Sometime ago, postcrossers Andry (aka andry1961) and Maret (aka cerres) from Estonia signed up for the Budapest to Bamako Rally (also known as B2B), and decided to take Postcrossing with them on the trip. What is the B2B, you might ask? It is a bit of a crazy idea! This minimally assisted navigation race from Europe to Africa had its debut in the same year as Postcrossing itself, and celebrates its 17th anniversary in a few days, on December 26. In the rally, participants have to rely on their luck, resources and skills to make their way from Budapest (Hungary) to Bamako (Mali). These days, the rally ends in Freetown in Sierra Leone though, due to instability in Mali. There are no rescue helicopters, tow trucks, translators or guides: between the checkpoints and border crossings, everyone is on their own.
You might be thinking… what does a rally have to do with Postcrossing? 🤔 Well, Andry and Maret are well-traveled postcrossers, and part of their life goal is to visit a post office and send a postcard from every country they travel to… so naturally, they incorporated this mission into their adventure, and offered to share with us a glimpse of what this looks like in some countries along the way.
Although B2B officially started on October 21 in Budapest, for them, it started some days before that in Estonia, their home country. On their way there, they crossed Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, visiting postboxes and post offices along the way until finally reaching Hungary, for the start of the big adventure. Once things officially started, they drove through Slovenia, Italy, Monaco, France, Spain and Gibraltar, on their way to the African continent. We were thankful that their itinerary and schedule allowed a detour through northern Italy, where we were able to meet and cheer them on!
On the evening of October 24th, Andry and Maret made it to Tangier in Morocco, to start the African leg of their adventure the next morning. They prepared for their postcard-sending mission by procuring stamps and postcards in advance, and researching post offices addresses… but it was still a challenge to make it work sometimes, as you will learn!
Using the Travel Mode, they were able to mail some postcards from Morocco, both from Tangier and Marrakesh, without too much difficulty. They tried to always get their postage cancelled with the date stamp, to make sure the postcards were really put on their way, which sometimes meant traveling to a different post office to see it happen. Postage for Europe is 9 MAD (≈ €0.81, roughly the same in US dollars), for the USA is 15 MAD (≈ €1.35), and 16.7 MAD for the rest of the world (≈ €1.5), and the fastest of these postcards arrived in Germany in just 7 days!
They then raced south through the endless desert roads of Western Sahara, a disputed territory with a complicated history that you can learn more about here. Dakhla, the capital city, used to be a fishing town and sits in a curious peninsula that juts out from the mainland. Andry and Maret tried their best to make it to a post office before it closed for the weekend, but every branch of Poste Maroc they visited turned them away, stating they were a bank and not a post office… so this was a tricky mission!
Finally, they were directed towards a mysterious unmarked slot on a corner wall and were reassured by the staff that this was the place to drop their postcards, so that they could then be forwarded to the sorting department and receive their cancellation… What a peculiar setup!
Through conversation with a seller at a copy-and-print kiosk, they realized postcards were not for sale anywhere, as a special permit was required to do so. Since not so many tourists came through there, it wasn’t worth it for the local sellers. It’s a good thing they came prepared! They received some very low Postcard IDs from this rarely visited territory (the lowest was EH-14), and the fastest postcard sent from there arrived in the Netherlands in just 12 days. The mysterious slot did its magic!
Onwards to Mauritania! On the way to the capital Nouakchott, Andry and Maret’s van got stuck in the desert sand… but luckily a team from Lithuania came to their rescue! Maret writes that the participants in the rally are all very supportive of each other. In the capital, they chose a hotel in front of the post office, to make things easier.
When they got there, they realized the country had gone through a monetary reform in 2018, which moved a decimal point in their currency… and meant that all the stamps they had bought before leaving home (which were from 2017) were now invalid. 😔 They bought some new stamps, wrote their postcards… but in the meantime the post office had closed, and they ended up mailing their postcards from the mailboxes outside, along the busy street. This is when they realized the post office was guarded by armed forces at night, so their postcards had a police escort! The postage prices were similar to those in Morocco, 440 ouguiya (≈ €1.12) for Europe and 550 ouguiya (≈ €1.40) for mail to the USA.
There are still a few countries left in Andry and Maret’s grand adventure, but this post is already very long… so we’ll save those for a part 2 of this report. Stay tuned for more, and let us know what you think!