The annual pilgrimage for lovers of cars, driving, cryptic questions and great company, also known as the Galleryrally, took place at the end of September. 30 intrepid explorers, in 15 cars, supported by two cluemasters and their plucky marshals began their trip down to San Sebastián on Wednesday 28 September.  This years trip saw teams pit their wits against a new cluemaster and cluemistress, Phil and Emma Balderson who took on planning this year’s route and the questions that guided competitors to their hotels each night and finally saw them arrive in San Sebastián in time for dinner on Saturday 2 October.

This was my second rally, but my first as a competitor and once again it was some of the most entertaining time I have spent in the last 12 months, in fact since the rally in 2015.  Now this either says something about my life, or it demonstrates just how awesome this trip is.

As I said, this was my first time as a competitor of the rally and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.  My companion, Emma and I were assuming we’d spend most of the trip competing for last place, how wrong were we.  In fact on the penultimate day of the rally we were actually in first place, that’s right first!!  Sadly it wasn’t our year and we got beaten by worthy winners (it’s all lies, we’re still gutted) Brexit the Building made up of Simon Webster and Graham Buckle.

For those of you who may not have heard of the Galleryrally allow me to give you an overview of how it works.  As a participant all you know before you leave the island is where you’re aiming for, in this case San Sebastián, but that’s it you know nothing else.  Then each morning you are given a series of cryptic clues and the name and address of the hotel you’re staying in that evening.  Each clue has two parts.  The first tells you where you’re going, this can be as simple as an anagram or more cryptic and the second part will be something you’ll need to find the answer to when you arrive at your destination, this will usually be equally as cryptic.

These two elements mean that you’re not going to just jump off the ferry in St Malo and race down to your final destination in one stretch.  Instead it takes you three days and nights to get to the final stop.  The clues will see you stopping off in some of the most beautiful villages on the way, seeing sights and sites you’ll have previously driven past.  There is always plenty of time to stop off for a nice lunch too.  This year there was also a curfew on arriving back at the hotel and a further challenge when we got back, which meant more time with your fell.  These included an epic plank off and a precision driving challenge, neither of which we won, but all of which we enjoyed.

The marshals are on hand to help you if you’re really stuck and on the whole the other competitors are also keen to ensure you don’t end up at the wrong place too, although some of the more wiley members may try and throw you a red herring occasionally (not mentioning any names… Barnes brothers).  In fact one thing I got to appreciate this year is just how much camaraderie there is amongst the ranks of those participating.  We had a real mix of old hands and newbies who all mucked in to make sure everyone enjoyed their time away.

This year there were a few additional elements to mix things up a little too.  Some excellent social media challenges allowed valuable points to be vied for, check out #galleryrally on Instagram and you’ll be able to see some of the more entertaining ones although I think the naked yoga poses have been removed now. There was also a daily geocache, the retrieving of which always eluded us but gained those that found it valuable points.

Whilst we may not have been crowned the overall winners of this years Galleryrally Emma and I had the most incredible time and were so grateful to everyone that helped to make our experience totally unforgettable and tried to keep us at the top of the leader board.  It’s testament to how good a trip has been when at one point you have to Google and see if you can actually die from laughing so hard #ifyouknowyouknow

We appreciate that to those that may not have heard of the Galleryrally that it just seems like a bunch of people in fancy cars heading off on a jolly and of course there is an element of that, but each year the Galleryrally also raises valuable money for local charities.  This year saw funds being shared between Jersey Hospice and the Silkworth Lodge, the final sum is yet to be totted up but it will be at least £7,500 split between the two of them.

If you’d like to take part in next years rally then sign up at www.galleryrally.com