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Back to Les taking us around the world in his own words Part 4
Driving around the Nurburgring was a day and an experience I will never forget. But now it's Wednesday April 3rd and we're on our way to Brenshiem, Suzuki European Headquarters. We'll receive a cheque on behalf of Save the Children, from the European Marketing Manager. We'll also do our bit for their P.R team to take some pictures. The guys at Suzuki really made us welcome. Formalities completed and lunch at the company restaurant, we were on the road again at about 3.00pm, we had a 770 mile drive to Gdansk.
I had arranged to meet the retired President of Poland, Lech Walesa, on the 5th at 11am at his office in the centre of the city. The journey to Gdansk seemed to go on for ever, we were short on time so had to drive long hours to get there on time. We arrived at Leipzigat around 9.00pm for our overnight stop and were ready for food and sleep. The following morning, Thursday 4th, we were up and on the road at 7.30am and expected to reach Gdansk by 8pm. Everything was going fine, cars were running nicely, Roland and Keith were driving LC03 and I was driving LC02 with Tom in the left hand seat.
Being together in the car for long periods of time, I tried to get into discussion with Tom and talk about various topics but found it difficult to get a sensible conversation going, resulting in long periods of silence. I would look across at him from time to time, he had a sort of blank look as though he was away with the fairies!
During the course of the morning, travelling along a new four lane motorway, suddenly we came to a maze of a road junction, roads going in all directions. I saw Roland and Keith drive off on a road to my right, but I was committed to the road I was taking. Both roads went to Gdansk, but it turned out that Roland and Keith ended up on the new road and I was on the old road. We spoke over the radio and decided to continue and would meet at the Hotel later. Being split up is not an ideal situation from a safety point of view but we decided to go with it. We had TomTom G.P.S in both cars but to be on the safe side, I had asked Tom the cameraman to help me when he was not filming, by reading the map to make sure that we kept on the right road, this arrangement didn’t work out too well as it turns out he wasn’t any good at map reading!
The old road turned out to be mainly a wide single lane in each direction for 450 miles. That day we experienced freezing rain, ice, snow, and fog. There were holes and cracks everywhere. The standard of driving from the other road users was atrocious. To get ahead, drivers would overtake a line of bumper to bumper moving traffic going in the same direction, when vehicles came from the other direction they would just turn into the cars being overtaken to create a space, who in turn would be pushed on to the hard shoulder. This sort of driving made the traffic slow and our eventual late arrival at Gdansk. That day went down in my diary as one of the worst driving experiences of the journey. I had driven 12 hours that day, and towards the end of the journey struggling to keep my eyes open, the man next to me was snoring his head off. It didn’t help me when I was fighting to keep my eyes open. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at Gdansk.
The next day, Friday 5th March day 6, was an important day for me. For the past year I had been trying to make contact with the offices of Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia and Lech Walesa of Poland, so that I could arrange to meet them as we travelled. I can hear you saying, you told us about this in an earlier article, and that would be right, but please bear with me, I won’t dwell on it too long. I kept beavering away with emails trying to find out where these people were located, so I could correspond, very difficult when you never get any response. Many times I felt like giving up, but I’m pleased I persevered, because the reward was fantastic, and proved the people who said I would never do it, wrong. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I was so determined to meet Mikhail Gorbachev, I talked Vi in to having a long weekend in Moscow to meet up with a Russian interpreter who I was trying to talk into joining us when we drive through Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. I also thought I would have an opportunity to have a look around while there, and if I got lucky and found Gorbachev’s house I would knock on the door and see what happens.
As it happened I found out where the man lived but the security wouldn’t allow me anywhere near the place, so that was that. It turned out that he was in Berlin at the time anyway, perhaps that’s where we should have gone.
I never did get anywhere with meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, but we had more luck with retired Polish President Lech Walesa’s office. They agreed to a meeting 10.30am 5th April, and here we were standing outside the building that housed his top floor office, I just had to stand there for a while to take it all in, and compose myself ready for the meeting. At this point I had a discussion with Tom the cameraman to explain how important it is to get best from the filming, and in particular I need a still picture of Roland , Keith and myself shaking hands with Lech Walesa. When the time came to take the picture, and in the confusion, I didn’t notice that Tom had passed my camera to someone else to take it, so he could be in the picture. The only picture we have for the book of Roland Keith and myself with Lech Walesa has our cameraman in it. We can probably put it right with some picture wizardry, but I was then thinking that from now on I will have to keep a serious eye on the cameraman and the filming......... to be continued