Rohan Harrogate – Mongol Rally

Here in Rohan Harrogate we love a good adventure and we have been proud to be able to help a couple of teams of ordinary guys doing something quite extraordinary, Here is a piece written by last year’s Mongo rallyist Lawrence Bishop:

Rolling down the runway of Chinggis Kahn airport and lifting into the dawn sky I took a deep breath. A combination of sadness to be leaving Mongolia and excitement to be returning home satisfied for having driven here from the UK.

David and I had just completed the 2009 Mongol Rally, probably the most famous charity car drive in the world, from Goodwood racetrack in Surrey across 9,500 miles of autobahn, potholes, steppe and desert. We had set off on 18th July and after a lap of the racetrack, been funnelled onto the open road and on to Dover. Following a late night sailing to Calais we drove through Northern Germany, to the rendezvous for the other two rally start points (Milan and Barcelona) in Klenova, Czech Republic.

Everywhere was stunningly beautiful and as we travelled further east, became more and more exciting in terms of people, driving, scenery and police stops! Once we left Ukraine and entered Russia, we started asking ourselves each day – are we really here?

As far as Russia we had used local hotels en-route – some more basic than others, but from our first night in Kazakhstan that was simply not an option and we signed up to a nightly admission to the Hotel Hyundai. The reclined front seats of our 2001 Hyundai Accent. Each evening we would park so that the sun would rise in our windscreen and we would cook a meal with the carpet of natural herby vegetation beneath our feet. Each morning the sun would wake us and after a quick coffee we would be back on the “road” .By this time the road was invariably a dirt track and navigation really was just head east.

A week after entering Kazakhstan we departed with a mad dash through the Russian Altai Mountains (1000km in 23 hours) to reach the Mongol boarder before it closed for the weekend. Being then delayed by 24 hours anyway at the border, whilst our vehicle import was arranged was then a blessing as we had a chance to sit and catch up with other ralliers, even though the night time temperature fell to -9C.

Once released from customs we were in to Mongolia and some of the most amazing scenery and friendly people on earth. This was inversely proportional to the conditions of the roads which were corrugated tracks, heading in the right general direction, but littered with car-munching potholes and football sized boulders. Every few hours there would be a river crossing or two, usually with a bridge. As Mongolia is one of the highest countries on earth and with the eastern remnants of the Altai’s mountain passes and the high Gobi desert, a general lack of oxygen was the cars other challenge.

Nearly half of Mongolians are nomadic and the vast areas of Steppe are occasionally dotted with a handful of Gers. Looking at their healthy children, fat animals and solar panels outside this is a wealthy country, even if not in terms of capital wealth.

After four weeks of driving east, mostly off road and through some of the most un-visited regions, we turned a corner and Ulan Battor, Mongolia’s capital city, was staring straight at us. A huge contrast and some rather different driving took us into the heart of this city and we edged our way across a four lane highway to the official finish line.

We only had a day or so in Ulan Battor to celebrate with many of the teams we had met on our way, but a sense of achievement slowly sank in. We had raised just over £5,000 for four separate charities.

And so as I took that deep breath on takeoff, it was also with a sense of confidence. Despite being worn for days on end, and roughly washed in Russian truck stops, Kazakh rivers and Mongolian streams, all of our Rohan gear was just as good as the day we got them but I don’t know how we would have coped with the journey without Expedition II Shirts and Ultimate Cargos, it really is brilliant gear.

Read more about our adventure and see pictures and follow this years adventurers Teamschfiftyfive from Harrogate.

Rohan Heritage

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