About 18 months ago a bunch of young guys and girls approached us looking for sponsorship for something called the Mongol Rally, a 10,000km adventure road trip for charity to Ulanbaatar in Mongolia. As this is something we’d dearly like to do ourselves we took very little persuading to get involved and furnished team ‘My Left Tyre’ with all the parts they needed to prep and maintain their ’88 boxy Starlet ‘Barbara’ on their monumental journey. We met the team prior to their departure at MicksGarage HQ and all being Formula One composite engineers we were filled with confidence that they’d have the wherewithal to overcome whatever obstacles were thrown in their way. And indeed they did. The blogs and images that the guys sent back to us were nothing short of breathtaking, you can check them all out here if you like. The guys successfully completed the trip and even continued on to Japan afterwards. They returned home in one piece and had Barbara shipped back to Ireland too!
So when we were approached again this year by another bunch of plucky wannabe explorers we jumped at the chance to get on-board. This years adventurers couldn’t be more different. The team comprises of Ed Forristal and Robert Poole, otherwise known as team Mad Macs. Rob & Ed are not Formula One composite engineers, they are Bar Manager and Mechanical Engineer respectively. They do not appear to have much of a plan and their car is shit.
What the guys do have is absolutely the right attitude. They have the practical, agricultural hands-on ingenuity that lads growing up with a farming background tend to have. In addition to this, and arguably most importantly, they have sponsorship from the Metalman and O’Hara’s brewing companies! So on the 16th of July the lads head off on the journey of a lifetime, armed with little more than a can-do attitude, a bunch of spares from MicksGarage and fueled by some very tasty beer. Fellas we wish you well!
I’ll hand you over to Ed himself to fill you in on the story so far:
Ever longed to travel to Mongolia? Me neither. I should have taken a look at a map before I agreed to any of this. The long process of sorting travel plans, visas and vaccines hasn’t been the most enjoyable time of my life. If you knew how stressful it is to get visas you’d never travel anywhere. But if you’re a stubborn ass who won’t go back on something you said on a whim then sometimes – just sometimes – the next thing you know you’re committed to the adventure of a lifetime, driving the whole way from Kilkenny to Mongolia.
What is the Mongol Rally?
The Mongol Rally is the ultimate in stupidity, combining under-prepared travelers, ill-equipped cars and long distances across countries you’ve never before considered visiting, let alone driving through. For those of you who don’t know it’s a very loosely organised rally, with no set route and no winner, so basically just a bit of a spin – like your parents would take to your gran’s house when you were young. Except granny won’t be waiting on the other side with a pound for a Kinder Egg, instead you’re more likely to be greeted by Russian border control or Mongolian shepherds.
Our route ahead covers about 20 countries – we’re taking the ‘Southern Route’, which – after Europe – will see us travelling through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and then Mongolia. Yes, we too know very little about many of these places. But soon we’ll be driving about them, getting lost and trying to follow locals directions to the nearest border crossing.
The only real rules are that you must travel in a 1 litre (or less) car – as cheaply acquired as possible – and you must raise a minimum sum of money for charity. Cue our miserable looking Suzuki Swift.
While the temptation was to drive it to Mongolia as is, MicksGarage kindly stepped up to the mark and offered us parts to rebuild the old girl. We gave it a decent service, replaced the clutch, timing belt, rebuilt the brakes, replaced perished bushes, re-routed the exhaust, upgraded the radiator and built an over the top sump guard to protect the power-plant.
For a complete transformation from granny mobile to slightly less granny mobile the car needed to look the part. The ‘antiquing’ process began. It was then tested to the limits on home soil as a “fault finding” exercise.
Otherwise preparations have been few and far between. An email today informed us that our road maps for Mongolia and central Asia are due to be delivered on the 20th of July. We leave on the 16th. Our visa laden passports are in someone else’s possession with only 4 days to go before leaving for the ferry to Fishguard and we have yet to sort out a radio. 4 weeks in a car listening only to each other and the death wobble our little Swift makes at any speed over 50kph is not an appealing thought.
But we’ll get there. It’s been a mammoth task so far and we haven’t even set out.
We’ve raised almost €2,000 for our chosen charities (For donations, going to the Susie Long Hospice Fund in Kilkenny, please check out our gofundme page), milked our loved ones for any travel gear they have lying around, traveled up and down the country for visas, international driving licences, car parts and sponsorship. Kindly, some people believe in us. Not only have MicksGarage kitted out our little Tugboat, but we’ve received donations of much needed camping gear from pamperthecamper.com and – importantly – have found some local brewers to supply us with ‘liquid refreshment’ to celebrate the end of a hard days driving. Thanks to metalmanbrewing.com in Waterford and O’Hara’s in Carlow for that!
After a little TLC and a few test drives we figure we’re as set as we can be for the trip ahead. What’s next you ask? We’ll keep you posted as we find out!