A 16 year-old, £200 car, whose engine caught fire on the way to the supermarket? I would have the AA on speed-dial. Primrose Hill’s David Main is taking a rather less cautious approach: he is driving it to Ulan Ude, 10,000 miles away in Eastern Russia.
Originally from Shropshire, David has been working at John D Wood, Primrose Hill, while preparing for this epic journey. He and his 21-year-old friend Dan Smith are taking part in the Mongol Rally which calls itself, with some justification, ‘the greatest motoring adventure on the planet…There’s no backup, no support and no set route; just you, your fellow adventurists and a tiny car you bought from a scrapyard for £11.50.’ Yikes!
So what on earth has possessed David to drive away from his comfortable life in Primrose Hill for this extreme adventure? It turns out that he has an excellent reason: he is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support:
“My best friend, Matt, had cancer when he was 17. No fault of his own, he was the innocent one of our group; he never smoked or drank excessively, so not really very fair! He had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which basically means his white blood cells, part of the immune system, were mutating into tumours and basically trying to kill him. He had to have very intense chemo to wipe out all of his white blood cells, then allow his body to rebuild and construct itself a whole new immune system. The chemo had to nearly kill him to kill the cancer.
“It was really tough for all of us, especially him and his family. Macmillan were there to support him when none of us knew how to. Without the strength which he gained from the support, he may not have survived.”
As for the rally, David describes it like this:
“The Mongol Rally is a challenge rally which has been running in various forms since 2004. You drive from the UK to Ulan-Ude in Eastern Russia. You get no help, there is no fixed route and the entry rules are set to ensure you are given the most difficult journey possible. It’s a proper challenge, pushing you through countries and regions that establishes news agencies don’t even dare to cover!
“We are going to zig-zag our way through Europe, trying to add in a few nearby countries on our way for bragging rights. The last tally was 23 countries which we will pass through. We then go across the length of Turkey and through a couple of semi-western countries, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“Then the real stuff starts. We will get the very dodgy Caspian Sea Ferry from Baku to Turkmenbashi. This can take between 18 hours and 1 week! We are then mostly off road.
“We will pop by the ‘Hole To Hell’ in Turkmenistan which is a flat-level volcano and an awesome spot. From there it’s through the Old Russian Block: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan. These countries are huge! We are traveling 1500 miles in Kazakhstan alone.
“Next comes our first Russian visit, entering near Ust’-Kan. It’s a couple of hundred miles over mountain tracks before dropping south into Mongolia.
“East Mongolia to Ulaanbataar is around 1000 miles. Here I have been advised that ‘the roads are not paved’ and when you zoom in on even the major trunk roads clearly labelled on Gmaps on a countrywide scale, they are just desert that people have at some point decided to drive across!
“Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is kind of the ‘we made it’ point as it’s the old finish line before Mongolia started charging people £1000’s for giving locals their cars.
“From there, we then have a nice and short 300-mile mountain pass journey north back to Russia, Ulan-Ude.
The way back is mundane in comparison:
“For the return journey, the car gets shipped back to Europe. We get an internal flight to Moscow and hop back home on a proper plane to glorious England, hopefully in time for dinner.”
David expects the trip to take between six and eight weeks. Naturally, his family and girlfriend have misgivings and I suspect they will have an uneasy time of it until he and Dan are safely home.
David told me, “We both have very loving, nervous girlfriends and both sets of family think this is all a fantastically bad idea…” You don’t say!
The adventurous pair set off on this incredible challenge on the 17th July. You can follow their adventures on David’s Just Giving page, and of course while you’re there, think about donating.
Find out more about Macmillan here:
© 2016 Joanna Reeves, all rights reserved.