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Visit this page frequently to see news and updates on our preperation and (or lack of) progress with the 2005 Mongol Rally.

*** Latest Live SMS updates available from the Mongol Rally website ***

Latest News
Back to reality 22nd September 2005
The smell of the steppe 6th September 2005
We're in Almaty... 21st August 2005
Onwards into Kyrgystan 17th August 2005
More Pics 16th August 2005
Samarkand 15th August 2005
Pesky Potholes 8th August 2005
Live from the street 5th August 2005
   
Archives
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
November 2004

  Hello Dover 30th July 2005  

No major dramas on the way down from London, with only a headlight surround deciding it wanted to stay in Blighty. The real rally starts once we touch down in France....

Thanks to all of you who came down to the launch party in Hyde Park. It was an excellent send off and so good to see so many faces. It just was a shame that I was so anxious / excited / nervous to really talk to any one of you properly.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  We're Off! 29th July 2005  

A frantic Friday before the off with customary late night spent completing car modifications. We managed to change the oil and oil filter, and mounted the oil cooler in true Mongol Rally fashion to a fine piece of MDF.

We also fitted the all important sump guard and were finally able to replace the front right hand side suspension components to complete all four corners.

We'll also know exactly how far we've travelled now the replacement speedo cable is in. One part we didn't get around to was the radio aerial, but this can be sorted en route.

Lastly in this update, a HUGE thankyou to the following folks, without whom we wouldn't even have made the start:

Marc - Weld-meister responsible for installing the buttock saving Honda seats amongst other things.

Our Parents for all their support. Visa collection, general running around and putting up with bits of car all over the garden and house again.

Mania4Minis who supplied various parts including all our steel wheels.

Let the adventure begin!

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  Less than a week to go... 27th July 2005  

With less than a week till the launch the Mongol Rally is in full swing. Slightly worrying is the fact that neither of us have passports in possession. Taking the last minute gamble and going for the Kyrgyzstan visa may cost us dearly, in more ways than one. See the present stance from the Foreign office below. However, with the second largest Alpine lake in the world (sitting at 1600m above sea level and measuring a huge 170km long and 70km across), folded between the 4000m peaks of the K?ngey Alatau and the Terskey Alatau ranges it should be more than worth it. Not to mention the nomadic traditions such as laid-back hospitality, a healthy distrust of authority and a fondness for drinking fermented mare's milk.

?Tensions exist over recognition of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek borders and all visitors choosing to travel there should ensure that they only use officially recognised border crossings. These tensions have been heightened following the recent events in Andijan in Uzbekistan. There is a risk that uncontrolled border areas may be land-mined.?

On a different note it is with great pleasure we can announce the mongolmini is in a much more reliable condition than it was just a few weeks ago. Camberley Auto Factors have rather generously donated lots of new and shiny bits to go under the bonnet and help us on our way. The following parts our out of their boxes and enjoying a new lease of life as integral parts of the 18yr old mini. HT Leads, Spark Plugs, Rotor Arm, Distribution Cap, Points (contact breakers), Oil Filter, Brake Pads & Shoes, Fan Belt, Radiator Cap, Alternator, and Coil. The alternator has breathed a much needed new lease of life into the electrics (so much so the off side lamp couldn?t handle the power and proceeded to blow). With the addition of Mark?s spots we should now be able to spot that elusive Mongolian death worm that so cleverly evaded a group of British scientists back in May. With any luck the speedo cable will be in by the weekend allowing us to total the distance between Hyde Park and wherever the mini comes to a final rest ? with every mile adding to our sponsorship funds.

We should also mention a very big thank you to Ian and the team at www.sidstore.com for agreeing to help two rather unorganised people get some t-shirts printed up in next to no time. Words cannot explain how helpful these guys have been, and with a little promotional stunt of our own we hope to pay them back with something a little bit special. Watch this space.

So that brings us up to speed, still a million and one jobs to be done, but anything else would be against the spirit of the rally.

 

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Submitted by Jon

 
  A few steps closer 24th July 2005  

Spent the weekend carrying out further work on the car. I finally managed to get the front left suspension jacked up. I still cannot do the front right after my previous efforts to destroy the tool and the suspension, but even so the car is a good 5 cm higher at the front.

This, as always, was not as simple as I'd hoped. Lots of cursing and swearing and we even had to remove the rad to access various parts of the suspension, but I got there in the end.

I was in for a surprise when Jon turned up with box full of parts, all sourced from Camberley Auto Factors. We then set about fitting most of these giving the car a fair service: Spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor arm, points, HT leads, fan belt, coil, alternator and brake pads.

A constructive weekend, but we've still got a bit to do before the off:

  • Source and fit some steel wheels
  • Fit the oil cooler
  • Change the oil and filter
  • Change air filter
  • Fit the new seats
  • Fit the speedo cable
  • Raise the rear adjustable suspension
  • Wire in a cigarette lighter
  • Fit the rear speakers

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  Roof rack 15th July 2005  

A while back I managed to pick up a roof rack on e-bay for 99p, however I didn't realise that this was local pick up only. Thankfully Richy, a friend of mine, was passing through this way, and agreed to pick the roof rack.

Back in the UK I was ready to collect this. I set of one evening on the drive from London up A40 to a little village just south of Lemington Spa. We met with a couple of friends (good to see you Bob) and discussed all things rally. Then proceeded to cane the little 1 liter beasts (Richy is also on the rally ? Team Plane Broke) along some country lanes. So childish, but so much fun... I can't wait to start the Rally.

I have to admit that Richy's car is looking great. They've got a load of sponsors on board and are very organised. From memories of Richy at Uni, I guess that this is more to do with Richy's team mate than Richy.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  Visas... 13th July 2005  

The Russians... Well, they certainly like to make things difficult. I'd given up trying to get my Visa while I was in Madrid (See my rant on the Mongol Rally forum).

Before you can even apply for the Visa you need a letter of Invite. This, although only a piece of paper with some funny letters on it, cost ?20 to get. Add this to the cost of the double entry Visa (?40) we are paying a lot of money to visit a country that we will probably spend less than 6 days in.

Thankfully we'd been forewarned about the Embassy in London. Basically if you don't get in the queue before 7 and are further back that the first 12, chances are you will not get in before they close.

So I set off at about 6, arriving at about 7:20 (I got the wrong tube, and then got off at the wrong station) to find a queue of about 20 people. Thankfully Jon had arrived earlier so I cheekily joined him in the queue. 3 hours later we were miraculously into the embassy. They accepted all the paperwork and told us to return 8 days later.

We picked these up today with considerable ease and then wandered off to the Mongol Embassy to get these underway. Unfortunately the embassy was closed due to the Nadaam festival. I should have seen that coming having read all about the Mongolian National festival the day before. Instead we headed off to the the Uzbekistan embassy (thankfully most of the embassies are close to each other). This all went smoothly with the chap at the embassy helping us with the application. He gave us a knowing ?you guys are crazy? smiler when he found we too were on the Mongol Rally.

If all goes to plan I should be able to pick these up on Friday, which just leaves us to get the Mongolian and Kyrgystan visas. The Mongolian should be no problem, as they love the rally in the embassy and should be able to turn the visa around in a day. If we have time we will try and get the Kyrgystan visa. It would be great to visit the country, but it is not a problem to skip it. There is also a little doubt as to whether the borders between Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan will be open or not after the recent uprising in Andijan.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  DVLA 12th July 2005  

I went along to the DVLA with the Mini today. The inspector there confirmed it really was a car, and proceeded to take the piss out of me saying I was going on a toff Rally with all my toff friends...

They confirmed my new registration plate, and issued the tax disk. Unfortunately, contrary to what I was told last week they said that the document would have to be sent off to Swansea. A process that can take up to 4 weeks!

That, really could be a show stopper. We are scheduled to leave in 2 and a half weeks, but without the paperwork we will not be able to go...

Ok, so I'm worried, but I'll chase them as much as I need to as we get closer to leaving.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  Finally... half the car jacked up 10th July 2005  

Today, thankfully, was more constructive. I managed to change both of the rear suspension trumpets for the adjustables. This was something I knew would be difficult having failed last time. See the June archives for details. Basically two of the suspensions parts were corroded to gether making them very difficult to remove from the car. In the end I had to disconnect the rear brakes and remove the whole rear suspension arm to get the suspension cone spring and trumpet out. Somewhat overkill compared to the Haynes Book of Lies procedure.

We then had the task of separating the trumpet and the cone spring. The usual tool for the job (a large hammer and lots of WD40) didn't shift it at all. We ended up having to cut the old trumpet and then using a hub puller to gradually force the two pieces apart.

Thankfully putting it together was a lot easier. I'm yet to raise the suspension up, as I'd rather wait until the fronts are done, and raise it all together.

While working on this Jon got set on one of the key items that is essential for getting us to Mongolia: The sound system. We found that driving through France we couldn't hear the music with the windows open while moving. So a new pair of rear speakers were being fitted (donated by Nina) to accompany the fronts that I fitted earlier in the week.

I reasonably constructive weekend, but there is still so much to do. The car needs a good service, the sump guard is to go on and we need to source some more parts such as an oil cooler and some spare wheels and tires.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  Grease Monkey 9th July 2005  

I've spent the morning scouring one of my local Scrappies. I managed to pick up the obligatory spare bulbs and fuses along with a nice steering wheel which totally transforms the driving position and allows the indicators to self cancel (something the original didn't do). I also managed to pick up some very nice seats out of a Honda Prelude. The current seats become uncomfortable after about 20 minutes of driving, especially for someone of my height. Spending four weeks in them doesn't bare thinking about. The new seats are much more supportive and should prevent chronic back pains. All I've got to do now is work out how to fit them.

I spent the afternoon attempting to raise the front suspension. I picked up some adjustable suspension components that allow the car to be lowered or raised. Although modifications are against the spirit of the rules, I feel this is key given some of the terrain we are going to encounter (10cm of ground clearance just will not do). Unfortunately changing the front is a complete nightmare. The current suspension cone spring needs to be removed before the old components can be removed, and for this a special tool is required (which can only be described as a large cork screw). And being the numpty that I am I managed to damage the thread on the tool (and possibly the suspension) while trying to compress the tool. With the tool damaged I was unable to compress the suspension far enough to remove the components. Not good...


Cork screw cone spring compressor tool

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  MOT and vehicle registration 7th July 2005  

One of the key things I needed to do before the Rally was sort out all the paperwork for the car. I took the car in for the MOT on Tuesday. Despite my fears of them telling me that it was a death trap and would never pass, it only failed on one bald tire (should have spotted that really), a suspension ball joint and a steering rack gaiter. Given the time constraints I had the garage carry out the work for me. By the end of the day the car had a shinny new MOT certificate.

With this in hand along with more application forms I headed of to the regional DVLA office in Stanmore to re-import the car (we need all the documents for the car at border crossing, and as the previous owner is as slack as me, the car was exported from the uk, but never imported into Spain). This also went surprisingly well. They requested I bring the car back on Tuesday for a inspection to confirm it is the car I claim it to be, and the clerk informed me that I would get all of the paperwork then.

Things finally seem to be falling into place.

 

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Submitted by Andy

 
  We've made it to the start! 4th July 2005  

We are now one step closer to being ready for the rally. The car has made it to the starting point. Jon & I spent the weekend driving the car from Madrid through France back to England.

Friday night was uneventful and allowed us to make a good start. We spent the evening in a budget hostel in Burgos. The following morning we set off for San Sebastian and the Spanish / French border.

We continued our somewhat leisurely pace, stopping off for Lunch at St Jean de Luz, just north of the border. Next stop was at the picturesque St Emillion based on a recommendation from one of the Frenchies at work (Thanks Freddie). A beautiful little village surrounded by vineyards. Of course we were unable to resist the opportunity to stock up on some fine wines from the Bordeux region.

Unfortunately we didn't leave St Emillion until about 7 o'clock which put us woefully behind our schedule of making it to Paris for the evening. We set off regardless with the intention of making it to Tours.

Running into the final quarter on the fuel gauge we started to look for fuel. Kilometer after kilometer passed, yet no signs of any Petrol Stations, despite being on one of the large national roads. Running on the last few drops we finally saw the blessed fuel sign by one of the exits. There were in fact three petrol stations in the village, however one was closed, and the other two fully automated but unwilling to accept any of the 5 different credit cards we had (despite advertising Visa and Mastercard).

In desperation I ended up approaching a Frenchman and asking if he would be willing to put the transaction on his card with us giving him the cash. Thankfully he obliged and we were on our way again, albeit having lost 45 minutes.

We found what appeared to be a nice peaceful campsite for the night just outside Poitiers only to find that this was next to an express railway line. Good practice for camping next to the trans Siberian express.

The next morning we were up early enough to realise that we should have got up earlier. We had about 500km to cover in 5 hours. Some flat out driving (we almost hit the speed limit down hill) and some slipstreaming of large Mercedes 4x4 enabled us to make excellent progress up until Paris. Unfortunately we then got lost...

Navigating the ring road (we still don't know if we were going clockwise or anti clockwise) we spotted a sign for Boulonge. Diving of at this exit we followed the signs for Boulonge, until there were no more signs. Turning round, we once again picked up signs for Boulonge... but once again they miraculously stopped. After a little while, it dawned on me that we had stumbled across the region of Paris called Boulonge, when all we wanted to do was exit Paris in the direction of the city of Boulonge. We eventually got back on track, but lost another 45 minutes in total.

We continued to tank it on up to the North of France, but after our problems missed our Ferry by about (yes, you've guessed it) 45 minutes. With 10 hours wait until the next available ferry with that company, I phoned Hoverspeed and managed to get a ferry an hour and a half later up in Calais. Horrah for Hoverspeed and the French call center girl with the sexy accent who managed to somehow knock sixty euros off the initial quote!

With the bulk of the journey completed and the ferry problem resolved, that just left us the short distance of Dover to north west London to cover. This was made a little more difficult by the fact that the car had no tax, MOT or registration and hence could not be driven on British roads. Thankfully a work colleague had kindly offered to come down to meet us with his trailer.

Within 50 miles of home, there was a sudden bang and the trailer started snaking. Thankfully Jarod managed to control the car and guide it safely to the hard shoulder. Now I understand why the speed limit is so much lower for trailers and caravans.

It turned out that one of the trailer tires had given in a big way. A huge tear across the tread left it completely flat. Sitting on the M25 without a spare on a Sunday evening left us well and truly stranded.

A call to the AA left us hopeful, with a relay truck potentially on its way within the hour. We waited and waited, it got dark and this one hour turned into three. I was a little concerned that the AA would not be able to put a trailer with a car on it onto one of their flat bed trucks. A job made all the more difficult by the width of the trailer.

Once the AA arrived the relay driver set about trying to load the trailer and car. A job in itself that took about 40 minutes and a lot of ingenuity. After a 5 mile test run the driver was satisfied that it was secure and that he could get us home. We arrived home at about 12:30, however it took a further 45 minutes to get the trailer and car off the truck, and drag the stricken trailer round the back alley.

We were lucky. Tim, the AA man, was resourceful and willing to take on such a job. He could have very well said no way, let alone assist us drag the trailer round the alley at the end. Tim told us the reason we were waiting three hours was as nobody wanted to tackle the job. He also said that this was one of the most difficult relays he'd ever done. The sort of work that is a nightmare at the time, but a good story to tell afterwards (at least it wasn't raining).

So, an eventful journey, but the Mini stood up to the task superbly. It was a real eye opener for me, as we covered a large distance in a short time. Yet this distance is minuscule compared with the task ahead. Europe will be the easy part of the journey, yet this short hop from Madrid to London wasn't exactly easy. On top of that we will have to step up the pace given our time limit for the Rally.

Oh, and one other thing we've learned. An atlas of Europe is not sufficient. We will need detailed maps of the countries we are going to. Any one out there able to assist with this?

 

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Submitted by Andy

 

www.whereisandy.net