The only day we did not drive during the whole trip was spent in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We rode a cable car to a Beatles statue at the top of a mountain and then, after a few social pints at a local club, got abducted by a Kim Jong-Un lookalike who ran a military training academy for children.
He fed us homemade wine and chacha (“vine vodka”) from a bomb shelter and forced us to play charades until 6am. Nice guy. Understandably though, it was nice to get back into our homely little Swift and on the road again the next day.
By the time we reached Semey in the north we were push starting our car the whole time. Not for fun – the battery had crapped out. One quick stop to buy a new one in town though and we were back in business. That is until, right before we crossed the Russian border, when we got news that the Mongolians were turning away teams from the rally. They were looking for a cash deposit of $4,000+ or refusing entry. No need to check our wallets – we didn’t have that kind of money floating about! So after much deliberation we decided to speed on to the finish line in Ulan Ude as quickly as possible and from there we could see what our options were.
The spin through Siberia was beautiful, but largely uneventful. Along the way we bumped into a few other ralliers who had been turned away at the Mongolian border. Some were headed our way, others headed to Moscow and then back to Europe. The highlight of the four days driving through Russia though was definitely Lake Baikal. Apparently aliens reside in the 1.7km deep lake (we heard one story of five military divers seeing 7ft tall men in silver suits underwater, before mysteriously being knocked unconscious). We saw nothing. Instead, being the classy gentlemen we are, we broke out the Radox and had ourselves a couple of baths.
Once we reached Ulan Ude we saw all the sights. We looked at the world’s largest statue of Lenin’s head. We saw it from the front, then again from behind. We walked a few more steps and saw it from the side and concluded that we had thoroughly seen the city at this point so left for the finish line.
There we met about five other teams whose plans to drive through Mongolia were all scuppered too. By the end of the night however it was widely agreed that a destruction derby could console us, and would be a good compromise after missing out on the rugged Mongolian terrain.
Sure, she may look rough, but the Swift was in surprisingly good nick the next day. That being said we reckoned we wouldn’t be driving any sort of distance in her, as we got enough attention from police before the derby and thought we might be pushing our luck to go much further given the state she was in. We covered up the missing back window, pried open the doors and finally put the spare rad we had dragged along with us to good use before driving the 10km or so to our final destination, from where our faithful steed would be scrapped.
It’s been a nice aul’ spin, roughly 16,000km in just over four weeks. 18 countries and so far we’ve raised more than €2,000 for charity. We’re still hoping to push that to over €3,000 and we will be keeping our GoFundMe page open for another few weeks. Much love to all our sponsors who helped make this trip possible too – to MicksGarage for all the car parts, Pamper the Camper for keeping us dry and warm at night and to Metalman and O’Hara’s for keeping us *ahem* ‘fueled’. It’s thanks to all of the above that we could help to raise much needed money for Cool Earth and The Susie Long Hospice Foundation in Kilkenny.
If any of our posts have inspired you or if you have any sympathy for two guys who traveled part way across the world in a rusty tin can for charity, please feel free to donate by following the link below: