Adventures in the marvellous Mini of doom!
Poznan to Prague
I was up early at 7.30am to replace the fan belt, which took about 25 minutes, on completing it I noticed a couple of small bolts on the ground after I replaced the grille. they were from the radiator top bracket which I undid to remove and replace the belt, I really must be more thorough when doing these jobs as I was to find a little later. I checked the oil and topped it up, it seems to be using about 1l for every 1000 miles or so, not especially unusual. I checked the water and as this was also a little low, I topped that up too.
During this work a fairly big guy and his mate left the hotel and on looking at the Mini, pointed and said something to each other and then laughed, they both squeezed into a Fiat 126 which I thought was a bit cheeky to be laughing at a Mini.
I returned to my room, showered and popped down for breakfast, a buffet that was a strange mix of meats, cheeses, pate, pickles, what looked like sauerkraut along with scrambled egg and smoked sausage along with fresh and tinned fruit and yoghurts.
I packed my bag and loaded the car, it started first time as usual and I drove off, there was a strange sound along with a thunk that felt like something hitting the footwell in front of me, I was going to ignore it and drive on, but thankfully curiosity got the better of me, so I stopped and got out to look. I retraced my steps and spotted what looked like a pine cone, I’d run over the radiator cap, bugger! Thankfully there was a slightly knackered cap in the boot, I’m really glad I didn’t throw it away when I cleared the car out.
I sent a text to Keith back in the UK that were coming out to meet the end of the rally to ask if they would bring me a new one.
Once fuelled I set off south for Prague, again the day was to be hard work on the single carriageways, I was also keeping a close eye on the temperature due to the radiator cap. Every time we got into a town the road would tease me with dual carriageway and I would think I could put my foot down, only to find as we left the town it would return to single carriageway. I pressed on south to the border and stopped for a late lunch in Trutnov, a very pretty town that looks as if it is a winter skiing town.
As I pressed on I picked up another hitch hiker, this time a student returning to Prague after spending a weekend with friends. He was far less talkative than the first one, this may have been down to my driving, trying to make up for lost time as I wanted to arrive in Prague between 5 and 5.30pm as there was to be a parade of the cars that had finished the rally.
As I dropped the guy off on Wenceslas Square, I decided to drive round the square and look for some of the rally finishers. I’d driven no more than about 100m when I heard someone shout ‘Dave’ at first I couldn’t believe it was anyone shouting at me, but I stopped and reversed to be met by Andrew and Keith, the guys who had flown out to meet the end of the rally and drive Team Piston Broke’s ‘not a quattro’ Audi back to the UK. It was great to see them, especially as the came bearing radiator cap and spare fan belt.
As I was standing by the Mini I was approached by a guy from local radio who thought I was part of the rally, after explaining to him I wasn’t and that I was just travelling he decided to interview me anyway.
Slowly the rally finishers began to arrive for the planned parade at 6. It was good to recognise a few of the teams that I’d met on other rallies and to chat to a few new ones too. This was culminated by John and his friends the guys who drove a Bedford CF flatbed in last year’s rally turn up in a ridiculous pink painted Fiat 126 to a huge cheer from those around. The parade started with random horn toots and much engine revving which was particularly funny from the 126 as it had lost the entire silencer system some 2 days previous.
We found a rather pleasant apartment overlooking Wenceslas Square for €120 for 4 of us for the night. Once up on the 6th floor I decided to show the guys the spud gun by firing it across the square and over the hotel opposite, there was much childish giggling as we left to see the rally prize giving ceremony.
To give an indication of the price differentials in certain areas of Prague, in the finishing pub, close to the Astronomical clock, 3 beers cost 195Kc (around £6.50) not particularly unreasonable compared to UK prices, but later in the evening I had a beer back on Wenceslas Square with a couple of guys from Scotland that I’d met earlier and 3 beers cost 112Kc (less than £4) As it turned out, this was still town centre prices.