Author Archives: blinkenzomg

More photos

Hey everyone,

Just a quick post to say that there’s a heap more photos up on my Flickr photostream – I’ve been uploading whenever I have access to Internet, but often don’t get time to post here as well. Click here to check it it out.

Now that the rally’s more or less over (not going to release any spoilers here, I’ll leave that for Cameron!), I’ll try and get everything online as soon as I can get through the photos.

Anyway, here’s some of my favorites so far:



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New photos!

Hey ppl,

Just a quick post to let you know that there are new photos up on my flickr page – head over there and check them out.

I’ve almost caught up with the photos, which has been a marathon effort. Here’s roughly how it happens:

  • I’ll take a lot of photos each day – for example, yesterday in Istanbul I took ~650 (2x 8GB memory cards).
  • After I suck them all into Lightroom, I’ll do a rapid first pass, spending perhaps 0.5-1 second on each one and flagging the ones that look decent.
  • Filtering on the ones I flag, I then go through and work with each one – adjusting contrast, colour calibration, cropping and removing dust specks (I have a heap of dirt on my sensor, which is really annoying. Not game enough to try and clean it myself). Each photo gets a rating out of five.
  • I then go through and apply keywords, titles and descriptions to the photos rated five (now about 5-10% of the whole). I’ll then export these to a folder as smaller JPEGs and dump them to Flickr when I get an Internet connection.
This misses a lot of photos that are probably worth publishing, but it lets me get the best ones up quickly; I’ll probably go through the whole trip again once I get home and upload some more. It’s a time consuming process, which is why you don’t have any photos of Turkey yet 🙂 Hang in there, and I’ll try to get them sorted today.
In the meantime, here’s a few of my favorites so far:
More chillin'
Kit, who joined us in convoy in France

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Hey peeps,

Currently fanging it down the M1 in Hungary, on our way to Budapest. We are now officially out of the Euro zone, our satnav’s coverage (we forgot to load the extra maps in, whoops), and the special part of Europe where saying English words in a German accent will get pitying Germans to respond in flawless English. We’re not quite at the point where we’ll need our passports and visas, but we should be hitting Turkey tomorrow.

The official rally start was Saturday, called the Festival of Slow at the Goodwood Speedway. We decided the day before to pop over to Wales – a 5-hour drive away – to visit the only shop in the UK that sold spotlights. They cheerfully sold us two spotties and about 10km of cabling and switches and absolutely no instructions. Cue the local B&Q (Bunnings), a cheap cordless drill (which Adon jiggered to run off the car battery), some experimental cabling and some judicious use of The Big Hammer, and the spotlights were both mounted on the bonnet and functional. Though the switches are in the glovebox – being the easiest place to run cables – which is apparently inconvenient for the driver to operate. Personally, I think they’re mounted particularly snazzily, if I do say so myself.

Installing spotlights meant that we got to the pre-launch camping at about 4am, so we got a few hours sleep and headed to the Goodwood Speedway for the rally launch. It was a huge event – hundreds of cars. Mongolian wrestling. Almost everyone had decorated their car more than us – one team had an enormous bull strapped to their roof. We lapped Goodwood, then headed to Dover to get to France. Arrived in France about midnight, and I practiced my rudimentary French to get us into the hostel we had book. Conveniently, we met a Norwegian rallier called Kit on the ferry, who spoke excellent French and was able to translate. We’ve then spent the last few days cruising across Europe with Kit, stumbling our way through four different languages and slowly destroying the clutch and suspension in our poor overloaded Fabia.

We stopped in Klatovy in the Czech Republic for the Mongol Rally Czechout party, which is run by the race organisers. It was a huge event, held in a castle high up in the hills; the view was absolutely amazing, and food and alcohol super cheap. We left Kit (who had to fly back to Brussels to sort out his visas) and headed on to Austria somewhat hungover.

Last night we met up with three other teams – Hit the road, Yak, Ghengis Carnage and another team in a Toyota Yaris – who saw us stopped at a servo and linked up with us. We passed on the official campsite at 50 euros a night, found a patch of grass in a national park near a lake and camped (apparently somewhat illegally). Unfortunately, while we’d purchased some pasta for dinner, it had occurred to anyone to get anything to put on it. Fortunately, being Australian we had some vegemite, so dinner was vegemite, pasta and beer, woo.

We were awoken at about 7am by a park ranger very politely shouting GOOD MORNING, TIME TO WAKE UP, GET OUT OF YOUR TENT, GOOD MORNING and explaining that camping in national parks was verboten, and we had to move on immediately, so we packed up our stuff and headed on the motorway towards Hungary. We plan to hit Romania this evening, and then Turkey tomorrow with luck. Looking forward to Istanbul!

Until next time,


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The route

Seeing as Cameron has done such an excellent job getting this site organised, I figured I should start writing something about this trip we’re apparently doing.

So, the plan is to drive from London to Ulaanbaatar, but there’s a number of general routes you can take. You can go the central route through Western Europe and then Russia; you can go north to Scandinavia on a ferry and then head south-east almost diagonally across Russia; or you can do what we’re planning and head through Western Europe, then south of the Black Sea, through the Middle East, north through Kazakhstan and then east across Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar:

Perth included for a scary comparison.

Western Europe should be reasonably straightforward driving-wise: after spending a week getting everything ready, we start at Portsmouth, drive east across the UK and then depart for France on a ferry from Dover. The ferry arrives in Calais, and we head north-east along the coast into Belgium, where we turn east and begin crossing Europe proper. We pass through Brussels, into Germany, through Frankfurt and Nuremberg and into the Czech Republic, where we meet other Mongol Ralliers for a party in a castle near Klatovy, in the south-west of the country. This is the third night of the rally proper, of our deadline of 29 nights before our flight leaves Ulaanbaatar.

Western Europe continues through Slovakia (briefly), Budapest in Hungary (source of all food-related jokes), Bucharest in Romania, and Bulgaria.

At this point we hit Turkey. Turkey is the start of the middle-eastern part of the route. There was initially a bit of debate on whether we should go north of the Black Sea, and across Russia, or south and through Turkey and Iran; this was chiefly due to the potential security situation in various countries around the route (Syria, Georgia, Iraq, Afghanistan…). We ended up going for the southern option, partly because it’s an area you’re unlikely to see otherwise – some countries are very difficult to get visas for, and the rally makes that easier – and partly because it’s a route well-traveled by other Mongol Ralliers (even the Americans, though they seem to have a bit of trouble getting into Iran, for some reason).

We enter Turkey and head for Istanbul (not Constantinople), then continue east through Ankara right across to Iran. Google Maps has some pretty appalling maps for these areas, and wants to send us through the southern border crossing into Iran. With luck we won’t have to do this, and we can save some time and cross the border at Gürbulak. We then keep heading east, pass through Tehran just south of the Caspian Sea, and continue all the way across Iran to the border with Turkmenistan in the north-east.

We head north-east through Turkmenistan and into Uzbekistan at the border north of Türkmenabat. Uzbekistan is a quick few hundred kilometres before we hit the big one, Kazakhstan. Our trip north through Kazakhstan is roughly the length of the entire trip through Western Europe, and apparently on significantly worse roads. We head basically dead north, practicing our Cyrillic, until we hit Russia.

Google Maps has terrible road data for Russia, and no routing (though the excellent open-source OpenStreetMap project has much better data). Going on the satellite imagery, we should be able to head roughly east in a big circle through Omsk and Novosibirsk and finally into Mongolia. Russian roads are supposed to be better than in Kazakhstan.

Mongolia is another long trek, south-east across the country to the capital and our destination, Ulaanbaatar. Roads in Mongolia we expect to be poor-to-nonexistent, as for Kazakhstan. To meet our schedule we have to do 360km/day through Mongolia, which seems doable until you discover that some teams average 20km/hour across some of these routes. Here’s some satellite imagery of the main road across the north of Mongolia, that we plan to use:

So yeah. It’s going to be interesting, assuming we don’t break down in France and have to walk home. Stay tuned!


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