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)

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


So we've been in UB for three days now, and still not really seen anything apart from a smattering of restaurants and bars. This place has an unexpectedly cosmopolitan range of eateries, which we've been taking full advantage of. There's also the daily ritual of hanging out at Dave's Place on the main square waiting for the Mongol Rally stragglers to limp in (usually very, very noisily). The state of some of the cars arriving has to be seen to be believed, and we've taken ample photos for your future viewing pleasure.

So what now? Tom is kicking his heels until his flight home next Tuesday on the dodgy Russian carrier, Areoflot. I have a rather unpleasant 34 hour train/bus combo to Beijing on Thursday evening, and then a 24 hour train on Monday down to Hong Kong where I have the pleasure of more bureaucracy as I sort out my ID card problems. Then back to Blighty and we'll upload our photos to my Flickr account for you to peruse at your leisure...

But what of the car I hear you cry? Well, we're slowly getting in contact with the delightfully named Enkhbaatar somewhere in downtown UB who will take Suzy off our hands in the next few days. It will be a tearful departure as she has served us admirally. Hopefully she'll raise plenty of money for the orphan's charity, and not end up in the Big E's private fleet of vehicles...

Sunday, 26 August 2007

End of the Road

Ulaan Baator. 10,855 miles, six weeks, sixteen countries and only one puncture. Mongolia has been one huge rallying track, so it was fortunate, and fun, that we were in a Subaru. God bless the clever chaps at Fuji Heavy Industries. Anyway, I'm off for a much needed shower and beer, and maybe even a spot of laundry and a haircut...

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Mongol Madness

Olgiy, Western Mongolia. It's cold, overcast and raining and the town looks incredibly grim and Soviet. On the other hand, it's an absolute miracle we're even here!

The drive from Almaty to Semey was 1000km of grim determination. The road got steadily worse and worse, so much so that a couple of guys we know in a Suzuki jeep managed to lose their wheel and axle on the road. Two days and we crawled into the grim Soviet town of Semey, famous for hosting an exiled Dosteyevsky and being affected by radiation from nearby nuclear bomb testing. The next day we broke for the border and it wasn't half as bad as we expected, meaning that we got to Barnaul, Russia in time for tea. In fact, we met up with a couple of other cars from the Mongol Rally and went out for a boogy at the local dive, "Africa", which was something to behold.

800km to the Mongolian border in two days, and what a drive. Everyone was expecting Soviet hell and bleak, dystopian landscapes, but in fact it was an amazing, Alpine landscape with a superb road. Turns out that the Altai region is a popular holiday destination for Siberians, and with good reason. It was easy to imagine you were wending your way through Switzerland or Austria.

Russian border at midday yesterday, and just in time for their two hour lunch. As a result, a queue formed, with at least ten British cars turning up, from Suzuki jeeps to a Citroen 2CV and a Morris Minor. Spirits were high, which was just as well, because we didn't get through to the massive 20km "no-mans land" until 4pm and then not through the rather disorganised Mongolian border until 6pm. Still, it meant plenty of time to swap tales, spot kites and marmots and play frisbee and football with the local kids.

Then, an early camp and instant nosh and a night under the stars, well, clouds. We're at over 2000m here so it's cold and there's occasional sprinkles of snows on the higher hills. We've already experienced curious locals driving/cycling/riding over to investigate the strange tents being erected in their backyards, and their ability to stand around watching us for hours as we cook, eat and drink whatever's at hand. Mongolian itself is a challenge, and we haven't even mastered "thank you" yet, which appears to require an ability to speak as if one is chewing on potatoes whilst simultaneously clearing your throat. Perhaps this is what enables the locals to perform the famed "Mongolian throat singing".

Which brings us to today. Up early and then point the car in a South Easterly direction and choose the nearest track. And it's as simple as that! The car is still holding together and of course, it turns out that you can get 90+ octane petrol here, so we're lugging 130 litres of the stuff in our back seats for no real reason. Still, it might still come in handy if we're snowed in somewhere!

So, Ulaan Baator in five or six days we reckon, and if the worst comes to the worst, there's a rumour we can be towed there for a hundred dollars. Then again, we've heard a lot of rumours on this trip...

Ba yar tai!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Anodyne Almaty

An amazing few days next to Kyrgyzstan's two major lakes, Issyk Kul and Song Kul, spent in Yurts and riding horses and going on short hikes. Beautiful alpine scenery and dodgy roads and a very remote border crossing this morning into Kazahkstan means that we're now in the expensive city of Almaty, and just shy of 8000 miles on the trip so far!

There's a lot of money about as evidenced by the huge numbers of German cars and huge 4x4s everywhere, and we've yet to find a cheap hotel to stay for the night. Currently in a very Western mall and planning to find the nightclub with the indoor go-kart track this evening. Then, north to Russia and then the Mongolian border, assuming it's open at the weekend, and that there's decent petrol in the region...

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Krazy Kyrgyzstan

Just my two pennies worth as we prepare to visit the famous lakes of Kyrgystan.

Iran got wearing - the heat, lack of beer and women shuffling around in black tents. It leaves you drained after a week, so we were excited to move on to the 'stans.

Turkmenistan. A fascinating place, but possibly in my top three worst places I've ever been to, including Derby. Obstructive officialdom (a five dollar fine near the border for "playing loud music whilst driving"), the blatant chasm between the rich and the poor (who are clearly the model for the "Sand people" in Star Wars) and the general atmosphere. Admittedly, we didn't get to meet many real Turkmen, and the women looked lovely in their traditional gowns - a welcome change from Iran, but I'm in no hurry to go back.

Uzbekistan. The bloody police in this country. They're sat by the side of the road every kilometre with their ridiculous orange batons that they use to flag you down to inspect your documents or try and fine you. We got done for speeding - and paid the guy off with a one pound coin! The famous cities were nice, but getting out of the country wasn't. We turned what should have been a straightforward 30km drive to the border into a 9 hour marathon of getting lost in a restricted area, chats in the local police station about who were were and what we were doing, and finally being let through the border at 4am, only to discover that the Kyrgyz weren't going to let us in until 6am. A couple of uncomfortable hours in the car in no mans land and then we were finally through!

Kyrgyzstan. One of the highlights of the trip so far. Big mountains, high passes, nomads and hardly a policeman in sight. The road to Bishkek was amazing both in quality and in the sheer engineering as we wended our way through mighty valleys and past large lakes and dams. A night camping on a meadow high in the hills meant that finally our cold weather gear was required, and thank god we brought it! Currently in Bishkek, but we're going to spend a few more days here in the countryside and hopefully staying with nomads. The Mongol Rally people we've met are mostly bombing it all the way to Ulan Bator where they have a black tie do arranged for the 19th, but it seems a shame to rush now we're here. So, off to eat sheeps eyes and intestines with the locals...

Queen of the Slipstream

Unlike our posts on here our travels have continued. Although plenty internet has been available we haven't been able to get on this site and actually post until now. anyways:

We left iran after crossing 900km of baking desert in a day and battled with traffic and pilgrims in mashad. From there we enter the strange world of turkmenistan. We toured this place with a russian women who was very keen to explain as much as she could about the history of this bizarre place, we weren't quite so enthralled! More to follow on the king of countries to never return to!

Uzbekistan felt a bit more civilised and slightly more free, but still scores of police on every corner. We drove into Bokhara, promptly got lost down some tiny back alleys and arrived at the nearest thing to a tourist trap we'd seen since istanbul! We met up with some rally cars at last and had a few beers with 2 teams. Both had started with suzuki jeeps, unfortunately one had perished in germany and the other had battled through repairs to reach bokhara and beyond! To those and all who started the trip with sj's we salute you!

We had a great time chilling around Bokhara with those guys, unfortunately here olly suffered a bout of 'the runs' and was laid low for a day. We moved on in convoys to mythical Samarkand, where we met up with more teams, a few micras, a london cab, ice cream van and a polo! Great to hear all their stories and vent our frustrations about the obstructive turkmen!

Next it was up to Tashkent (we had an unpleasant arrival to this sprawl in the dark and when we eventually found our place to stay and went to town to eat it was too late and we found nothing!) Beautiful drive down through uzbek to Andigan and the border at Osh. Here the fun continued, we must have taken a few wrong turns because we arrived at what we thought was the main border but turned out to be a minor local crossing point in this sensitive region. By this time it was about 10.30pm and the police had no idea what to do with us. We we escort miles away to a police headquarters and waited around some more. Passed gangs of men weilding clubs around some trucks, and my new co driver (some local chancer who owned a minimarket) told me it was 'contraband'! After whiling away a few hours trying to explain the mongol rally to some police chief we got directions to the real border. By then it had closed and we passed out of uzbek at about 2am to wait in no mans land until the kyrgiz border opened at 6. This effort was rewarded later in the day with a beautiful mountain road up through kyrgizstan. This place is really amazing, beautiful lakes and mountains. Camped out on the nomad pastures on the way here with Rob and Phil in the sj. Stunning to be up in the mountains at last. Today we leave the trodden rally route as they rush to their party in ulan bator on the 19th and we take a scenic detour to lakes Issyk Kul and Sol.