Travelling also means to face new situations and to adjust to them – that is exactly what the expedition demanded from us in a democratic way today! The press conference – which has been prepared excellently by the Representation of the State of Hesse – turned out differently than planned. A national strike in Belgium caused a failure to appear on the part of the representatives of the press and also shut Belgium completely down. It is impressing to notice all the things that were not operating any longer – beginning with a non-speaking radio host as well as buses and train lines. Due to the restricted space in the Hessian State House of Representatives, we presented the banner exhibition along with our three Jeeps in the automobile museum – the only open available space. Besides the visitors of the museum we were also happy to welcome a delegation of the Representation of the State of Hesse as well as representatives of Chrysler Belgium.
Our vehicles were also the center of attention in front of the museum. We particularly liked a Romanian tour group which would have joined us right away. It was a very pleasant, open-minded meeting. After reaching Rotterdam in the evening, we had to stop at a doctor’s office because Falk – our cameraman – has hurt himself on his foot. Right after the treatment we continued our way to the Goethe Institute where they were anticipating our arrival.
But before the greeting, the creators of our Jeeps had to take care of the parking of the expedition vehicles first. Due to a very narrow driveway – only slightly wider than the vehicles themselves – and a constantly closing electric gate this proved to be a time-consuming undertaking. In the evening, the sincere greeting by the employees of the Goethe Institute compensated for all the effort.
After the farewell in Limburg we left southwards early in the morning. Our destination: Switzerland – more precisely our partner Alcosuisse in Delémont and IBS in Thun. The factory manager of Alcosuisse was able to 100% satisfy our curiosity about the bio ethanol-production with his explanations and a tour through the factory. We got to know how little chaffed wooden pieces get produced into bio ethanol, that we will carry in our tanks and use on the further trip.
Afterwards we headed towards Thun. At the company IBS, the expert Beat Wyss, adjusted the battery-control-system for our excess-battery-system in a impressive way. Thus our Jeeps' batteries will be loaded in an optimal way and we will have enough capacity to use 4 winches, floodlight, walkie-talkies, laptops and a lot more.
We went to refuel our vehicles at an especially from Alcosuisse supplied gas station around the corner. But not a regular tank, the entire additional tanks got filled up with the valuably bio ethanol out of wooden waste. The owner of the gas station had a whimsical smile on his face as he presented the invoice for 1,700 liters of bio ethanol. The biogenic fuel is clear like water, contains 85 % ethanol and does not stand in competition to any nutrition due to wooden waste as basic material. Bio ethanol of the 2nd generation is one of the crucial points of our idea to not only use renewable energies for spectacular record drives but also use the long range media presence to promote the possibilities, advantages and need to use those resources.
We barely moved as we noticed that the driver’s door got wet even though it was not raining. So we jumped out and tried to find the reason. We were able to find out that one of our roof mounted tanks was leaking. Immediately we welded the tank using the cold-welding-process. After we refuelled the tank, everything seemed to be alright. Special thanks to Beat Wyss from IBS at this point, whose garage we were allowed to use for this repair.
After such an exciting day we spent the whole night driving through France on the highways. Our next destination: the Catalan metropolis Barcelona.
The night time driving through France smoothly continued and we reached Barcelona in the evening. The Catalan capital city is covered with creations of Antoni Gaudi and rife with small alleys so that it even was an adventure for us to navigate our almost 3 meter high expedition-Jeeps. Finally a nice police patrol escorted us with active blue light through the city to our hotel.
Late in the evening Matthias Jeschke had two photo shoots and an interview with representatives of the Spanish motor press. We finished the day with a delicious typical Spanish dinner.
At the crack of dawn and after a short night we started to head the 650 kilometers westwards on the highway to Madrid. For a section of 200 kilometers we were accompanied by a journalist of a 4x4-magazine. That way she got a very close insight about the team members as well as the expedition. We arrived late in Madrid and made our way to the booked hostel first, to unload the luggage. Unfortunately the hostel was located in an extreme district – affected by discotheques, bars, the drug scene and night life – the audience was wild. Even the hostel was rustic. A bleak room with six iron-beds spread an atmosphere almost like jail.
With our team at home having done a great job again, we were able to leave the vehicles on the property of the German Embassy even at this late night-time. There was definitely no safer place for the vehicles than the property of the German Embassy! Then we took the cab back to the hostel. The following day was all about our meeting at the German Embassy in Madrid. Everything was perfectly prepared and ideally organized. We experienced a very successful press conference under the direction of the German Ambassador as well as the attendance of further high-ranking representatives of the German Embassy, Chrysler Spain and Spanish top-journalists. After finishing two photo shootings – one of which was with Auto Bild – and a shot in Madrid, we prepared everything for the 1,600 kilometers long non-stop-drive to Italy.
Unfortunately our journey to Vidigulfo did not go as smoothly as the last 6,500 kilometers. In a narrow highway construction site our third Wrangler (F3) grazed a water-filled barrier, started lurching, reached an extremely inclined position, tore down about 40 meters of the barrier with thousands of liters of water and could only be prevented from toppling over by a very lucky pull on the steering-wheel. Slithering, the vehicle came to a stop diagonally to the driving direction. Nobody and no further vehicles have been involved in this accident. We notified the highway police immediately and they secured the scene of the accident. After a first ascertainment the police escorted our convoy to the next exit.
The contact with the police was very obliging and correct to an extremely high degree. Still at the highway service area we started with the necessary emergency repairs (which had to be continued later on in Milano) because F3 had quite some damages. After carrying out the emergency repairs we were able to continue on our way and arrived in Vidigulfo in the evening and after 33 hours. For the next day we had plans for driving tests at one of the biggest vehicle testing grounds of Italy. The operating company – Quattroruote – will open its off-road testing ground soon and we were – arranged by Chrysler Italy – invited as the guests of honour to pre-test the area.
In addition to four TV-teams and three photographer-teams, the highest-ranking representatives of Goodyear Italy – including the CEO – were also present. It was fun and it was a nice event. The supervision by Quattroruote was exemplary. It was also very nice to see the gradeability of our vehicles. 80% grade uphill forwards, 100% grade downhill forwards and 100% grade uphill backwards (including equipment) are amazing results for every off-roader. Now we continue towards Slovenia and Croatia.
Keep us posted and let us know if you need anything
At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religous or political ideas.
- Aldous Huxley
Already at Euro Camp Jeep 2008 we have noticed that our expedition-Jeeps cause quite a stir. It is not even out of the ordinary that camera phones are being pulled out. But what we experienced in Milano seemed to take on a whole different dimension: Our vehicle-convoy was parked beside the road, an Italian driver saw our Jeeps, stopped in the middle of the road, pulled out his camera phone and started taking pictures – in that moment it already crashed – all in all three cars drove into the vehicle of the photographer. Fortunately no damage to persons has occurred and there was only little damage done to the car’s bodies.
The following drive to Slovenia went by smoothly – the country itself was a very pleasant experience for me. This was my first travel to Slovenia and I have to admit that I was very surprised about the neat-looking villages and cities, the nice and hospitable people and the excellently developed streets. Travelling definitely broadens one’s horizon!
The members of the Planet Earth Organization – whose guests we were – were expecting us in the building of the EU in Ljubljana. The EU commission provided the necessary space and service. Along with a delegation of the German Embassy we held a professionally organized press conference which was visited by journalists and photographers. The exhibition which deals with the topic ‘renewable energies’ was set up – in agreement with the commission and Planet Earth – in the foyer and received positive feedback.
As exception we symbolically handed over a certificate for the planting of a tree to Planet Earth – quasi as official start of the PNY2009-CO2-neutralization.
After a radio-interview with "Radio Europa 93" we received a very informative guided tour through the city by an employee of Planet Earth – thank you very much.
Thereafter we continued towards Zagreb – once again the drive went by smoothly and thanks to the great organization and pre-information by the German Embassy as well as our office team, the border officials knew about our arrival and made sure that our extraordinary convoy was able to negotiate without a problem and despite our Russian team member (who had no visa!). Arriving late at night, we peacefully fell asleep in a humongous hotel with seemingly never-ending hallways. :-)
We would like to condole about the death of the German Ambassador in Croatia, his Excellency Mr. Hans Jochen Peters who recently passed away.
On the recommendation of the German Embassy, the University of Zagreb took over the supervision and organization of the PNY-presentation.
In Zagreb we were surprised about what young prospective engineers can accomplish even in the event business. Arriving there, we were already expected by many people at Croatia’s largest university. After parking our vehicles right in front of the entrance, the student association heartily welcomed us. A special crew- and press-room was arranged for the preparation of our presentation and the big lecture hall was prepared with a gigantic silver screen. The presentation took place in front of 100 invited guests as well as attending leading professors. Afterwards there was a roundtable-discussion with students and professors of the field Mechanical Engineering who were particularly interested in the emergency swimming system and its hydraulics. In return they explained us a self-developedrocket engine.
After re-energizing by eating lunch in the cafeteria and enjoying a chill-out zone which was set up for this purpose only, we headed out to Zagreb’s most beautiful places for the photo and video shoots. Late in the afternoon we set out in the direction of Hungary.