“We call it holiday”

The Europa Orient Rally: 7,000 kilometres for a good cause

For most people, the perfect holiday looks somewhat like this: It starts with the holiday flight to the south, somewhere where it is warm. The beach and the sea should be there, of course. A nice all-inclusive hotel and relaxing living during the day. Wonderful, right? For Hendrik Beckmann, that is a true horror scenario.

Because Hendrik, who works as an experimental engineer with us in Ennepetal, loves to holiday the hard way. This year, the enthusiastic backpacker took part in the Europa Orient Rally for the first time. A rally which really has it all. Starting from France, 30 teams and approximately 90 cars travelled over 7,000 kilometres to Jordan in May of this year. Particularly in the last stages, the route is mainly over stony ground, which is lethal to equipment, and over desert routes. According to regulations, only cars which are a minimum of 20 years old or cars which are cheaper than 1,000 Euro are registered exclusively. In order to make the whole event really exhausting, toll routes and motorways were to a large extent prohibited.

The number of stars, which the accommodation offered, may only be asked by the tourist inclined to package holidays. The number couldn’t have been many, because you are only allowed to spend the night in the car, in the open air, in a tent brought along or in hotels which cost not more than 11.11 Euro (!) per night and person on average.

“With such key data, it is of course difficult to get enough like-minded people together” said Hendrik smiling. Nevertheless, he ultimately found five other, similarly-inclined companions. There was quick unison on the name for the team “Tried and Rusted”. In addition: “Whatever the rust”. They have a sense of humour! And it is needed too, if you are to spend three and a half weeks travelling mile after mile on sticks, stones and sand. All in all, the team members chose their cars wisely: An Audi A6, year of manufacture 1995, an old Mercedes E-Class and an even older 190 Diesel, offered a lot of space and quite reasonable comfort.

From Austria, Hendrik and his team selected the southern route via Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and finally Greece and Turkey. Finally, the route led to Jordan via Israel. Nevertheless, it is not only pure driving which is at central focus in the privately organised Europa Orient Rally. On the way from France to the Orient, various charitable projects were supported. In addition, children homes and schools were alerted in order to distribute satchels and give a little attention to the pupils.

Because navigation equipment was prohibited and navigation by means of road book and map material did not prove so simple, the teams had to ask for directions again and again. “We communicated with the locals using our hands and body language” reveals Hendrik. “Regardless of where we got out, we were always greeted with a smile. We could almost never carry on because a cluster of people formed immediately around our cars and we were always invited by people, regardless of whether in Turkey or Jordan. All people whom we encountered were insanely helpful”.

Without this readiness to help, many rally participants would possibly not have managed to get to the final destination. 7,000 kilometres, partially on non-compacted road, simply take its toll. Hendrik can quote chapter and verse: “At first, we had, in fact, comparatively few problems. OK, with the Mercedes 190, the rear brakes failed, and when you have to change a slashed tire with a flat tire right in the middle of the desert, that of course is not an optimal situation”.

But it was in the last stage that the greatest challenge awaited Hendrik and his team colleagues. “In Jordan, things were really exciting once more. We drove for three days across the desert, over stones, as pointed and sharp as glass. The equipment really suffered in particular there”. The team had to write off the Mercedes Benz E-Class because of a stone piece which had lodged comfortably in the oil pan.

There was comparable stress when the team had to find its way across the desert in the pitch black of night – the A6 with only another three intact tires and the damaged E-Class on the towing hook. “After all, we always knew in which compass direction we had to go” tells Hendrik. “To be honest, I really was at the end of my tether for a while. But that is not a solution. Let’s put it this way: You are happy when at last you encounter a road once again”. However, they overcame this and mastered the rally successfully.

On arrival at the destination by the Dead Sea in Jordan, all cars of the participating teams were auctioned off for a good purpose. This year, the net earnings went to the Jordanian Foundation “Gift of Live Amman”, which enabled cardiac operations for small children whose families could not afford the procedure.

Whether he would like to go through this torture again? “Definitely” Hendrik is convinced. “What really impressed me in fact was that we were received everywhere with open arms. The hospitality of the people totally overwhelmed me.”

The Europa Orient Rally, of course, also takes place next year. Whoever wants to swap their all-in inclusive holiday for a genuinely adventure holiday, can register here.

Bilstein newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter, select the topics you're interested in and never miss hot news again.