European Union and straight onto the Turkish motorway blasting our way towards Istanbul, the city that straddles two continents and thus our last stop in Europe. After a short distance along the motorway, it became clear that the direct route to Istanbul was a toll road. Unfortunately, the toll required some kind of radio transponder to pay for it. Not that we had any Turkish lira cash on us to pay for any kind of toll yet, anyway. We drove straight through the gates, completely ignoring the alarms going off at the toll booths, and continued to Istanbul.

Istanbul has been a pretty amazing city. In a car, it’s absolute chaos with no semblance of order or road rules, and yet somehow we managed to find our way to Sultanahmet where we found a hotel to stay the night. Today, as a pedestrian, it’s been fantastic wandering around the city, bartering with vendors at the Grand Bazaar, looking at the Blue Mosque (which we couldn’t enter because we were wearing shorts), eating Turkish food and Turkish coffee, and generally playing tourist. On our way out, other cars stopped beside us at traffic lights kept trying to talk to us or giving us vague encouraging gestures, although a few noticed Iran on our list of countries and gave us disapproving looks.

This instalment of our story ends much like the last one, on the motorway once again – this time heading out of Istanbul and towards the Iranian border as fast as we possibly can.

Until next time,

Cameron

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Europe

Hey peeps,

Currently fanging it down the M1 in Hungary, on our way to Budapest. We are now officially out of the Euro zone, our satnav’s coverage (we forgot to load the extra maps in, whoops), and the special part of Europe where saying English words in a German accent will get pitying Germans to respond in flawless English. We’re not quite at the point where we’ll need our passports and visas, but we should be hitting Turkey tomorrow.

The official rally start was Saturday, called the Festival of Slow at the Goodwood Speedway. We decided the day before to pop over to Wales – a 5-hour drive away – to visit the only shop in the UK that sold spotlights. They cheerfully sold us two spotties and about 10km of cabling and switches and absolutely no instructions. Cue the local B&Q (Bunnings), a cheap cordless drill (which Adon jiggered to run off the car battery), some experimental cabling and some judicious use of The Big Hammer, and the spotlights were both mounted on the bonnet and functional. Though the switches are in the glovebox – being the easiest place to run cables – which is apparently inconvenient for the driver to operate. Personally, I think they’re mounted particularly snazzily, if I do say so myself.

Installing spotlights meant that we got to the pre-launch camping at about 4am, so we got a few hours sleep and headed to the Goodwood Speedway for the rally launch. It was a huge event – hundreds of cars. Mongolian wrestling. Almost everyone had decorated their car more than us – one team had an enormous bull strapped to their roof. We lapped Goodwood, then headed to Dover to get to France. Arrived in France about midnight, and I practiced my rudimentary French to get us into the hostel we had book. Conveniently, we met a Norwegian rallier called Kit on the ferry, who spoke excellent French and was able to translate. We’ve then spent the last few days cruising across Europe with Kit, stumbling our way through four different languages and slowly destroying the clutch and suspension in our poor overloaded Fabia.

We stopped in Klatovy in the Czech Republic for the Mongol Rally Czechout party, which is run by the race organisers. It was a huge event, held in a castle high up in the hills; the view was absolutely amazing, and food and alcohol super cheap. We left Kit (who had to fly back to Brussels to sort out his visas) and headed on to Austria somewhat hungover.

Last night we met up with three other teams – Hit the road, Yak, Ghengis Carnage and another team in a Toyota Yaris – who saw us stopped at a servo and linked up with us. We passed on the official campsite at 50 euros a night, found a patch of grass in a national park near a lake and camped (apparently somewhat illegally). Unfortunately, while we’d purchased some pasta for dinner, it had occurred to anyone to get anything to put on it. Fortunately, being Australian we had some vegemite, so dinner was vegemite, pasta and beer, woo.

We were awoken at about 7am by a park ranger very politely shouting GOOD MORNING, TIME TO WAKE UP, GET OUT OF YOUR TENT, GOOD MORNING and explaining that camping in national parks was verboten, and we had to move on immediately, so we packed up our stuff and headed on the motorway towards Hungary. We plan to hit Romania this evening, and then Turkey tomorrow with luck. Looking forward to Istanbul!

Until next time,

Patrick

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The Modern Nomads

Is an awesome Norwegian Soloist we caught up with – see his progress at his blog!

We just went to a vodka bar in Saarbrucken with him (after amazing lunch in belgium) – there were a bunch of teenagers outside that played Scarborough Fair on a tin flute to capture us rats =O

Cheers,
Adon =)

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Update and photos!

Hey people,

Just thought I’d post an update on what we’ve been doing over the last few days. First up, I’ve uploaded a heap of photos to Flickr, so head over to flickr.com/blinken if you want to check them out. I’ll be keeping this up to date whenever I have a decent Internet connection.

We’ve been busy getting things packed, buying last-minute camping gear, drinking, standing in the rain, getting the car prepped (ie. changing an air filter for the first time in my life), seeing London, drinking, getting haircuts (hai mum!)

 

So I thought I'd get a different haircut for the rally...
I’ve decided that the UK is however a third world country, based on the following criteria:

  • They can’t afford to buy refrigerators for their beer, so they make you drink it warm
  • It rains continuously, in summer. Except for about 3 months of the year when it sleets.
  • Sunscreen is kept in the “travel accessories” section of the supermarket
  • Doctors are a rare, foreign species here. After asking at the pharmacy, the local hospital emergency department, a medical clinic and a travel clinic we finally found someone capable of writing a prescription at the local Tescos (the equivalent of Wallmart here).
  • They have strange paper money that doesn’t fit in my wallet, and 1- and 2-pence coins which as far as I can tell are utterly useless.
  • The beer is warm.
On the plus side? They have Krispy Kreme donuts (despite Adon’s best efforts to eat them all), so there’s evidently some hope for a recovery.

We’ve also got some shiny new rally tyres on the car. They’re BF Goodrich M51’s, look totally awesome, and appear significantly less likely to fall off the car than the last lot.

 

We got some new tyres for the car - these look significantly more safe than the last lot. They also make a loud humming noise on the motorway, which I'm sure won't be annoying at all.
So we’re pretty much ready to go. We’ll be heading down to Portsmouth today for the rally start – keep an eye on our tracking page to see where we are.

 


Until next time,

Patrick

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Timelapses @youtube

Youtube playlist of raw timelapses (unedited). Will compose at end of trip into some kind of montage.

http://www.youtube.com/p/4BCACF1FDE1D50AD?version=3&hl=en_US&fs=1

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