The "Pink Yak" upon rescue from the Harbor in Estonia where she was waiting to be scrapped.
The sound of the purring engine, something I had grown accustomed to listening for the past three months, soothed me. I slept soundly in the passenger seat as my co-pilot took control of the Pink Yak. This mighty pink car had survived 12,000 miles from England to Mongolia
with me as the head of command. Now here I was, after one month of separation and a new member added to my team.
Christian and I had met during this long car drive in Azerbaijan. He finally captured me in Brussels
after the rally had finished and we were now living together in Germany. I had a lot to catch up with the Pink Yak, after all, she had herself just spent a month sitting at a Port in Estonia, awaiting her fate in the scrapyard.
I didn’t want to part with her upon reaching the finish line in Russia. The Pink Yak and I had been through so much together. Not to mention the new-ish engine I had installed in Kyrgyzstan. But what use would I have for her now?
I had thought at the time. So I did what seemed the only logical thing to do and I signed her away to be scrapped after a train journey across Russia landed her in Estonia (it’s cheaper and easier to legally scrap a car in Estonia than in Russia.) Then I got on a plane and headed to America where I would spend the next few months trying to regroup and figure out which country to disappear to next…or so I thought.
Living with Christian in Germany hadn’t been part of the plan but as I sat in my little car after finally being reunited, I felt a warm peace wash over me. We rescued the Yak in a secret mission and made the long drive from Estonia
back to Germany on a week-long road trip. Somewhere en-route to our home on the middle of the Polish motorway, the sound of the whirring engine stopped.
I woke immediately. “What was that?” I said to Christian. Any trace of my nap was completely erased from my tone.
Christian coasted the car down the motorway, looking for a place to stop. “I think we ran out of fuel,” he exhaled. A sign for a rest stop appeared as if by fate and we coasted casually, without any power and parked her perfectly in a parking space beside the restrooms.
“12,000 miles across deserts and mountains without a spare jerry can or ever running out of fuel…” I grumble, “and as soon as I let YOU drive her…” I smile, despite the circumstances. It was the middle of the night and the rest stop seemed rather quiet, but experience has proven time and again that there was nothing to worry about. Someone always comes along. Help is always available. And most importantly, the greatest adventures usually take place when something goes “not-according-to-plan.”
Christian looked at me guiltily. “I’m sorry! I thought we could make it to the next fuel station!”
I check the map on my phone and route the closest one. “Five miles. That’s not too bad.” I perk up. “Someone will come along and worst case scenario, we can walk that far.”
As if on cue a car’s headlights approach. A lone vehicle with three passengers pull into the parking space directly beside us. Two women get out and head to the restroom while the man stands under the nearby gazebo and lights a cigarette.
“Here’s our chance,” I motion to Christian. “Go and ask him if he can give us a ride to the fuel station. Here,” I hand the map over to him.
Christian had never done something like this prior to the rally. He had always relied on the European version of AAA to rescue him when a problem occurred. Yet here, only 80 kilometers from the German border, neither of our phone’s had the ability to make a call, nor could his German company come to the rescue. We had to sort this one out rally-style. He looked at me nervously. “But what if they don’t speak any English?”
I let out a giggle. How he had survived Mongolia, I’ll never know. “Show him the phone and the map and just point at the car and do this,” I put my arms across one another in a big X. Something we had noticed most of the countries nearest to Russia doing whenever they wanted to signal the word for: no, not possible, dead or kaput. Christian smiled, getting his confidence in check.
He stepped outside and approached the man. I watched from the car as he handled all the “man’s business.” After the return of the two women, Christian turned to me and signaled a thumbs-up. The next thing I know we are all piling into their tiny car and headed off to the nearest fuel station. One of the girls could speak perfect English. She began telling us of her village, on the way to the German border. It was an extra 45 kilometers detour, but she told us about a HUGE castle that we simply could not miss.
We reached the fuel station and our new Polish male friend helped Christian to fill up a water jug with fuel. He then drove us back to our car and parked beside our Yak. When Christian and I suddenly realized we had no safe way of pouring the jug of fuel into the car, the man silently went to the boot of his car, opened the trunk and pulled out a knife from his pockets. He grabbed an empty water bottle and sliced it in half with ease. He walked to our car and placed the bottle into the fuel tank. He had made a funnel! He helped us pour in the fuel. The woman who spoke English thanked us for the fun talks and we in return thanked all of them for their rescue.
We now had a change of plans so after refueling the car we routed the map towards the nearest hotel and the next day we took the 45-kilometer detour to see the mysterious castle. And holy crap was it a castle. We promised ourselves not to google this particular castle beforehand. After all, it wasn’t unusual for locals to get more excited over their local treasures even if it wasn’t particularly a hot-spot destination. We wanted to be surprised no matter the risk. We knew that even if the castle turned out to be a dud, it was still a fun day off the beaten track.
We parked and walked the trail through the forest when a clearing opened up and we saw for the first time the castle. And it was miraculous! We stood in awe for a while before bravely continuing down the path towards the castle gates.
Sometimes when you travel, things don’t work out as planned. And sometimes, what seems like a bad situation or an awful circumstance can actually turn out to be one of the best things that happened to you! This was definitely one of those times. And if it took the Yak nearly 15,000 miles before she ran out of fuel on the Polish Motorway to accomplish this…well, I guess I should thank her!
Castle Name: Książ
– The castle overlooks the gorge of the Pełcznica
river and is one of the Wałbrzych's main tourist attractions. Source: Wikipedia