One more day and only 200kms to go!! We still haven’t been on the truck of shame (TOSA’S) and it looks like we might just make it. Car still on 5 cylinders, has a major radiator leak and also still has the carborator squirting fuel….but all in all I think we will sneek over that finish line.
Lovely drive today through the French countryside. Then a quick time trial around a racing track, which was a blast even if we might have been the slowest car. Before back on the motorway to reach Troye (450kms). Yippeee, can’t believe we are almost there…must go as glass of wine (or 2) beckons.
Into Greece without a hitch, but decided to by pass Thessaloniki and continue (over 900kms) onto Igoumenitsa where we were to catch the Ferry to Ancona, Italy. A very long, wet drive and we didn’t arrive until after 8pm. Found a nice Hotel and a lovely bottle of red wine…Igoumenitsa is a typical coastal/port town. Very quaint and we were able, for the first time ,to have a little stroll around the village, grab a yummy gyro and have several cups of deliscious coffee!.
Caught the ferry later that night and was delighted with the huge boat, its wonderful food and the rather nice cabins (better than some Hotels we’d had). A 15 hour trip of which I think Craig and I slept 10 of them!
Arrived in fabulous Italy to drizzle and car congestion- but it still didn’t dampen our spirits as we were soooo pleased to be here and we both have this enormous soft spot for everything Italian. Again we made the decision not to follow the route of the other cars and to just head north on the autostrade, which is basically flat the whole way. There were several of us and we ended up staying in a lovely little village called Reggio (near Parma) where we walked the streets to the Piazza and had a wonderful italian dinner and more red wine!
We drove from Reggio to the France town of Aix les Bain, through the Monte Blanc tunnel. Amazing alpine scenery, following the valley before disappearing into the hillside to pop out in France. The tunnels and over bridges are an amazing engineering feat!
The car seems to be running on 5 cylinders – but it is still running and as long as we are gentle with her, we are hoping that she will see us over the finish line in two days time. My clothes are very scungy and I think I diserve a little retail therapy when I hit Paris!
We have nursed the car along over the last 2 days and unfortunately are no longer competitive. The split piston has been upgraded to a loose ‘little end’ which has resulted in substantial loss of power – 2nd gear on the slightest of hills, together with a engine rattle the worsens each day. The poor Dodge has really taken a beating but we will continue to drive her as long as possible – we would love to reach Paris under our own steam but are resigned to the possibility that we might require towing over the last couple of 1000 km – watch this space.
Enjoyed the people of Turkey and were entertained by the Turkish Classic Car Club at a formal cocktail evening last night. We have travelld to 2800 m above sea level during this part of the rally and have spent a bit of time in the snow, fog and cold! Up at 4am to drive 900km through the Turkish boarder to Greece – a long wet day but we continue to head ever westward toward sour ultimate goal.
Thanks everyone for all your support and comments on our blog site. We love getting them and knowing that your all rooting for us. Yes, unfortunately I think we are out of all medal contention but our main focus now is just to get to Paris.
We have watched car after car breakdown over the event. Some have retired while others have managed to be repaired and continue. We reckon that no less than 30 cars have withdrawn from the event for some reason or another. We have been careful not to be too smug as the problems we have had with the Dodge have been minor until yesterday when it was our turn. While driving up a steep hill we suddenly pulled up with the engine making a terrible noise! The rally mechanics felt that the one of the ‘little ends’ had blown and that the rally was over for us. As luck would have it before the tow truck could get to us a local Turkish man stopped and towed us to a basic mechanics shop in a very small settlement nearby. To cut to the chase we discovered a bent valve which we replaced and 24 hours later we were back on the road nursing the car along for a 1000km to catch up to the main fleet. Unfortunately today we have discovered that the noise we are hearing in the engine maybe due to a damaged a piston or in fact the little end is loose. This has resulted in a substantial loss of power in the Dodge and may yet result in us pulling out of the event. We have only 3,500km to go and this would be a great shame – we are crossing our fingers that we will make it to Paris – we can almost smell the coffee! An interesting day with the mechanics and I spent the afternoon with the mechanics wife in their small home. She spoke no English but we managed to do a lot of giggling! They very kindly invited us for dinner with the family (they had 2 small boys), which was wonderful and she had gone to quite a lot of trouble making chicken, rice and salad. A tiny, minimalistic but very clean home.
Our third night in Iran tonight, staying at a hotel in Tabriz (440km).
Yesterday, we decided to take a short cut (which on the basic map looked pretty good) however we hadn’t counted on those tiny little dots on the road lines turning out to be very large, extremely congested, over crowded cities…I think of the 70 million people in this country, Craig and I meet 69.9 million of them! What’s more most want to stop and chat and take photos (including the cops who pull you over), then they drive like maniacs to drive beside you or over take you, only to slow right down so they can take photos of you out the back window!! Makes for a long day!
We also now have Iranian best friends, who handed us fruit and nuts through the window while we were driving, then made us pull over for a ‘chat’ then followed us for 300 kms waving and flashing their lights at us every 10 mins. It’s exhausting!
The Caspian Sea wasn’t quite what I was expecting, as everywhere we looked it was filthy with rubbish scattered about and even what smelt like raw sewage running down open drains and straight in. This by the way was right next to these ‘resorts’ (basic version of what your imagining) where I’m assuming people swim??
Today though was completely different, with a beautiful drive up a mountain through a forest (2500m) on the northern side (where it was raining and overcast) to a dry, desert like southern side (sunny). Lovely outlook to the south/west of ranges and valleys with little villages in them.
Just a quick note to say we are safe and sound on day 3 travelling through Iran. Mixed feelings at the moment although we have had nothing but help from the locals and they have been more than friendly passing food through the windows at us, helping us when we are lost…..but some people have had quite a time. Things stolen, rocks thrown…70 million people and 99 % are fantastic but that other 1 % are trouble!
Long days, and its wet. Had to sleep 6 to a room our first night….I’m a little over the head scarf in this heat…otherwise all good.
Up early (4,30am) to drive to Turkmenabat and get across both borders (370kms). We were quite lucky as we seemed to get to the border early enough that we passed through before they took a lunch break. Only took us 2 hours while we know some people were up to 6 hours. I unfortunately started to feel unwell that afternoon and by the evening I was feeling pretty miserable. Straight to bed for me and to be honest I saw nothing of Turkmenistan from start to finish, except for the up and personal contact I had with many dunes and shrubs along the way! I haven’t been that unwell since I can remember and it has taken me 3 days to shake it completely. The little I did glimpse of Ashqabat (630kms) was like some strange Disney set as most buildings had been destroyed in an earthquake, they have replaced by huge modern edifices with enormous fountains and huge statues everywhere – bizarre!. The Dodge developed a leak in the radiator 2 days ago which we have temporarily repaired. Apart from extra front leaf springs which Craig inserted in Ulan Bartaar, the car has been remarkably trouble free compared to many of the vehicles on this rally. Hopefully we will continue to get a good run all the way through to Paris!