Ten Country Challenge 2012

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Meeting the Lord-Mayor

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 19, 2013 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (69)

I had met up with Ritje in Antwerp last year. Her husband had MSA and passed away from it four years ago. She manages the MSA-AMS.BE Association. Ritje is such a fantastic lady, doing so much to help those with MSA in Belgium and now further afield. 

The non-profit organization MSA-AMS.be was founded in 2008, first as a ‘Factual association’ by JiePie SCHOUPPE and Ritje SCHOUPPE - MOONS.

27th of September 2010 it became officially ‘MSA-AMS.be VZW’ a legal non-profit organization, (published in ‘Belgisch Staatsblad’: Belgian Official Journal 08.12.2010) by a group of patients and their relatives. The year before, these people answered a call of JiePie SCHOUPPE, a MSA patient. They all needed correct information, help and coordination concerning MSA care could offer.

The organization addresses to all Belgian MSA patients. The management is only made up of MSA patients or their family members having the advantage that they know the disease and its direct and indirect consequences very well.

I had promised Ritje that we would call in as Antwerp is almost on the way back to Calais. This year we met up with her and her good friend Mich and had a photoshoot with the Lord-Mayor of Borsbeek, Dis Van Berckelaer.

It was a privelage to meet him. Thank you to Ritje for a lovely morning and for lunch too. 

Day 6

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 19, 2013 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 6 - Kraków to Prague

So I suppose technically we had completed the 'Ten Countries' by the end of day five but I had always anticipated this being a full circular event and we were finishing back in the Czech Republic in Prague. 

Road conditions were great and we soon found ourselves in the Czech capital. We had made it. Ten Countries in less than a week. Fantastic!

Day 5

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 19, 2013 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 5 - Baia Mare to Kraków

We met someone a month or so ago, whilst fundraising for the challenge at a music festival, who's parents had moved to Romania about five years ago. We exchanged emails and I made contact with his parents. They very kindly invited us to visit if we had time. A look on the map showed them only 35 miles East, along the Ukrainian border.

We left Baia Mare and the hills became obvious. Following Route 18, we headed up into the mountains, lots of tight chicanes too us up to the summit. Wow what a view. Those are the Carpathian Mountains in the background.

We continued following the road towards Ocna Șugatag, turning off beforehand to find the small village of Breb.

Peasant strip farming practices are still used here and one farmer still usex ox to tend his land.

We met up with Basil and Tracy. Basil introduced us to the local women who were preparing food in the village hall for a funeral the following day. We had a guided walk up to the top of the village where we saw the ox and had some lunch with them. It was a great experience and we are extremely grateful for their hospitality and kindness.

Here we all are in front of their beautiful oak house.

We would have liked to stay longer but had to crack on and retraced our steps West, back to Baia Mare and then on into Poland.

This was our accomadation for the night, the Barka Basia in Kraków.

Day 4

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 19, 2013 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 4 - Belgrade to Baia Mare

Romania - A country Sam and myself were looking forward to visiting. The official on the border control was high spirited and spoke good English, welcoming us to his country. So far, so good...

We entered the country on the E70 and no sooner had we left the border control we had to pass our first mule and cart. Then a twin horse trailer hauling maize and then a donkey with side panniers. All within the first mile. Despite the extremely flat and predictably cropped land - road conditions were interesting!

In my travel guide it says to never buy the road Vignette's from the roadside shacks and to only buy them from petrol stations to ensure their authenticity. So I stopped at the first petrol station. Upon entering the shop, the attendant was washing her clothes in the middle of the floor. She looks at me and says nothing, so I asked her if she sold road vignette's. She frowned and shouted something in Romanian which I interpreted as, "Get out of my washroom, but your vignette at the next petrol station 4km down the road". I thanked her for her kind words and promptly left.

No more than a mile along the road a police car was parked across it, forcing me to pull over. The policeman did not look happy and gave us a grilling over the road vignette. I explained that the first petrol station didn't have any and that we were going to stop at the next. He explained (in Romanian) that is was an extreme offence and we should be fined 100 euros and that the next petrol station was 40km away....

A few more minutes of repetitive conversation and we are allowed on our way. 3km down the road we came to another petrol station and obtained the 10-day vignette for a total of 3 euros. Phew.

Other than that the driving was pretty much the same all day, the E70 turned in to the E671 as it made its way North through Arad and Satu Mare. 

We arrived at our accomodation in Baia Mare a little dissapointed that the terrain had been so flat and dare I say, boring. But we needn't have worried....

Day 3

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 19, 2013 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 3 - Banja Koviljača to Belgrade.

Thankfully a shorter day of driving. We left Banja Koviljača along gravel roads and confusing roadworks. It seems that when a road needs resurfacing in Serbia, they don't close it, you are expected to weave in between the heavy plant machinery being used. The roads did improve along with the scenery. The majority of arable farming was maize.

We took this short video as we entered Belgrade, Serbia's capital. The damage caused by NATO bombings in 1999 are still very much evident with bomb-damaged buildings still everywhere, some covered with remains of decade-old sheltered scaffolding. 

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Day 2

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 10, 2013 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Apologies for not updating this more frequently. The daily driving was much more intense than I anticipated and after updating Facebook I was ready for bed....hopefully you have been following me on there, it is so much easier than uploading photos and pasting onto here. Well we are now on the Czech/German/Austrian border after completing the challenge.

Day 2 - Maribor to Banja Koviljača.

All was going well until we hit the Bosnian border. A long queue over a single carriageway bridge led us to the border crossing. A non-friendly or English speaking policeman asked for the car documents as well as our passports. After passing them around to his colleauges he announced that my insurance wasn't enough and we needed to buy extra, confiscating our passports and pointing to a row of shabby caravans and portacabins all advertising insurance and vignette's. Well...I got pushed and pulled and found myself handing the cars V5 to a scruffy woman in a portacabin. She then demands 60KM. I hand her my MasterCard. She looks in disgust and points to an ATM. Well, we try all three ATMs and the card doesn't work. After a bit of haggling and a young lady interpreting, I exchange £25 for a corrupt piece of paper. Back to the booth the policeman smiles and gives us our passports back. We can enter Bosnia.

Due to the hour-long hold up it is already getting dark with 200 miles left to go before the Serbia border and our accomodation on the other side of it. Bosnia had interesting architecture and plenty of wartime scars. Bullet scarred buildings are everywhere. As darkness descended so did the smog. Every house had a coal fire. Combine this with severely potholed roads withouth cats eyes, central reservations or edge of road markers and oncoming traffic with shockingly badly adjusted headlamps and driving was scary and exhausting.

Thankfully the border crossing into Serbia was quick and easy. Half an hour later and we found the Suncana Reka Resort - our room for the night. I slept very well indeed!

Day 1 - Czech Republic - Slovenia

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 3, 2013 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We are at the end of our first day. We started in Plzen, Czech Republic and travelled down through Austria and are now in Maribor, Slovenia. 

Lighting my candle and remembering Dad on World MSA Day here in Slovenia.

Homeward Bound

Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 15, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Well we did it! Six days to cover the ten countries and the seventh back to France. Now homeward bound. Thank you all so much for your sponsorship and backing. Thanks to your generosity I have exceeded my target and aim to carry on collecting. Stay tuned for news on the Ten Country Challenge 2013. Details coming soon.


Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 13, 2012 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Is in the tenth country. Woohoo



Posted by tencountrychallenge on October 13, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Has arrived in Liechtenstein. The sun is out and the scenery is amazing.

After taking over 3 hours to upload you can now view today's thrilling video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0ezX-sCGqE&feature=plcp