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"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.

(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 12:34)
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The Mongol Rally
The object of the Mongol Rally is to get from London (or Barcelona or Milan) to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, in a car with an engine capacity less than your kettle. That’s not just a funny turn of phrase, it’s absolutely true. There are two fundamental rules – you must raise £1000 for charity, and your car engine must be less than 1200cc (although exceptions are made for vehicles of significant comedy value). Gumball Rally? Pah! In this rally, there is no backup, there are no pit crews and there are definitely no supercars. In this age of international air travel and package holidays, even adventure tours are tightly controlled affairs where things rarely go wrong, and your wits and resilience are never really tested. Top sportsmen, seasoned travellers and successful businessmen will tell you that your greatest achievements come when you truly challenge yourself. Therefore, it is obvious that driving thousands of miles in a car spectacularly unsuitable for the job will constitute the greatest achievement of all mankind ever.

So, a bid to actually inject some adventure into this spectacularly boring, conventional and insipid life I lead, I spent a month last summer driving from London to Ulaanbaatar in a Fiat Punto. I booked my place on this rally before even passing my driving test, I was that desperate to do it. On the way, we had many great moments, scary and fun, made friends for life and friends for five minutes, experienced different cultures, people and more fucking bureaucracy than I can possibly describe.

Highlights included:
1) Getting lost for several hours in just about every city we went through. In L'viv in Ukraine we got stopped by some police curious about our car. They gave us directions and were very surprised to see us driving past again ten minutes later.
2) Having a massive party in Klenova castle in the Czech Republic with about 1000 other ralliers.
3) Getting a speeding fine in the Czech mountains (96kph in a 50 zone... whoops) which we still haven't paid.
4) Doing a 22-hour journey from Krakow to Kiev including the wonderful sight of seeing someone face-down in the road, skull open, dead, with a motorbike broken in half, bits and pieces all over the road and his helmet about 50 feet away.
4) The Mamaev statue at Volgograd, and the accompanying Stalingrad Memorial.
5) Cracking our sump on a rock in Kazakhstan. After several hours of trying to fix it in a Kazakh farmyard we gave up. Two of the other guys went to the nearest town to find a towtruck - which they did. They got us on the back. We asked whether we could get in the cab with the drivers. They said no, there's only two seats, so get back in the Punto and put your foot on the brake... after a rather hair-raising journey we got to a garage at about 12:30. The tow guys took all ten of us out for a meal and when we got back to the garage at 3am the car was fixed! Total cost: £100. Try getting that sort of service in Britain.
6) Losing a card game the night before and having to wear chicken suits all day.
7) Finding wild-growing weed all over Kazakhstan (never uploaded these pics though - my grandparents might have seen them!).
8) The Russian border guard being very perturbed by our powdered milk. Hint: Don't take white powder across the border if you can help it. Or look horrified and quickly go "moo, moo!" if you can't.
9) Having our spare tyres and wheels nicked at the Mongolian border.
10) Driving through some of the most beautiful, unspoilt, remote scenery in the world.
11) Dust trails!
12) Our car eventually dying halfway through the Gobi Desert. Its final resting place.

Oh... and having forgotten arguably the two scariest moments...
13) getting caught in a lightning storm in the middle of a field in the Ukraine. We'd set up camp and were watching the pretty forks happening on the horizon miles away, having a beer, blah blah, hmm, the wind's getting up innit? Oh, the lightning's getting nearer... oh FUCK IT'S COMIN' RIGHT FOR US QUICK PACK UP SHIT SHIT CRAPFUCK. We didn't sleep much. I think the closest fork hit the ground about 200 yards away.
14) We stopped in a bar the night after the lightning. Had a few drinks and swapped stories. Planning to sleep in the cars in the car park, and the owner turns up at closing time. We have fun! His friend then turns up. His friend is not as fun. His friend starts being aggressive. His friend makes a phone call and is still being aggressive. The night is not as much fun any more. A large car then turns up and four large Russians get out. We take this as our cue to leave. We pack up even quicker than we did the night before. We drive off, drunk, down pitch-black roads in a country where the drink-drive limit is zero and the prisons are not exactly hospitable. A car overtakes us, swerves and brakes. We fucking panic, swerve round as quickly as possible and drive off again. It overtakes AGAIN, swerves AGAIN and brakes AGAIN. We are now convinced that someone is trying to kill/rob/rape us and we swerve and drive off in an even greater panic, turn all our lights off and try to lose them. We succeed, park the car, and wake up in a rubbish tip.

Length? 7000 miles or thereabouts. There's more details on our team website including a vague route map, and a geotagged map along with hundreds more photos on my Flickr page for anyone who's interested.

PS: If anyone insinuates that I did this because of Jack Osbourne I will murder your spouse, your pets and any pot plants you might have.
(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 18:37, 11 replies)
Apart from that fleeting moment when I thought a Mongol rally was some sort of sick race involving piggy backs and a special needs school (a thought which probably says more about me than you I imagine) I am suitably in awe of you sir. Jealous. Have a click for epic scale alone.
(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 19:03, closed)
I would click, but you probably only did it because of Jack Osbourne.
Nah, sounds cool, click! ;P
(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 19:11, closed)
A mate was on the rally that Jack Osbourne did
He swears blind that Jack went with several cars and a whole support team.
(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 19:13, closed)

That sounds like fun.
(, Fri 23 Apr 2010, 16:44, closed)
Fucking brilliant
Well done that man/those men.
(, Sat 24 Apr 2010, 2:39, closed)
Meh, I did that in 2006
in an FSM Syrena, before this ten-year-old rule came in. And when it was only 1000cc ;)

Awww, pshaw, I'm just jealous of you for getting to the end. Monstrously fun times all round.
(, Sun 25 Apr 2010, 19:39, closed)
Had a read of that and I can imagine how horrified you must have been. The various moments when our car nearly died were heart-stopping.

As for the ten-year rule, I was gutted when that came in (after we'd booked our place). It upped all the costs and took part of the adventure away. Incidentally me and my team-mate got to the end about four hours apart, having not seen each other for four days previously after our car properly died in Altai city and we had to get lifts with other teams!
(, Mon 26 Apr 2010, 15:22, closed)
I got as far as Kazakhstan
hitched a ride with various other teams who'd lost crew members or needed someone mechanically competent on board, then came back with another team. Those convoy cars were: 1979 Fiesta 1.1, an old Fiat 126p, a Skoda S110 and a 3-litre Ford Granada hearse. Good times.

I'd like to build my own Soviet rally.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 7:53, closed)
What an awesome story mate!
I know a guy who has done a few of these types of rallies, tempted to give one a go myself.
(, Mon 26 Apr 2010, 23:13, closed)
Oh hello,
I did this in 2007. Best experience ever, and not unlike yours. We (convoy of 4 cars) went the Western-Northern mountain/swamp/landslide route instead of the Gobi route once we reached Tsagaanuur and pretty much carried a Mini and a Polo to the finishing line. The Micras made it no problem. Damn Micras.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 15:38, closed)
we were
too scared really and didn't have enough time or cash. I really shouldn't have gone, I skipped five weeks of my PhD study and haven't really got back to it since...
(, Thu 29 Apr 2010, 2:03, closed)

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