An experience to talk about

Author: Alice Westwood Alice Westwood talks about a banger rally

 7 months ago three friends and I decided we wanted to go travelling. Having met at university and now all living within 10 miles of each other in East London we christened the group the ‘East Four’ and set about working out which European rally to embark upon. The Motoscape Banger Rally immediately stood out as a driving experience from London to Venice in just 5 days so we signed up with the aim of raising money for Cancer Research UK as well as experiencing the trip along with 48 other teams…

Day 1: London to St Omer – 213KM

My suitcase was packed with the usual essentials; extension cable, fluorescent jacket, mechanics jumpsuit and first aid kit. I grabbed my passport and left down Stratford high street to meet the rest of the team and the car. Herbie (yes we named him) was duly decorated with the tackiest birthday banners we could find and we set off for Dover and on our way to the drive of a lifetime.

Our enthusiasm meant we arrived at the ferry port so early that we weaved into Calais before 09:00 nearly 2 hours ahead of schedule. From there we slowed things down a little and headed off, somewhat precariously on the wrong side of the road, to St Omer in the north of France to meet the rest of the registered teams.

Team East four on a banger rally at the Timmelsjoch pass

Herbie enjoying the view on the Timmelsjoch Pass

Day 2: St Omer to Koblenz – 468KM

Once at St Omer, daily starts went back to the slightly more favourable 07:00.

We quickly left France behind us and headed to Ypres in Belgium and from there across the German border to the Nurburgring. We were slightly too late to the former formula 1 racetrack, famous for the crash of Niki Lauder in 1976, to test our cornering skills as a detour trying to find the Ardennes Forest meant we lost some time. But, this proved a blessing in disguise as at least one other team cooked their brakes on their first lap of the track.

From there we headed to Koblenz along 5 hours of Autobahn as several Europeans sped passed us taking full advantage of the distinct lack of any speed limit. We, however, were perfectly happy tooting along at half the speed in our beloved Herbie.

We arrived at our hotel at 21:00 and were greeted by Helga, the Hotel Manager, who swiftly booked us straight out in a taxi bound for a wine festival in the neighbouring town of Winningen. Much wine, followed by a firework show like no other, meant we all left in complete awe, promising to return every year at the same time. Every explosion and bang echoed through the idyllic valley with each colourful burst reflected in the winding river Moselle. Compulsory chocolate crepes and a taxi back to the hotel at the end of the night saw more than one of the ‘East Four’ promising to become a German Frauline such was our collective love for this corner of Europe.

Team East four on a European rally at Flanders

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

Day 3: Koblenz to Garmisch-Partenkirchen – 539KM

The odd miss communication and slight tension between the four of us had to be approached much like the country roads of deepest Germany.

By day 3, the early starts, 10+ hours a day of driving and relentless ‘companionship’ were starting to take their toll. We drove through the Black forest and up the mountains to Hohenschwangau castle, rumoured to be the inspiration for Disney when designing the famous Castle in the logo, with me at the wheel.

As the approach got slowly steeper, with the roads ever decreasing in size, I was forced to dodge what appeared to be hundreds of tourists on our way to the top. Finally there, we attempted to park directly outside the front gate as though we were some returning carriage of cartoon princesses. This dream was quickly shattered and we were instructed to leave, forced to hide Herbie behind a local information centre But, even there, our plan was further foiled as an angry security guard found us and promptly forced the four of us back down the mountain, bumper to bumper with his vehicle the entire way, finally pushing us into a car park at the bottom. We were then made to walk all the way back up to the castle on foot.

However, after watching the sunset over the castle grounds with golden light rippling over the beautiful surroundings we forgave the villainous security guard and slowly made our way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Team East four on a charity rally at Hohenschwangau Lake

Sunset at Hohenschwangau Lake

Day 4: Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Trento – 230KM

The day we had all been dreading.

While this was the shortest day of the whole trip (a mere 3 hour drive from Germany through the Austrian mountain passes into Italy) the roads were steep and winding. Now, I have a fear of both steep and winding roads demonstrated by a recent panic attack on a similar carriageway in Devon. This particular mountain pass offered 12 hairpin bends, on a 10% incline and all with no barriers. So, needless to say I did not drive the Timmelsjoch pass and handed the wheel to one of the others.

Two of the four shared the massive 2500 metre climb up to the top of the mountain where we were rewarded with some of the most breath-taking views we’d ever seen. We proceeded to buy up every single postcard form the local kiosk in an attempt to capture the moment.

On our way back down to Trento a landslide meant the Italian half of the mountain was closed. We had to drive the long way round and added a painful 3-hour detour to our final destination.

Team East four on a European rally at the Timmelsjoch pass

Timmelsjoch pass museum at the peak of the north Tyrolean Mountains, Austria

Day 5: Trento to Venice – 215KM

Exhaustion had started to set in.

We were all tired and getting weary from the trip and Trento felt like a natural stopping point. From there were drove round a very grey and overcast Lake Garda, stopping for a good hour or so to stretch our legs along the lakeside, before moving on to the last stop of Venice.

Remembering back to the speed of the Autobanhs in Germany, the Italians also proved that they like to drive at speed with certain vehicles passing us at almost 120 MPH on our way into the city.

We did, however, manage to arrive safely to our final hotel and, having checked in, got ready and made our way to a local restaurant where the final dinner took place. We saw each of the teams we had met with several days before and listened to speeches from the event organisers before celebrating the incredible time we had all spent together.

Team East four at Lake Garda on a charity rally

Lake Garda, Venice

In conclusion, each of the ‘East Four’ saw scenery and experienced places and moments we may never see or do again. To do all of this this alongside friends (not just ones I started with but the new ones made along the way) was the very best thing about the whole trip. From early starts to stroppy guards and everything in-between, the Motoscape journey is one that will stay with me forever and, if you are considering embarking on a similar European adventure I would urge you to do it by car and do it with friends.

You really will come back renewed, refreshed and ready to talk about your experience.

Motoscape would like to thank Alice Westwood for this blog.
The original blog can be seen here:

Alice and the rest of her team took part in Motoscape’s 2015 European rally and were raising money for Cancer Research UK. They are still taking donations via Just Giving. Links to their website and Just Giving are here:

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