So we pick things up somewhere on a wing and a prayer that our diversion proves a wise choice. We were heading forth on a total punt that a road that goes straight over a mountain range must be more exciting than the motorway going round it? right?
Whilst we were fairly assured in our decision we equally realised the likelihood that we may end up broken down with melted tendercooked brakes, a main course of coolant explosion surprise with a side of running out of fuel, all on some pyranees insane sheep farmers land being met with furious antianglosaxon abuse and fully loaded 12 bore...
So fun roads yes, but I hope you appreciate we were taking our lives in our hands...
I hope you can also understand the lack of photos, we simply forgot...The roads were allconsuming, and what little time wasn't spent clinging on for dear life was spent pointing a video camera hopelessly hoping for something steady enough to use! So alas this blog entry will be a visual null, however with a little imagination and some over elaborate use of superlatives and a smidgen of adjective abuse I hope to put you there in one of the most fun, manic, rampant, mayhem-filled, squeekybumtimeary 2 hours driving I've ever been a part of.
So back to the motorway...weather was clear, sunny, warm, we had been cruising around a tonne so the tyres were nice and warm. Andy was driving. I had very selfishly driven the claremont ferrand mountain so being the gentlemen I am, I let him take the wheel for the first part of this momentous section.
Now up to this point in the rally Andy has been respectful of the fact that it was my car. Too respectful in fact. While I am in no way saying that he drove like captain slow's antiquated nan's blind dog. I could tell he was a little reluctant to 'give it some beans'. As I say he was driving quite confidently but as I am aware of the levels of abuse the bug will happily take and beg for more I was wondering when he may 'avit'.
This ghost was laid to rest as soon as we left the motorway...no literally he was pushing it round the slip road on the way off.
It was like the thought of the coming roads had released a hulk like incarnation of Colin Mcrae in him. The roads started with an elongated rollercoasteresque configuration of undulation and camberised cornerage. Most of this was spent around 80mph in 3rd gear. Those who know the car well, will understand the simple volume levels involved in such a situation.
I'll digress and quote another team at this point..."We heard you coming down the motorway from within the services, and we still heard you for ages!" bottom line, it's loud.
So as we entered the first of the southern french aggregations of villagous FAFOAPs (French Arse Faced Old Age Pensioners) at a rather too high speed, in a rather too loud car, it wasn't totally beyond expectations that there were a 50/50 mix of looks... I will segment and describe as follows:
Look 1 - Normally by the older generation - "I just punched a nun and my name is Damien" - This was a look of pure hatred, it conjured thoughts of "Why are you breathing you horrible creation of whatever made you, get out of my view, town and in fact world" mixed with a slight aspect of "I am french, that means whatever you are, I am superior in every way and nothing you will ever do will change that now crawl back to the chavious pit from which you came"
Look 2 - Normally by the younger generation - "I just stripped the nun naked gave her a foot rub and put her clothes back on again" - This look had 2 phases - phase 1 was tinged with some of the hatred I describe in look 1 in a slightly less harsh variety. But this look had more of a starting point of shock. It was like an alien has just landed in the middle of town, walked out of his spacecraft and said "take me to your butcher"
phase 2 of the look became more joyous, accepting and appreciating of the irony of what we were doing. It screamed "oh you want to look ridiculous and have people laugh at you, I see, I accept that and laugh at you as long as you dont mind me adding a slight pouring of pity"
Needless to say...we didn't stop.
Well actually we did. The Satellite Navigation was indicating we were about half way through the route. So we swapped over. This was fortunate for me, as the road became something of true beauty and borderline madness...
The next day Andy was talking to another Scumrun victim and described the road as having about 200 hairpins. He was of course being enthusiastic and over zealous with his description...only he wasnt.
Literally this road had about 200 hairpins. Through the dark depths of forests, up the sides of ravines, wider bits, narrow bits, lack of barriers, no lack of bravery needed, (more on his part letting me drive).
I'll add a little bit of context here...2 pieces of fresh information...
1. I took my car for a tire puncture repair 2 weeks before the start of the rally. With no dramatisation I can quote my tyre mechanic "you need new rears, they are borderline at best, I don't need to ask how" Needless to say I didn't get them changed...one more rally first.
2.It had just started to rain.
So in possession of this new information you can imagine the situation. One of the most challenging roads either of us have ever been lucky enough to be on, questionable tyres, questionable driving ethics, slippery surface...
I thought the situation was most simply, poetically and efficiently summarised at one particular uphill hairpin where we exited the corner fairly sideways into the path of a black small hatchback (I thought it quite appropriate that it was black if you think of the feline analogy) and I had to quickly lift and adjust to straighten one's arse to avoid a less than pleasant outcome.
Andy simply enthusiastically stated...."Nice"
We tried to film, we really did, promise we tried really hard...and if your definition of filming is "hit record and point at something" then we succeeded. If however you actually want to see anything resembling stability and any audio other than exhaust tone and tyre squeal then alas disappointment is the likely outcome. I can of course work some wonders in the editing suite.
Some teams claimed that night to have experienced oodles of our white friend. (no not illicit substances, unless your a finish rally driver) Snow. We must have taken a slightly different and less elevationous route than these folk because all we hit at the top of the mountain was the most monumental thunderous, lightning filled hail frenzy. The storm thankfully made it's intention known and was visible from quite a distance. We had the for-sight to put the roof up.
Driving through this hail (which was unit sized at somewhere between pea and 2 penny piece) was like trying to walk on marbles, wearing tubs of butter as shoes, while carrying several buckets of water.
Being fairly confident in the handling of the bug I simply slowed down slightly and seemed to subzeroaquaplain adequately around the invisible road. Luckily no other mentally redundant motorist was willing to venture onto the road at the time so our wallowing from side to side was totally safe...
Then we hit a tunnel...
Now there is one thing about tunnels, unless they are really really really big...and I'm not totally sure the human race has built one big enough...they dont have their own weather systems. This meant that the inside of the tunnel was totally dry...and give the absolute lack of traffic and the immediacy of the storm I mean totally dry.
So we floored it...only thing to do in a loud car with an empty unmanaged uncamera'd tunnel right?
for a brief moment I forgot two important facts for our survival...the weather...and...tunnels end.
as we reached the end of this particular 'hole in't ground' what lay in front of us was something akin to a waterfall from a frozen hell mixed with an uprising of sentient ball launchers at a golf ball convention.
I don't know how to spell the collection of noises we made at that point...
Luckily the brakes although sodden and ice filled did their job and we didn't do an impression of the Red Bull Flug tag...just.
The rest of the journey was cruising really...that is until we reached what I shall call ghosttownfactoryville.
I don't actually know if we knew whether we were still in france or in espagna by that point. For all I know we were actually in andorra somewhere but If my primitive (purely previous Scumrun based) geography of that region is right we were too far left to be there. But wherever we were it was odd, even eerie.
We exited another tunnel and came down a straight hill...to our left was conformity housing gone mad. Like 1984 meets Butlins with a sprinkle of communist equalism. Hundreds of 'dwellings' all seemingly built for one purpose, housing factory slaves for what was on the right. An enormous collection of chimneys and offices that would make the worlds largest perfect paint ball venue. But what was odd (and actually this probably shows we were likely in spain) there was nobody around. I mean, nobody, not a car, or person anywhere. Now I know it was a Sunday, but a site of this size? but anyway the level of occupation was purely circumstantial... The reason this place is worthy of note is obvious if you had seen it.
Running along the front of the factory was an enormous piece of tarmac that wouldnt be out of place at London Heathrow. With little road markings it was at least 100m wide and probably a km long.
I'll give you 3 guesses, you'll only need one.
After one bit of chavvyoutburstary we bottled it and decided there must have been some kind of security or cameras, and from the scale of the setup there was nothing to say it wasn't military...That's some Scumrun madness I don't want to be going down with to be honest! "yeah guys, today we got machine gunned" no thanks. So we headed back onto fairly normal roads and towards the campsite just south of Pamplona.
I just hope I've done that section justice, It will forever stay with me as one of the best driving experiences of my life.
To be continued - ashamedly