18 September 2007
In summer 2007 we helped a number of teams drive to Mongolia and they all imported their cars without any charges or import duties being incurred. Their cars were all donated to a charity based in Mongolia. We made these arrangements without any charges and all that we required was that the teams were also fundraising for a suitable UK registered charity working in Mongolia.
We will continue to offer this to anyone who contacts us. We have received a number of enquiries from people who want to take part in the 2008 Mongol Rally but are concerned about the increasing cost of entry (£456) and the commercial nature of the event. If you do not want to take part in this kind of event, our recommendation is to save your hard earned £456 (or donate it to a good UK charity like CAMDA - look beyond their slightly dated website - your donations go a lot further) and send us an email with the full details of you and your vehicle and when you expect to arrive in Mongolia. We'll do the rest. Just email email@example.com with the subject MONGOLIA so that we can see you in all the spam.
So far we've helped quite a few cars do the trip (we must dig through the emails and count them at
some point). Some of them didn't make it for mechanical reasons, some got into a visa nightmare (easily done!),
some completed the trip with nice websites to prove it:
One team even decided they liked their car so much they drove it back home!
Some of the teams travelled at about the same time as the Mongol Rally teams and bumped into teams along the way. There were a lot of jealous teams, miffed that they had worked out a way to do the trip without paying the Mongol Rally entry fee. The Mongol Rally entry fee does get you entry into some parties, but as many have pointed out, these did not appear to justify the fee (see: http://mongolianrally.co.uk/yabb/YaBB.pl?num=1189176613).
We completed our journey as part of the Mongol Rally and both spent a huge amount of time helping to organise this event in 2004 and 2005. Will did a lot of work in Mongolia whilst living there in 2005-2006 to help organise the 2006 rally, and Stephen spent 6 weeks volunteering full time in Mongolia in summer 2006, all to arrange the import of the cars and the final party. Sadly, the main organiser of the Mongol Rally has turned the event into a profit making rally (despite always stating that it was a non-profit making organisation) and the entry fee for 2007 is an enormous 387ukp (teams still raise money for charity though). As a result of this we are no longer involved in the Mongol Rally. However, you can complete a similar journey without joining the rally by simply arranging for tax free import of your vehicle yourself. The process is easy once you know how and we can put you in touch with many charitable organisations in UB who would be more than happy to receive your vehicle and in return process the necessary paperwork. Contact us for details but make sure you put the word MONGOLIA in the subject as we get lots of spam! We won't ask for any fees, you'll just need to show that you are serious about doing it and it is all for charity.
On a happier note, we are working on publishing a full diary of our trip with a selection of our favourite photos from the gallery. Watch this space.
So what happened after the rally? Stephen went via S Korea and India to finally make it back to Britain in Feb 2006. Apart from Christmas in the UK, Will stayed in Mongolia until August 2006 teaching English and then working for a Singaporean telecoms company to bring affordable communications to remote parts of Mongolian. In his spare time he put in place the arrangements for the 2006 Rally, continued when Stephen returned to Mongolia in June 2006 and spent 2 months organising the rest. Will returned to Olgii and visited Mana the eagle hunter and his family. we'll try and get a full update up soon. We both started work for our respective law firms in September so crazy trips abroad will have to be squeezed into annual leave, although Stephen is due to head off to Singapore in Jan for 4 months to work on secondment.
10th December 2005
Since the drive, we have been very busy:
Will has an English teaching job in Ulaanbaatar and will be staying in Mongolia until the spring.
Stephen spent November sorting out the rally cars that had reached Ulaanbaatar. Unfortunately, the various Mongolian organisations are causing numerous problems and the auction has not happened to date. Will is continuing this work, as Stephen left Mongolia at the beginning of December for a couple of weeks in Korea on the way to India. To see continuing updates on Stephen's journey please visit: http://www.stephenedwards.co.uk/.
The photo gallery is now complete with all of the photos from the trip. If you enjoy the photos, please consider donating to one of our charities. Thanks.
12th October 2005
We have reached our final destination, Ulaan Bataar, the coldest capital in the world!
The drive from Olgii, in the far west of Mongolia, to UB was around 1200km. The route took us across the northern edge of the Gobi desert. There was no road, just a series of rough jeep tracks.
The Gobi Desert is not a single expanse of sand dunes, but an enormous area of various arid ground with occasional water that supports life. A few isolated nomadic communities live in gers and survive on their herds sheep, horses, goats and camels.
We saw: the carcasses of fallen livestock; packs of vultures watching over herds of cattle looking for a weak animal; watched eagles swooping on prey; saw marmots scurrying across the ground; marvelled at little rodents as they darted across the track in front of our car; chased camels off the track (they run in a most amusing way when confronted with a Vauxhall Nova); camped in minus "a lot" temperatures; and got stuck in the sand. (Whilst digging ourselves out we watched as three vultures circled above to see if we were weak enough for dinner!)
More information when we have some photos uploaded.
26th September 2005
We have made it to Mongolia!
A short video on our first day in Mongolia: mongolia.avi (1.3MB)
After leaving Krygyzstan we spent one night in a hotel in Al Maty, Kazakhstan. From Al Maty we drove across the featureless landscape of the Kazakh Steppe and north into Russia, camping each night, and stopping in the occasional town for food and fuel. From Barnaul, Russia, we headed South East through the Russian Altai Mountains and reached the Mongolian border on Friday 23rd September. We camped for our 6th night just across the border in Mongolia and reached the town of Olgii on Sat. Mongolia is cold! Night temperatures are well below freezing and the daytime temperature is around 10degrees celsius!
We have updated the route page with the GPS track, and the car page with some details on repairs. We are working on uploading some newer photos in the next day or so.
16th September 2005
The car brakes are fixed and we hope to leave Bishkek early tomorrow morning.
2000km of Kazakhstan Steppe awaits us!
15th September 2005
We have returned to Bishkek. We spent 4 days near Lake Issy Kul: 1 day fishing on the lake and 2 days on a horse trek through the mountains. We also saw traditional Kyrgyz Eagle Hunting. Tomorrow we will be trying (for the third time!) to get the brakes bled and then we will be leaving for the drive through Kazakhstan to Russia.
10th September 2005
We are now in Bishkek, the capital of Krygyzstan. We had a spectacular drive over the mountains, including a memorable night camping near a Yurt at 2800m. We were invited into the Yurt and ate with the family. You can see photos of our stay and the rest of our trip from Samarkand in the photo gallery.
We are leaving the car in Bishkek and will travel by taxi up to Lake Issy-Kol to go fishing and a couple of days trekking. On our return it will be a solid drive north through Kazakhstan, and Russia in order to reach Mongolia before our Russian visa expires on the 25th September.
During our stay in Samarkand we also met Denise and Adrian, an English couple who are travelling along the old Silk Roads collecting images and sounds for their website http://www.silkthreads.org/.
3rd September 2005
We have collected the car and it has had a good run to test it. The water has been changed and it is running very smoothly. Total repair: new head gasket, new cylinders, new oil filter, new oil, new water with antifreeze, speedo unrepairable, brake system bled: 415USD. To compensate for the low octane fuel, the engine timing is now retarded so we have less power but no pinking. If we get better fuel, we can improve the timing and get more power. Not likely!
We are leaving early tomorrow morning for Tashkent and then on to Krygyzstan.
2nd September 2005
We have just heard that the car is ready for collection! Damir popped by the hotel to say that he had gone to the garage with his car to see that our car was running. Damir is the guy who spoke excellent English and took us to his friends wedding. He is going to pick us up, take us to the garage, and then we are having dinner with his family
2nd September 2005
Whilst we wait for the car, we have updated quite a few sections of the site with more details. Have a look through the old and new sections as they appear for new content, including: details on our route, the GPS track runs up to Samarkand with all the waypoints, more photos in the gallery and so on.
We have to say a big thank you to Peter Forwood who is also staying at the Hotel Balhodir and has been a gold mine of useful information, not least about car engines. Peter has been travelling around the world since 1996 on a Harley-Davidson and occasionally pops home to Australia. He keeps an amazing website that you should definitely visit. http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/forwood/
Also staying at the Hotel Balhodir are Ed and Gaye who we last saw in Turkmenistan. Ed and Gaye are cycling home to Australia from London. We met them in Ashgabat and again whilst crossing the desert between Ashgabat and Turkmenabat. With only 5 days to cross Turkmenistan they had an unenviable task to make it out in time. They made it, with 1 hour to spare! Ed has also been a wealth of information on how to keep our car going! http://www.longwayhome.org/
1st September 2005
Our problem with the blown head gasket turned into an even bigger repair. The engine had cooked itself and badly burnt each of the four piston heads. The repair bill has grown and we have to wait for parts so we hope to be collecting the car on Sunday night. Today is a national holiday and so getting the parts from Tashkent could take some time.
The good news is that we are in a pleasant hotel, in a relaxing town, and we have just discovered we can use the pool in one of the expensive hotels for a few dollars. Lots of time to catch up on our reading and postcard writing.
We made it to Sammerkand on Saturday but the car was sounding increasingly rough. We had arranged to take it into a garage yesterday, but when we came to start it there was a loud clunk and the engine wouldn't turn! With a tow to the garage, we discovered that the head gasket had gone and water had leaked into one of the cylinders. Nice. With luck it should be fixed by tomorrow (Wed) along with the other problems. We should then be all ready for the 3600m passes of Kyrgyzstan. New photos uploaded, and we are working on lots of new pages for the site which should be up in the next day or two. If you use Google Earth (amazing free download) you can download our track: track.zip (500KB) and fly our route! There is a gap between Austria and Bulgaria, but the rest is there. Please email Stephen if this works (or doesn't!).
26th August 2005
We have passed through Turkmenistan and escaped to the comfort of Bukhara in Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan, the North Korea of Central Asia, was a real test and we are now offically banned from the country for a year! The people in Turkmenistan are amazing, especially for the burden they have of the President, his police state, and his personality cult. Saddam Hussein would be proud. Unfortunately we can't show any new photos due to the slow internet connection. Tomorrow we leave for Samarkand.
16th August 2005
We are currently staying in Tbilisi, Georgia! Our route since Austria has taken us through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Turkey was a suprise, not only for its landscape from the bustle of Istanbul to the mountains in the north, but for its very hospitable people at every turn.
In Tbilisi we are being looked after Irakli Giviashvili our friend from Nottingham Law School. He and his family have been a brilliant hosts, introducing us to the delights of Georgian feasts as well as the distinctive identity of Georgian culture. It is hot here 37 degrees yesterday, however for the remainder of August we need to expect these temperatures and higher as we move east!
Old news available here
5 August 2005
We finally left on Wednesday 3rd August at 2pm and made the 4:30pm ferry to Calais. A big thank you to Sea France for squeezing us on the ferry 4 days late! We made good progress and stopped for the night sleeping rough next to the motorway south of Luxembourg.
On Thursday 4th August we made good progress through Germany and made it to Fieberbrunn in the Austrian Tirol mountains. A big thank you to Andreas for allowing us to stay in the Rosenegg Schlosshotel. After a quick hike up a hill we will be heading off to the east and into Hungary.
30 July 2005
We have had to delay our departure until after the weekend. Unfortunately, the Russians made a mistake on our visa dates, and then demanded £60 to change them (and require us to spend a whole afternoon getting them to fix them). The result is that we haven't got the DVLA sorted and quite a few other things aren't ready. Therefore, we are planning to leave either Monday evening or very early on Tuesday.
29 July 2005
One day to go! The car is now stickered and we only have a few more things to sort out.
We now have all of the Visas for the trip. A trip to the DVLA (never trust what they tell you!) and all of the paperwork should be sorted.
A big thank you to all of the individuals who have sent money directly to us or to the charities. We will be updating the donations page asap with the total.
Also, a thank you to Halfords for giving us a big discount on the roof rack and SR Design and Print for doing a great job on the car stickers. We will try and get some pictures of the car up later today.
With a new distributor cap, rotor arm, leads and furry dice the car is running much better, although it is still missing occasionally at the end of a long journey. However, since collecting the car 2 weeks ago it has done just under 1000 miles up and down the country and is a great runner.
24 July 2005
Thank you to the many individuals who have given us donations towards our chosen charities.
GOODYEAR Tyre Company have sponsored us with a complete new set of Tyres for the car!
Solio (http://www.solio.com) are providing us with a Solar Charger to keep our mobile phone topped up along the way (and reduce the drain on the car battery). Their products look amazing and we are looking forward to providing a full report on how the charger performs over the route.
Only one more visa to get! The Kyrgystan visas are due back on Wednesday, giving us ample time to get our last Visa from the Mongolian embassy. A big thank you to Tom and Justin for helping us with the Russian and Kazakhstan visas.
The car has now completed over 500 miles without problem. Most of the driving has been on the motorway but there was also a race across West London to get to te Kazakhstan embassy (but it decided to close early anyway!). We have replaced the Spark plugs, changed the oil and filter, and bought a Haynes manual. We are fitting a new Rotor Arm and Distributor cap tomorrow and hopefully it should start a little easier. We are also going to be applying all the stickers!
Once again, a big thank you goes to GOODYEAR who have sponsored us by providing us with a complete new set of Tyres for the car! They were kindly fitted for us by High Q in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, who also let us perform a few more checks on the car whilst she was jacked up. Photos coming soon!
13 July 2005
We now have a new car! Following the problems with our previous vehicle Cannock Road Garages kindly stepped in and have found us a new vehicle. The car is a 1991 Vauxhall Nova 1.0 in a nice bue colour. It has the incredible low mileage of only 34,000 miles, one slight dent in the side, and good old fashioned features like a manual choke! After some servicing tomorrow we should be able to collect her for the first run down to London this weekend.
11 July 2005
Visas for Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have now been obtained and we are currently waiting on the Turkmenistan visas (undoubtedly the most difficult).
Unilever are generously donating products directly to Save the Children in Mongolia.
We must also give a special thank you to MBE for their substantial donation to Save the Children.
More details on the sponsors page.
4 July 2005
Reluctantly we have had to decide to alter the route slightly. Instead of driving south of the Caspian Sea through Iran, we will be driving from Turkey into Georgia, then into Azerbaijan where we can take the ferry from Baku to Tukmenbashi where we continue our original route in Turkmenistan. Two factors have forced us to make this decision: 1) the high cost of the Carnet de Passage which would be necessary to take the car into Iran; and 2) (and this was the real showstopper) the difficulty and time involved in getting a visa. With the number of Visas required for this journey it is impossible to arrange them all within their validity period if one country decides to keep your passports for a few months...
Our thanks go to DB Holdsworth Ltd for their kind sponsorship and personal donations from Mr Glanz and Mrs Sanobar Khan.
And finally... Pavillion Insurance have authorised my claim for repairs to my two Nikon Lenses following my trip to Morocco at Easter. I can highly recommend their Photoguard policy. Their staff were always helpful and very prompt in dealing with my claim. I have heard of many photographic insurers who will find all manner of devious ways to avoid claims (watch the small print). My existing cover with Pavillion will be covering all of my photographic equipment during the drive to Mongolia.
23 June 2005
It has been a very busy week for both of us! Now that exams are over we are busier than ever working full time to prepare for the journey. Details will soon be released of the fundraising meal we are arranging in London during July. We are also indebted to the many supporters who have made donations to our challenge. Check out our supporters page.
Sadly it is not going to be feasible to take our intended car to Mongolia. However, at very short notice, Stephen's local garage in Wolverhampton have stepped in to sort out a replacement car and help us to prepare it for the journey. Our thanks must go to Geoff and all those at Cannock Road Garages. Check out their website at www.cannockroadgarages.co.uk for details of their car sales and repair services. We are still going to be taking a small car, still aiming for under a 1 litre (1000cc) engine, so we aren't going to cheat and get a jeep!