Jensen Monday Club
Touring Tip 6: When stopped by the coppers - never admit to speaking any
language other than Spanish.
It was with great sadness we said good bye to the hotel staff and checked out. We had had a tremendous time in Istanbul, met some great people, and fell in love with the place a little bit.
I have promised myself a swift return visit.
We had given the car a once over the day before, and so we headed out. We drove round for one last look, then jumped on the motorway heading for Bulgaria.
We passed the outer suburbs of Istanbul...
And headed towards the border. We missed the first petrol station, but thought nothing of it as there was bound to be another on the main motorway to Asia, wasn't there?
Not a one to be had. We ran on fresh air for a bit, then used our emergency 2 gallon petrol can. We would need to have to come off the motorway and find a village station somewhere.
Another problem was the noise that had started coming from the back of the car. It had pretty much started on the rough roads in Serbia and Bulgaria, and we thought it was a rear wheel bearing that had been damaged. We had a full set of wheel bearings with us as spares, and we could find a local garage to get the hubs off if we needed, so we weren't too concerned.
It eventually turned out to be a duff rear bearing on the drivers side, but the noise we could hear was something else drowning the bearing noise out, and that was going to be a much bigger problem. More of this later.
At this stage the stereo was MUCH louder than the noise, so no problems!
Chris's stereo used to form part of the P.A system of the Grateful Dead!
And we also had the handy dandy battery inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter to charge the camera batteries today.
After a detour into a small village, we were fuelled up and ready to go. We made good time back to the Turkish border, just in time for a good long wait...
It might be time to mention my new found hair do. What a shocker. I had had it 3 days by now and I could still see Chris doing double takes!
Unquotable Quote: "...like a mouse's ear"
In Britain people use "Rhyming Slang". Originally used by criminals to prevent the police from understanding their conversations, it has now slipped into mainstream use.
The rhyming slang for hair is "Barnett Fair", or "Barnett" for short. In honour of Jensen guru Dave Barnett, we christened the new do "Dave!"
We passed the obligatory 7 mile long queue of lorries...
and rocked up to the Turkish border, and were first in the queue.
In fact we were the only ones there, and so expected to whizz through. Wrong!
Border guards use a camera system to take a picture of your registration plate to check who has come in, and who is going out. No problem except camera man had nipped out of his hut for a quick cuppa, and we drove through without getting snapped.
The non English speaking customs guy, who had the angriest moustache so far, and teeth that seemed disconnected from his mouth, ranted and waived us off. We had no idea what was wrong to start with, and hadn't a clue what to do. We discussed doing a runner, but as fast as an Interceptor is, it's no match for a 9mm slug.
We drove around until we found someone who pointed in the right direction, which was at the back of a looooooong queue...
We eventually got back to the front of the queue, only for the guys moustache to reach critical mass. God only knows what was wrong now, but all the other poor unfortunates who had met people, got married, raised children, sent them through university, and were now playing with their grandchildren while they had been waiting in this queue all chipped in, and gave moustache man a tough time.
Eventually moustache mas wrote the number "2" in Chris's passport and we were away to the next 5 checkpoints before we started it all again with the Bulgarians...
After the inevitable "environmental" and "sterilisation" taxes at the Bulgarian border we were through, and ready to go.
So after out frustrations I was impatient to get moving, so I gave the throttle a good shove, and away we went; straight into a Bulgarian police speed trap.
We had this sorted now. Don't speak any language he mentions, not even English, and we'll be fine. Sounded reasonable.
I opened the window.
Me "Hello Officer"
Rozzer "Your speed was 127 in a 40 zone. This is not permitted. Your papers please"
This guy was different in 2 important ways:
Amongst the ways he was different (no one expects the Bulgarian Rozzers!)
He took my papers and I could see my wad shivering in terror. This is going to sting thinks I.
The rozzer came back and gave me my papers. He stood there mulling things over. I could hear noughts on the end of numbers tumbling around inside his head.
Rozzer "Go ahead, and keep your speed down"
Me and Chris "Jackpot!"
Result: Jensen 2 - 0 Bulgarian Rozzers
Chris took this picture of the map. If you look at the left had side you will see the road just disappears for a while. Guess where we needed to go :0)
Dimetroygrad. Sounds like something out of a spy novel! Unfortunately it was not quite so romantic, and was like all the communist towns we encountered, built around either a cement factory, and power station, or a chemical plant.
Almost everywhere we went in the former communist countries it was the same, drab housing and industrialisation.
As we headed out into the more rural areas, we came across this stunning church, or possibly mosque, which was totally out of character with the bleak towns and the communists atheism.
We would have loved to have taken a closer look, but it was getting dark and it looked like a storm was coming, and we had a long way to go.
Unquotable Quote: "...like a wizards sleeve"
We were hoping to get to Bucharest for early evening and to go out to see the town and enjoy a meal, but all these delays had really set us back, it was getting dark and the weather was getting worse.
Click here for a 1 meg video of us on a lonely mountain road
The fog then set in, and it got worse.
We were way behind schedule, and getting nowhere fast. We eventually made it to the Romanian border, which passed remarkably easily as their computer had a button marked "Other Makes", and after the inevitable "Environmental Tax" and "Sterilisation Tax", we were through.
The car in front was being driven by an older British guy living in Romania. He came running back after he got his border clearance full of questions: "A Jensen!", "Why?", "How?", "You're doing what!", "Brilliant!"
He was headed in our direction so we took him up on his offer to follow him. The first section after the border involved crossing a bridge that made us both think of "Check Point Charlie".
It would be very easy to imagine secret service agents at either end of this bridge ushering forward prisoners who make the long slow walk to the middle, stopping briefly only to nod in acknowledgement, then heading to freedom on the other side.
We eventually reached the outskirts of Bucharest, late at night in dreadful weather. No city is going to look it's best in these conditions, but the road in was the worst we saw in the whole journey. I know my comments in an e-mail to the British Steel list caused some upset, but it was not my intention. I just told it as I saw it, and it was not a social commentary on 2nd world economics meets 1st world capitalist expectations.
He said driving into town in a Jensen.
We were getting concerned about the road as we had almost run into unmarked potholes that were big enough to swallow and entire car. That is not an exaggeration. The guy we were following must have made this run regularly as he came off the road and onto the tram tracks in the central reservation.
We followed suit and trailed a tram into town...
We were exhausted and depressed at what we had seen and said we would pull into the first hotel we saw. What we saw was from the ridiculous to the sublime.
It turned out to be the most expensive and luxurious hotel we stayed in in the whole trip, and it was at the end of the worst road we had travelled on...
Unquotable Quote: "...you have to make your own hole in the middle"
We checked in, and for a change we had missed the evening restaurant opening times. This was not a problem as the room service menu was the same as the restaurant, so 2 big scoffs were ordered up on room service.
A few beers and a good feed later, we fell into a stupor...
Ready for: Day 8. The Curse of Cheese man!