Paris to Launch!
We came in to Berlin like a California wildfire. Previous exploits in Argentina and Nicaragua connected us to a few friends that lived in Berlin. Their local knowledge would prove to be highly valuable.
The drive from France and through Belgium was pretty uneventful and boring, although that didn’t shock us in the slightest. The summer heat was strong and the German traffic didn’t do anything positive for the car’s internal human moisture level.
We arrived in Berlin a bit after 11pm after around 14 hours driving. A bit exhausted and confused about what we would do for the night. I called our friends Finn and Eleanor to see what the deal was in Berlin at this time on a Friday. Berlin, if you haven’t been, is a city of epic parties. The east former soviet side is more spread out and industrial. These old empty warehouses were converted into giant discos in the 90’s after the fall of the soviet empire. People wanted to break free from their former oppression and seek expression through art and music. These conditions led to what is arguably the greatest city in the wold for entertainment. Add to the fact that Berlin is one of Western Europe’s cheapest cities and you have mayhem by the barrel.
Our tour guides showed us the ropes and cool spots in the city including a weird bar/club that was set up around old circus items. A giant Mary-go-round that was converted into a spinning seating area – a respite for counter culture vultures and seemingly head banging former outlaws.
Team Baja Llama gave Berlin a good go – although if it was 10 years ago, I’m sure the city would have been blitzed much harder from our group. We slumbered our way out of bed and into the car for what would turn out to be about an 8 hour drive to a little plot of land about 30k outside of Prague.
Kevin drove which was a treat for the rest of us. We needed to get back some of the zzz’s we left behind in Berlin. 3 hours into the drive, which was supposed to take about 3.5-4 hours in total, I had this really weird feeling. I looked left out of the window and then through the windshield and I noticed something wasn’t quite right. This eery feeling of confusion and bewilderment fell over me. Something was out of place and it a took a few minutes to piece together small snippets of confusion to get the answer I was looking for. It turns out that Kevin took a left when he should have gone right. We ended up in Poland. I knew the damn street signs looked different. Western Europe is very strange in that they don’t have any signage to tell you where the hell you are and what country you’re in.
Oh well. We decided not to blame Kevin since he did step up and drove while we were passed out in the back. Now lets charge on to Prague! We got through the city and its outrageously long tunnel system with moderate success. Using only coordinates that were in themselves hard to find, we managed to make it to the Mongol Rally Launch party.
The venue was absolutely incredible. The party was set up in an old soviet missile launch site with bunkers, old missiles, and a gaggle of other crazy shit that made the environment pretty awesome and totally unique. Apparently there are about 15-20 people that live on the site in the fashion of commune type community. There is a Mad Max festival every year as well which meant all the facilities, bars, food shacks, music and lighting that would be necessary for a launch party like this was in place.
We talked shit with a bunch of people, and even talked shit to some of the more degenerate ralliers and made it to bed. People danced, chimed radio towers, gambled, stole and shot off fire extinguishers, drank and had a hell of a time.
The next day was the actual launch of 300 or so teams from all over the world. We had cars covered in pink fur, a double decker tricked out English bus and some asshole even started his trek on a scooter that had to be less then 100cc. The best part was the shaming that went on.
We were all given shame stickers with a picture of the queen of England that has a speech bubble that says Shame on it. If you saw a car that was too nice, you were to shame them with a shame sticker. The morning of the rally, the car with the most stickers was called on stage to be publicly shamed. Their punishment was to carry a large tube television that was spray painted silver for the entirety of their journey. Needless to say we received 0 shame stickers.
We were the very last car to go around the final send off loop. The organizers made sure to give us a proper send off and we were gone… for 30 minutes until we reached Prague. A city that needed our presence for a few days.
The rally had officially started and we were on our way.
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