Halfway into our journey through Poland, close to Opole, we suddenly felt a strange vibration in the truck. At first we couldn’t understand what it was, as it was only appearing if we drove above 50 km/h, and only when cornering. But after a stop along the highway we could see what was going on…
The rear right wheel was about to fall off and all of the wheel nuts had come loose. Three of the eight bolts had snapped off. After inspection we discovered that the heavy-duty split rim had suffered some cracks as well. So why had the wheel come loose? The answer was probably a combination of rough road condition and the fact that we had driven all the way from Norway without re-tightening the bolts…
It was an expensive lesson to learn since the rim weren’t exactly cheap and now was broken. This accident also meant that we probably wouldn’t make it to the Ukrainian border before it was closing the next day. Although at the same time we were glad that the problem was fixable, and at the same time we didn’t consider Poland to be the worst European country to be “stuck” in. After all it’s a big country with a lot to see and experience.
After jacking up the truck and re-tightening the five remaining bolts we drove slowly for the nearest Mercedes-Benz workshop in Opole. It was closed during the weekend, and when they opened they couldn’t help us because the didn’t have the right bolts in stock. However, they had contacts at the Mercedes-Benz truck workshop in Wroclaw, and after a short call to make sure they had the parts and time to help us we were on our way to their place. Later that day, the truck was back on the road with the spare wheel attached to eight brand new bolts and nuts.
In Opole, while waiting outside the closed workshop, we had met this lovely Polish couple that had shown interest for our Unimog. We had been talking to them for a while and told their our story, and that we were trying to get to Turkey. Theymade a post on a Polish Facebook group for overlanders/van-builders, and asked if someone could help us. Just after a short while we received several messages from people who wanted to help us. This was all really amazing and completely unexpected.
One of these people was a guy called Christopher living Stary Sacz close to the Tatry Mountains. We figured that if we were going to be stuck for a while, we might as well be stuck in an area with beautiful nature and amazing views.
It turned out that Christopher were running his own business which specialized in converting 4×4 Sprinter vans into capable overland campers. They had some really impressive projects going on with a lot of smart solutions and a high focus on functionality and durability, at the same time as they were focusing on a lot of the small but important details. Please feel free to check out some of his awesome builds via the companies Facebook site; Adventure Van Custom Conversions, we were very impressed of what we saw.
Christopher and his team showed us the greatest hospitality and welcomed us with open arms, in addition to showing us around their business and workshop, they also took us sightseeing in the nearby area and showed us a lot of nice places, which we for sure would never have been able to discover by ourselves.
For instance we got to visit a abandoned mining area, that was now converted into an off-road track. Here we spent a whole day playing around and testing the capabilities of both the Unimog and a 4×4 Sprinter camper. Christopher also managed to snap some cool pics of the Unimog while being in full action.
The days in Stary Sacz flew by, and before we knew it more than a week had passed by. Sadly all of the borders were still closed due to the ongoing pandemic, and it didn’t look as things were to change for the better in the nearest future either.
For each new day that went by, we gradually realized that the possibility of us being able to continuing our journey as planned was becoming less and less realistic. Eventually it was clear for us that we had to decide whether we should try to wait the situation out here in Poland, or if we should try to get back home and postpone our trip until travelling would be possible again. Borders were closing down all over Europe, and soon it might not even be possible to get back home at all with the truck.
The last days before we made up our minds we spent on a quiet isolated riverbed. Although the temperature dropped down to almost -10°C during the night, our well insulated camber box and perfectly working Truma heating system kept us warm and comfortable inside.