Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Day 4 - Bratislava to Belgrade

When we awoke, the car was still heavily on our minds, its unexplained non starting in the dark was a worry. We definitely pin pointed it to our starter motor and that it must be something seized up in there. Without pulling it all apart there was little we could ascertain. I had an idea and was intent on trying it so I selected the larger of our adjustable spanners and smacked the motor hard on the case, as John turned the key, it simply burst into life! We were back in business for the moment anyway, it would no be a case of how long this little trick would work, and what awkward situation would we be in when we couldn't get it started anymore.

We packed the two cars up and set off, in the night we had been joined by the Ice Cream van and we waved to the guys as we pulled out of the camping area. We were only twenty minutes down the road when a large puff of white smoke came from Tempus' exhaust and their coolant resevoir bottle flew off from their engine bay under the car. We pulled over immediately to find their radiator sizzling again. There was a guy in the lay-by who came over to have a look, he only spoke German and it took a while but we understood that he would drive one of Tempus to Bryno (a few hours drive in the wrong direction) and get their radiator fixed. It was going to be a timely affair either way so we decided we had to push on. We said our farewells and made plans to try meet up later on in the rally.

We headed south again round Bratislava and in the direction of Budapest. The convoy we meant to leave Prague with would only be a few hours ahead of us with any luck, we had started early and big convoys inevitably take a long time to get anywhere. We reached the outskirts of Budapest by midday and parked up on the side of the main road in wait for the convoy. The sun was high and extremely hot, we waited for about 40 minutes and then we saw them, a 20 strong line of crazy stickered up cars appeared in the distance, we raced for the car (it started first time) and as the procession passed in a hail of horns and waves we jumped in the centre of it.

As we entered the city, every head turned to see us drive by, even cars would stop to let us weave in and out of the traffic so that the convoy didn't get broken up, we had people coming over to say hello when we stopped at traffic lights and ask us what we were doing. It was a great moment, unfortunately we were slightly concerned by our rapidly rising engine temperature. The midday son and stationary idling was serious endangering our engine, without moving airflow of the open road we couldn't maintain a safe temperature. We had the car heaters on full tot he point that I was burning my bare feet on the pedals. We made our way across the city to a car park where we all parked up and had a chat, we found a springler on the grass next to it and a shower was in order for majority of us all.

After some lunch the convoy went its separate ways, some where heading east while we would be going south. We met Blake and Dan of the Go North team (blue Citroen AX) who were heading in the same dirertion as us and decided to stick together. We spent the afternoon at the Hot Baths and Springs in the city which had amazing assortment of Saunas, steam rooms, blunch pools and hot outside pools heating by the natural springs.

We were back on the road by 3 with Belgrade in our sights. We crossed the Serbian border late afternoon, it cost us 120Euros car insurance to get in which we had not expected, the alternative would be to turn round and go through Romania (some teams actually did this), we decided against it and paid up. The Serbian roads were considerably worse than the Hungarian. They were single lane roads but with a hard shoulder, it soon came apparent that it was customary that when being over taken that you should move over and drive in the hard shoulder, unfortunately the hard shoulder was in some places only half a lane and the tarmac was falling away towards the edge. We drove through the most amazing thunder storm with fork lightning striking all around the horizon, it was impressive to say the least although the SJ wasn't really suited to rain with poor windscreen wipers, slippery tyres and bodywork like a sive.

We reached Belgrade around 11pm after a long drive. We met some other ralliers on the outskirts and headed in to find somewhere to stay. One of the guys we met had lived here for a number of years and he formed our guide taking us to a multi storey car park for the cars and a hostel for ourselves. It was a horrible place with two large rooms with trible tear bunk beds, it was hot and smokey but would serve a purpose. We went our late to find some food and have some drinks, it would have been a great opportunity to sample some of the local cuisine, we didn't though and instead we ended up in McDonalds which is just as disappointing in Serbia as it is in the UK. We found a small bar which was still open and served into the early hours while we all swapped stories of our rally so far and generally got to know each other.
On the way back to the hostel, we were accompanied by a massive pack of wild dogs who were roaming the streets, it was immediately obvious who the top dog was as he leading the pack, occasionally he would challenge other dogs who would instantly cower with tail between its legs. It was wierd to see them behaving as they would in their natural environment despite roaming the streets of Belgrade, they were unfazed by their surroundings, as they chased cars, crossed major roads and generally went where they wanted.

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