Leaving Kazan we have received our new start times and after the adventure with the castor bar. We have dropped from 9th place to 33, humbling to say the least. With a penalty of 12 hours for not finishing the day within our allowed time, there is no way that we can be competitive any more. For Gunther this was difficult to accept because he has put so much work and effort into this venture and to lose our place in one fell swoop is a bitter pill to swallow. I however, think we did a great job up until our ‘CB’ day and am very proud of how we managed. Pretty bloody good as first timers and Tilly is a champion.
Of course there is the silver lining too. We now start earlier and have a whole new group of people that we travel with. A lot of them have also had a mishap, from having to flat bed the car from Mongolia to Russia, to sleeping on the side of the road all night waiting for the mechanics to come. Like in real life, it’s not what happens but how you deal with it that is important,because shit happens to everyone. The rally is like a micro climate all on its own.
Paul and Chris in this mini for example. They just drive and drive. Gunther and I are like the hare from the hare and the tortoise. We fly past the mini about 5 times every day in our muscle car, tearing up dust and making as much noise as a Russian MiG fighter aircraft, waving gaily as we disappear into the middle distance. The mini does a maximum of 90kms per hour and Chris says that they drive twice as far as anyone else because they have to negotiate their way around all the pot holes. She is a ‘can do’ woman who I saw lovingly wiping the mud off the headlights with a tissue. She takes care of the ‘fluids’ making sure that the mini is well oiled and fed. Paul is at least 6 foot three and folds and unfolds himself in and out of the car and I’m sure she looks after him as well as she looks after the car. We watched them all the way across Mongolia in that tiny little car and not a single whinge.
Today we drove 470 kms from Nizhny Novgorod, where the famous poet Pushkin and the writer Dostoyevsky wrote some of their most famous pieces and where the giant rivers the Volga and the Oka converge. It is the third oldest and largest city in Russia.
We went out for a surprising slap up dinner last night instead of eating in the very,very average hotel we were staying in. A group of eight of us went and Alex (one of our new friends from Norway) said was the best meal he had eaten in years. This of course had nothing to do with the fact that it was one of the first meals we had eaten that wasn’t from the ‘trough’ as someone called it (the buffets which we have eaten for breakfast and dinner for the last month, some better than others).
My flower pot dessert with a specially made plate. That’s how special it was.
We did three test circuits today on the run from Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo. One dirt and two tarmac. Because of our efforts to keep the car going and I think Gunther is being especially careful with the nervous Nellie beside him, we probably didn’t do a Schumacher round, but it was certainly respectable and I think Gunther had fun, despite the storm on the last stretch. Tilly is running very well and likes the long straight stretches of road. I’m very glad I’m not doing the rally in an open car like half the people. I think they are very tough to do that. It’s amazing what people do!!!