Lost and Found on the Mongol Rally
Our brave rallier Pamela MacNaughtan plays hostess to a drunken stranger, takes a wrong turn out of the Czech Republic and discovers that anything really can happen on the Mongol Rally.
MONGOL RALLY STOPS #1, #2, #3: Prague, Czech Republic; Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary
Kilometres to go: 11,092
I slept in our car after Czechout in Klenova. The Czech Republic is cold after the sun sets, and I swear I nearly froze to death in our tent the previous night. I wanted a night’s sleep without the wind sending chills down my body. But instead, I had to deal with chills of a different kind: a lost drunken rallier invading my space. You see, I must have forgotten to lock the doors and, at around 5 a.m., a stranger climbed into my makeshift bed and passed out in the driver’s seat—with me still sleeping in the passenger seat!
It was early. Nobody was awake. And he was completely out of it. I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep.
I eventually settled back in my seat and dared to shut my eyes (I know, the horror!). Then I heard a voice from the driver’s seat. “Do you like to snuggle?” it asked.
“Uh, yes, but not with you” I replied.
A couple minutes later, he passed out again.
It was almost 6 a.m. when I finally heard voices outside, and I went out in search of help. Two guys from the Spanish team across from us came to our rescue—even if they couldn’t stop laughing when I told them what had happened, and it took them almost 10 minutes to wake the guy up and send him on his way.
I dared to shut my eyes. Then I heard a voice from the driver’s seat. “Do you like to snuggle?” it asked.
As the drunk stranger zigzagged up the road, we stood and watched, laughing way too loud considering the fact that most people were still sleeping.
This was definitely not how I envisioned starting the rally. And, as I would realize later that day, that nameless rallier wasn’t the only one having trouble finding his way.
Our first day of driving in the Mongol Rally was an educational one. When we (Charlie and I) looked at the map, we didn’t think it was a good idea to drive back up to Prague, and then down to Bratislava, Slovakia—especially since there’s a highway that cuts through the country, down through Austria, and then into Slovakia.
Google Maps said it would take five hours.
It took us four hours just to get out of the Czech Republic.
The highway turned out to be a winding road through the countryside and quaint Czech towns. Scenic, but not the best choice when you’re trying to make good time. By the time we realized our route was the wrong one, it was too late. There was no way we could recover, especially since we were still learning to drive stick, and how to navigate using Google Maps.
As we drove into Austria and toward Bratislava, we talked about the days ahead. Our original plan was to drive to Bratislava, stay the night, then drive on to Budapest, Hungary. But the more we drove, the more we wanted to put miles behind us. The only problem was that neither of us had slept the night before (thanks to Czechout), and we were exhausted.
New plan. Go the hostel in Bratislava, have a nap, then get up, check out and keep driving to Budapest.
Yes, we drove to Bratislava for a nap. But it was the best nap ever. Seriously.
I admit I felt badly about checking out of Hostel Blues just three hours after we checked in, but we needed to get some kilometres behind us.
The drive from Bratislava to Budapest was a blur. The roads were good, and we managed to get on a major highway, which allowed our car, Irina, to go as fast as she could—120 kilometres per hour is her max—and by 9 p.m. (12 hours after leaving Klenova), we were driving in downtown Budapest and looking for our apartment rental for the night.
Our second day of driving was a tad better than the first—and much better than our first driving day in Prague, when I was pulled over by the police! Charlie mastered first gear, and my navigational skills got a little better, even though I still got us turned around in Budapest. Oh, and in Bratislava.
But even with the driving challenges, sometimes I think driving in the rally is the easy part. The hard part is working as a team and figuring out the best way to make things work for everyone. As a solo traveller, I find it difficult to be around someone 24/7 (and yes, I am aware of the fact that I agreed to six weeks of 24/7 contact!).
It’s tough, but I’m working on it. There will be a lot of compromises down the road over the next five weeks, lots of losing and finding ourselves—and our way—as we go. I just need to make sure that I find ways to enjoy myself and make the most of the adventure.