Friday, 17 August 2012

Driven round the bend

Back when we were living in the UK there was a time we were proud owners of a new new MINI. It was yellow. It was also a great car; the sort of car you could get back into after a day at a motor show and be completely satisfied with, even though it cost a fraction of the price of some of the cars you'd sat in during the day. It was during on of these motor show trips that I paid a tenner for a ride in a Caterham 7. Because if the MINI had a reputation for go-kart like handling the Caterham represents a whole other level of raw motoring. And so it was that I had the wildest five minutes I've experienced on four wheels. Apart from the few seconds after pulling away the car never travelled in a straight line. It slipped and slid, squealed and spun its way around the little test track. All hot exhausts and burning rubber. The definition of a blast.

These days I don't drive a MINI, or a Caterham; I drive a Volkwagen Transporter. It's not a car but in my experience it'd rank highly it whatever the van equivalent to being a driver's car is. This is just as well: I do a fair amount of driving. And here in Bosnia and Herzegovina long, straight stretches of road are few and far between. In the last four days I've driven to Banja Luka and back three times, just over an hour's drive north, and to a ski resort on a mountain about an hour south of Jajce once. Heading north or south from Jajce the main road is single carriageway that twists and turns its way through mountains. Today I thought I'd try to estimate how many bends this means I've been round this week. By bend I don't mean the sort of wiggle in the road you can negotiate by straddling the white line, I mean the proper turn-of-the-wheel type. I got bored of counting but it was clear that I've driven round more than a thousand bends. It's a good job there's Red Bull and I don't get bored of driving!  

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A long bus ride

It wasn't so long ago that I wrote about a bus ride from Zagreb to Jajce. When I did I would have considered it quite a long trip. No longer. Last week was bookended by two 28 hour bus journeys. Sarajevo to Oldenburg, in northern Germany, and back again. In a little bus. 29 seats, 25 passengers and 3 drivers. As near to non-stop as was possible. Had the bus been able to reach the speed limit on the motorways the trip may have been many hours shorter but the seats did recline a little, the air-conditioning worked and it made no worrying noises! Needless to say this is my new benchmark for long-distance road travel.

It was a trip of many firsts, many of them being borders crossed by young people who had never been outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina before. I'll leave comments on their interest in the comparative price of chocolate for another post and instead say something about the reason for such a bus ride. We were attending a international event for teenagers called TeenStreet. Young people from as far afield as Finland and the Faroe Islands to us from BiH and near-neighbours from Bulgaria all converged on an exhibition centre in a town so close to the top of Germany you could almost smell the North Sea. The title for this year's event was NewSong40. That's why I thought I should find a few moments to put pen to paper, and words to music to capture the experience. The song came together in a just over an hour last Thursday morning, and got it's first proper play on the journey home on Saturday. I pushed past the effects of sleep deprivation to put the recording and video together on Monday. Hopefully the result gives you a glimpse of something unforgettable.