We spent months planning for the Mongol Rally. We talk about not doing convoys, only driving short distances in Europe, and relying on market food instead of freeze dried camp food (or eating out all the time). We sent hundreds of emails to each other, and chatted over Skype. Everything sounded great, then we got to the Czech Republic, and realized that perhaps we were wrong about a few things.
Czech Out was amazing, intense, hilarious, and noisy. The party went on until 5 a.m., which made sleeping almost non-existent, and when Charlie and I packed up the car and started driving, we were positive that it would only take about 3 hours to get to Bratislava, Slovakia. Yeah, lesson number one, don’t trust Google Maps timelines.
Our drive took us through the Czech countryside. It was a beautiful windy drive through the country, and the wrong road choice. When we looked at the map, we didn’t see the benefit of driving back up to Prague, and then down to Bratislava, so we decided to take a highway across the Czech Republic, down through Austria, and then in Bratislava. Total driving time was suppose to be 4 hours.
Our route zig zagged through the Czech Republic, and it took us 4 hours to get to the Czech / Austria border. Four hours! Definitely not my best navigational moment.
As we drove through Austria – skirting around Vienna – and on to Slovakia we discussed our options. We could stay in Bratislava for the night as planned, or we could move on and go to Budapest. Put more miles on the road.
We were tired.
Somewhere in Austria we decided to go to the hostel in Bratislava (Hostel Blues), have a nap, and possibly continue on to Budapest. It would mess-up our plans, but the fact that we had wasted most of the day driving, and not getting too far, was wearing on us. So, when we arrived in Bratislava we parked the car, walked to the hostel, checked-in, and immediately went up to the room, leaving our bags and gear in the trunk of the car.
We walked into the 8-bed dorm, asked which beds were free, and proceeded to pass-out for 2 hours (Charlie ended up sleeping in some guy’s bed, as it was unclear that the bed was already taken). It was the best nap, ever. We didn’t sleep the night before, and our first day of driving in the Mongol Rally was tiring.
Hostel Blues looked like a funky (and fun) hostel, and I kind of wish I could have spent more time there, but in the end Charlie and I agreed that we needed to continue to Budapest, and try to get some more miles behind us. So, to the confusion of the staff, we checked out of the hostel almost 3 hours after we checked-in – a decision based solely on the Mongol Rally, and our driving schedule – walked back to the car, and drove out of Bratislava, and towards Budapest, Hungary.
“We should totally get t-shirts made that says I went to Bratislava, and all I did was nap” I joked, as Charlie drove.
The drive to Budapest wasn’t long, only about 2-3 hours, and seen Charlie and I were trying to navigate our way into the city centre, and to our apartment rental. I’d like to say that my city navigational skills are stellar, but I’d be lying. I have a hard time figuring out which off ramp to take from a highway as there seems to be ramps everywhere, and the signs give completely different names than what I am expecting, based on Google Maps. Yes, I know, we shouldn’t rely completely on Google Maps.
My navigational skills are coming together, and I like to think that my calm demeanour has come from driving with my Father; whose driving skills have gotten worse over the years, and frightens me every time he’s behind the wheel. That being said, there is still room for improvement. Besides, it’s only the first day of driving, somethings – like navigational skills – will eventually get better, and some things – like roads – will eventually get worse.
*I’d like to thank our hostel sponsor, HostelBookers, for arranging our hostel accommodations in Europe.