According to Google we could drive from Budapest, Hungary to Vama Veche, Romania in only 12 hours! Fabulous! We could totally do a 12 hour day, all we need to do is leave early in the morning and we’ll arrive by dinner time!
It sounded like a great idea at the time.
Lesson One: Don’t trust Google maps!
Charlie and I were in the car and driving out of Budapest by 6:30 a.m. The streets were fairly empty, and soon we were leaving the city behind us and driving towards the Hungary / Romania border, ready for our next adventure. Things were quiet in the car as I was struggling to wake-up (which seems to be the norm now), and rally life was fairly good.
It felt as though we reached the Hungary/ Romania border in no time, and soon we were having our first border experience. It was easy. Our car stalled a couple times when they asked us to pull ahead and park, which created a lot of chuckles from the guards, but the crossing was easy. While they did paperwork or ran checks, we changed currency and waited in the car. Soon we were in Romania and eager to get to Vama Veche, where the last European Mongol Rally party was to take place. Easy peasy. It was barely 11 a.m., we could totally be in Vama Veche by 7 p.m.!
Is driving twelve hours for a Mongol Rally party Crazy?
The start of our drive in Romania took us through quaint villages and passed farmer’s fields. It was absolutely charming and I felt as though I was in a dream. I was in Romania, finally! This is one of the several countries that I have been dying to visit for the last few years, and here I was, in Romania. It was surreal.
My euphoric state started to get fuzzy though when we ended up in a traffic jam, outside the city of Arad. We had no idea what the cause was, or how long it would be. We sat and waited, and waited, and waited. I got out of the car a couple times to take photos or a little video, and we tried to ignore the guys selling iPhones, hats, and car chargers on the roadside (I never dreamed I could buy an iPhone4S on the side of the road in Romania, during a traffic jam). Eventually, the line started to move, and we slowly made our way around the city of Arad.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t our only traffic encounter in Romania.
We weren’t driving anywhere near as fast as we wanted to, and soon we were wondering if we had chosen the best route to take. Unfortunately, there was no way to correct ourselves, we just had to go with it.
The best part of the drive came late in the afternoon as we drove around the Carpathian mountains towards Bucharest. The drive was stunning and for the first time, I was acting like an excited teenager. This is the kind of scenery I love. It was almost like being back in Banff and driving around the mountains to Vancouver. I absolutely loved it. Definitely the best part of our drive.
It was around 10:30 p.m. when we finally arrived in Bucharest. We were tired, but we still have at least 2 hours of driving ahead of us. The Fire Fairies (another all female Mongol Rally team) said it would only take 2 hours to get to Vama Veche from Bucharest. They were wrong. The road was clear and we were able to drive a lot faster than earlier in the day, but it was 1:30 a.m. by the time we arrive in Vama Veche. We had no idea where to go, or if the party was still going (I know, what a ridiculous thought!), so we drove around until we saw a Mongol Rally sign, then followed it until we reached a beachside bar filled with partying ralliers and locals.
Camping along the Black Sea in Vama Veche, Romania
Charlie and I sluggishly parked the car and made our way over to the party to check it out. As we were arriving in Vama Veche our plan had been to pitch our tent on the beach and go to sleep, 5 minutes at the party and we had completely forgotten about how exhausted we were. People were crammed into the bar, drinking, and dancing, and pretty soon it was 3:00 a.m. and we were still hanging out. Then my mind became fuzzy, my eyes became heavy, and I was in need of sleep.
I went to the car, grabbed our tent, pillows and a blanket, stumbled onto the beach and proceed to pitch our tent in the dark, with the sounds of ocean waves behind me.
I slept in relative bliss, the ocean soothing me, and the cool air refreshing me. From time to time I could hear the beat of the music as it played through the night and until around 5 or 6 a.m. When the sun rose, I slowly got up and opened our tent door, staring at our unobstructed view of the ocean. It was pure heaven.