Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Update #16 - Add on

To show you where the "might" be currently... (click on picture for scale up)

See the "tracks" between Beyneu and Akzhigit... no tarmac, no roads, just sand

Driver Comments #5

Damn Google editor, now all Team links got lost. Hope you can enjoy the comments nevertheless, there are some jewels there...

  • Berrow Fellows
    Location Astrahan(Russia) ; 09:59 on 31-07-2007
    what do you call two englishmen a scot a irishman a swiss and a luxembourg man missing the last ferry at thee border with kazak ? Tired as next one was 6am and it was midnight
  • Team Scraz
    Location Ufa(Russia) ; 08:27 on 31-07-2007
    Look like shit? Feel like shit? Smell like shit? Relentless Scraz Tours welcome you to Russia! Aa aa aaaaaaa...
  • Team Crazy Fools
    Location Trabzon(Turkey) ; 06:41 on 31-07-2007
    Man down! Ryan has the squits! Impressed by last nights georgian hospitality. Ate cheesybread and some random meat, possibly dog. May explain the squits.
  • Team Crazy Fools
    Location Trabzon(Turkey) ; 17:28 on 30-07-2007
    So good to be back in convoy! Locals driving like loons. Dodging cows. So much black smoke coming from one truck we thought it was on fire! *A-hurgh!*
  • Minor Problems
    Location London Hyde Park(United Kingdom) ; 16:02 on 30-07-2007
    Left toothbrushes hyde park so returned to pick up. Hopefully in georgia tea time.
  • Land of Down
    Location Unknown ; 15:02 on 30-07-2007
    Sammy doing some low altitude flying! ...
  • Mongolia in a Micra
    Location Trabzon(Turkey) ; 14:45 on 30-07-2007
    Speeding fine! The ginger one was at the wheel, i'm still considering not paying and leaving him as security. (Only joking mr and mrs cooper)
  • The Goonies
    Location Unknown ; 14:36 on 30-07-2007
    Just saw a dog eating another dog!Team Tom Location Volgograd(Russia) 14:21 on 30-07-2007 300km away from volgograd - just got stopped by the russian police doing 120km per hour in a 60 area. $10 US later we're on our way...
  • Team Barton
    Location Moscow(Russia) ; 12:48 on 30-07-2007
    team barton sitting in tema bar. lost our convoy. Russian lady answered their phone. Bad sign. We will be at the bar 8-11pm tonight if anyone is in moscow
  • Austrian Team
    Location Ufa(Russia) ; 04:31 on 30-07-2007
    weiter geht's. Stromteufel besiegt. Banken in Samara sogut versteckt, wie Stalinbunker.
  • Yakky Racers
    Location Unknown ; 21:40 on 29-07-2007
    Somewhere in kstan!" last saw a sign 4hrs ago, cant remember what tarmac looks like. Car loving off roading though; sell your landrovers and buy a micra!
  • 2togs2mongolia
    Location Merzifon(Turkey) ; 20:39 on 29-07-2007
    ... Saw Paris to Peking cars today. In good shape and enjoying the trip.
  • Green Pea
    Location Trabzon(Turkey) ; 15:34 on 29-07-2007
    ... Hasn't been 1 burger king since istanbul ...Damn we're hungry...
  • Team Barton
    Location Moscow(Russia) ; 12:38 on 29-07-2007
    200km off moscow! Stopped by police - no idea what they wanted. border crossing made interesting by angry russian lady. met team mister dinosaur in riga
  • turbodurbo
    Location Lviv(Ukraine) ; 12:25 on 29-07-2007
    just got stopped for 'speeding' and paid first fine. Gave policeman pen to sign car. He wrote fine on bonnet! Paid a sixth of what he wanted in dollars and off again. Moldova here we come...

Update #16

I'm beginning to think, that our heroes are doing this deliberately. As they kindly woke me up yesterday by calling in the middle of the night (hello you already are 4 hours ahead of us), I was prepared today. Got up early. Sitting there. Waiting. Nothing happend. Now, at 10 am, I get this wonderful text message, I immediately wanna share with you:

"We're in the desert. It's hot, dry, and dusty. Hardly doing any progress. Keep getting stuck in the $!")%! sand"

Niet straße ! Didn't I say going to Uzbekistan, might not be such a good idea ?...

P.S. There's a poll at the far end of the right sidebar, it'd be cool if you would participate. Thx

Monday, 30 July 2007

Update 15# - What did you say ?

2007/07/30 7.50
Few miles before Atyrau, mileage counter shows 6229 km

I'm pretty much experiencing the distance between them and me right now, as talking to them on the phone sounds like talking to the man on the moon. What a coincidence, I just found that article here, saying that a 1,5 Mbit DSL flat would cost around 2500 € in Kazakhstan (16.000 € for a 6 Mbit flat). No wonder they haven't found an Internet café yet. I've come to know, that on their way to finding a camping ground, they met a guy from Heidenheim (Germany) and his family. They were so happy to see them, that the father and his son showed them the most beautiful camp ground directly at the sea and cooked spaghetti with them. On the next morning, Richard and Martin had to take care as lots of camels and nosey horses came by tents to check them out ;)
Then, there is the more stressful part, as they won't let me talk them out of going to Uzbekistan. I tried everything, but it wouldn't help. Thanks to my lovely friend Katja, who called the embassy of Kazakhstan in Toshkent (Uzbekistan), we now know, that getting a visa takes at least (whatever that means in Russian terms) 2 working days. So, either trying to do so or - as some other drivers met people from the rally Paris -> Bejing, get the special permission they need to drive through China.

To be continued...

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Driver Comments #4

some more comments...
  • Rustbucket Express
    Location Unknown 10:02 on 27-07-2007
    at the uzbekistan consulate where they only speak uzbek and bad turkish. I wonder if a few dollars will make them speak english?
  • Microlia
    Location Kiev(Ukraine) 10:04 on 27-07-2007
    stayed in really nice hotel here last night.strip bar next door,ladies looking for company in the lobby.everything a growing boy needs.strange country.
  • Starsky and Clutch
    Location Unknown 10:43 on 27-07-2007
    Hey we're at the turkish boarder. What fun. Queue after queue. People here love to use their horns. Pushing car to save petrol.
  • hobo logistics
    Location Sofia(Bulgaria) 11:15 on 27-07-2007
    We are driving to Mongolia and the only cassette we have is kraftwerk's Computer World
  • Mongol Mystery Machine
    Location Odesa(Ukraine) 11:24 on 27-07-2007
    finally made it to odessa, been in and out of moldova 3 times! ...
  • The Kenya Crew
    Location Hamburg(Germany) ; 13:51 on 27-07-2007
    Left late due to visa problems. Spent last night in Brussels and watched Heat, on our way to Hamburg. Car is fine although steering is 20deg off centre!
  • Chariots of Rust
    Location Unknown 16:20 on 27-07-2007
    odesa.3hours at ukr border,had to use fake car passport given to us by crazy german...
  • Mongolbikers.com
    Location Kiev(Ukraine) 18:44 on 27-07-2007
    Still in kiev. Spent the day servicing the bikes. Now drinking free vodka/aftershave with energy drink. Maybe blind...
  • TB Mongolian Adventurers
    Location Odesa(Ukraine) 05:39 on 28-07-2007
    went out for quiet supper last night, ended up joining a ukrainian wedding party being forced to drink champagne by the father of the bride... Classic! X
  • Yakky Racers
    Location Atyrau(Kazakhstan) 11:59 on 28-07-2007
    dodging camels and potholes in equal measure, now sat in an irish bar ( is there anywhere in the world without one?!) enjoying some liquid refreshment
  • French Touch
    Location Ankara(Turkey) 13:13 on 28-07-2007
    stuck in ANKARA for god knows how long. Need to get 3 visas. Turkmen, Azerbaidjan and Kazakstan visas.very confident that we ll get them for xmas!
  • The 3 Mongoliers
    Location Simferopol(Ukraine) 17:01 on 28-07-2007
    2300 miles! On crimea...! Woohoo! Charlie's starting to realise just how lucky he is to be with 2 girls... Becky bribed border guard without realising, 10 of us attended ukrainian wedding party cos father of bride wouldn't let go of them and through their combined 'talking to tire' tactic and russian they cut a deal with police over speeding fine... All hilarious! Hope all's really good. Lots love x x x
  • Team Extreme
    Location Istanbul(Turkey) ; 17:01 on 28-07-2007
    so the key is now stuck in the ignition & wont turn so cant start the car. Not to worry, we've just been taught how to hot wire it by some local turks!
  • Land of Down
    Location Unknown ; 21:49 on 28-07-2007
    have finally parked at only non smoking truck stop in Russia. Pulled over by coppers twice but jedi mind tricks worked.
  • teamGoZzilla
    Location Tehran(Iran) ; 02:14 on 29-07-2007
    not so easy to get petrol!

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Update #14

2007/07/28 17.31
100 km in front of Astrakhan, mileage counter shows: 5884 km

Yeah, thanks to the advice of an anonymous anotater, I could talk to Richard on the phone again. They are all well and around 100 km in front of Astrakhan. If everything goes as planned, they should be in Kazakhstan tomorrow.
However, they told me about their first Russian police encounter where they had to pay the 50 €. After paying 100 Rupiens (shouldn't be too much) they were able to pass the border just to run in the police control, I told you about. Martin had to go to the officer's cabin and a nice guard with a Kalashnikov suggested to do as told. The other guard wrote a sum on a piece of paper: 100 US$. Meanwhile Richard is still sitting in the car, being watched by another armed guard, who didn't look pretty friendly in his direction. So... I'm asking you: What would you do in such a situation ? Probably the same as Martin. He took the pencil, wiped out the 100 US$ and wrote down 50 €. That's it, Mr. Cool. Just as I tought you.
After this "meet&greet" they continued on their track, just to be controlled over and over again. But, the other officers were baffled how anyone could be so stupid to travel to Mongolia in a car like this, so they let them go. As Team Ruhrpott has a visa, which allows entering Kazakhstan twice, all are still planning to go to Uzbekistan. If we (that means you, dear reader and myself) find an embassy or consulate for Kazahkstan in Uzbekistan, then hopefully the can continue with their new friends.

In this spirit, spasiba for your help

Help me please

First we all thought, that Richard and Martin's cell phone provider don't have a roaming contract with the russian carriers. Now I found a webpage with different area codes for Germany (the +49 obiviously doesn't work there), it says 8~10 + 49 + area code + number.
Anyone got an idea what thy symbol between 8 and 10 could mean ?
Furthermore, has any of you traveled to Kazakhstan (or a similar country) and knows how much money you have to offer the officers to speed up the visa process ? Or whether you could get in trouble for doing so ?
Thing is, the boys didn't manage to go to the consulate of Kazakhstan in Moldova. So, there still is the problem of having only a single entry visa. Anyone any ideas ?

Please leave me a comment. Your help is greatly appreciated

Update #13

Our boys made it to Russia last night. That is, after spending 4h at the border, because all the forms were in Russian only. Maybe Richard should have spent more time in learning Russian ;) Finally, they were allowed to pass on only to rush into the next police control. This time, speaking Russian wouldn't help either, only 50 € could bring them farther. To avoid paying so much over and over and again, they teamed up with Team Ruhrpott since Rostov. Now they can split the bribes.

2007/07/28 12.44
Driving towards Astrakhan in a convoy.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Driver Comments #3

I begin to feel, I should have joined the trip. Here we go with some more events of rally companions. By the way, remind me never to go to Serbia, as it seems you have to pay a fee / fine for everything...
  • Team Mongu Mongu
    Location Budapest(Hungary) ; 07:57 on 27-07-2007
    Just spent 3 days ignoring the less than subtle mariage hints of our hostel owners hideous daughter while our engine was being replaced. Hell.
  • R77
    Location Ruse(Bulgaria) ; 07:22 on 27-07-2007
    Ruse.Policia fronterizo su mejor amigo trabaja en Tenerife .desde aqui un saludo.
  • Austrian Team
    Location Kursk(Russia) ; 22:55 on 26-07-2007
    we are in RUSSIA. Hier gibt es Russendisco als Freiluftversion. Grenze alles ok. Niet pistola :)
  • Starsky and Clutch
    Location Unknown ; 20:07 on 26-07-2007
    in bulgaria in a hotel its really nice, just had dinner and beer. The pool looks good shame its not built yet! Love 2 everyone
  • Tim & Fudge's Big Adventure
    Location Kiev(Ukraine) ; 19:27 on 26-07-2007
    In Ukraine,hd'n4 Kiev..where's the tarmac gone?!we're pretty far from Kansas!people on donkeys+carts! difference between here+Poland is unbelievable! Xx
  • TB Mongolian Adventurers
    Location Chisinau(Moldovia) ; 17:39 on 26-07-2007
    not going to make odesa today due to having to avoid an unrecognised soviet separatist state in east moldova who have their own borders and special@)se in arms and drug dealing! As a result we're only just gaining on the ukrainian border down in the south. Ps there is a high chance we're going to be on tv
  • Team Scraz
    Location Unknown ; 19:39 on 25-07-2007
    We have crossed into Russia! Only 2 hours at border! Split a molar in half on lump of bone hidden in salami so going to dentists in Moscow. Love Jay x x x
  • Ey Up Genghis
    Location Kiev(Ukraine) ; 18:41 on 25-07-2007
    late start as team austria were busy with sponsors n ukrainian tv..Gave our first present to a jolly fat policeman who wanted one of our beers!
  • Team Jackal
    Location Volgograd(Russia) ; 18:31 on 25-07-2007
    retained at Russian border. They ask directly for a bribe. We resist.
  • Land of Down
    Location Unknown ; 18:28 on 25-07-2007
    Four hours of incomprehensible bureaucracy supervised by a dozen attractive female border guards in uniform left us feeling like in a third rate movi@%. But we're in and Moscow bound!@
  • Team Crazy Fools
    Location Belgrade(Serbia) ; 17:33 on 25-07-2007
    The fools have crossed border into Serbia. Guard a Chelsea fan. Got fleeced over 275 quid for road tax because we drive a van! Extortionate parasites!
  • Norfolkin'chance
    Location Vienna(Austria) ; 17:18 on 25-07-2007
    are doing an engine rebuild in the bavarian wild and looking out for lederhosen
  • The Goonies
    Location Arad(Romania) ; 16:08 on 25-07-2007
    Through Hungary,now into Romania.Staying at a haunted house in transylvania where Dracula used to hang out.sump guard now fitted-bring on the desert!
  • The 3 Mongoliers
    Location Pascani(Romania) ; 14:37 on 25-07-2007
    In romanian mountains! Too awesome! Just about overtaking horse and carts with number plates. So many stray dogs government renamed them 'community dogs'... Gonna bag one for ourselves...

Go, go, go guys...

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Update #12 - Amendment

I'm getting a bad conscience, that Moldavia's reputation might suffer from my description. So I'll tell you some events that were actually quite good there:
  • When the boys were shopping in a Metro store in Chisinau, it wasn't until they reached the checkout counter, when they realized that they would need a customer card to be eligible to shop there. However, using all of their charme they managed to persuade the salesgirl to bend the rules and give them staff's discount.
  • Wandering around Chisinau, trying to decide which route to take next, they stumbled across a guy from Hannover (Germany). The world is somewhat small. Using his advice, our boys managed to avoid some road blocks and managed to reach the border in a reasonable (in Moldavian terms) time.

Still... I'd suggest a different travel destination ;)

Update #12 - Long story................. long

Wow, I just had a very very long phone call (crystal clear quality) from Kherson (Ukraine), I don't want to see those roaming costs. But we do everything to keep you updated. So here we go.
Our boys were on the way to Moldavia when we talked last time. To sum up Romania, a beatiful country, verly lovely, but also very poor. On their way through the mountain passes, they did a refuel at a gas station and looked pretty astonished, when the owner started speaking German to them :) Afterwards, they continued their way south, trying to find a spot to spend the night. But that turned out to be difficult, as whenever they thought they found a nice spot, someone came by, either some farmers, some guys trying to repair their car or just strange lights... so our heroes fled before anything could happen to them (to be honest... we would have done the same). So they stopped on a mini parking space around midnight and rested until 4.00 am. Then a Mercedes Sprinter came by, 3 guys hopping out, doing... hell who cares, Martin just kicked the gas and tried to get away. In doing so, they made it to Iasi (Romania) finally. Shortly before the border, they couldn't resist to take a nap. When they woke up again, they were surrounded by a lot of people and cows, all waiting for the bus. Next time you better watch where you park your car ;) The border to Moldovia, a short drive for our heroes, but a great income for the customs officer. They directly asked for a bribe, so a beer and 5 bucks and they were done. Hold it, entering Moldovia with a car... you could bring bugs with it into the country. That's not possible. So what next ? Yes, the officers sprayed disinfectant-spray all over the car. Die you bugs ! Can we now pass the border... well, do you have Moldavian money ? No ? Then go and exchange some. Allright, so Richard went to the bank, which luckily was right next to the customs office and exchanged 5 bucks. And what did he get in return ? Moldovian money ? You wish. No, he got a certificate, saying the exchanged some money. Well, that's a cool way to become rich. Remind me to adapt this for students coming to my office ...
Finally, our boys were free to go and headed to the Capital Chisinau to get some rest, but as this city or rather this country isn't much of a beauty, they kept going straight for the Ukraine. However, the word highway gotta have other meanings, in Moldavia it means farm track. So making 2 miles took them almost 45 min, eventually stopping for a few seconds to search for a "real" road using field-glasses (finally they come in handy). Nothing helped, Moldavia sucks. So off to the border, where - who would guess so - they had to fill out a lot of forms again for the Moldavian officers. Entering the Ukraine didn't appear to be much easier: filling out visa forms (luckily in English) and a car insurance form (only in Cyrillic). The officers looked like they saw another 2 idiots not being able to speak Russian. But then, the major officer showed up, being all interested in the car. How old is it ? -> 20 years. How cool, I drive a Luars (never heard of that before) with a VW engine and a dashboard from Audi. Your trip is cool, maybe I'll join on the Mongol Rally 2008. That made it a lot easier. Direction Odesa, which isn't easy as a) the road looks like a clobbering (dt. Bombenteppich) and b) there are no road signs. Probably there are, they just can't read them. As we talked on the phone, the get passed by police cars in rapid succession. But none of them stops them, it seems that they are to astouned to 2 Europeans in such a car in such a country, that they miss the point to stop them. As it gets dark, it gets more and more complicated to guess where the road might be and avoid driving into huge holes on the street. Luckily, they finally make it to Odesa, where they stay in the Hotel Palladium (sertified for 4* ;)). After taking a shower they are asked to remove their reserve wheels from the roof of the car, just in case. How friendly.

2007/07/26 14.09
Kherson (Ukraine), mileage counter shows 4478 km

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Driver Comments #2

as they are too good to miss :)
  • Norfolkin'chance
    Location Frankfurt(Germany) ; 08:40 on 24-07-2007
    are back in the race. Got 3 new wheels, bearings, big fix and only charged for parts. If your gonna break down you should have done it in germany!
  • The Dolly Mixtures
    Location Nuremberg(Germany) ; 07:21 on 24-07-2007
    we got a little navigationally challenged and ended up in hamburg instead of munich.
  • Vienna Calling
    Location Lviv(Ukraine) ; 15:12 on 24-07-2007
    wir hab den fuss am gas - den fiat fest im griff....falco ist mit uns!
  • The Toad Elevating Moment
    Location Unknown ; 16:19 on 24-07-2007
    I love the instant trust & team atmosphere on the rally. The fact I can sleep in another team car & feel safe, the way no 1 gets left behind a convoy etc-Gem
  • 16:33 I spoke too soon. Team Tom just drove into our car. Now we have to tie the boot shut! D'oh
  • We're Actuarially Going To Mongolia
    Location Satu Mare(Romania) ; 18:12 on 24-07-2007
    ... Guards obv not as friendly as romanians who accused us of bein osama's smugglers
  • Perseverance
    Location Oradea(Romania) ; 19:56 on 24-07-2007
    ordea, romania; 20 ralliers in a crap motel, got big discount. Going good, still running hot,+ heat on full blast to draw heat from engine, so hot in the car our air vents are melting
  • Team Crazy Fools
    Location Debrecen(Hungary) ; 13:56 on 25-07-2007
    Spent night in real bed after well needed shower. City of Szeged is stunning! Spent the day taking photos. Got a parking ticket, not planning to pay.

Update #11

2007/07/25 10.40
Leaving the European Union and entering Moldavia (by paying bribes for the first time)

Unfortunately, my information is not very exhaustive, but as far as I know, they are all doing ok and could be on their way to the capital of Moldavia. There they probably head to the embassy of Kazakhstan to apply for another visa. They already have one, but as the want to visit as many countries as possible, they will have to re-enter Kazakhstan. And so far, their visa allows only for a one time entry.

All this trouble with visa... next time get a mastercard *g*

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Driver Comments #1

I thought of a new type of message, where I could have you participate in what other drivers experienced on their trip. So, from time to time you'll see new comments on this blog...

  • Rustbucket Express Location Belgrade(Serbia) 14:22 on 24-07-2007 just paid 90 stg by the border for a "car insurance" we already have. God bless Serbia
  • nissan2do Location Prague(Czech Republic) 14:27 on 24-07-2007 got car back from a good but miserable mechanik,new clutch,rear susp...
  • Yakky Racers Location Lviv(Ukraine) 14:28 on 24-07-2007 Joined up with Southern Best and Rusty rhinos and heading in convey to Kiev. Enjoying ukraines decision to hide speed bumps in the middle of main roads
  • Green Pea Location Unknown 14:37 on 24-07-2007 Rijeka slovenia. Just had a pizza before leaving italy. Turns out pepperoni pizza is peppers not meat...

Update #10 - The heat is on

It gets more and more complicated to write you about the progress of our boys. They don't know where they are... and neither do I. It pretty complicated as Google Maps doesn't contain a lot of Romanian cities and I guess this won't get better when travelling eastwards. Furthermore, the heat in the car (around 50°C) worsens things as well.
However, so far they had a fun time in Romania. As Budapest didn't prove to be very much of interest, they kept sitting in the car and couldn't quit driving. So they passed the Hungarian-Romanian border around midnight and decided to spend the night in Oradea (hey I found that town in Google Maps). I was told, this is an awkward city (maybe I can find a pic of that): it's really poor, but got some real nice churches and street cleaners, who work around midnight. So, finding a hotel at night seems to be a bit of a problem or our boys are just to smelly (and probably unkempt) to find some nice and cheap hotel. The only hotel that let them in was a 4* Hotel Continental, but so what... it's Romania, it's cheap (for us). On the next day, more heavy expenses came their way: the highway toll. So they threw in all their money and paid 1 € for the vignette and continued to race on the street, carefully not to crash into one of the many carriages. I wonder if one or two horses wouldn't help in giving the car some of the much needed extra hp...

2007/07/24 16.00
Somewhere after Targo Mures (Romania, check out the link), mileage counter shows: 3380 km

Scenery in Rumania

Monday, 23 July 2007

Update #9

2007/07/23 17.43
Crossing Hungarian border, mileage counter: 2647 km
Good news everyone. So far our team didn't encounter serious problems and already reached Hungary. The oil pressure lamp keeps coming up from time to time, but it looks like, that this only happens when pushing the car to much. So they decided to slow down a little bit, nevertheless it should be no problem to reach Budapest this night. On the overall comparison, our boys do pretty fine. There it the team "Bottom Gear", which already made it to Lviv (around 500 km ahead) and is close to Kiev, but probably this team skipped the meeting point in Prague and is driving through the night. Again, this is NOT a race and who knows whether their Volkswagon Polo will make it to Mongolia at that pace.

Update #8

2007/07/23 11.52
Leaving Prague, mileage counter shows: 2250,1 km

As Prague is a lovely city with lots of things to see, Richard and Martin decided to take a walk through the city before leaving. Then left town on the D1 towards Brno, but didn't make it very far as they immediately got stuck in a traffic jam. Therefore, today's destination might change from Rumania to something closer. From now on it's pure adventure, up up and away towards destination unknown...

I'll show you a picture of how our boys looked like when they left, in case you don't recognize them again when they'll return. Take a look a the rear axis of the car, maybe they have a little overweight ...

*NEW* Map Links

Hey fellow rally enthusiasts,
we have new means of tracking our boys along their way. There is an SMS service that allows them to send their current position to the organisation of the Mongol Rally. They put the location on a Google mashup for you to see. So I added to links on the sidebar (Maps & Tracks), one containing an overview of the routes the teams want to take and one with the current positions.
Hope you like it :)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Update #7

2007/07/22 20.27 Reaching Prague

As I haven't been told otherwise, it looks to me that they made it to Prague in one piece. This will be the last stop in a hotel before the "real" part of the journey will begin, featuring wild animals, dirt roads, no running water. Let's see how they will cope with that. But for now, there's a party in Prague to celebrate. Maybe this is the last time the drivers will meet at one place before Mongolia. So boys, drink one on me, too.

Good luck

Update #6 - First Pit Stop

After they left the Hyde Park, our competitors had a smooth tour through the Euro Tunnel, through France, but in Belgium... something interrupted. What does the funny looking red light wanna tell ? Hmm... well, before smoke could arise, our boys just stopped the car on the expressway and refilled a lot of motor oil. That did it ! When it comes to such old cars, engines tend to burn oil, so guys, hope you think of that next time or your engine will blow ;)
So, after successfully passing the first test in "mechanical engineering", including an equipment test of the warning triangle and safety vest, the continued their trip and arrived Wiesbaden (Germany) at night time. Getting some rest and a good breakfast, our guys gained enough strength to get back on course, towards Prague. Thus leading to the following intermediate result:

2007/07/22 10.25
Leaving Wiesbaden, mileage counter shows 1649,3 km

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Update #5 - The Rally is on

2007/07/21 14.41 Leaving the Hyde Park

A huge crowd is cheering the drivers. Everyone is highly motivated. Let's see how many will actually make it to Mongolia and in what time. The overall question is: Will Martin and Richard meet drivers from last year on the path ? Can they give them some advice to get there in the 3 weeks ? Questions over questions... I'll be there to give you the answers.

Stay tuned

Update #4 - The Rally is about to begin...

if it wouldn't be for the first minor problems. The party must have pretty thrilling as both of our boys can't remember where they put their parking ticket. And without any money (alcohol wasn't for free on the party ;)) they are wandering around, only finding broken ATMs. Finally, Martin is now trying to get the car out of the underground parking, while Richard is registering the team for the start. Thereby, he told me a secret, they already lost their way 4 times while travelling through London. Now, if that is not good news...

Friday, 20 July 2007

Update #3

2007/07/20 21.18 : Reaching the Streets of London

Finally our boys managed to reach London and fought their way through the heavy traffic of UK's capital. After a short bio-break, they will be off to find the location of the Mongol Rally Kick-Off party. Here, they hopefully make some new friends, who can help them along their long journey. After that, they'll return (or will they stay on the party all night ?) to their 35 € hotel (where did they find that one ?) and get some rest, such that they will be ready for departure.

Update #2

2007/07/20 15.41
Hopping on the Euro Tunnel train to UK, mileage: 795,7

As for now, everything went pretty smooth, let's hope that it'll continue like that

Update #1

So, Richard and Martin reached the Netherlands, and in such a good time, too. Let's take a look at the facts:

2007/07/20 09.38
Start in Bochum, Germany; mileage counter shows 357,4 km

We're sorry for the inconvenience, but we're not sure whether the car made the 100,000 km once or twice. To simplify matters, I'll be omitting the first 3 digits ;)

2007/07/20 10.58
Reaching the Netherlands, mileage counter: 464,2 km

One country down, 13 to go :)

Information Base Support

As our two heros have departed on their way to London, you might read articles from me as well. So, I guess it's a good time to introduce myself. My name is Mirko and I am a fellow researcher of Martin, acting as a link between our two rally competitors at the MongolRally 2007 and the rest of the world. They will try to keep me (and thereby you) informed with the latest information, reports and maybe even pictures if they manage to fit them into an SMS/MMS ;) Well, the rally is on; I hope I can provide you new infos soon, so check our website.

We are on the road!

If you read this after about 8am, then we are on the road and on our way to London. Thanks to Mirko, all our SMS Updates will also be posted here, so stay tuned!

And for God's sake, wish us luck!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Almost Ready

Only four days to go. The Rally better be an amazing experience, because it's cost us a lot of time and energy in the last few weeks and months. Not just us in fact, but also the people around us. I wanted to take this time to thank them for their enormous patience. At some point they were probably ready to strangle the 413th person to ask me about the Rally (God knows I was ready to do it), but they didn't. For that, I am grateful.

It's not just cost us a lot nerves, however, it's also cost us an amazing amount of money. Between visas and last minute shopping, we've blown through 600€ just today. If think about doing the Rally next year and you read this page on the Mongol Rally website, here's some advice: Don't believe their lies! Fortunately we've had some amazing sponsors and I'd like to thank them as well. Without them, we would have had to cancel the Rally, simply for financial reasons.

Also a big thanks to everyone who donated to our charities. You've done good. Literally. Note that there's been a bit of a snafu with transferring the money collected at the STC. Fortunately that's been corrected and the money is on it's way to us and then on to the charities. I hope we can get this done before the start of the Rally.

Speaking of the start of the Rally, there's finally been some solid information regarding the London launch. If you're in London over the weekend and want to hook up with us, you can do it here:

Location: North Carriage Drive, Hyde Park
Entrance: Victoria Gate, off Bayswater Road

The launch event is from 11:00 to 13:00. Or you can come to the party on Friday night. See the official rally homepage for more infos and tickets. We've already given away our contingent of discounted tickets to people who are slightly cooler than you, however. Sorry.

Anyway, we're this close to being ready to go. We've got the visas for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and our passports are on the way back to us. We might have gotten the visas for Kyrgyztan as well, but that would have been cutting it very close. The passports would have been back an hour(!) before our planned departure to London. Considering the somewhat flaky visa service, we decided not to take the chance.

From what I understand the car is ready as well, and we've bought pretty much all the equipment we need. Still need to find places to stay in London and Prague, we need to buy some food and there's one last vaccination shot tomorrow. Oh, and I still need some decent shoes.

Otherwise I think we're good to go. Let's hope I'm right.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Ze Video Interview

The video interview I mentioned a while ago is now online. I haven't watched it, actually. Way too scared of the possibility that I made a fool of myself. Anyway, unlike the one with Martin, this one is in English, so if you don't speak Deutsch, this one is for you.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Ze Visa Troubles Continue

I hate visas. I hate them with every fiber of my body. Not only do they cost a lot of money, time and nerves, they're also trying to crush my soul. So far they're doing a pretty good job of it, too.

What happened this time? Well, somebody at the visa service screwed up and applied for our Kazakhstan visas with a request for processing in seven days instead of one, as planned. This means we'll have to wait for them until next Monday, when they should have been here today.

Maybe, just maaaaaybe we can still get both the visas for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan done in the last week, but most likely we will have to skip Kyrgyzstan. Frankly, that wouldn't be a total disaster. I'm really looking forward to Uzbekistan, but Kyrgyzstan is not a major part of our planned route. Still, I'm not happy about it.

Not the least because I've once again had to fill out visa forms and now I'm once again heading to the post office. Fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Deluge 2.0

Okay, so here's something I learned today. Whenever things are going well, my apartment floods. I'm not kidding. See, a couple of days ago I mentioned that things were going well again, and that I was bracing myself for the worst. After all, the last time things were going well, I came home to find a note from the police that the fire department had broken into my apartment to stop the water.

As it turns out, it's a good thing I was bracing myself, because the last three days haven't exactly been what you would call "good". First of all, I had a nasty allergic reaction to something I ate, which meant I had to bail out of the rather nice Schlossfest on Friday. Nothing too bad, but it did remind me how important it is to carry my bottle of Fenistil with me wherever I go during the Rally.

After that I got sick, which pretty much ruined my Saturday. Didn't go out shopping as planned, didn't clean up the apartment as planned, didn't do anything, really. The only thing I did on Saturday was feel really, really bad.

Today I felt better, so I did clean up the apartment. Big mistake. About an hour ago (I was just about to go to bed) I wandered into the kitchen to find water pouring out from under the sink. I opened the cupboard to find, big surprise, that the damn boiler had sprung a leak. Again.

Now keep in mind here, that this is the exact same thing that happened last time, minus the police and the fire department. I have no idea how this can happen twice. It's not like it was the same boiler. The boiler was brand new. It's not even the same model of boiler as last time. Not even made by the same company! With the same thing happening twice in a row, except with completely different boilers, I would normally suspect user error. But for user error, there has to be some actual use involved, doesn't it? I never even touched either boiler. Ever.

Seriously, what is going on here?

Anyway, there I was kneeling in the water that's rushing out of the cupboard at alarming speed, desperately trying to turn off the water, when I get a nasty electric shock. To be fair, I should have turned off the electricity before touching the water coming out of my broken electric boiler.

But still. Ouch.

Better yet, every single one of my towels was currently in the washing machine, five stories below me. So I used my freshly washed and dried underwear to soak up the water. Which means if course that I will have to wash them again tomorrow! Man, am I looking forward to that. At least I had the presence of mind to reserve enough fresh underwear for tomorrow.

To sum it up:
- An hour ago my apartment was tidy and clean. Now it's dirty and in chaos.
- An hour ago I had fresh underwear. Now I don't.
- An hour ago I had warm water in the kitchen. Now I don't.
- An hour I ago I wasn't pissed off. Now I am!

At least I was home this time. I was actually this close to going out tonight. The only reason I didn't was that I'm still feeling a little sick. I figured I'd go to bed early. Well, that didn't quite work out, but at least I didn't have to pick up yet another set of keys at the police station.

Tonights incident is in fact just the latest in a streak of unbelievably bad luck. For example, just this week my car failed it's TÜV test. This means I need to get it repaired before the Rally, or it no longer counts as road-worthy. A couple of weeks ago, the car broke down on me in the middle of nowhere, with a completely busted radiator, so I've already pumped more money into the car than I am comfortable with and now it needs to go into the shop again. Oh, and on top of that, it's time to pay the vehicle tax this month. Lovely.

I'll spare you the other disasters that have happened to me recently (though an unfortunate incident with my boss's UMTS card is worthy of honorable mention), because I'm tired and want to go to bed. I can't help but wonder however, when this bad luck streak is going to end. Let's hope that by July 21st, I will simply have exhausted all my bad luck for this year, or we'll never even make it to London.

The only person happy about that would be my Mom.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Long Way Round

I've just watched the first episode of Long Way Round and you know what? I've decided not to watch any further until we're back. Not sure if this makes sense, but it would feel a bit like reading spoilers for a movie or consulting a walkthrough for a game. It just takes away the fun.

It seems that that they have taken pretty much the same route that we plan on taking, minus Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Not sure if that's the route they actually ended up going, but that's what they were planning in episode 1.

What's neat is how much their experiences in preparing the trip mirror some of or own. Yes, one of them is a huge film star and they've got their own headquarters building and production staff and lots of money and the backing of BMW and so on, but being a big Hollywood star apparently doesn't make it easier to get a multiple entry visa to Russia.

Good to know.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

17 Days To Go

I just express-mailed our passports to the service that does our Kazakhstan visas. Hopefully we will have those early next week, which would leave enough time to get Uzbekistan and Kyrgyztan before the start of the Rally. I had to drive there at maximum warp, because they were about to close. Almost didn't make it. Now I'm totally out of breath. The last time I was this fast on a bike, I still cared about whether I was late for school or not.

In other news, the lovely Lori was here today and we did a video interview about the Rally. Not sure if I was very coherent. Whenever I felt coherent, the cleaning lady came in and we had to start again. Or the tape ran out or something. That was great. The interview is also the reason I had to make my mad dash to the post office, because we did about a gazillion takes before we were done. All in all it was quite a bit of fun, though. I'll let you know when the video is available.

Having the passports here also confirmed that we definitely have valid visa for Russia and Mongolia. I have to say, seeing my Mongolian visa in the passport was quite a cool moment. Ulan Bator here we come!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Ze Status 3.0

I've just got off the phone with our visa service and we've got our visas for Mongolia and Russia. This is the minimum we need to do the Rally, which means we're officially good to go!

Just going through Russia isn't our planned route obviously, so we still need to get three more visa. The most important one is Kazakhstan, because without a visa for Kazakhstan the visa for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are pretty much useless. With a little bit of luck we will have that by the end of the week, which should leave enough time to get the other two. Worst case scenario: we need to skip Kyrgyzstan. We could live with that.

Also, we went on a massive shopping spree on Saturday spending a huge amount of money at Europe's biggest outdoor store (pictured above). Equipment-wise we're pretty much ready to go. Unfortunately the tent we bought was only available in baby-puke green.

We still need to figure out how much money we're going to bring along and in which denominations. Plus we need to buy a reasonable amount of food.

Otherwise we're pretty much ready to go (much to our own surprise). The car is also making good progress and should be out of the shop on Thursday.

In other words: things are going well. Too well. I'm bracing myself for the worst.