Having once again arrived late at the camp site after enjoying the good food and company in Seegatterl the previous evening we woke to a another glorious day in our final objective of Berchtesgaden. The scenery was stunning and the surrounding hills seemed to carry on as far as the eye could see. This being the final (official) day of the rally it was amazing to see that all the vehicles which started the rally had made it to the end. Many like us had nursed their cars around Europe and now that the end was in sight it was like a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders. That, coupled with the amazing change in weather we had been enjoying meant that we would certainly enjoy the final 9.7 miles of the rally up to the Kehlsteinhaus, more commonly known as Hitlers Eagle’s Nest. Not that those few miles would be easy as the road up to Obersalzberg was particularly steep and winding meaning that quite a lot of the joking over the CB radio was that of smoking engines, clutches and gearboxes!
Given that the road to the Eagles ‘Nest has been closed to normal traffic since 1952 it was necessary for all the teams to park in the bus station car park, have some brunch and catch 1 of the 6 buses up to the top. Like a scene from the Italian Job the 6 buses made the 15 minute journey fly by with the views out of the windows getting increasingly more impressive the further up the winding road we travelled. At the top it was time for a pat on the back for everyone as the rally finally came to an end. Just like the men of the 101st Airborne back in 1945 we had reached our final objective. Before we entered the Eagle’s Nest properly it was time for a celebratory photograph!
The journey up to the nest involved a walk 400 feet into a marble lined tunnel bored into the heart of the mountain before taking the original brass lined lift a further 400 feet straight up into the building itself. Now a privately run restaurant, it was easy to see why the German Nazi party gifted this building to Adolf Hitler for a 50th birthday present as the views were absolutely breathtaking and the tranquility must have been truly amazing. Although amazing I couldnt help feeling that some of the prestige had been removed from the building now it was a thriving restaurant. Much of the building had now been turned into staff offices, kitchens and storerooms with only a few of the original rooms remaining. Those familiar with the archive photo and film footage would still recognise the grand fireplace and large functions rooms still in use today by diners. After a good look around and a trip to the rocky outcrops for the all important tourist pictures it was time to enjoy more superb German food and beer in celebration of our epic journey!
After all the pictures were taken and our bellies filled it was time to retrace our steps in the elevator and tunnel to get back to the crazy buses! Now the rally was over it was every man, woman and child for themselves and the freedom this gave us was really quite strange. After being told where to go and when to be there with a set of roadbooks to guide us, this freedom felt quite unnatural and left us feeling a little lost! That said, the car hadn’t quite finished with its surprises just yet and refused to start due to an immobiliser fault. We werent the only team in trouble though as the team parked behind us couldn’t get going due to a flat battery. So here we were, relying on me to start our car in order to jump-start them and being foiled by a small piece of Land Rover technology! As is always the case with electronics faults I put my years of RAF technician training to good use by swearing, yelling, kicking and much turning on and off to eventually clear the fault. With both cars started it was time to return to camp for some sunbathing and to ready ourselves for the prize giving dinner planned for the evening.
The prizegiving dinner itself gave all the rally crews the chance to finally relax and have a good chat about their experiences. Having spent 10 days together it was strange to meet people that we hadn’t really spoken to during the busy days before and many stories were shared about the reletive merits of particular days or places.
With the tables full of food it was time to finally find out how well we had done on the challenges faced by us over the course of the rally. Prizes were up for grabs for the 1st, 2nd & 3rd place teams in varoius categories including serving military, ex service, civillian and of course the overall rally winner. Being the competetive kind of souls that we are, we had been checking our progress on the results lists which had been displayed a the rally main control every evening. Since the rally start we had been no higher than 9th and at one point dropped as low as 17th in the daily standings but we were confident we would end up somewhere in the top 15 teams overall. When the results for the familiy category (of which there were 6 teams) were read out, much to our surprise and disbelief, it turned out that we had done enough to win! Given our problems with the cooling system on the car during and before the rally the phrase ‘And they said they’d never make it’ certainly made the win even more sweet as we collected our 1st place trophy. If we didn’t have enough reason to celebrate before, we did now!
Overall, we ended up 11th out of the 43 teams who started the rally, not bad for novices with a poorly car. Just think of how well we could have done if we actually knew what we were doing! Other prizes were awarded for the ‘Spirit of the Event’ which went to the Series Team who took part in a less than luxurious Series 2 Land Rover and the highest sponsorship money raised went to Team Rockape who managed a staggering £17,219.18 for H4H. Another 2 teams received awards for raising over £10,000 during their fundraising activities. We felt justifiably proud of our 4th place in the sponsorship race with £8,482.92 in the pot in just 6 months. This all went towards the overall rally total which currently stands at £150,880.21 making everyone justifiably proud of their efforts both on the rally and in the months of fundraising prior to it. At the end of the day, although the rally was fun, its main aim was always going to be raising money for Help for Heroes in order that they can continue to support our wounded troops.