We, Team Mad Macs were driving through Turkey by Friday – five days after we left England. The spin through Europe was a breeze. Sitting here between the Turkish and Iranian border however is no fun.
On day two of our trip we reached Ulm, Germany. We were convoying with Straight Sideways – another Irish team. It just so happened to be the biggest day of the year there, with people floating down the river in whatever rafts they could find, music on every street and bars set up across the town. A good start! Over the next few days we went for a dip in lake Attersee, Austria, caught up with a friend in Bratislava, got squeezed for a bribe in Romania and, of course, had our pasty Irish arms burn to a crisp from hanging out the car windows.
Romania showed Team Mad Macs the first stretch of road we could really enjoy – the endless autobahn and motorways in Europe didn’t really do anything for our Swift (she pushes it going anything more than 100kph) – the transfagarasan highway however, there was something we could have fun with. 90km of road winding up and down the Carpathian Mountains – gunning the car around in the early morning felt great, our Suzuki seemed to be bombing it around corners. Then we tried taking a video and reality hit – from outside the car it seemed painfully slow… Still. We enjoyed the cruise around.
From there we wandered on to Bulgaria, then Turkey. Getting through the Turkish border couldn’t have been easier – the guards seemed to be enjoying the quiet time after the coup. A couple of hours later however we were stuck in traffic bypassing the second most congested city in the world, Istanbul.
Although it was our intention to speed through Turkey because of the recent turmoil, we accidentally got caught driving through protests in both Sakarya and Erzurum. They seemed more like parades – with flags waving, horns honking and groups of people (small kids included) singing in the back of trucks. We stuck our hazards on, went mad on the horn and tried to blend in.
In the days since we started we’ve passed broken down cars, burnt out vans, worn out donkeys, wary military and weary hookers. Our 17 year old Suzuki hasn’t skipped a beat (despite Turkish border guards saying we wouldn’t make it to Istanbul! Although now I’ve smugly written that something’s likely to fail). In fact the only thing that we have needed to fix from Ireland to the Iranian border has been a passing BMW X5. Pulling in at a petrol station in Austria a man saw our Swift, he decided that if we were driving this thing around we’d surely have some knowledge of how to fix cars. Fortunately, Rob was able to sort the issue.
Big thanks again to MicksGarage.com for helping us with parts to make the Swift run so smoothly, and everyone supporting us in our endeavour to raise money for charity. Now if we can get past the border into Iran we’ll see how far we make it!