We hung our Dublin road sign in the middle of Ulaan Baatar. Seminal Moment!!!
Now for flights home, the adventure ends
3am. Just arrived on the outskirts of UB after 70 hours in a russian jeep with Mongolia or Bust. Shaken but not stirred.
Booked into a hotel. Journey Over, we made it!!
Got a few hours sleep and met other drivers at the local office of Save the Children.
The staff of Save The Children took us on a tour of their facilities in Ulaan Baatar. We saw some of the centres which the money risen by the rally will support. We also got a chance to learn more about the great work thet save the children do and got to meet some of the children too. Amazing stuff.
3am. Just arrived on the outskirts of UB after 70 hours in a russian jeep with Mongolia or Bust. Shaken but not stirred.
We have hired a russian jeep together with team Mongolia or Bust and are continuing to UB.
Met team Mongolia or Bust again just inside the Mongolian Border. Steering bust on their 2CV. Not looking like its going any further.
Made Mongolia yesterday evening. Filled up two jerry cans with an extra 50 litres of juice. Then the suspension broke! Crawled to next town. Next flight Tue
Unfortunately it looks like we have to part company with our friends Chris and Charlie of Fiat Force as we are now badly running out of time to hit UB.
Fiat broke down in Siberia. Six Russian Soldiers in a Lada turned up from the local tank and missile command and towed them back to base them to garage!
8.50am. All night drive in tandem with Forat Force. On the outskirts of Novosibrisk. Susuki well. Fiat and John improving!
Suzuki fixed, back on the road. All night drive with Fiat Force east for Mongolia. John down with bad tummy again.
The garage said if they cant get the part they will make one! Should be on the road tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
Relaxing day today while waiting for the part. A local lad who owns a couple of shops and speaks good English has been taking us around all day. Very funny! Paintballing, bowling, eating, breaking down has never been such fun.
Stuck in Omsk in Russia with Team Fiat Force. Suzuki is leaking oil onto the clutch. We have been here since Sunday evening still waiting for a part to fix the car.
Bad news. We have a damaged oil seal which is leaking oil onto the clutch. Its not looking good on getting a replacement.
Went paint balling with twenty mad russians then had a case of beer in the sauna now off to dinner with them.
Rallyers win paintballing ! Super craic ! Pure mental !
Going paintballing with Fiat Force and a load of russians ! On way in taxi with a mental driver !
Oil leaking onto clutch. Hope to be fixed and running tomorrow.
Stopped up in Omsk with Fiat Force, getting a new clutch and they are getting their steering fixed.
Headin 2wards Onsk in russia 2 c if clutch can b fitted and if fiat-force can get theirs steering reinstalled !
Five and a quarter hours and 30 dollars and we are in Russia!
Convoy stopped in Rudny 4 running repairs - taken 2 a house by the mechanic 2 wash
Camping on a hilltop in N Kazakstan with rest of convoy - havin beers
6 hrs - 6o miles covered in west kazak desert !
Mild food poisoning
The sister ship of the ship we are on sank last year. All hands lost bar one.
Ship shape is an unknown concept on the Caspian!
On the Ferry to Kazakstan. One more bribe to get our toilet upgraded to a
Just checked into the Hyatt in Baku overlooking the Caspian, Feel we deserve
it after 15hour drive and lots of police harrasment.
$115 US in Bribes to get into Azerbaijan as right hand cars are illegal and
our visa only becomes valid in two days. Just done 100km on gravel !!
Heading for Baku, it will be a long drive.
Just past Kars, a wild trading outpost, Clint Eastwood would feel at home.
Should be at the Armenian border within the hour.
Got up in Istanbul and had a decent meal. Arranged for a local guide to bring us around the mosques and other fabulous sights of this huge city ( London X 2 !!). Had a great time relaxing by the pool and chilling the hell out! We feel we deserve it !! Heading for Ankara and beyond in the morning, so early to bed ! Right..!!
Got up and brought the jeep into the mechanic beside the resteraunt to get him to put some gear oil in the transmission and gearbox which we now reckon may be the root of the oil leakage (weve blocked it coming out every where else so last place to check !!!) whilst we went into the cafe and had breakfast. Once more we,re on the road and heading to Sofia to sort out our financial problems once and for all !! It was probably just as well we stopped when we did the night before as 2-3 miles down the road we came across a roughly 3 yr old 40 ft artic lorry that had gone off the edge of the road and landed roughly 15 ft below the road - not nice ....
However, to get to Sofia you have to cross the border into Bulgaria and once again we find ourselves trapped in no-mans-land with no viable currency. ( Dont take Visa, dont want notes from Serbia + M, think hard of taking euros .....!!!!) Not sure how we managed it (too tired to make mental notes ) but we managed to blagg our way through !! Driving down to Sofia we finally got Euros from the bank in the centre of Sofia (just as the border gaurds had told us) and decided it was full pelt for Istanbul whatever the cost. Knackered beyond a joke and taking shifts to sleep/drive (sleeping aint so easy in a cramped jeep going over rough roads !!) we push on for the border with Turkey and spend approx. 2 hrs getting through the 5 seperate checkpoints which meant buying insurance, having exactly all the right stamps and papers, back/forth, keep smiling even th ough your knackered, Money here/Money there.........etc etc but we eventually got through. Grand....
So, we,re flying down along the main road into Istanbul and notice that there aren,t quite as many petrol stations as before- in fact, they havn't opened any on a road 220 km long yet ! Hence, we had to pull off the toll road and slip into a town just outside Istanbul to get petrol. Round and around till we finally find a petrol station, fill up, and head back towards the road to Istanbul which brought us back onto the toll-road we'd just left by paying Euros to the guy at the toll booth - he wasn't so happy to accept them but he did, and off we went to the next toll booth before we got to Istanbul proper. However, when we got to the final toll-booth which we got through with not too much fuss, we were pulled over by the Turkish police for having fog-lights on the jeep ( !!!!!!!). Hence, Fintan was arrested by the police for an infringement of their driving laws. It was a mix of his Irish pass port, the rally come charity story and a bit of banter from him that stopped a night in a Turkish cell !! ( Thoughts of "Midnight Express" abound !).
We eventually made it into Istanbul, and for two guys - wrecked tired, manky dirty, and not speaking a word of the language at 2 am driving around FOR AN HOUR looking for a hotel......once more- no fun. Eventually stumbled on the Holiday Inn, unpacked the jeep, had something to eat with a beer and fell into a soft comfortable bed....Sweet!
John, Lisa, and Fintan in Budapest
Bad heads again, very hot and beautiful in Budapest, now heading for Belgrade and Sofia then to the next check point in Istanbul. Lots of issues with oil and water so I guess we will meet more mechanics today!!!
Left Budapest en route for Sofia trying to make up the time we've lost due to breakdowns and missed ferries etc. and to catch up with the other ralliers. Hard drive down towards Belgrade on the motorway when we encountered a huge electrical storm which we had been advised by Lisa the previous night was coming. Just before we got to Belgrade the storm was at it's most severe and the downpour was making driving conditions almost impossible with so much rain hitting the windscreen that the wipers just couldnt keep the windscreen clear. Throw in the blasts of fork lightning, sheet lightning lighting up the whole countryside for 2-3 seconds at a time and blinding John who was driving, plus the crosswind pushing the car back and forth across the road with oncoming traffic ( big, big trucks !!!) in the oncoming l ane beside us and no idea where the actual lanes were because the 2-3 inches of rain that fell in the space of an hour (literally rivers running down the hard shoulder !!!) covering the white lines and you may get a felling of what we were trying to get through and eventually had to take cover under a bridge until the downpour eased off a bit. No fun.
But, onwards and upwards, we kept going along this toll road that we had to blagg our way onto by bribing the toll booth guy with two boxes of cigarettes as we werent carrying any hard currency (an oversight on our part - DONT EVER GO DRIVING ACROSS EUROPE WITH NO HARD CURRENCY ). This actually became an issue as we still didnt have any hard currency to pay to get off the toll road (pay to get on - pay to get off ?????? ). So we were informed by the toll guy at the exit of a way to go back, get off the road, and use the local roads to get around the toll !! ( Yep, as far as we know, he was actually telling us how to avoid paying his wages - hard to believe but we werent bothered !!) So, back we went onto the local roads and met a scene of devastation just like after a hurricane. Trees down across the roads, roads flooded, people coming out to survey the damage etc. With Fintan at the wheel, we got to do our first bit of off-road driving over the branches of the downed trees to get by. And so it carried on till we got back on the road and decided to skirt around the city of Belgrade and try and head for Sofia as soon as possible.
Now, driving at night is not to be recommended in any of the former soviet republics as we soon found out on a b-road towards Sofia where we were trying to climb a mountain road with buses, lorries, & cars all vying for space on a road approx. 5M wide up through tunnels hewn out of the solid rock in torrential rain. (at this stage we,re becoming convinced the storm is stalking us !) and after driving along until the road disappeared from under us and we found ourselves driving along on muck and sand,( scary!) we deciced to give it was time for a rest. At this stage it was 4.25 am and we pulled into a truck stop with a garage and a resteraunt and decided to get some kip till morning. HOWEVER, the resteraunt was 24hr and constant bus loads were arriving to use the facilities. Also the jeep's cover was leaking in water at a furious rate, so we both got very little sleep if any at all and woke up wet, depressed and hungry. Once more, no fun.
Had a look around the beautiful city of Prague and took some photos - Headed south-east towards Budapest via Bratislava (where we had the windscreen washed by 2 young girls and had no currency to pay them with until we got them out of a jam where they broke the windscreen wiper of a large Mercedes and the lady owner was calling them all sorts of abusive terms in Czech - bizarre !!!) and arrived in time to meet Lisa who is Keith "don?t worry its only a bit of gear oil" sister-in -law who showed us where his apartment was and brought us out for a much needed beer. However, on the downside we?ve found water/antifreeze leaking from the engine block - not good but manageable - (or so we?ve been told !)
John in Prague
Woke up in a campsite outside Stuttgart with two banging heads from the previous nights encounters in the beer tent. Hit the road with a vengeance to try to make it to Prague. Seem to have oil leaks under control now (fingers crossed !)
Woke up in Calais and checked out of hotel and hit the road for Stuttgart where we were to stay with Olaf a friend of Fintan. Stopped into petrol station for fuel and found the car wouldn?t start because we?d left the lights on when the engine wasn?t running (not good practice !). However, luck was on our side again, because at the pump beside us was a German rowing team who Fintan blagged into giving us a push. So, theres this rowing team pushing the jeep about 30 yards (up a hill !) with John at the wheel and it still wouldn?t start ! Luckily one of the Germans was clued up to ask John had the ignition actually been on ? Funnily enough, and to Johns eternal embarrassment, it hadn?t and started within 3 yards when the ignition was actually on !
That evening we got to a German campsite South East of Frankfurt and met Olaf sand Family who brought us out for a spin in a speedboat around the wide river beside it (fabulous !) then went for a beer or 10 at this beerfest tent which can hold 6000 people and was full of women carrying enormous amounts of beer to the tables ! Nice Place, and good timing..
Bobs Family in Ramsgate!
Bob's Autos in Ramsgate - Fantastic!
John and Rebecca Loos
Vandals in London
Sam and His Mum, South of Chester
Starting Line in Hyde Park
Todays the day for the official start of the rally from a closed off road within Hyde Park in London. A fabulous display of clapped out motors as you could ever hope for ! Finally got to see the infamous Robin reliant which is going in the rally (powered we suspect by the automatic bubble-blowing machine fixed to the roof !) .Everyone done a lap of honour down to trafalgar square to celebrate the off.Meanwhile, back at team S&S we discovered we have four mats on the floor of the jeep as all were required to cover oil still leaking from our engine. The rally organizers had told us to contain any spillages as they would be fined by the maintenance people in Hyde Park. Rebecca Loos was also there as her parents are driving in the rally and John got his photo taken with her and had her sign the side of the jeep - he can now die happy !!!
So a quick stop into Halfords and out on the road to Dover. However, its on the M25 that our exhaust quite literally fell off and the noise inside the jeep became unbearable. So, with oil still leaking it was decided emergency action was required. At this stage we?d missed the ferry so called up yellow pages to find a garage with a mechanic still working at 5 on a Saturday afternoon South East of London!!! So, we got a number for a guy called "Bob" of "Bobs Autos" in Ramsgate and headed over that direction quite apprehensibly as the address was a house number and we weren?t sure if this guy was working out of the back of a van or what ! Got there, and to our amazement the guy had a proper garage where the walls were covered with pictures of him driving a jeep down through a river in Africa during the "Rhino Challenge" which is another charity rally (and which he?d won a number of times!) and he fixed all the cars up for that. Bob also prepares cars for the Camel Trophy Challenge international 4x4 event. What Luck! This is just the guy we want. The only reason he was still open was he was expecting his cousins down from Manchester to pick up an engine he?d fixed for them ! So Bob and his mechanics (Sons) get to work on the jeep welding up the exhaust and sealing the sump gasket which was in tatters at this stage and worked until 8.30pm on the car. But the funny thing was, as Bob and his crew were working away, more and more of his family and friends arrived and started taking pictures and video of the whole thing and asking us where we were going and telling us we?re crazy !!! We?ve got a group photo posted on the website with about twenty people in it !! But seriously, we think our rally would be over by now if we hadn?t run into Bob and friends so a serious thank you to all at Bobs Autos (It should be borne in mind, Bob refused to accept any payment for his work and the use of his team and equipment until one was forced on him and even at that it wasn?t enough to cover an oil change - now that?s charity !!)
So, left Ramsgate and headed for Dover where we just rolled through without questions onto a ferry we didn?t have tickets for and across the channel to Calais. Too tired to put up the tents we just crashed at a hotel - long, long day!!
Friday was a horrible day in Dublin where we set off from the docks. When we stopped at the port there appeared to be an oil slick coming out from the engine but we were assured by our friend Keith "don?t worry it?s only a bit of gear oil". So, after waving goodbye to family and friends we set off on the ferry to Holyhead. During the course of the sailing we blagged our way up to do filming on the bridge of the ship and interviewed the captain and first officer! On the way back through the club-class lounge we decided there was more leg-room there - so there we stayed ! Got off the ferry and filmed the security police at Holyhead who were out in force due to a bit of trouble in London earlier that day. Of course they took exception to this and we were pulled over and told to erase any footage we had taken. Oops trouble with the cops before we even get to the start line.So off we drive across North Wales for London and pulled in for a "comfort break" and some petrol. Checked the oil and found there was hardly any left in the engine. We bought a couple of gallons of oil and headed off. We thought we have to get a mechanic to have a look at it as neither of us are mechanically wise but at 6.15pm on a Friday it wouldn?t be easy so we headed on for London and came across some young guy outside a garage cleaning his car before heading up to Hartlepool to see his girlfriend. Jim aka Sam took a look under the bonnet and informs us he knows why the engine is leaking oil. It was probably the fact that the sump nuts were loose and the sump was hanging down !!(that would normally do it!!).
So, he fixes it all up and when we asked him the cost he refused to take any money (gave him a drink anyway) and asked him if he had any stickers we could have to show he was our sponsor. To which he got extremely excited and asked us to carry his "Krooz Manoovrezz" logo on the bonet and started calling his friends and telling them "Hey, guess what ?, Krooz Manouvrezz are going to Mongolia !!!" Good lad..
So it was onwards to London and a kip down at John?s place and load up with more tools and equipment !
We have been rally badly stuck for a passenger side CV Joint (holds the
front wheel on!) which has been clicking away on test drives and would
possibly have given in enroute. This could have been a catastrophic as the
front wheel would either lock up or come off, no fun in the Middle of the
Desert, for that matter no fun anywhere. So and have been scouring car
breakers in both Ireland & the UK for a replacement, however our model
Suzuki is a very old model and has been out of production for years and we
couldn't get one to suit our Suzuki SJ410.
Then today, at the last minute, those really excellent people in Suzuki
Ireland have located a new one and are donating it to aid our endeavour.
Many thanks to Suzuki Ireland, we now look well set to make it to Ulaan
Baatar. Fingers crossed. So the plan now is to fit the CV joint tomorrow
final kit check on Thursday and Head for Holy Head on Friday from the North
wall in Dublin. Did I mention that Suzuki Ireland are brilliant!!
One of the awards in this wacky rally is for the largest useless item taken
on the rally, we pondered long and had what to take. The it came to us, the
perfect artefact an Irish road sign that we can erect in the Mongolian
capital. So we found out who made them for the County Councils and rang them
up, they were so surprised what we wanted the sign for they made one up
especially for us!"
Photo L-R Miriam Nally from Rennicks Ltd and The Saint
Time is ticking, only a few weeks left and our Old Suzuki still thinks it's a Cappuccino Machine. However Merv, Ivor & Co. from the Irish Four Wheel Drive Club get down and dirty and whip off the cylinder head and find out that the cylinder head gasket is actually made out of salami. So faster than you can say "The Irish Four wheel Drive Club are super hero's" three times, they have a new gasket in, and the engine rebuilt.
Then the moment of truth, do we have an engine that works....................it starts, it runs and more importantly it no longer thinks it's a cappuccino machine. So we're back on track! Yahoo!
IFWDC (Irish Four Wheel Drive Club) 4x4 guru's look into the heart of the cappuccino machine.
While the IFWDC rocket scientists work at the clever end of the Suzuki Cappuccino Machine, Merv Colton & John survey the task of removing the back seats which reveals the "massive" amount of storage room Suzuki SJ's have in the back.
Me doing quality control left, as you can see, I took the advice from the IFWDC on the long range fuel tank, although the actually meant on the jeep not on me.
Ah Ha! Salami problem discovered.
Kit preparation begins. Two shovels, but I can't find the instructions.
Again, lots of bit and bobs and no instructions!
Folding chair test. Passed!
Merv, teaching us all about Ned Kelly and his Kettle.
There should be tent's here somewhere?
Seems like the fishing rod doubles up as a roof support for the tent, clever tent people!
Seems to be a fishing rod hidden in the tent bag.
"Girls stuff, I only drink battery acid! GGGRRRRrrrrr"
"Hey, did you hear the one about the two paddy's that drove to Mongolia"
Seriously tough lads these IFWDC blokes, I copped one of them drinking Rad Weld. ( Not to be messed with!)
Coffee removal after gasket fitting.
Meanwhile back with Laurel & Hardy, Pose proudly with our car as Ivor's dog eats John's kneecap
John (The Scholar) goes straight for the instructions.
While I struggle............
Merv empathises with Ivor, at our lost cause!
Ivor Clegg watches the Laurel & Hardy tent assembly team in his yard.
Merv, fitting one of our five cigarette lighter sockets............John smokes a lot!
Visa problems, we haven't left enough time for the Iranian travel visa. We now have to revise the route.
End of rally party announced! 24th of August
The rally organisers have announced the end of Rally party, the details released as follows..............................
"The sun sets slowly over the dunes on the day you arrived at the end of the Rally. Your covered in dust, knackered and all deck out in your finest
evening wear. After a few pre-dinner drinks our very own mini Nadam festival starts, with horse racing and Mongolian wrestling. Following this
I've arranged for a restaurant to be erected in the middle of the sand dunes, complete with bar. Where in we shall dine, serenaded by a troop of
musicians playing Mongolian folk music and giving it some with the old Mongolian throat singing (this has to be heard to be believed). After this
some music more familiar to your ears will play out and the bar will stay open till we all pass out in the sand"
a fitting finale!
Having towed the almost dead jeep back down to the Portlaoise headquarters of the Irish Four Wheel Drive Club we filled it up with water and oil took it out into the bog for some 4x4 training and Ivor & Mervyn with some pretty scary background music showed us how to do it!!
We punished the Suzuki until she blew steam, let her cool down and then repeated the process. We managed to get it stuck in Bog Holes, gravel traps, on top of Gravel Mounds, but essentially we finished up with a much better idea of what we are getting involved with. As the will be over three thousand miles to cover off road, this was a most useful trading day. Big big thanks to Ivor & Merv, who are now taking a further look at the motor to see if it can be brought back to life??????? Head gasket or new motor, we wait and see!
The Irish Four Wheel Drive Club take John & I out for "4x4 boot camp" near Portlaoise. All advice and of road driving tips gratefully accepted, quite different stuff from the M25 in London for John and The Italian Autostrada for me.
John & I both flew back to Dublin to attend the Rally Dinner in the Mongolian Bar-B-Que restaurant. We first went down to Wrecktify (Spray Shop) in Kill, where they were busy finishing off the spray job on the Jeep. See photos's below. Our jeep has undergone a full Maxolification from 4077 M*A*S*H to Maxol Blue, in fact it looks pretty cool, amazing what a spray job can do. So with only an hour to go before guests we due to begin arriving at Mongolian Bar-B-Que we attached the two rope and headed off with no roof in the pouring rain into Dublin City.(As the engine is still bust and overheats and boils over) one near encounter with a Luas and hey presto!
The dinner it's self was a fantastic affair & Grainne & Paddy from the Mongolian Bar-B-Que were most helpful and made sure everything from the great food to the traditional Mongolian musician was brilliant. Also big thanks to Fran in DSE for finding a traditional Mongolian musician in Dublin.
We get the jeep as far as Temple Bar!!
On top of things!
Brushing up on our Mongolian music & the dinner
Taking Mongolian music to new levels!
Rally Planning meeting just before the dinner.
- Maxol the Irish oil company will be supporting the Saints & Scholars who will now be "Lubed Irish!!"
- The Irish Four Wheel Drive Club are supporting the team and will be providing both John & I with some vital off road training in June and doing some serious stress testing on our vintage suzuki........Thanks Mervyn!!
- John collected the jeep in Durham and drove it down to London a couple of weeks ago. Net week I?ll be taking it back to Ireland for some paint work, a mechanical overhaul and to put in a stereo!! WE have go a Haynes manual for the jeep in Halfords in London, and a quick look through it confirmed that neither of us have a clue what?s going on under the bonnet!
- Tickets for the Rally dinner now available directly from The Mongolian BBQ Restaurant price €85.00
The Saint, AKA Fintan Mc Kiernan
Hi, I?m Fintan, I?m responsible for our participation in this crazy rally. When I first read about the rally last year, I knew immediately, I had to do it. Today I live in the sprawling smoggy concrete jungle that is Milan and spend most of my time in a suit, I also eat a lot of wonderful Italian food, well too much actually. So the rally for me is more than just an Adventure but an escape of suits and meetings and pasta.
If your going to take a holiday, you have a few choices, sit on a beach, relax and read a book with some fine wine and admire the sunset or ring up your old buddy and tell him that we?re going to buy a banger and join over one hundred other idiots in the rally experience of a life time. No contest! We also get to raise a few bucks for charity, which can?t be a bad thing and fly the Irish flag in a few strange countries. I?m also partial to taking a few photos, which, I will post on this site. So ciao for now! Fintan Mc Kiernan
Other charity involvements:
Fintan was one of the founding directors of Call Charity, the only Irish not for profit telephone company. Today Call Charity consistently raises funds for various registered charities. Why not take a look at their web site www.callcharity.ie if your involved with a registered Irish charity contact call charity firstname.lastname@example.org to see how they can help your charity raise additional funds.
The Scholar, AKA John Neylon
Hi, I'm John. My participation is down to Fintan cold-calling me at 5.30 on a Sunday morning to ask me if I'd like to join him driving a rust-bucket half way around the world to raise money for charity. Working in the small village of London, I duly agreed. (living and working in London - the very thought of wide-open spaces swung it for me !!!).
When I looked up more information on the rally (which I quite obviously should have done before agreeing !), it looks like the last real adventure trip before we all end up with computers, mobile phones, spin-doctors, and life coaches trying to run our lives for us. Also, the scenery, the people etc. should be fantastic and hopefully we'll be able to spread a little of the world-renowned Irish craic whilst raising money for truly deserving causes. Bye for now ! John