I can't help blogging for Dave and Deb from Planet D who are off on the Mongol Rally, an adventure I have long had bookmarked ever since I heard about it when friends from my first EHRA project started off on the Plymouth- Timbuktu, Mali Rally in 2009. Which incidentally they didn't complete because of troubles in Mauritania.
"Exclusive The Plymouth to Dakar Challenge - a charity drive across the Sahara using highly unsuitable cars - has been forced into a last minute cancellation because of warnings of al-Qaeda snatch squads targeting drivers on the route." Read here- plymouthbanjul_cancelled/
I was really interested in that rally as a pair of my boots were heading along with Edwin, making sure his feet were warm and dry. Tough that my boots couldn't complete the trip. I'd often felt I should be tramping through the dusty streets of Timbuktu! My boots that went on walking.
While reading up on that challenge I came across the Mongol Rally and thought what a great adventure!? We have long wanted to return to Mongolia, and also explore the countries that border it to the North in the Russian Federation- Tuva and Altai Republic, or even Buryatia. Similar cultures to Mongolia - nomadic herders, a history of Ghenghis Khan, throatsinging and gers or yurts. And dried cheeses that disprove the saying - as different as chalk and cheese.
Dave and Deb start shortly. And they refused to take me, even though I offered to ride on the roof rack. They even had someone steal the roof rack so they could politely refuse me! Thankfully a kind supporter has helped replace that, so I have been waiting for the word.... Hey Dave, yoohooo....
What's so exciting about Mongolia? What lures me back? What stirs my dreams?
Well I can tell you now that everyday in my workshop I enjoy the luxury of being able to play music all day long - the music I have collected from our travels. The CDs I have purchased off all those street performers in Prague, Mascato Children's Choir from Swakopmund, Cape Town's Waterfront groups, Shiba from Swaziland's Mbabane main street, Gypsy music from Hungary and Romania, Sufi From Turkey ...lots of stuff from all over. But the most enjoyable has to be the music and singing from Mongolia or Tuva!
Extremely melodic, hauntingly evocative of the vast steppes and a horse dependant people, and strangely addictive once you really begin to listen. Much easier on our Western ears than any other Asian style of music, possibly because of the long association and at times domination of Russia, and the crossover of their great classical composer traditions.
So I really had liked the idea of blatting along the Kazakhstan roads that head straight for 100's of kilometres, ( if you can call them roads ) and the dirt tracks of rural Mongolia gurgling and gargling away sounding off my best Mongolian throatsinging style just to keep Dave and Deb from falling asleep at the wheel from boredom.
If anyone has seen the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman doco of their Long Way Round motorcycle trek from London to Mongolia to Alaska and finishing in New York, you may recall the first part where they were sorting out motorcycles. Well, when Kay and I saw that episode, and the huge motorway cruiser bikes they chose, we fell about the floor laughing at their choice! They were not going to have an easy time with those huge, heavy, and so hard to lift up out of the mud machines we said to each other.
You see, we have driven Mongolian main highways and knew what those roads looked like. And we had driven on their better roads. Charley and Ewan would be further West where roads are almost non-existent, or boggy in the Spring thaw. So we were glued to the screen for their Mongolian adventure, where one bike clapped out and their companion had to buy a cheap Russian made, very basic, chunky but oh so light bike, and wizzed past those two as they lifted their bikes out of the bog once again.
Someone didn't do their homework on that one.
This is what Mongolian roads look like- the better ones! And this is dry season.
And for Mongolia try this- beautiful-
And try this also - The Tuvan Huun Huur Tu boys will rock your socks off for you across the vast steppes!