On Sunday 14th July Ian McCurdie and Paul Chambers set off as a competitor in the 2013 Mongol Rally to raise money for CRY. This amazing adventure saw them drive from Kent to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia and raise a wonderful £17,460.00 (£18,533.75 including Gift Aid).
“Riot police and river crossings, blatant corruption and mindless bureaucracy, and of course mechanical breakdown. These are the things that threaten to get in the way of a small car driving over 9,000 miles across 19 countries in aid of charity. Such are the challenges of the Mongol Rally, an event that sees more than 200 small cars set off from the UK and attempt to drive across one third of the earth’s surface on some of its worst roads to reach the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.
Amidst whispers of ‘mid-life crisis’, we took on this challenge in a four door Smart car and, perhaps against the odds, we succeeded and raised just over £18,000 for CRY along the way. Our journey was full of incident and adventure, taking us across deserts, over mountain ranges and through great swathes of breathtaking expansive wilderness. From the relative comfort and familiarity of Europe, through the exotic (& hot) Silk Routes of Central Asia to the spectacular steppe region of Mongolia, we traveled through regions seldom visited by tourists and largely untouched by modern life. The warmth and generosity of the local people we met along the way, most of whom lived simple lives with few possessions, was at times overwhelming and certainly one of the most memorable aspects of our adventure.
Our greatest challenge was probably the quality of the roads. To drive a small town car that is built for safely negotiating the weekly shopping run across some of the worst quality ‘roads’ and roughest terrain imaginable was interesting to say the least. Despite fitting a sump guard and suspension blocks to increase our chances of not breaking the most vulnerable parts, we still managed to crack the sump whilst driving through the Gobi desert (and towing another car at the time!). Luckily for us, we were rescued by fellow rallyers Ruben & Miguel, both Spanish mechanics. Such was the instinct for survival and ‘esprit de corps’ among the multi-national rallyers that we spent much of our 1,000 mile journey across Mongolia traveling in convoy. Every effort was made to ensure the cars made it to their destination – nothing appeared to be unfixable. Ingenuity and improvisation counted for everything in such a remote environment. A pair of flip flops were zip-tied into a broken suspension spring, providing enough support to get the stricken Suzuki Alto to Ulaanbaatar, only to then be removed and returned to their owner’s feet!
Highlights along the way were many and varied, but most memorable were the scenery and the people. The scenery was ever changing and spectacular, from the Gates of Hell in the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan to the mountain passes of the Transfagasaran highway (Jeremy Clarkson’s “best road in the world”) to the huge valleys of central Kyrgystan to the stunning storm clouds, rainbows and wild eagles in Mongolia. We met so many kind, friendly people, including Turkmen truck drivers, vodka drinking Kazakh mothers, proud Georgian businessmen, endless enthusiastic Mongolian children and of course many other rallyers from all over the world, each with their own stories to tell.
This was very much the trip of a lifetime. We had lots of adventure, raised some funds for a really worthwhile cause and came home with our faith in the human spirit fully restored. But what next…?!”
Ian McCurdie & Paul Chambers
The Old Blues Brothers
You can read Ian and Paul’s full blog by going to http://oldbluesbrothers.com/