So the final day dawned, while most of us were still trying to work out how the rally had crept up on us so fast in the first place. Start time had been changed to 11am as Brasov was closer than we’d thought. As we got to bed somewhere between 3 and 4 that morning, that was in no way a bad thing! We were up earlier than that to move cars around and such, then to drive to the start line – the very last one of the trip 😦
We drove more or less in convoy up through the mountains of Romania until we reached the Transfaragasan Highway (as loved and seen on Top Gear). This is a truly epic, windy, twisty road which climbs so high you go through clouds and out again. The tunnel at the top has cloud INSIDE it. It takes some degree of skill to get up it and down the other side without skidding round the corners, but the views as you climb higher and higher are beyond breathtaking. We took hundreds of photos and not one of them does the scenery justice – it quite literally takes your breath away. (although admittedly some of that might be oxygen deprivation – it was very high up!)
All teams met at the top in a car park which had a fabulous random selection of souvenir and food stalls… I started the day looking stylish and by the time we reached the top looked a lot like an escapee from a lunatic asylum, or like I’d got dressed in the dark… none of my layers matched and I was still wearing flip flops and it was SO DAMN COLD I didn’t care!!
Had a group photo taken at the top (in cloud so I’m not sure how epic it will actually turn out to be, but nice to have everyone all in the same place for once and prove we actually all did it together). We attracted the usual amount of attention while parked up, and had a wander for souvenirs and food… popular lunch choices were mozarella inside a corn pie thing, or half a chicken and curried potatoes – you can guess which I had! Many stray dogs wandering around up there, so I fed them the scraps of chicken (boneless) and potatoes that I couldn’t finish… could happily have taken some of them home, they were very friendly.
Brief for the day was that there were no challenges, plenty of time to play on the highway and intention of reaching Brasov for 5ish, final speech and prizes at 7pm and then dinner and celebrating… and Oktoberfest 🙂 So we drove… in convoy with Allegro and Rat Patrol, all the way over the pass and down the south side, stopped to cuddle some donkeys (I definitely would have brought one home if he’d fitted on Allegro’s roof rack) and all the way to where the road started to break up. Strapped a camera to Rusty’s windscreen and took a group self-portrait, then I got behind the wheel (eek!) and went all the way up and all the way down the other side. Rob is awesome and filmed it for me, it’s not a very exciting film for anyone but me, but squeeeee it was wonderful.
Strangely, although it would in theory be much more epic to throw the MR2 round the Transfaragasan, I can’t imagine enjoying any road as much as I enjoyed all the roads we did in Rusty… somehow having a crap car with hilarious suspension, which it isn’t the end of the world if you break it, and surrounded by like minded people (friends by that time) in equally crap cars… it lends an atmosphere to the drive that you just wouldn’t get by taking your average exciting sportscar out there. My fellow R2R-ers were in full agreement with this opinion, but the car enthusiasts back home think I’m/we’re mental. Go figure.
So we finished playing on the highway and drove gently down the other side, following Rat Patrol and waiting for Allegro to catch us up. The funniest breakdown of the entire trip then happened when we were least expecting it (and when we’d run out of camera battery/space on the one that does video, annoyingly) – we rounded a sharp corner and they suddenly pulled over in front of us. The car was still rolling slightly forward, and bits of paper came whooshing out high into the air. Graham and Andy then emerged, backwards, but taking ages to get out of the car, and loads of black things were everywhere, which I initially thought was shredded rubber.
Turns out the black things were flies which liked the green of the car’s paint, and the whooshing and difficulty getting out was because the compressed air cylinder in the back had started leaking, through the very thin pipe which had also had diesel in it from the mis-fuel earlier in the week. They both emerged and the car was still rolling, so I threw myself in the drivers side and promptly lost my head and forgot which one was the brake pedal, Rob got in the other side and tried to put it in gear but didn’t realise it was still running so that didn’t work either. Fabulous in a crisis… lol. I’m aware it doesn’t sound that funny now, but it was hysterical at the time!
They then disconnected the cylinder and set off for Brasov so they wouldn’t be driving in the dark, while we waited for Allegro to get down the hill, and cool their brakes down when they arrived where we were. We then drove and stopped in a field with a gorgeously scenic backdrop of the hills & mountains we’d just been driving in and had our last picnic lunch… sniffle. Took some detail shots of Rusty and some lovely panoramic ones of the scenery and the cars. And then it was time to pack off and drive to our endpoint… I think we were all as reluctant as each other to end the rally, but equally we were all looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
On arrival in Brasov the first thing we saw was the Hollywood-style sign in the hills, which was fairly awesome… then drove into the city and got a random passer-by to give us money for the parking meter. Romanian lei come in notes, but the parking meters only take coins. We’d not seen any coins at this point, so between the random passer-by and a taxi driver we managed to scrape together enough to park both cars for an hour. Walked into the unexpectedly beautiful town of Brasov and found the rest of the rally sitting drinking beer in the early evening sunshine.
Justin did the end of rally speech and presented awards… I clearly keep good company, Rob and Pete both got a trophy for high mileage (four rallies with StreetSafari) and Andy and Graham won overall 🙂
And then it was all over and we were free to party! So naturally, we went and found our hotel. On the second attempt we found one (our faces must have been a picture when the woman in the first one said she had no space and no reservations – then we spotted the name was different). At the right one, they knew we were coming but didn’t realise we were who we said we were when we arrived, and didn’t speak any English (it had been booked by a Romanian friend of Jenny’s). So after some frantic phone calling to the owner’s English-speaking daughter and gesturing and an attempt at French by me, which failed, we freshened up, and came back into town to meet the Rat Patrol boys for dinner.
Dinner was lovely but the cocktails were immensely strong… and we were all so sleepy that despite our intention to get very hammered and stay out really late, we were pretty much dozing off before dinner was over! Took a walk down to where Oktoberfest was, but it was eerily quiet and sure enough, by the time we arrived, it had closed for the night and everyone was leaving. Stopped in a random bar and found another bunch of teams celebrating, so had some more drinks there before heading home (in frankly terrifying taxis) for the night. The vodka measures were amazing, photos will show (I know, I know, photos coming on Flickr soon, I haven’t been at home long enough at once to let them all upload yet) that ‘vodka and coke’ equals a glass full of vodka and a can of coke to sip with it – there isn’t space in the glass to mix them! Although apparently sipping one then the other is the Russian way of drinking spirits, so maybe I can claim I was getting some more cultural experience?!
Then back to our apartment, and tentative plans for the following day, and sleep.