An adventure, driving journey across Europe in a £100 car
- Took place in September 2007
- £967 raised to date
- Raising money for Sewa International
On the 21st September 2007, Nayan Mistry, Kedar Shukla, Tejas Mistry and Ash Mohamed (aka the Sagdiyev Brothers – named after the Kazakhstani legend Borat Sagdiyev) embarked on the the road trip of a lifetime. We took part in the Home2Rome banger rally, a 1500 mile, four day drive from Calais in Northern France to Rome the capital of Italy. The catch was that our mode of transport was to be a car bought for no more than £100… They don’t call it a banger rally for nothing. Our aim was to make it to the finish line in one piece and to raise money for Sewa International UK. The fun started a day before the event as we drove our 1987 Mercedes 190 (198,000 miles on the clock, a little but of rust, but otherwise a fine example of German engineering) to Dover to catch our ferry to Calais. We registered by the midnight deadline in Calais, signed our away our rights to sue the organisors in the event of crashing/dying/hurting ourselves/ending up in jail etc and tried to get some sleep before the mammoth journey ahead!
Day One – Calais to Montelimar We arrived at the starting line to be met by an awe inspiring sight: 200 cars of varying levels of roadworthiness, revving up huge plumes of oil filled smoke. We were taken aback by the efforts of the other teams to decorate their cars – Volvo’s painted like New York taxi cabs, a Sierra painted like a cow, a BMW covered in laminate wood flooring and many others covered in graffiti and spray paint. Our effort was looking a little bland in comparison (i.e. nothing but the red paint it came with) but thanks to some last minute ingenuity and some strips of speed tape we managed to enhance our vehicle with go-faster stripes over the bonnet and boot-lid. We were ready to go! Day one was a long motorway slog through much of France. We headed initially towards Reims and then turned south towards Dijon. The organisers had set challenges for each day, the idea being to gain points, with a prize for the team with the most points at the end. Our first challenge was number plate scrabble, i.e. take pictures of French number plates and use the letters on a scrabble board to make words for points. We soon realised that the challenges were a great way to keep the boredom of non-stop driving at bay. Another less successful way was to take shortcuts – we tried some smaller roads through Champagne country towards Dijon, but ended up wasting time through small French villages. From Dijon we hit the motorway again towards Lyon but got stuck in a major traffic jam due to an accident which required a large detour off our route towards Grenoble and the edge of the Alps. Eventually we reached the first checkpoint in Montelimar at around 10pm, after 590 miles and 12 hours of driving!
Day Two – Montelimar to Villefranche-Sur-Mer and the Gorge du Verdon
Today was all about pure driving pleasure. We were heading off the beaten track and taking some of the best driving roads in Europe, culminating in the Gorge du Verdon – the mountain road you may have seen in Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson raced a mountain climber (unsuccessfully) in an Audi RS4. The challenge for today was simple – get your car to the end! Half of the challenge was to navigate successfully through the small winding roads, no small feat considering that our large scale maps didn’t show sufficient detail or name the smaller roads. We had decided against Sat Nav and had opted for the cheaper and more challenging Prat-Nav (i.e. us!). The initial going was good through the beautiful countryside, but it soon got tough as we started long, arduous climbs which were a real strain on the engine. However, the Merc just kept on going up without a hint of protest and we began to realise how lucky we were to get such a solid car. We got a little lost at one point, but a local French farmer with a sheep in the back of his car (don’t ask) helped us out and we eventually reached the Gorge. It had taken hours to cover barely a hundred miles but the fun had only just begun. The drive through the gorge was truly awesome. The road wound around the edge of the mountains with a sheer drop on the other side into a beautiful canyon filled with trees and rapids. Whilst going up was hard on the engine and clutch, we soon found that going down was even harder on the brakes which were starting to fade from overheating. Just when it seemed the winding mountain passes would go on forever, we eventually hit something resembling a main highway and picked up signs towards Nice and the famous Cote d’Azur. A quick cruise through the streets of Nice to show off our banger to the rich and famous and we headed along the coast to our stop for the night in Villefranche-Sur-Mer.
Day Three – Villefranche to Sottomarina
Today we were back onto the main motorways, but these were far more interesting than the M1 or M4, these wound around the south coast and through tunnels in the mountains. Before long we had crossed the border into Italy where sil vous plait’s and merci’s became prego’s and grazi’s. We headed east towards Genoa, then north to Brescia before heading east again to Venice. The challenge today was a little more interesting. We had to take the spare tyre of our car to a central square in Venice, Piazza St Marco, and take a picture with the whole team and the tyre. Venice is of course famous for its canals and we therefore needed to park the car and take the tyre by boat to the square. Today was also fancy dress day which this year was to dress up as St Triannians girls. Unfortunately we had found out about the fancy dress too late to get costumes – what a shame! We still did the challenge and were faced with dragging a heavy and dirty sapre tyre through the thousands of tourists in Venice. Its fair to say we caused quite a stir and the St Trinnians outfits of the other teams was a particular favourite of the Japanese tourists taking our photos. One piece of advice if you’re going to Venice – don’t take a spare tyre if you’re trying to get a meal at a restaurant, for some reason they won’t let you in! With the challenge complete, we rolled the tyre back to the boat for a romantic cruise through Venice by night and returned to the car. We headed south to our next stop point, Sottomarina.
Day Four – Sottomarina to Rome… the final day!!
The final day started with open warfare. We met up with the sister rally of Home2Rome, Staples2Naples, in Sottomarina where there was to be a water pistol fight on the beach between the two rally’s. The organisers had produced a list of rules for the fight (do not spray the organisers, no re-fills allowed, use tapwater only etc) and once underway, all the rules were duly ignored. After discovering the pain of saltwater in the eyes, we cleaned up and headed out for the final day of the rally. Despite being the final stretch we were soon reminded we could take nothing for granted. We passed a car just out of Sottomarina which had suffered a broken drive shaft and had to pull out of the rally. Worse still we came across a serious accident on the autostrada involving cars from the rally and a lorry. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it served a timely reminder of the dangers of driving on foreign roads. Italians have a reputation for their flamboyant driving style and we can confirm that this reputation is well deserved. Nevertheless, after 4 days, 1500 miles, a few minor arguments, a Frenchman and his sheep, the best views in Europe, one broken pipe in the engine, a few quarts of oil and lots and lots of laughs we finally made it to Rome. Unfortunately we couldn’t bring the car back so she has been sent to the big garage in the sky at a scrap yard in Rome, but we are forever grateful for the the great drive and realiability she gave us.
We would highly recommend this sort of event for any group looking to raise money for Sewa and for the adventure of a lifetime.