Mongol Saga Episode II – The Arrival
Here’s an abridged version of the journal I’ve been writing out every night after wandering around Germany with Team Great Job!
Our first day began Thursday at nine in the morning in San Diego, driving up to Los Angeles, eating a last American meal of Tri-Tip sandwich with baked beans and fries, and playing with dice in the airport terminal. Surprisingly a bag of peanuts was overkill on the marathon flight – something like 16 hours – which was filled with decent meals, copious beverages, painful sleeping, waking up with dead legs and cottonmouth, and only one trip to the bathroom about two hours before landing at Dusseldorf International. For topical in-flight reading I chose Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, a novel about a man reciting his life story into the black box of a doomed jetliner. Waiting for Anja, our host Ryan met through Couch Surfing, storm clouds darkened the murals of Dusseldorf. Hoisting our bags over our shoulders, she led us to her apartment in time to watch the lightning from her balcony. With the meager sleep on the flight our day didn’t really end until 11 at night on Friday, about 40 hours after we began our travels from San Diego.
Anja, a German college student living in Dusseldorf, has been our gracious host and even went with us early on Saturday to a car dealership to translate some promising leads. The rest of the day left us less optimistic, however, as we walked for miles and miles to visit various used auto export dealerships without finding a vehicle to meet Mongol Rally requirements – small, cheap and less than ten years old.
It being Independence Day yesterday, I should note that the only acknowledgement of our American holiday was a man dressed as the Statue of Liberty in Main Station. But despite the local Germans being so unabashedly un-American, the Rhine was swelling with celebration that night. We weaved through drinking teams matched in costumes, some wearing antennae, others wearing sillier outfits. A man jumped in the river and then walked around sopping wet, collecting Euros from passersby. Anja and her roommate went to Cologne for the night so we checked into the only nearby hostel that wasn’t full, a comfy place but at 25 Euros a person not a sustainable option. We slept like rocks last night.
More searching and miles filled our day today. We sacrificed 4.40 Euro on plain croissants before discovering the complimentary breakfast. We gorged ourselves on corn flakes with boxed milk, bread with jam, yogurt, salami, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs in the small metal holder I’ve seen but never used before.
The rest of the day was not as encompassing as breakfast. It was hours in a small cyber cafe with one pigeon sneaking in the back door until we could hear it pacing the aisle behind the computer terminals as its feet went click click click. I took a nap in the courtyard, moving when the sun emerged behind a building, then moving again when the sun made a little more progress. Then it was hours in Main Station, waiting for word from Anja – the four of us had different impressions of whether our welcome was worn out or not. To our surprise she is letting us stay until we find a car. At the station I felt asleep sitting in a chair and woke up with my leg a tingling mass of inanimate flesh.
Michael, Bones and I had pizza down the street for a late dinner on a deserted Sunday evening – it was a surprise to find most shops closed throughout the day. The pizza was delicious and the Indian restaurant owner couldn’t help but mention Arnold Schwarzeneggar before we left.