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Thread: Paris / New York - Transcontinental 2009

  1. #1

    Icon318 Paris / New York - Transcontinental 2009

    Paris / New York – Transcontinental 2009

    After driving the whole Panamericana in less than 16 days back in 2006 and setting a new world height record for vehicles (21.804 feet at the Ojos de Salado in Chile) in 2007 the german adventurer Matthias Jeschke reaches for another goal:

    An international team of success-oriented extreme drivers will set out on a round-the-world tour over land exclusively by car for the first time ever, following the footsteps of early human migration. They will use bio fuel for combustion and only bio oil as the lubricant for engines, axles and transmissions.

    The car of choice will again be the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

    Accompanied by a technological exhibition on the topic "Renewable Energies", the historic tour will lead them across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, Alaska, Canada and the USA, crossing 21 countries in total.

    An extreme project for drivers – both historical and historic

    The expedition team from Europe, Russia and America will start in Paris on 1 October 2008, and is estimated to reach New York by the end of April 2009. They will venture east through Russia up to the outermost edge of Eurasia. Then, around February 2009, the Bering Straight will be crossed on frozen ice, alternatively, by means of modified, floatable vehicles. This will then take them to Alaska and from there, after crossing Canada and the USA from West to East, they will reach the East Coast.

    It is the goal of the expedition to drive around the world using only one single means of transport, and to promote the use of biological fuel and oil and at the same time achieve a CO2-neutral project balance.

    Political Support

    The project is backed by the German Foreign Office, the German embassies and the German Energy-Agency. In order to successfully communicate the project statements of this historic tour, there will be close co-operation with, for instance, all the countries involved and the foreign Chambers of Commerce both prior to and - in particular - during the expedition.

    Without a trace and CO2-neutral

    In order to make history without leaving any traces behind, the expedition “Paris / New York – Transcontinental 2009” will take place in winter and will be completely CO2-neutral.

    Leaving the environment intact on this stretch of almost 40,000 kilometres will be achieved by taking the following actions:

    • Timing: In order not to leave any tire tracks, the tour will take place in winter. The vehicles will only cross meter deep snow and ice as well as deep-frozen soil, known as permafrost.
    • Low-emission bio fuel and exclusively bio oil based on readily biodegradable and renewable or sustainable energy sources will be used for motors, axles and transmissions.
    • The entire project will take place closely monitoring CO2. To be able to complete this project in a CO2-neutral way, after their round-the-world tour, the expedition team and their partners will plant an equivalent number of trees in close collaboration with the state authorities. This will ensure that the tour actually contributes to reducing CO2.
    • The expedition will only use state-of-the-art vehicles and equipment.


    I will post photos and news of the whole tour, so stay tuned!

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    The first of three Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has received it´s wheels, tires, axles and suspension. More to come...

    All three JKs of the Paris / New York project will be shown to the public on the biggest offroad fair in Europe, held in Bad Kissingen in Germany from May, 22nd to 25th 2008.


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    The last prearrangements are in full swing: the expedition Jeeps are being loaded and prepared, there’s an atmosphere of departure at Extrem Events.
    Tonight, the participants will leave for Paris where the “Paris / New York – Transcontinental 2009”-expedition begins.

    For a long time the entire team of Extrem Events has continuously worked towards this moment. Thus all participants are full of expectation.
    We would like to sincerely thank our partners and helpers again who make this expedition possible.

    Also, new pictures of the modified, floatable vehicles as well as the special trailers can be found on our homepage www.pny2009.com


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    10/02/08: START OF EXPEDITION

    Finally! Starting as a vision in the head of Matthias Jeschke some years ago and realized by an expanding and motivated team in approximately 15 months, the expedition has now become vivid and tangible. Today is the beginning of the 43,000 km long distance track from Paris to New York.

    A successful kick-off was the press conference of the German Embassy in the French capital city. The resulting dpa-news communication led to huge press coverage in various kinds of media as for example the “Financial Times Deutschland”, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and the broadcasting company RTL.

    Please have a look in our media coverage section.

    Furthermore there are significant pictures in our gallery as a documentation of this historical event.

    The atmosphere of departure is remarkably obvious within the team. Finally at the beginning of something unbelievable! The expedition has started!

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    03. Oktober 2008

    Slowly creeping through the Paris traffic of the inner city, we are surmounting the roofs of the other cars – accompanied and thronged by the crossing scooters and motor bikes. Our cars are sticking out of the crowd, which is obvious due to curious to astonished looks of pedestrians and drivers as well as fast-paced taken pictures. There is no possibility to oversee our branded Jeeps with all the additional special equipment.

    The dpa-publication (German press agency) from yesterday is still in use. Not only publications in print and internet reached our office, but also news in radio and television. Dpa-radio distributed the interview with Matthias Jeschke to 80 different radio stations and furthermore we received an invitation for a live show of RTL. The media response exceeded our expectations. Especially due to the dominant Motor Show Paris, our partners are thrilled about the amount of response.

    In the afternoon we drove to the exhibition and placed the car in an exciting manoeuvre near the exhibition hall 1. We haven’t been displaced by the police, but interestingly been watched and congratulated. We felt honoured to have the vice president of Chrysler International, Mr. Thomas Hausch to welcome the team and to sign the three Jeep bonnets as first person. Afterwards all team members followed. Thomas Hausch emphasized again his confidence in our expedition and he is looking forward the reunion in New York.

    Now it is obvious for everyone what happens here. We are ready – It begins! The historic expedition „Paris / New York - Transcontinental 2009“ has started. Happiness and is visible in the faces and motivation, not only to start to circle world, but also to reach the goal in Mai 2009 in New York.

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    04. Oktober 2008

    The day starts with a jam-packed breakfast hall. It is weekend and we are staying in a Disneyland hotel. Many families are once more using the weekend to visit the theme park and with around 150 people they are a huge part of this morning jam.

    However, the next call made all breakfast stress disappear, because Matthias Jeschke gave the first live interview of the expedition with SWR 1, which gets on air in Germany only a few minutes delay. Over the following Link you can listen to this Interview in MP3: http://www.pny2009.com/cms/upload/Me...10_04_SWR1.MP3

    We are going to refuel: Beside regular gasoline we are pumping a part of the cellulose ethanol in the tank what we brought along and mix it to an E30 mixture (30% Ethanol; 70% Gasoline).

    The engines whir as usual and swallow the Ethanol of the second generation like they used anything else. No output loss, no changing behaviour. We are leaving Paris northwards in direction of Belgium. For some attendees this has been the first time at the steering wheel of our extremely modified Jeeps, what has given extra tension and motivation.

    Even the partly existent language barriers could not cloud the great atmosphere. Far from it! We were talking with hands and feets and these kinds of talks provided a lot of fun with quite a few guffaws of laughter.

    On our way to Antwerp, for the first time, we have been able to calculate realistic consumption data for the vehicles – withal the total height of almost 3 meters and a definite higher weight compared to the standard Jeep, the average consumption is only between 12.8 and 14 Litres / 100km.

    We spend the evening at the home of Johann Nietvelt and his family, one of the record driver of the “Panamericana – 2006“project. Beside a delicious dinner we have been invited from our host to try a bit of the diversity of the Belgian beer selection. Luckily we are staying in Antwerp tomorrow and nobody has to drive.








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    Early this morning, we left from Antwerp to the photo shoot in Brussels where we - as a funny coincidence - met two young Englishman on their way to the North Cape.

    For me, the gathering was like a closing circle in my life.

    In 1989 I left for the North Cape. At that time in winter, I was driving all by myself with an old self built and restored VW Bus northwards and walked the last 12.5 Miles in a dangerous mission all alone through metres of high snow to the peak of Europe.

    I must have had a guardian angel already at that time, because due to wrong informations regarding the distance length I lost my strengths on the way back. Despite all efforts a distant passing military vehicle was not able to notice me. Exhausted, I sank down and must have lied there in the snow for a while, because when I regained consciousness it was already late afternoon and it began to dawn.

    At the place I woke up was a small water puddle, being build around a marking pole. I took some sips and walked with last strength and will back to my car. Half hanging out of the sliding door I fell asleep and were found by natives who helped me and gave me something warm to drink.

    Today - after having done several extraordinary things and being on my probably biggest adventure ever - I met those two guys. They are at the same point in life as I did - at the beginning, carrying the same desideratum inside of them, being filled by zest of action and wish to experience something.

    Since one of them - blond hair and beard - looked a kind of like me then, specific thoughts arose. A part of me adopts the role as a viewer and looked back at the younger me and the more experienced me now. It was a synchronous look at the beginning and the present. It was bizarre and exceptionally at the same time.

    After this "special" reunion, some of the photo shoots took place in pouring rain. Anyhow, we are in a good mood.

    Matthias Jeschke




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    October 6, 2008

    Travelling also means to face new situations and to adjust to them – that is exactly what the expedition demanded from us in a democratic way today! The press conference – which has been prepared excellently by the Representation of the State of Hesse – turned out differently than planned. A national strike in Belgium caused a failure to appear on the part of the representatives of the press and also shut Belgium completely down. It is impressing to notice all the things that were not operating any longer – beginning with a non-speaking radio host as well as buses and train lines. Due to the restricted space in the Hessian State House of Representatives, we presented the banner exhibition along with our three Jeeps in the automobile museum – the only open available space. Besides the visitors of the museum we were also happy to welcome a delegation of the Representation of the State of Hesse as well as representatives of Chrysler Belgium.

    Our vehicles were also the center of attention in front of the museum. We particularly liked a Romanian tour group which would have joined us right away. It was a very pleasant, open-minded meeting. After reaching Rotterdam in the evening, we had to stop at a doctor’s office because Falk – our cameraman – has hurt himself on his foot. Right after the treatment we continued our way to the Goethe Institute where they were anticipating our arrival.

    But before the greeting, the creators of our Jeeps had to take care of the parking of the expedition vehicles first. Due to a very narrow driveway – only slightly wider than the vehicles themselves – and a constantly closing electric gate this proved to be a time-consuming undertaking. In the evening, the sincere greeting by the employees of the Goethe Institute compensated for all the effort.

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    October 13, 2008: Limburg

    The short break back in Limburg has been used extremely effective. As already two weeks ago, right before the expedition started, our technicians were juggling tools and labels to finish the precision work. Screws have been retightened, connections got proofed and extra labels e.g. from our homepage www.pny2009.com have been added so that every spectator knows where to find further information and the breathtaking news to this expedition.

    The camera team used the break to produce the first of ten planned internet trailers, which you can watch on the project page under the category “short movies” or via the following link: http://pny2009.com/cms/front_content...cat=658&lang=1

    Even after weeks of tremendous organisation, the responsible office team would not miss the chance to organize a little farewell event from the homebase Limburg. As a duet, our camera team and the film team of the TV-channel RTL captured these moments. An early start in the day - not only that the entire equipment (Jeeps + trailer + emergency swimming system) was presented to the publicity for the first time, the 14 meter “power-pack” has been filmed in action in a nearby stone pit. Once again Jeep proofed its excellent off-road capabilities and has been able to persuade even with fully loaded trailer. Not only off-road enthusiasts are thrilled watching those pictures.

    Around 2:30pm the entire equipment got presented to the public at the “Europaplatz” close to the city hall in Limburg. The approximately 25 guests, Mrs. Babette Täpper (1st chairwoman) as well as Mr. Helmut Peuser (Member of the Hessian Parliament) have already been waiting to hearty greet the three expedition vehicles. Casual passing pedestrians stopped with amazed looks and a bunch of people listened curious to the words of our guests of honour Mrs. Täpper and Mr. Peuser were they wished Matthias Jeschke and his entire team good luck.

    Subsequent to the farewell the vehicles got finally loaded and the expedition attendees got an early bed rest, because they will be heading towards Barcelona the following day at 5am as scheduled.

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    October 14, 2008: Switzerland

    After the farewell in Limburg we left southwards early in the morning. Our destination: Switzerland – more precisely our partner Alcosuisse in Delémont and IBS in Thun. The factory manager of Alcosuisse was able to 100% satisfy our curiosity about the bio ethanol-production with his explanations and a tour through the factory. We got to know how little chaffed wooden pieces get produced into bio ethanol, that we will carry in our tanks and use on the further trip.

    Afterwards we headed towards Thun. At the company IBS, the expert Beat Wyss, adjusted the battery-control-system for our excess-battery-system in a impressive way. Thus our Jeeps' batteries will be loaded in an optimal way and we will have enough capacity to use 4 winches, floodlight, walkie-talkies, laptops and a lot more.

    We went to refuel our vehicles at an especially from Alcosuisse supplied gas station around the corner. But not a regular tank, the entire additional tanks got filled up with the valuably bio ethanol out of wooden waste. The owner of the gas station had a whimsical smile on his face as he presented the invoice for 1,700 liters of bio ethanol. The biogenic fuel is clear like water, contains 85 % ethanol and does not stand in competition to any nutrition due to wooden waste as basic material. Bio ethanol of the 2nd generation is one of the crucial points of our idea to not only use renewable energies for spectacular record drives but also use the long range media presence to promote the possibilities, advantages and need to use those resources.

    We barely moved as we noticed that the driver’s door got wet even though it was not raining. So we jumped out and tried to find the reason. We were able to find out that one of our roof mounted tanks was leaking. Immediately we welded the tank using the cold-welding-process. After we refuelled the tank, everything seemed to be alright. Special thanks to Beat Wyss from IBS at this point, whose garage we were allowed to use for this repair.

    After such an exciting day we spent the whole night driving through France on the highways. Our next destination: the Catalan metropolis Barcelona.






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    October 15, 2008: Barcelona

    The night time driving through France smoothly continued and we reached Barcelona in the evening. The Catalan capital city is covered with creations of Antoni Gaudi and rife with small alleys so that it even was an adventure for us to navigate our almost 3 meter high expedition-Jeeps. Finally a nice police patrol escorted us with active blue light through the city to our hotel.

    Late in the evening Matthias Jeschke had two photo shoots and an interview with representatives of the Spanish motor press. We finished the day with a delicious typical Spanish dinner.







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    October 16, 2008: Madrid

    At the crack of dawn and after a short night we started to head the 650 kilometers westwards on the highway to Madrid. For a section of 200 kilometers we were accompanied by a journalist of a 4x4-magazine. That way she got a very close insight about the team members as well as the expedition. We arrived late in Madrid and made our way to the booked hostel first, to unload the luggage. Unfortunately the hostel was located in an extreme district – affected by discotheques, bars, the drug scene and night life – the audience was wild. Even the hostel was rustic. A bleak room with six iron-beds spread an atmosphere almost like jail.

    With our team at home having done a great job again, we were able to leave the vehicles on the property of the German Embassy even at this late night-time. There was definitely no safer place for the vehicles than the property of the German Embassy! Then we took the cab back to the hostel. The following day was all about our meeting at the German Embassy in Madrid. Everything was perfectly prepared and ideally organized. We experienced a very successful press conference under the direction of the German Ambassador as well as the attendance of further high-ranking representatives of the German Embassy, Chrysler Spain and Spanish top-journalists. After finishing two photo shootings – one of which was with Auto Bild – and a shot in Madrid, we prepared everything for the 1,600 kilometers long non-stop-drive to Italy.


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    October 17-18, 2008: Italy

    Unfortunately our journey to Vidigulfo did not go as smoothly as the last 6,500 kilometers. In a narrow highway construction site our third Wrangler (F3) grazed a water-filled barrier, started lurching, reached an extremely inclined position, tore down about 40 meters of the barrier with thousands of liters of water and could only be prevented from toppling over by a very lucky pull on the steering-wheel. Slithering, the vehicle came to a stop diagonally to the driving direction. Nobody and no further vehicles have been involved in this accident. We notified the highway police immediately and they secured the scene of the accident. After a first ascertainment the police escorted our convoy to the next exit.

    The contact with the police was very obliging and correct to an extremely high degree. Still at the highway service area we started with the necessary emergency repairs (which had to be continued later on in Milano) because F3 had quite some damages. After carrying out the emergency repairs we were able to continue on our way and arrived in Vidigulfo in the evening and after 33 hours. For the next day we had plans for driving tests at one of the biggest vehicle testing grounds of Italy. The operating company – Quattroruote – will open its off-road testing ground soon and we were – arranged by Chrysler Italy – invited as the guests of honour to pre-test the area.

    In addition to four TV-teams and three photographer-teams, the highest-ranking representatives of Goodyear Italy – including the CEO – were also present. It was fun and it was a nice event. The supervision by Quattroruote was exemplary. It was also very nice to see the gradeability of our vehicles. 80% grade uphill forwards, 100% grade downhill forwards and 100% grade uphill backwards (including equipment) are amazing results for every off-roader. Now we continue towards Slovenia and Croatia.








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    October 27, 2008: From Milano to Zagreb

    Already at Euro Camp Jeep 2008 we have noticed that our expedition-Jeeps cause quite a stir. It is not even out of the ordinary that camera phones are being pulled out. But what we experienced in Milano seemed to take on a whole different dimension: Our vehicle-convoy was parked beside the road, an Italian driver saw our Jeeps, stopped in the middle of the road, pulled out his camera phone and started taking pictures – in that moment it already crashed – all in all three cars drove into the vehicle of the photographer. Fortunately no damage to persons has occurred and there was only little damage done to the car’s bodies.

    The following drive to Slovenia went by smoothly – the country itself was a very pleasant experience for me. This was my first travel to Slovenia and I have to admit that I was very surprised about the neat-looking villages and cities, the nice and hospitable people and the excellently developed streets. Travelling definitely broadens one’s horizon!

    The members of the Planet Earth Organization – whose guests we were – were expecting us in the building of the EU in Ljubljana. The EU commission provided the necessary space and service. Along with a delegation of the German Embassy we held a professionally organized press conference which was visited by journalists and photographers. The exhibition which deals with the topic ‘renewable energies’ was set up – in agreement with the commission and Planet Earth – in the foyer and received positive feedback.

    As exception we symbolically handed over a certificate for the planting of a tree to Planet Earth – quasi as official start of the PNY2009-CO2-neutralization.

    After a radio-interview with "Radio Europa 93" we received a very informative guided tour through the city by an employee of Planet Earth – thank you very much.

    Thereafter we continued towards Zagreb – once again the drive went by smoothly and thanks to the great organization and pre-information by the German Embassy as well as our office team, the border officials knew about our arrival and made sure that our extraordinary convoy was able to negotiate without a problem and despite our Russian team member (who had no visa!). Arriving late at night, we peacefully fell asleep in a humongous hotel with seemingly never-ending hallways. :-)






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    28.10.2008: Croatia

    We would like to condole about the death of the German Ambassador in Croatia, his Excellency Mr. Hans Jochen Peters who recently passed away.

    On the recommendation of the German Embassy, the University of Zagreb took over the supervision and organization of the PNY-presentation.

    In Zagreb we were surprised about what young prospective engineers can accomplish even in the event business. Arriving there, we were already expected by many people at Croatia’s largest university. After parking our vehicles right in front of the entrance, the student association heartily welcomed us. A special crew- and press-room was arranged for the preparation of our presentation and the big lecture hall was prepared with a gigantic silver screen. The presentation took place in front of 100 invited guests as well as attending leading professors. Afterwards there was a roundtable-discussion with students and professors of the field Mechanical Engineering who were particularly interested in the emergency swimming system and its hydraulics. In return they explained us a self-developedrocket engine.

    After re-energizing by eating lunch in the cafeteria and enjoying a chill-out zone which was set up for this purpose only, we headed out to Zagreb’s most beautiful places for the photo and video shoots. Late in the afternoon we set out in the direction of Hungary.






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    October 29, 2008: Budapest

    “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you get”. We planned a seven-hour drive for today’s 400 kilometers. Due to the excellently developed highway towards Budapest we reached our goal already after half of the estimated time.

    The booked hotel was right in the middle of a red-light-district and furthermore the parking possibilities haven’t been suitable. Therefore we started looking for an alternative, followed by a three-hour long odyssey through the city. All hotels were either sold out or did not have any secured parking space for our 3 Jeeps. It was already 2 a.m. when we finally found a convenient hotel.

    The night was accordingly short and the following day featured a full agenda: An excellently well-organized press conference in the German Embassy, film and photo shootings in the historic district “Burgviertel” (in English “Castle district”) as well as meetings with journalists let the time fly by. Late in the afternoon we already continued towards Slovakia.






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    November 05-08, 2008: Berlin

    The expedition quintet moved into a small but lovely summer residence at the Spandauer area in Berlin. Since we arrived late there was only one last task, to arrange a “wake up call” from the colleagues in Limburg and to go to bed for a good night’s sleep.

    But there were six other Extreme Event employees who did not get any sleep tonight, because they were on their way to Berlin with the Roka-trailers, the emergency float system for the Bering Strait together with additional materials. At 6 a.m. sharp the team got the ordered wake-up-call and got out of bed. This day the Meilenwerk in the heart of Berlin was supposed to welcome the project within its classy ambience. The – in former times – biggest tramline depot has today – as forum for driving culture – more than 450,000 people per year. Our partner Chrysler booked the atrium for us where a real expedition feeling was generated with requisites of the Babelsberger Filmstudios, a bottom plate and objects of our project. A field kitchen offered goulash for everybody.

    This afternoon we were accompanied by Dr. Lührs, who especially came from Rügen with his Jeep Grand Cherokee to the “Pariser Platz”, to take photos and film shoots with us. But: We should come back. Just this evening the German Press Agency called to invite us to make some film shoots at the “Brandenburger Tor” which was broadly distributed and published by e.g. the German magazine “Stern”.

    The second home of the team became the Chrysler garage in the “Seeburger Straße” where our vehicles got a last check. Cooling fluid for the coldness in Siberia was filled in and break pads exchanged. The most tricky work was it though to optimise the undercarriage. Since it turned out on our way through Europe the shock absorber and spring system - which got mounted instead of the original - were not sufficient. The too weak spring system caused a strong bouncing, even without loading. Already in Bratislava we were, together with Chrysler, looking for a solution while our Team in Limburg organised all the necessary materials. The Rubicon Express undercarriage is now additionally supported by six “Eibach-Springs“ per vehicle to stabilise the vehicle when it is loaded. The worklight in the garage was visible till late at night and the technicians were working till the last drop of sweat dropped – finally it was done. Friday evening, the vehicles were back on the street, together with their trailers.

    On Saturday noon we headed from Berlim via Frankfurt/Oder towards Poland, where we once more refuelled bio-ethanol from our partner Alcosuisse. The approximately 2,652 litres were delivered just a few days ago to the company “die Werkstatt” where they unloaded the 16 barrels with manual work. Great thanks for the enthusiasm and helpfulness to the men from “die Werkstatt”. Also waiting for the expedition at “die Werkstatt“: 160 litres of ISO HEET, an additive for the bio-ethanol which extracts water from the bio-ethanol and therefore lowers the freezing point. Fully loaded and full of pioneering spirit we turn towards east and the next station in Warsaw.






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    November 08-10, 2008: From Berlin to the border of Belarus

    On Saturday we totally rearranged the loading of F1 and F2 at our accommodation in Berlin. Berthold Wolf, our partner, whose rooftop boxes were at good services for us while loading the material, was also present. What would Matthias do with all of the equipment if he did not have the roof boxes?! In the end, Berthold also attached a spare-windshield on top of the roof box of the F2 – we will still be able to use the Pacwolf-boxes without restrictions. Awesome!

    Our first and at the same time our most important stop on the way to Poland was Frankfurt/Oder. There, we received 3,000 liters of bio-ethanol. The refuelling of the tanks worked out smoothly. This was definitely our last bio-refuelling stop before we reach Alaska! Within three hours all available tanks in the Jeeps and trailers were filled up by using our own hoses and pump. Peter Renè, our camera man, was forced to take an unintentional bio-ethanol shower. He would have had a hard time to explain himself if he had gotten into an alcohol check afterwards – his jacket smelled like alcohol as if he had already celebrated an extensive vodka-party in the early afternoon.

    Around midnight we headed on our way towards Warsaw. During a spontaneous break, F1 and F2, along with its sleeping crew, were standing peacefully next to each other in a parking lot of a polish supermarket for two hours – a much needed time-out for everyone. According to plan and after a smooth drive, we reached Warsaw early Monday morning.

    First of all: Thanks to the fantastic preparations by the German Embassy in co-operation with Hoch-Tief, our stay in Warsaw turned out to be a thoroughly successful experience! Early, but with a prosperous start: Matthias had an appointment with the Polish breakfast TV, at the Rondo Onz – the building in which the press conference, banner exhibition and the presentation of our vehicles was supposed to happen – that was a perfect fit. It was the best location, great atmosphere and high focus on the project. During the press conference, outside, our vehicles drew the attention of the pedestrians. After our contacts in Warsaw signed the cars, we had made plans for photo- and film-shoots in the city. The once completely destroyed but true-to-original rebuilt, wonderful old town is world cultural heritage for a reason. After visiting the castle courtyard and the old town market, the final view from the cultural center above the city was a highlight. We would like to specifically thank the German Embassy and Hoch-Tief for this exceptionally well prepared day.

    On the way to Minsk there was another challenge waiting for us: There should be a trucker-story for the expedition-book at the border to Belarus. “The long wait” is the working title for this chapter. Unfortunately this actually became our motto for the next 24 hours. First, a Polish border official refused to let us continue our journey to Belarus, with the reasoning that our vehicles and its trailers were too big. The second try to pass the border crossing – which was prepared by our team in Limburg – was just as difficult. Suddenly we were told by the Polish border officials that Belarus definitely will not allow us to enter. Pressure and stubbornness of the Polish border officials caused us to find an alternative possibility to cross the border. Thus we decided to try the border crossing for trucks. With this, our Tour de Force just started. With lots of patience and after negotiating for three hours, Matthias succeeded in ensuring our way out of Poland. Despite that the German Embassy and our team in Limburg clarified all formalities beforehand, the A.T.A. Carnets – forms that are supposed to make the customs clearance of our equipment easier and faster – again and again became our crux. The processing of these bulky forms required a lot of time. In this case they were the reason for almost 17 hours of nerve-wracking waiting and back-breaking discussions. Finally, the German Embassy set the process in motion: If it were not standing up for us against the highest level of the Belorussian government agencies, the special authorization for the expedition would have taken even longer. With the best intentions and well-prepared, we reached the Belorussian border – afterwards we drove to Minsk, tired and one day later than planned.

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    November 11-13, 2008: Minsk - Belarus/Russian border - Moscow

    Border crossing asleep

    We had a welcoming start on Tuesday: still feeling the long-lasting border crossing Poland/Belarus, we were all happy to stay the night in Minsk directly in the hotel of the IBB where the press conference took place as well. The employees of the German Embassy and the IBB-Team prepared and oversaw the press conference which proceeded with a simultaneous translator in a well stocked conference hall. The interest of the Belarus media and others was huge and the news propagation was accordingly fast: Already on our way to the Russian border we met a gas station attendant who has just seen a report about us on TV and she was very happy to have us as customers on her gas station.

    After the press conference, Matthias had a discussion about renewable energies with the deputy minister for the environment and his employees. The Department of the Environment spontaneously invited other press representatives to our visit at the National Library. At this event Matthias was able to exchange experiences with another expedition leader: Vladimir Drabo, an expedition-commander from Minsk, who already tried to cross the Bering Strait for four times. He hurried to the National Library to meet Matthias and Evgeny in person, gave our two drivers each a book about his expedition and spontaneously invited Matthias to accomplish an expedition with him – to cross the South Pole. Was this meeting of the two expedition leaders the beginning of a new big project?

    In the afternoon, we had an individual guided tour at the National Library of Belarus, which is a monument of symbolism: The fascinating diamond shaped building is a symbol for the extreme value of knowledge. At the very end of the visitation we found ourself again at the highest point in Belarus, the 74 meters high roof-deck of the impressive library. Enthused by the successful devolution of the day, the interesting conversations and contacts and the wonderful visitation program, we continued our way in the evening towards the Belarus border that we reached at midnight.

    After a short sleeping break we learned, that the Carnets ATA can not be executed till the next morning at 9.00 a.m., so we kept sleeping but forgot to put our watches one hour forward to match them with the Russian time change. We eventually woke up thanks to the knocking of a customs officer at the pane of F1. He took our customs forms to work on them - “sometimes customs clearance runs asleep” is what we thought at that time, being surprised in a positive way. Shortly after that, we got escorted to the main customs office in Smolensk which was about 80 kilometres away. We got the instruction to stop our vehicles in a fenced plot in the courtyard, to lock the Jeeps and to leave this area of the customs property promptly. Behind our backs, the door of the big wire fence snapped in. The vehicles have been secured by Russian customs. Now, at the latest, we knew that this border business would not be an easy matter as well.

    Matthias’ first negotiation result was not really enjoyable: They denied us to enter the country. With intensive support from the German embassy, intervention on highest level and complaisant customs officers, we were able to turn our bad starting position into a border crossing. Even the waiting time for the team and Matthias’ exhausting negotiations made the last two border crossings a stressful matter. At a glimpse: 80 hours, two borders, 30 hours of waiting time. Luckily the expedition’s time schedule has enough planned time buffer for occasions like this!

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