Day 1 – Goodwood Circuit, England, to Antwerp, Belgium.

The morning didn’t exactly start or end – the ralliers partied through the night, but Alpha Squad slept through and made for a few hours of good sleep for the journey ahead. We noticed the campsite was dry when arriving, but Mickey, in his parking site looked like he’d already done half a rally – covered in dust top to bottom. Packing up, we readjusted the kit on the roof-rack and headed to the paddock for the rally to begin.
Meeting with Rhys’ family, we collected a few things we missed form packing in Southend – yellow safety vests for EU driving, a few mugs for tea and drinks, and the “bribe” pack – a box full of balloons, pens and various bits and pieces for making border crossing a little easier.

Goodwood had been turned into the Mongol Rally play pen – costumes and cars of the weird and whacky lined the paddock huts, costumes both for the cars and the teams were themed and incredibly creative. Our host – the founder of the Mongol Rally kicked things off with Mongolian wrestling, prize giving and the group photo for the year. With that, and a short show of the whacky cars this year had to offer, we headed back to the paddock to kick the rally off. The parade was something crazy and can only be experienced in person – a made noise of cheap and crazy rally teams trying their best not to roll their car on the hairpin bend.

Off to Dover; the road there was littered with rally cars – some already shedding unnecessary weight as dry bags and travel cases alike flung open in the high speed pursuit for fixed-time ferries and the channel tunnel. We made it to Dover without incident, sorting out all the EU necessaries for driving down the highways – lens reflectors, GB badge and so on. The ferry captain was more than happy to take his sweet time in crossing – adding we estimated an extra half hour on to what appeared to be a smooth sail across the channel. Rhys made friends with a kitchen assistant on board, a fellow Millwall FC fan – to the point of having his leg tattooed with the club’s lion crest. France didn’t feature – all of 20 minutes and a quick detour to our first French roundabout, we were into Belgium and on the road to Antwerp.

Driving with a beautiful sunset to welcome us into the fair city, we were met with chaos and confusion trying to navigate the inner city streets with a large scale road works project underway. We eventually found, after much random street navigation and educated-guesswork, a nice late-night restaurant, Jackie Twelve, and make conversation with the Dutch owner who was more than happy for the business and storytelling. We headed out to our campsite for the evening on the other side of the river, and as we suspected, found it to be well and truly shut for the night. By sheer luck a camper came to our aid and let us in, explaining what we needed to do for payment and check-in the following morning. The insects and wildlife were in full force. Mickey’s headlights were swarmed with midges and mosquitos within seconds, but allowed us to setup camp without slapping insects away every few seconds. With food in bellies, a hot shower and a comfy patch to rest on, we tucked in for the night. Next stop, Nurburgring.

Posted in Rally.

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