Into Scandinavia and north for our final push
After saying goodbye to the Touareg Club Slovakia last night, we then headed to the nearby Volkswagen factory in Bratislava. This ultra-modern plant is where all Touaregs are produced. Alongside the main factory is the Pilot Hall, a workshop for prototype and special builds. The Pilot Hall is a secret treasure trove behind locked doors where our special World Record vehicle was built by the best engineers and technicians.
So we wanted to take the chance for a checkover on the vehicle by the people who built it after all the punishment it has taken on the journey so far. Stopping in for a full service, we also got a comprehensive check over up on the ramp, and took the first chance all trip for the full data download from the additional data logging system that our car has fitted. While the engineers were doing their thing, we took the chance for a bit of maintenance of our own: a hot shower in the factory's workers changing rooms. Very impressive facilities, and a welcome chance to freshen up. A great job by the Juray and Lubosch and their top team of Bratislava technicians for that special night service.
As well as our gratitude to the Volkswagen factory, we'd like to use today's blog to add our thanks to all our supporters from Volkswagen organisations throughout our route: Barons N1 Volkswagen Dealer in Cape Town, Hatfield VW Bryanston in Johannesburg, and to Volkswagen Kenya, Volkswagen Jordan and Volkswagen Turkey. Special thanks and acknowledgement are due to the two countries who make the major contribution of cars and manpower to get us smoothly through their countries: from Volkswagen Sudan, Mr Ali of El-Safwa Automobile Co. and to the team at Volkswagen Egypt. Both countries have supported us in previous years and have always been there for us. Without the special help of all these Volkswagen organisations and their local resources and knowledge, this Challenge may well not have happened.
So, with a clean bill of health for the Touareg, it was time to get on the move again.
Marius took the wheel for the long night shift, driving us through Czech Republic into Germany, past Dresden up to Berlin then right up to the very North of the country while Rainer and I snatched some sleep. After the efficient 45 minute ferry crossing across to Denmark this lunchtime, the Oresund bridge and tunnel crossing to Sweden followed soon after Reaching Scandinavia feels like we are entering the final chapter of this extraordinary challenge.
Nevertheless, now we are faced with the drive across it, Scandinavia's size has been a surprise to me. We still have to cover the full length of Sweden, cross the Arctic Circle, then across the North of Finland before the final push North towards Nordkapp in Norway. At the moment, the roads are immaculate, smooth and empty with nothing but forests stretching as far as the eye can see.
All through the first 7 days of the challenge, the end felt so very, very far away from us that we didn't really have Nordkapp anywhere near the front of our minds. In those early days of the drive, it was more just an awareness that we had to keep pushing ourselves against the clock as hard as we could, and we'd think about the time later on. We simply had so much else to concentrate on and take in from the amazing surroundings and challenges of Africa and the Middle East.
But now as our surroundings have become more comfortable and familiar to us, we have the time to reflect on how close we are getting to claiming the World Record. We had always set ourselves the objective of completing the challenge in under ten days (which many thought impossible). With a couple of thousand kilometres to complete through Scandinavia's empty, high quality roads, it now feels that only very bad luck could stop us from achieving that. Feels like there's almost more pressure on us all now, as to be hit by any setbacks at this late stage would be too much to bear...
We will update you with a final blog from the road tomorrow morning; then, all being well, assuming luck is with us, another later tomorrow to announce the completion of the Challenge and the establishment of a new World Record.
With the pressure growing, we are now heading into what will hopefully be our last night in the Touareg.