Hi everybody! It’s been a while.
Time has flown – Patrick and Adon will arrive in England this Saturday afternoon, and then we spend a day in Ireland, and then the remainder of the week making sure that all the last-minute things don’t get forgotten. Then on Saturday 23rd July, we do a slow lap around Goodwood Racetrack as part of the Festival of Slow, and begin the actual driving part of our journey to Mongolia.
Since our last update, we’ve been madly running around trying to get everything organised for the rally:
- Patrick and Adon have had to get concurrent Australian passports because our Iranian visas have taken much longer than expected. We were informed today that the Iranian visas have been approved, so we’re now fully visa-d up for the road ahead.
- The car has been serviced and we’ve stocked up on most of the essential tools and spare parts. We’ve had roof racks fitted to carry all of our stuff. The mechanic who serviced the car is going to give it a thorough look-over for free on Friday and is getting us two spare wheels (with tyres) on for cheap “from a mate” – giving us a total of three spares.
- Patrick and Adon purchased swags for themselves and for Cameron – since apparently a swag is not a common camping implement in England.
- We’ve got ourselves a Carnet de Passage, the legal document required to temporarily import a car into a country and then take it out again. Iran requires one of these. Thanks Iran. Thiran.
- We’ve procured a wad of US dollars, since from Iran onwards our credit and debit cards are unlikely to be much use. Thanks Iran. Thiran.
- Cameron bought a bunch of maps, guidebooks and phrasebooks, and ordered a whole lot more from The Internet. Thank you, The Internet.
- Patrick and Adon are going to borrow some satphones for emergency use from their work.
- We’ve all committed to mildly outrageous adjustments to our personal appearance which you’ll have to wait ’til you see our photos to find out about.
- For most of next week, we’re booked into a B&B on the Isle of Wight. When Patrick booked this, he was unaware that the Isle of Wight was actually an island separate from mainland Britain. We may or may not end up changing this booking to somewhere more convenient for rally prep!
- Use old Canon Powershot G10 (charger missing)
- Build intervalometer
- Convert battery to take 12-24VDC externally: Canon external power via battery, Jaycar 2A regulated DC-DC power supply
Stick on dashboard for awesome drivervision timelapse ready to compile at end of trip =)
Also cool – Canon Hacker Development Kit
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!
Welcome! This is the first post on our blog, but by no means the beginning of the train of events which – we hope – will eventually result in us cruising into Ulaanbaatar this August as triumphant heros.
- Early 2010: Cameron reads about the Mongol Rally on the internet and thinks it’s so crazy he has to do it. His housemate Patrick is almost as crazy, and wants to join in.
- September 2010: Mongol Rally team registrations open and we look around us for more crazy people. There are many. It looks like two cars full, in fact, so we register two teams.
- October 2010: Cameron is in the UK for business, and purchases our trusty steed – a 2003 Skoda Fabia with a mighty 1.2 litre, 64 bhp engine. After being driven around the wilds of Kent for a few days, it’s now staying with a friend in Cambridge.
- February 2011: We decide on our route and an ambitious “if nothing goes wrong we can totally do this” driving schedule. Time to book our flights! This was the real test of commitment and saw two people drop out. Our final team will be three people – Cameron, Patrick and Adon – and a single car.
Since then we’ve had to worry about getting visas in our passports and immunisations for the many strange and exciting diseases you can catch when you go to places that aren’t Australia.
Cameron was offered another secondment to work in England from Easter until at least the start of the Mongol Rally. Of course, this will also be very convenient for getting any preparation done to the car well in advance of us leaving.
The real adventure begins in just over three months’ time. Patrick and Adon arrive in England on 16th July. The rally sets off on 23rd July, beginning with a lap around Goodwood Race Track. After that, we make our way to Mongolia. But that can’t be too hard, right?