Thursday, 28 June 2007

Pull the Plug

Here's a tip if you plan on doing something like the Mongol Rally: Take away your Mom's internet. I don't how you're going to do that, but trust me, it's like the best idea ever.

Here's why. If you don't take away her internet, she will trawl its depths and come up with at least a thousand different ways for you to die on your trip. No matter how prepared you are, she will always come up with at least two ways to die you haven't thought of. One of them will invariably involve worms. The kind that eat you from the inside.

Oh, and both ways will be impossible to prepare for, so it's not like the information is even useful. You can protect yourself from the khorkhoi by not wearing any yellow clothes, but the worms your Mom will find out about, will be completely impossible to avoid or kill.

In other words, knowing about these worms only serves to drive you (and your Mom) crazy. So do yourself a favor and pull the plug. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Ze Ugly

A couple of days back I mentioned that our car needed a lot more work than we originally thought. Here's the terrible list of things that are broken:
  • The shock absorbers are completely shot.
  • The brakes are gone. That includes the hoses, the pads and the discs.
  • The engine is losing oil, which means the shaft seals need to be replaced.
  • The water pump is broken.
  • The generator is about to give up the ghost.
Fortunately we've picked up a new sponsor: HSW Autoteile. Not only are we getting all the necessary parts from them at cost, they're also giving us an excellent deal on the work they need to do. But that's not all! They're also throwing in a box of the most important replacement parts. For free!

All in all it's a pretty sweet deal. The car is being worked on as we speak, which means our chances of actually reaching Mongolia are currently increasing by the hour.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Ze Bureaucracy

A sweet bureaucracy, how I love thee! So, I need an international drivers license. As it turns out however I can only apply for one, if I get a new driver's license first. (I still have one of the old, floppy, red ones.) Too bad it takes between six and eight weeks to get one of these. There is also an express application available, but not at the office that I went to this morning.

Also, they need a copy of my record from the city where I got my driver's license. Which I have to get myself. It's like these people still don't know what a computer and a database is. So I called back home, had these guys fax my record card to the guys in Mannheim and try my luck again tomorrow. Let's hope I gave them the right fax number.

So much fun.

Ze Mongolian Death Worm

If we disappear somewhere in Mongolia, we may have met this creature. Supposedly it has the ability "to spew forth a yellow poison that is lethal on contact" and can also kill you at a distance by means of electric discharge". The color yellow is said to attract it and it's local name is llghoi which means "blood filled intestine worm".

This is not just an astonishingly disgusting name, but also a remarkably compact one. Apparently the Mongolian language can squeeze into six letters what the English language needs four whole words for. Rather remarkable, really.

Anyway, let's just say I won't be bringing any yellow clothes.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Disaster Strikes!

Remember when I said that things were going too well and that I was worried? Well, turns out that I was right. They were going too well and now Karma has come to town for some payback. Martin took the car to the shop today it needs a lot more work than we thought. A lot. More on that tomorrow.

Also, a water mains burst at my place. It's always great to come home after a long day to find a note from the police that the fire department broke into your apartment to turn off the water. Even better when you realize that they changed the locks and you can get back into your place. But the best part is realizing that they came in through the window and you no longer have a a window. At least they had the decency to replace it with some black plastic. Good thing it's not raining much right now.

Oh wait. It is.

Well, at least they didn't use my new 100€ Hugo Boss sweater to mop up the water.

Oh wait. THEY DID!

Friday, 22 June 2007

If Adventure Has a Name...'s "Mongol Rally". But if it has a second name, it's "Indiana Jones".

Yes, they've actually started shooting. If after all those years they can get a fourth Indy movie underway, maybe there's actually a chance we might make it to Mongolia.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

My arms hurt.

If there's one thing I really don't like about preparing for the Rally, it's all the needles. Seriously, I'm sick of getting stuck. Of course I'd rather be sick of getting stuck now, than actually be sick on the Rally later on, so I'll just have to suck it up and take my vaccinations like a man. Still, I wouldn't mind if I were done with it already. I feel like a pin-cushion and I still have two more rabies shots and one more TBE shot to go.

In other (and much less painful) news we can announce another sponsor. The Duisburg branch of MLP has generously agreed to help us out. Our visa costs are rising rapidly (since we need to apply for express processing wherever we can), so this is coming at a very opportune moment. Special thanks to Herr AƟmann.

We're also working on some neat ways for you to keep track of us during the Rally, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Ze Status 2.0

I've just made a phone call and our passports are currently at the Mongolian Embassy and are expected to come back tomorrow. After that it's off to the Russian Embassy, where they are apparently going to take their sweet time processing our visas. Once they're done however, there is nothing left that can stop us. The car is also getting another check today and we're starting to buy equipment. In short: Things are going somewhat according to plan.

This has me worried.

We've also got another sponsor! The cool people at Avanade have agreed to pay for some of our fuel costs, which I have to say is awfully nice of them.

Things are going almost too well right now. I'll let you know when our car falls apart or the Russians call to tell us that we will never be allowed to enter their country. Ever.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Ze Zune

Hey, what's that? That's right, it's a Zune! It's not even available in Europe yet, but Ze Germans have got one, thanks to our sponsor Microsoft. To be honest, I'm not sure about the color, but hey, it was free (thanks, guys!). Besides, it could have been much worse. It could have been the Halo 3 Special Edition. Or pink. Or an iPod!

Not sure which one is more embarrassing. Probably a pink iPod.

Also, don't worry about Martin's potentially dubious taste in music. I've tasked my brother (pictured right, posing with his band) with selecting the contents of the Zune's hard drive. I have a sneaking suspicion that the aforementioned hard drive will be the only thing about us that's ready for the Rally come July 21st.

That's it for today, which means I'll go back to worrying about our Visa now. Thank you for your attention, you may leave appropriately envious messages in the comments.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Ze Interview

The super-charming Lori did a video interview with Martin at the STC. Klick on the image above to see Martin in action!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Ze Status

So, what's happened since our last update?

First of all, we've worked out our route in more details. We spent an entire afternoon pouring over our maps, working our way backwards from Ulan Bator to London. It's actually quite easy to pick a route in Central Asia, because the number of main roads is remarkably small. Sometimes a quick check of satellite imagery reveals even these "main roads" to be little more than glorified dirt tracks.

We're also finally getting our Visas applications out the door. We couldn't start this process earlier, because I still needed my passport for Rio. This means we have to pay quite a bit of extra money to expedite the processing at the various embassies, but we'll just have to suck it up. It's going to be close, but I think we'll make it. There was also a bit of a scary moment, when we realized that Germans can only apply for single-entry visa to Kazakhstan. That would make our planned routed impossible and would have forced us to skip Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately we were able to find two possible solutions to that problem. Let's hope the one we picked works out.

I've also taken a test drive in our car. It doesn't feel quite as cramped as I thought it would and drives quite well. Unfortunately it has a tendency to drift to the right. Let's hope that this not a symptom of something serious. The battery also needs to be replaced, but that's not a big deal.

If the visas work out, there's no stopping us now, so we're moving on to buying equipment. Space is going to be limiting factor there, because the car is, well, small. We'll keep you updated how things are going. As long as we take a year's supply of duct tape we should be fine.