Welcome to Tom and Olly's summer adventure! You've probably already heard how wonderful this trip will be, now you can see for yourself!

This epic journey is part inspired by the Mongol Rally, a group of intrepids who 'race' to Mongolia in very small cars for the thrill of the challenge and to raise money for charity.

We are making our journey unique by not joining the rally and using a bigger car. We thought it would be good to support a Mongolian charity so half the money we raise will go to Mercy Corps Mongolia, which is one of the rally charities.

We are also raising money for a different charity, the Masiphumelele Youth Project in Cape Town. This charity was set up by Shake Seigel and his brother so has a personal tie to our medical school. (For anyone who doesn't know Shake he is a legendary member of the GEM staff!)

Please have a look and give what you can:

Our Justgiving page
More project info at: Masiphumelele Youth Project

We will try and use this blog thing to keep you posted on how we get on. But who knows how we'll get on updating it where we're going...

We have currently raised £350 for the Ubuntu Foundation, and by donating the car expect to raise a few thousand pounds for the Kindergarten for cerebral palsy children in Ulaanbaatar. see goodbye susie for more. (6/9/07)

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Glorious Esfahan

No, not the 80's Latino pop sensation, but the most beautiful city in Iran. Long drives across desolate landscapes, avoiding the traffic hell of Tehran and we finally arrive at the premier destination in this country. The big square lives up the hype. Smoking the quaylan lives up to the hype. The bridges across the river live up to the hype. Walking across the river next to the bridge was fun! The food remains fairly mediocre, but, inshallah, we have yet to suffer from 'the Brads'.

Today is a rest day so we've had a haircut and shave (an experience in itself) and attempted to sort out our stinking laundry. Later we may explore the possibility of entering the hellish world of haggling in an attempt at buying a small Persian carpet, or 'kilim'. Then we're off to Yazd and hopefully the road between the two huge Iranian deserts to Mashhad. Petrol of sufficient quality for Suzy (...the Subaru) is scarce here so we've resorted to lugging huge amounts of petrol in various jerry cans in the boot. The plan is to cross into Turkmenistan on Aug 2nd...

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Axis of Evil...Traffic

Quick post as Tom is waiting to go for a kebab. Well, we made it into Iran. Everyone is very helpful and friendly, except other road users. Traffic here in Tabriz is a joke, which makes us think we might give Tehran a miss. Biggest problem is finding a petrol station that sells "super" unleaded - the regular stuff (which costs about 5 pence a litre) would knacker the car unfortunately. We had to pay $150 at the border so that we can buy 300 litres during our stay. Local are rationed to 100 litres a month! Prayer calls mean I must fly. khoda hafez!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Handbags and Gladrags

Yes a rare appearance from me on the blog, whilst olly has been bloggıng i have been mostly sleepıng! We have made great progress ın the last few days. After vısıtıng the Blue Mosque (and wearıng nıce blue skırts to cover our western legs) and Aya Sofya we we're back on the road. We got past Ankara that nıght and dossed down on a track just off the road, wıthın 5 mıns a local ın a Dacıa had arrıved to make sure we were alrıght, and wıth salaam alaykum dısappeared ınto the nıght!

A slıght detour down to the amazıng landscape of Cappadoccıa took us ınto the vast emptıness of turkey. Turns out most of the ınterıor of turkey we have drıven through has been fılled wıth mountaıns, a surprıse to us! Cappadoccıa boasts loads of weırd chımney type rock stacks and cave dwellıngs where the trogglodıtes lıved. We went 60m down ınto an underground cıty (small tunnels connectıng lıttle bedrooms, storerooms, a school and a church) wıth a very nondescrıpt entrance ın a dusty, quıet and forgotten town. Donkeys and dogs roamed the deserted streets and the houses were all low dusty lıttle boltholes. Although plenty of sıgns of an up and comıng tourıst destınatıon the whole regıon was empty and quıet.

The turkısh roads are largely empty and wıde, usually 2 lanes each way but wıth sectıons of dırt around roadworks. They have been much better than we expected, wıth some of the newer mountaın sectıons beıng ıncredıble wıth empty dual carıageway blastıng you up to 2500m!
We are now ın Erzurum after spendıng the nıght ın a modern sılk road karavansarı and eatıng kebabs and baklava wıth (or watched wıth great ınterest) by the locals. Tonıght we reach the turkey ıran border and hope to cross tomorrow, paperwork permıttıng.
Susıe the subaru has been performıng very well and we have added 3500 mıles to her clock sınce settıng off last week! We hope the occasıonal drınk of oıl wıll keep her sweet. Now ıf only i could fınd the tıme to start my all ımportant trıp dıary...

addendum: Border of Turkey/Iran is called Dogubeyskit, or something similarly unpronounceable. We stayed at a campsite run by a Kurdish family and a retired Dutch psychiatrist(!). They put on a great meal for us and a musical extravaganza culminating in a traditional Kurdish "bobbing" dance. And they weren't even drunk...

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Turkish Delight

Turkish baths are not for the faint hearted. After a meal of lamb shish kebabs Tom and I went to a 400 year old Turkish bath in Istanbul's old town and were promptly beaten senseless by large mustachioed men in the name of personal hygeine. Remarkably, we left feeling refreshed and a damn sight cleaner than when we entered, not surprising considering our previous three days.

After our last post in Budapest we broke for the Romanian border, but darkness beat us to it, meaning that we left Rob in a petrol station a short distance from Hungarian terratorial limits. The latest news is that he kept 24 hours ahead of us and made it to Istanbul in time for his flight home. Well done that man.

Meanwhile, Tom and I stayed in a "thermal baths" campsite near the Hungary/Romania border and then the next day bumbled through Transylvania, involving a stop at Dracula's home town. We spent the night in a campsite outside the city of Brasov and then the next day went to a conveniently discovered Subaru dealer to have the incessant squeaking from the front tires investigated. Typically, when we took the car to the dealer we could no longer get the damn thing to squeak - just like going to the doctors. With a typical shrug of the shoulders, the boss there reassured us that everything was OK, but checked the brake pads anyway and threw a free soda into the bargain - nice guys the Romanians. About five miles later, the squeaking returned. We have decided we will have to live with this for the next 6000 miles.

Yesterday we drove through Bulgaria and their baffling cyrillic road signs. We visited a student town (V. Tarvano?) that is up and coming with British property speculators and then drove through the Shipka pass (a "towering pass", as described by the Lonely Planet) by accident at 11pm, complete with half of Eastern Europe's trucking contingent. The constant hairpin bends and kamikaze overtaking were not good for the nerves, but we eventually made it through and found a tree next to the road to camp down for the night.

Which brings us to today. Uneventful drives to the Turkey border and then to Istanbul, punctuated by a tedious, boiling hot four hours of mayhem at the border, where half the Turkish European diaspora decamped. Coming back to vote in tomorrows all important elections, or simply bringing back goodies for relatives in the motherland? In any case, it made for a deeply unpleasant, sweaty midday, and a new appreciation of the Turkish love of car horns.

Tomorrow - mosques and bazaars, and then on to Cappadocia....

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


Yes, we've arrived in Hungary and it's about 35 degrees Celcius. Or at least, it feels that way.

We picked up Rob Hadman (friend from college) at Dover after a night camped on the side of a country lane. Whizzed through France to Basel where we met Naomi, also from college. Tour of the town which culminated in the obligatory Irish pub and then a night spent in a town park, or the car if you were me. Tuesday meant 500 miles through Switzerland, Germany and Austria, taking in sausages in the Bavarian hinterlands and Schnitzel in Vienna. Vienna looked great by car as we struggled to find a youth hostel, despite the help of a very friendly receptionist at the Vienna Hilton. Naturally the hostel was full, which meant a night in the bushes at a very busy service station between Vienna (actually called Wien) and the Hungarian border.

Just left Tescos(!) which have huge superstores all over Hungary, where we erroneously bought 27 litres of (foul) sparkling water. Still, we have to keep the fluid levels up. About to dump Rob (who for some bizarre reason has to get to Istanbul in under 72 hours) and head for Transylvania, and thence to Bulgaria and Turkey...

Sunday, 15 July 2007

London Calling

Yes. I am still in London.

First problem of the trip - the ABS braking system went kaput before Tom even left Leeds! He phoned me to assure me that "everything's OK", but I remain sceptial. Brakes seem fairly essential on a journey like this.

Current plan is to catch the 7am ferry tomorrow morning from Dover to France somewhere and then make for Basel in Switzerland where our friend Namoi is staying. We don't know where she lives, but I'm sure we'll overcome that trivial obstacle when we arrive. Six degrees of separation in practice.

For those who have been kindly inquiring about the visa situation, we now have all the visas we require except Turkmenistan. Our contact, David in Almaty, Kazakhstan, assures me that if we turn up at the Iran-Turkmenistan border at 11am on August 2nd, his man in the field will have passed on all the relevant documentation to the border guards. Hmmm.

The rest of the visas (Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and China) were obtained by me with no little hassle and stress in a miraculous 15 days, including obtaining "letters of invitation" from a variety of resources and standing around for interminable hours in numerous grim embassies around London. I estimate that I ran up at least £50 in London travel fares alone. The visas themselves cost over four hundred pounds due to the scandalous mark up for same day service or similar, not to mention the "visa support" required for some of these tinpot nations.

So, with that tedious administrative summary over, it just remains for me to bid you farewell until September. Tom has a flight from Ulan Bator back to Blighty scheduled for early September. I have the rather more tricky prospect of having to get to Hong Kong by September 7th where I have a cheap flight home booked. No doubt a nightmarish marathon Chinese 3rd class "hard sleeper" train journey beckons.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Car stuff

Whilst Olly has been chasing up visas i've been readying our chariot for her long journey. I changed lots of different oils, (engine, autobox, front and rear diffs) and the radiator coolant. Just finished fitting a new stereo which means we can take all the cheesy choons we need on a memory chip the size of a stamp! As for paperwork the carnet has been paid for and should arrive soon, insurance ditto and hopefully a green card too. Also been collecting a few other bits and pieces, jerry cans, shackles and a brand new msr stove. mmm! Brake pads tomorrow.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Our Route

About as far as we have got with route planning is deciding which countries to visit as we weave our way eastwards.

They're are 2 main routes to Mongolia. The simpliest goes Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The more interesting goes down through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, then onto Iran and through a collection of previous Soviet satellite states known as the 'stans'. Although the simplest ideas are often the best we chose to go for the second more interesting option. The empty marshy wastelands of southern Russia would no doubt be fascinating but we don't think it can compete with the 'treasures' offered by the Silk Road routes through the middle east. Another factor was the need to visit Iran and find out what really goes on in the place we hear so much about.

The downside with this fantastic route is the need fo many more visas. Many of these require a Letter of Invitation from the country concerned before a visa application can be lodged. It will be a struggle to sort all these before we leave. Luckily Olly has gone to London to start the process off.

We have a car!

Some lucky bidding on ebay means we are now proud owners of a Subaru Legacy. Yes £450 buys a lot of car... Lets hope its well made.

PS For those that care its got a 2 litre flat four petrol engine, automatic gearbox and permanent four wheel drive.