1,500 miles, 11 countries and 1 dodgy policeman

First blog from the road! And it starts with paying a parking ticket… great start team!

Parking FineIn fairness we did park in ‘residents only’.

We set off from London on Sunday after a police escorted convoy round Battersea Park and Central London. But in the true spirit of the Mongol Rally everyone soon got lost and so we made our own way out. We said an emotional goodbye to Will (he’s re-joining us in Istanbul on Friday) and his seat then hit the motorway to Dover and Europe.

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Bye Will! See you in Istanbul

After a very uneventful ferry Lexi got her wheels onto Continental soil/tarmac and we were off! France, Belgium and after a last minute decision Netherlands (a Rallier mentioned that we were possibly on to set the record for the most countries visited but we don’t actually know if this is true) passed us by with little to note other than seeing some other Rally cars. . Germany welcomed us as day became night and we got our first taste of the Autobahn. Lexi sure can fly – 140kmph and only 1,000 revs! What a car we have! We went onto our first campsite and realised that we’d left behind all our utensils, cutlery and mugs (no tea for us!) so had to fashion something out of tin foil that would let us eat our Super Noodles!

 Low Revs

Beautiful European weather….yeah….stormy rainclouds turned into torrential rain just as we packed up our camp. Brilliant. That didn’t dampen our spirits though as we quickly returned to the Autobahn and the hunt for the mysterious German town of Ausfahrt continued. Seriously every junction in Germany seems to leads to this town.

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We never did find Ausfahrt, must be a magical place

 At a service station in on the road, we met a lovely couple who were intrigued by our journey and in Turk-lish, Sadik and ‘his Frau’ also on their way to Turkey must have taken pity on us and loaded our car full of snacks! Thank you both!

 Sadik

The first of many random acts of kindness on our adventure

 We got honked at on Autobahn and first thought it was because Ash was going 150kmph (90mph), which is about the limit on a level road, but turned out it was another Rallier on their way past

Nuremberg. Apparently Austria is quite hilly and old cars, including poor Lexi, struggles with anything over about a 6 degree gradient.…Pamir highway is going to be fun – luckily Will is going to be there to help us push. Not even joking!! After a nice dinner of meat (for Henry) and potato (again!) we realised that where we’d set up camp happened to be in one of the red light districts of Vienna…oops!

Vienna Camp

We hit the 1000 mile milestone today, a tenth of the trip complete in two and half days, the easy part of the journey done, only going to get tougher/more fun from now.

And shortly after at the, Slovakian-Hungarian border we were stopped by the police, fined for not having a Slovakian highway sticker. He went onto showing us photos of the signs at the border crossing telling us where to collect a ticket from….they weren’t very obvious! We were not best pleased. We used our charm and persuaded the police officer that as this was partly for charity and how our Czech Skoda was easily going to make the 10,000 mile trip, rather than the fine he was quite adamant on giving us, we slipped him a few euros in between some paper and drove on not looking back. Lesson learnt though and we now have more highway stickers than you could shake a stick at. Assuming of course you couldn’t shake a stick at more than two.

Slovakian Border

Entering Croatia was entertaining, we must have been mistaken by the border guards as to marijuana drug smugglers, wearing a t-shirt/shirt, shorts combo in flip-flops in the rain and our story of traveling 16,000 km in this particularly old looking car seemed to amuse them and an unlikely story, as you can imagine a chat in a back room and a baggage check proceeded. Thankfully no cavity search. We just kept telling him about our trip, whether he wanted to hear or not (I am sure many of you reading this felt the same when being around one of us in the run up to this trip), it worked though… he reconsidered searching the full car (thankfully!) and then happily crossed off Croatia on the bonnet….he did change his tune a very quickly when Henry took a photo of him. He really did not appreciate this and made Henry delete any photos, as it was ‘highly illegal’… little did he know, our mounted GoPro picked him up, we really are such rebels! He wished us ‘Good Luck’ and we were off.

DCIM100GOPRO“You’re going how far in this car and you’re sure you don’t have any marijuana on you?”

It’s been hard to pick favourite countries as all have been genuinely beautiful but Croatia has offered a great variation from majestic tree covered mountains and valleys to wide open flats and we are now enjoying late evening views of the Adriatic Sea from the Dalmatian coast line in Split, Croatia. The owner of the guesthouse we’re staying did a bit of Facebook stalking of Henry before we arrived and told her husband that he’s going to have competition tonight. Never has Henry looked so scared!

Well, from all of us here at 5 camels 1 chameleon you stay classy planet Earth.

Our route to date can be seen at the following link: http://bit.ly/MR14tracking and as always please donate to ChanceUK here: www.justgiving.com/5camels1chameleon 

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Launch Day Has Finally Arrived

The day is finally upon us, we descended onto Battersea Park with 243 other cars in a creaky, squeeky little Skoda. As soon as we arrived we were greeted with a friendly ‘your car doesn’t sound healthy’. In fact our exhaust had come a bit loose and was rubbing on the underside of the car. It was nothing a bit of rubber hose and cable ties wouldn’t fix, but it did sound pretty worrying.

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We even got interviewed for having a stupid choice of car.

 

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But then we weren’t the only ones these guys were sporting some awesome paint jobs, we were a particular fan of the blackboard paint.

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Of course if you aren’t into painting you could always attach something stupid to your car. How about a barrel for a roof box.

 

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And finally…. the truly ridiculous we were particuarly impressed with the limo that was parked next to us. It might be spacious but we really doubt it will make it through the deserts. The same goes for fool taking on the rally in a Ferrari, it was built for the race track, not a dirt track. Also kudos to the team who felt they needed to take their garden shed and the guys who are planning on sailing their own boat across the Caspian sea.

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What a fine bunch all 243 teams are!

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Our First Taste of Mongolia (all from the comfort of London)

Having read an article yesterday slating Mongolian food as the “most disgusting food in the world’, we wanted to find out for ourselves whether this was true or not, hoping what was written to be rubbish. This evening we had our first taste of Mongolian cuisine with a group of friends, yet while still being in the comfort of London, albeit South London. The article went on to saying statements like “nothing prepared me for the culinary horrors of Mongolia” and “the problem with Mongolian “cheese” is that it is nearly as hard as rock and as acidic as battery acid. Eating it is not horrific, but it is rather exhausting”. We can firmly say that our first Mongolian culinary experience was none of the above, but full of fiery flavours created from the peppery chillies used in that part of the world…they were HOT! I have no idea what food the individual writing that article had but it wasn’t horrifying in the slightest! Or maybe we are yet to try true Mongolian food?

The Mongolian Grill had a happy atmosphere, and was only added to by the wonderful manager Wongie who shared facts about the where the flavours/spices came from and passed on warnings of the heat from the chillies. We all had the Mongolian Hotpots, and as soon as they were simmering away you could feel the air fill with spice. To give you an idea of the level of spice, a couple of us past chemists had a sense of déjà vu  of when one of us on going on the trip, naming no names,  got a lab evacuated for flooding the lab with raw capscine (chilli) fumes, which later resulted in burning eyes and prickly feeling skin. What fun times they were, haha. The hotpots basically consist of a stock, which could be mild, hot, super-hot or super-super-hot. While none of us tried the super-super-hot, the super-hot was already mind-blowing. We then cooked vegetables and meat in the stock ourselves and feasted for a couple of hours. We definitely all over ate, but it was worth it as the food was delicious and the company was great. 

The suspense of the culinary delights of being on the road through so many countries is definitely intriguing us already, I am sure there are going to be some pleasantly surprised moments as well as the gut-wrenching ones… which is all part of the fun and something we can look forward to! 

 

Mongolian Grill

 

 

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Mongol Rally Mock Test (with a little help from Jewels Garage)

Over the weekend we took Lexi out for a little spin around the mean streets of North London and the North Circular, the first time all three of us have been inside together. If we could survive the blistering heat of 25°C then surely the 40°C of the Iranian and Central Asian summer would be a breeze. Right? Well no. Sort of…

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…After about 30mins of stop start traffic Will noticed a little bit of steam coming out from under the bonnet which we soon discovered was engine coolant getting a little boily. We let everything cool down for a bit in a lovely service station at Arnos Grove (see picture) before gently driving her home.

Service Station Lexi cooling off by the North Circular, it’s a truly beautiful place

A lovely Sunday morning was then spent learning how to flush the coolant, remove the radiator, take the fan apart, and test the thermostatic sensors. Who knew how both simple and complex an engine’s cooling system is!

Ash Radiator Henry Radiator

Ash taking the radiator out and Henry prying the radiator/fan apart – note the Haynes manual being carefully followed!

Unfortunately we lacked the parts (and perhaps the expertise) to fix Lexi fully. That is where the magnificent John, Dennis and Cliff of Jewels Garage (www.jewelsgarage.co.uk) came to the rescue! They very kindly agreed to take a look and within just a few hours of dropping the car off had fixed the issue and got the fan and cooling system back up and running. What’s more did the whole thing on the house!

They are a great bunch of guys and if you need a mechanics we can’t recommend them more highly.

Jewels

We’ll be sure to raise a glass of airag (Mongolian fermented horse milk) to John, Dennis and Cliff!

After that minor setback we are ready to go!

Next stop Battersea Park…

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How much can you fit in a Skoda?

This time next week we’ll be in Battersea Park with all the other Ralliers getting ready for the grand send off! But we thought that practice makes perfect and so fancied a test run. We also wanted to make sure that everything fits so here’s Ash figuring out some unorthodox 3D Tetris!

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Today we embarked on giving our car some character! – Stickering

 

 

 

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Russian’s add water obstacle to Mongol Rally

Russian’s add water obstacle to Mongol Rally

As if the Rally wasn’t going to be difficult enough Russia has decided to play hard ball. First there’s the slight ongoing political tension and now they’ve flooded the entire area we need to pass through! Check out the pics on the link! http://rt.com/news/162736-russia-siberia-altai-flood/

 

 Flood
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The ‘guess when our little Skoda (Lexi) will breakdown competition’ (GWOLSWBC)

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Do you want to win a mystery gift from somewhere in Iran, Central Asia or Mongolia worth at least several tens of £s? Well here’s your chance! All you have to do is guess the mileage of our first breakdown along the Mongol Rally. Simply pick a number between 0 (for those pessimists out there who think London – Dover is too much) and 10,000 (for the people, like me, who think our lovely Skoda Favorit will make the whole trip without even a scratch). Enter on Justgiving, http://www.justgiving.com/5camels1chameleon, by combining your mileage prediction as a comment along with a small donation toward Chance UK.

 

Whoever is closest to the mile of our first car issue will win an amazing prize that we’ll buy for you along our route and then post it to you wherever you live in the world.

 

Disclaimer: The mystery gift probably won’t be a camel

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Good news everyone!

We have a car!

Last week we purchased ourselves a gorgeous 1.3 litre 1995 Škoda Favorit so now our drive to Mongolia can actually be a drive rather than a really, really long walk.

It seems to be a fully wheeled and operational car (apart from a slight blowy exhaust) but of course back in the early 90’s safety and comfort weren’t as important as they are today so air bags, air-con and the like are not included. But this just adds to the fun/danger!

As always please take the time to read about our chosen charities http://wp.me/P4jb8B-5 and if possible donate: http://www.justgiving.com/5camels1chameleon

Cheers, thanks, bye

Car

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We’re famous!

Gizmodo

Look at this Will’s written a piece for Gizmodo explaining why driving to Mongolia is a really really good idea!

Which it is… obviously.

Don’t forget everyone you can donate to us by heading here

Or just text CAME55 £X to 70070

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