Student - March 23, 2016

‘You really connect with that car’

Sand in your sandwich, peeing behind a withered bush, painful buttocks from sitting in the car all day. Julia van Oord and Jori Bremer were willing to go through this in order to participate in the 4L Trophy, a French student rally from Biaritz to the Moroccan Marrakesh, in which only Renault 4’s participate.

Both master plant science students have returned after their ten day rally. Jori would not mind if it had been longer. ‘You are with 2400 students who all do the same. So you always have a topic to talk about. It really feels like you are there with 2400 friends.’ Also Julia did not want to return home yet. ‘You have a car, you can go wherever you want. It is quite freeing.’

Highlight of the rally were the four days driving through the desert. Jori: ‘We were a bit nervous for it, could we drive there?’ Finally they found that their 4x4 van version from 1989 was ideal. ‘We could cross everything quite well.’ Julia explains that it was a challenge to constantly keep enough speed and to carry on driving. ‘If a car in front of us got stuck, we were also stuck.’

We always made sure that we were not driving alone, in case we would get lost or the car broke down.

In the desert Julia and Jori had teamed up with two people from Paris who had a reasonable level of English. ‘We always made sure that we were not driving alone,’ says Julia, ‘in case we would get lost or the car broke down.’ And it was more fun. Julia: ‘We would write notes on a whiteboard and hold it against the window while the other passed. They would then write an answer and pass us.’

As expected, the four days of the desert were especially dusty. ‘The sand was everywhere. We received sandwiches for breakfast and with the first bite you already had sand between your teeth. Even in the car there was sand everywhere, we kept the window ajar for the warmth,’ says Jori. Their hair stayed in a ponytail, even without a hair tie. And driving with so much sand was a challenge, Julia said. ‘Sometimes you saw nothing, like thick mist. Especially when also the sun was shining through and your sunglasses were full of dust.’

At a certain point the car had a soul, we even started talking to him.

The Renault 4 had some defects, such as lowering mirrors which Julia and Jori kept on having to push back up again. Also the car sprinklers did not work, so Jori had to throw water from bottles on the windscreen. ‘At a certain point the car had a soul, we even started talking to him,’ says Jori. They named him papi, grandpa in French. ‘You really connect with that car.’ Finally the car made it, although the students had to give him a push in the morning or drive it down a hill because he would not start.

The circumstances along the way were quite primitive. The toilets in the camps were single tents of which the zippers had broken within the first couple of hours, you had to keep it closed with one hand. Along the way peeing was done behind the car. ‘After a while this was no longer an issue,’ Julia said. Also not showering for four days, was fine. Only in the hotel in Marrakesh things were luxury, but Jori and Julia had a hard time with that notion. ‘Along the way we saw a lot of poverty and that hotel was really lavish.’