I knew the Mongol Rally would be an adventure. I knew it would be exciting and I knew there would be highs and lows. I knew that being contained in a small car over horrendous roads even with two good friends would result in discomfort and the occasional argument and I knew it might prove stressful when things didn’t go our way!

I was wrong!

Despite the breakdowns, the border delays, the tight timescales and the discomfort I wouldn’t change the experiences of the past 4 weeks. For me, the people we met have made this trip: the locals who smile, laugh, wave enthusiastically or offer food, drink, advice or directions; the mechanics, the garage owners, their English speaking friends summoned by phone to assist. We’ve picked up social media followers from all over, fellow diners from restaurants, drivers in traffic and supermarket shoppers. We’ve been hosted and toasted and I just hope that in future I will be as welcoming to foreigners back home.

I can’t recall a cross word between the three of us, only the banter and laughter that has accompanied the shared experiences and made us a team. The Mongol Mongrels may not all of stood together on that Ulan-Ude podium but it was important to us that we arrived in Mongolia together, the rally’s spiritual home. This is, after all the Mongol Rally.

Of the fellow ralliers met along the way I’ve got nothing but respect; a really decent bunch of people representing about three dozen countries all with the same goal. Convoys form, friendships are made and best of all we help one another.

The Mongol Rally is no holiday, I need a holiday to recover from it(!) but the past 4 weeks have been epic and don’t invite me for dinner if you don’t want to hear about it!

My view of the countries we visited is hugely positive and as a Russian woman said to me: ‘There are no bad nations, only bad people’.

Drinking Whiskey until 3am with old mate Tugso then woken again by Grant headed to the airport at 5.30am! So now we are two and we’ve up to 16 hours ahead of us to the finish line in Ulen-Ude.

I have a shortage of clothes: This morning when the sniff test proved inconclusive I decided on those that had been ‘rested’ a couple of days! Despite this with the Aussie gone the fragrance in the car is still markedly improved! UB, you’ve been a blast and the ache in my kidneys is testament to that.

Oh Grant Jacobs, you dodged a bullet! 11 hours from Ulaanbatoor and we’d covered just 284kms! The roads must have been built by Genghis Khan and not maintained since. Heavy rain had turned the way to mud and it felt as if we were driving a dodgem car through the maze of tracks, sliding, grounding and bumping until our sump guard broke free and radiator dropped down, digging into the ground like an anchor, snowploughing through the earth until we beached, imobile!

Like an F1 pit crew we leapt into action, changed the wheels for the chunky treads, dug beneath and buried carpets for added traction. The result: Absolutely no difference at all although we were eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes. Deflated but not beaten we needed to flag-down a truck so when I saw a truck driver stop for a pee I pounced! (I hope he washed his hands!)
After 2 x broken tow ropes we finally got free via a 4×4 who towed us to a town for $15 and some fuel, the Panda sliding behind more like a sleigh, metal on stone grinding for 35kms.

They say things look better after a good nights sleep and in the cold light of day but we had little sleep and things looked worse!

The radiator is hanging out of the bottom of the car, the base of which has been ground along the road creating numerous holes.

We got a tow to a mechanic but when we nearly ran into the back of the car towing us we realised that without the engine running both steering and brakes were so poor you’d have thought Grant Jacobs was driving!

We waited at the garage 2 hours for their top mechanic to arrive and assess the situation. When he did arrive he glanced under the car, crossed his arms and said something that roughly translates to: ‘Your cars screwed mate’.

Long negotiations resulted in us riding in the back of a cattle transporter truck to the Russian border for $97. The truck stank of cow dung and for a moment we were nostalgic for our departed team mate. (He’s not here so fair game!)

The car was lowered from the inspection ramp onto the truck but how to get it off? No problem the guy says: ‘Small mountain at end!’ 5 minutes after setting off we got a tug from local law enforcement who initially objected to us being in the Panda on the back of the truck! We were allowed to stay put but had to recline the seats fully and cover our heads with our coats!

And so it was we spent the next 2 hours shrouded in Gortex, eating processed cheese and listening to our 80’s greatest hits compilation to the aroma of cow dung and rhythmic thuds of every pot hole and arbitrary speed bump.

At the border the Panda (Lazarus) actually spluttered back to life and we drove cautiously over. 4.5 hours of bureaucracy ensued until finally ejected the other side we powered forward on a perfect road until…..we didn’t! A few kilometres in and everything blew and OBH stopped dead! I’m not sure what exactly but the radiator hung trashed out of the engine bay, water pooled on the road, white smoke rose from the bonnet and oil was being ejected. Even we, the eternal optimists could see that Ulan-Ude was looking unlikely!

After flagging down every passing motorist I left Tony with the car and hitched a ride to town with an off-duty policeman who whilst convinced our car was adorned with Marijuana Leaves was happy to help and introduced me to a Russian version of Tintin who had a rather unroadworthy tow truck.

At 2am we made Ulan-Ude or at least that’s what he told us. The windscreen was so smashed I couldn’t see and had to jump out to confirm. Glad to be here not least as we were concerned that driver fatigue could result in disaster, Tintin stopping to do roadside press ups to keep awake!

And so it we find ourselves in a Russian hotel eating breakfast to a cover version of Careless Whisper, the finish line podium just a 250m push away! Can we pull off one more Panda resurrection and drive on to that podium….?

Like A Japanese tourist bus doing Golden Week we smashed through Europe yesterday.

…. driving by, shooting quick pics out the car window like LA gang bangers….

Five countries in one day. Germany.Austria.Slovenia.Croatia.Serbia. Get here.

I can now order a burger and a beer in nine different languages and pay in six different currencies!

So todays Mission Jim, if you choose to accept it, is to get through Serbia and Bulgaria to the Asian side of Turkey.

You Have 18 hours….

Dun dun dada Dun dun dada Dun dun dada Dun dun dada Dun dun dada Dun dun dada

doo de doo doo de doo doo de doo doo do

And Mongol Mongrels are off!!

Today is the day. Ten years in the dreaming. One year in the planning. Six months in the grovelling and a lifetime of memories to be made.

Or the most short lived, over anticipated, anticlimactic moment since that time with Sharon Manisky at the back of the school disco!

The Poms are driving from London and will get the underwater snorkel train (aka Brexit Express) to France while the token Aussie will catch a flight from Dublin with the plan to rendezvous in Luxembourg to:-

A) enjoy a light supper before turning in for an early night.

B) meet up, give man hugs all round, chuck our bags through the door, grab a quick Lynx Shower-in-a-can and roll into Luxembourg like it’s first night of camp and we just got paid!

C) be so knackered, we will have one beer, call it a night by 11.00 and fall asleep like the middle aged old farts we are.

No matter what, this is it.
Oh This time I know it’s the real thing
I can’t explain what I’m feeling
I’m lost for words….

Sorry…Got all Danni Minogue there….

So eastward and onwards it is!!

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Like our Mongolia visas!…a bit bloody hard to do a London to Mongolia Rally if you can’t actually get INTO Mongolia!! 

Who wants to do “The London to Somewhere-close-by-but-not-quite-Mongolia-Rally” . We finally got the visa and our passports back so can drive a bit further now…theoretically speaking.

As for the driving bit, we reviewed our tool kit and discovered we didn’t have one!  

Considering none of us are in anyway mechanically minded, (we had trouble spelling AA) ….we went ahead anyway and sent Tony to the local tool supplying type establishment shop thingy.

 Armed with a shopping list that included gloves, duct tape, chicken wire, plyers, jumper leads, lubricant spray and a very large tarpaulin,  it was no surprise store security followed Tony for most of his shop.

Shopping trolley full of said items, the lady at the checkout nervously eyed up our Tony like he just bought a Serial Killer Starter Kit.

Tony explained that it was actually for three middle aged blokes to drive from London to Mongolia in a Fiat Panda and this was our emergency tool kit.

I think she was more comfortable with the serial killer concept. The balaclava probably didn’t help matters either…

So the car is sorted, the visas all locked in and departure date set.

But, there is one more hurdle to ponder….how many days CAN you get out of one pair of underpants…if you really really tried.

It’s just a couple of weeks before we head off and things are getting towards the point end!

We almost have all our visas sorted. Almost. Seriously, don’t know how Jason Bourne did it but he must have the patience of a saint. As with anything good in life, it’s worth waiting for…these countries better be AMAZING!!

As for the car?  Well OBH is looking the business. We have added a roof rack (ex-Range Rover that has been cut in half and then half again and cost more in petrol than it did to buy!), tyres that would make a John Deer tractor envious, a night driving light set that can see so far we can give you next week’s lotto numbers and….a glove box full of hope and optimism…and few prayers.  We have packed more St Christopher Medals than a bus full of Popes on a road trip to Lourdes….

Yesterday the guys at Fast Signs did the decals (designed by the brilliant Mark Harrison of Huge Design) and WOW, it’s absolutely awesome, better than we imagined even! Thank you so much everyone!

Finally, we now have the most important component of the car. AIR CON!! Seriously, if the brilliant guys at Collins Motors handn’t managed to get the air con fixed we were going to up hit Lynx up for a MAJOR sponsorship deal! Three lads, foreign beers, exotic diet and limited hygiene facilities. The Geneva Convention may have to step in here!

As it stands, 66% (2)of the Mongrels will drive from London and get the underwater train to Calais while the final third (1) will fly with the plan to meet them in Luxembourg. Plane, Trains, and Automobiles…but this may change.

Please check out our charities and give generously. We have had pledges of nearly £13,000 to help the fight for cancer and every donation counts. We are now asking for the pledges to be converted in to payments via the website built by another awesome company: WebFX

Now we’re off to figure out how to get 3 x large guys, 2 x 20 litre Jerry Cans, 2 x spare wheels, 2 x 25 litre water drums, tents, tools and supplies in a car designed for no more than the weekly shop!