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)

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Big Thank You!

Now we are back safely its time to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us on our way. We've had great support from family, friends, and everyone we've met on our travels. We've both had an amazing time, and feel privileged to have been able to travel through this special part of the world. Equally importantly we've raised hundres of pounds for the Ubuntu Foundation and hope the car wil sell for a few thousand to help the sick children of Ulaanbaatar.

Special thanks go to KT Green Subaru for generously giving 2 wheels and tyres at very short notice, Robbie for his GPS, Rob for entertaining us from the backseat, the RAC for arranging our Carnet so quickly, all of you that donated money online and finally Subaru for making such great cars! Thank you all.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Chinese Addendum

Yes, not technically in a Subaru, but certainly to one of the most important destinations on the Silk Road - Beijing.

Train to China was fine. I turned up roaring drunk after a day on the Chinggis Khan vodka, courtesy of our Mongolian benefactors, to find I was sharing my four bunk compartment with a family of Hong Kong Chinese living in Shanghai. They insisted in talking in English the whole time, with strong American accents, and I amused them with my ludicrous Turkmen hat (well, afro really) and tales of derring do across the continent, which I'm not sure they believed. The next day found me nursing a horrid hangover and of course, it was once we got to China that all the trouble started.

The transition from the train to the sleeper bus went surprisingly smoothly, but the news an hour later that we all had to get off because this bus was "going nowhere today" was less surprising. An American with his wife and young daughter really lost his cool and there was a collective reluctance amongst most of the passengers to unload and "transfer to other buses", which no one quite believed existed. To cut a long story short, there was much shouting, finger pointing and shoving, but it never quite got to blows, and in the end I was transported to another bus and its 5'2" bed for the 15 hour journey to Beijing. There's nothing quite like lying in a horribly cramped position whilst being rocked from side to side on a very narrow and uncomfortably sloping angle for hours on end to get some decent rest.

Despite an initial hiccup upon arrival in Beijing - it took nearly three hours for my relatives to locate me due to a combination of my tiredness, stupidity and language difficulties - I had a grand old time as I was treated to feast after feast at various restaurants with my relatives and their friends. Beijing has changed beyond recognition in the past decade, and resembles Hong Kong now... at least on the surface. The bicycles may be disappearing to be replaced by a staggering number of cars, the stock market may have doubled since the start of the year, but I suspect that many of the old attitudes that I saw so soon at the border still linger on, and I remain sceptical about next years Olympics... Still, I was treated like royalty by my relatives, to whom I am very grateful!

Then, to Hong Kong. 25 hours in hard sleeper was a breeze, and my predicted battle with bureaucracy to get my ID card updated turned out to be surprisingly easy, not even a small tussle really. Naturally there are even more skyscrapers here than my last visit, and the place still has that same energy that makes it one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

So, my 20,000 km overland journey to the place of my birth is over. A little over dramatic I know, but I've been reading the great Omar Khayyam, whose tomb we were so close to in Mashhad, yet never visited. I leave you with an (alleged) quote of his, as I contemplate a return to the joy that is Derby...

"My friend, let's not think of tomorrow, but let's enjoy this fleeting moment of life"

Monday, 3 September 2007

Goodbye Susie!

Mr Enkhbaatar appeared at our guesthouse the next day. Fortunately we were up and sort of awake and we were whisked off with him, his translator and driver to the Children's Development and Protection Foundation office. They we're all very pleased to see us and exlpained that they had been eagerly awaiting our arrival for some days.

By giving them our car, they would sell it at the 'car market' and then use the funds for a project to buy equipment for a kindergarten in central Ulaanbaatar. We asked a few questions about the project and the next we knew we were whizzing off to visit. On the journey there we passed under the only concrete overpass in Mongolia, a very important landmark explained our hosts.

The Kindergarten accomodates about 80 children, about half of which have Cerebral Palsy, Down's syndrome or other development problems. The children were still on holiday but we met some of the staff and were shown around the rather grim soviet era building. It was very bare and the childrens decoration on the walls did not seem to overcome this feeling. Toys and harsh looking walking aids for the cerebral palsy children were stacked in storerooms, and sporadic bids off maintanance were being completed. The place realy felt like it needed some help!
Luckily we soon met 2 women who ran the place and seemed to know what they were doing. One was an american trained Occupational Therapist who spoke english and she explained a bit about how the place ran.
They are constantly battling to get funding and competing with the dozens of other 'charities' in UB for government help and recognition. They hope to upgrade the Kindergarten to a proper Rehabilitation Centre for all children with physical and mental develment problems from the whole city. At present there is no other similar centre available. Apparently a group of American and Dutch physios and OT's had visited a few years ago and trained the staff properly, but now they we short of equipment. They had drawn up a shopping list for Enkhbaatar and all hoped our car would sell for enough to get some way doen the list! They weren't the only ones.

We left the kindergarten and they were taken out for lunch and shown traditional Mongolian hospitality. A big meal, and three very generous measures of Chinggis Gold Vodka later and we were embarassingly presented with some engraved certificates and souvenirs as a thank you gift for the car. And that was not all, these gifts had come from the organisations president, the esteemed Gandi T, member of the Great Meeting of Mongolia and who I had a very brief phone conversation with to thank her for the gifts!

Finally Enkhbaatar was very keen to visit the English pub with his new English friend so took us for what turned out to be a heavy session at Dave's Place (the Mongol Rally end of the road.) Countless beers and huge vodkas later we were destroyed, and he left with a sore head.
Olly got his Beijing train in this state and I worry for his health. I meanwhile made a fool of myself a while longer and retired to bed.

The following day I delivered the car to Enkhbaatar and handed over the keys. The trip was really over, and Susie was gone. I walked to the Aeroflot office and booked my flight home.