After a very nice farewell party yesterday evening in Laren, the last few hours before we leave for the airport are hectic.
Especially for Anty as his Russian visa with his passport attached is still at the Russian Embassy in The Hague at noon. So the Verloop family drives to The Hague to chase the passport and finally, by about 14.00 hrs, they find it with the required Russian seal of approval.
At 15.30 hrs we are all gathered at Schiphol Airport with the Verloop family, the de Haas family and Ellen and Willem Vermeulen. A last farewell followed a bit of taxfree shopping (for magazines and cigars for Willem).
Once on board the KLM 747 we were welcomed by captain Marien van den Engel. He is also our neighbour in Laren. He specially asked to be captain on our flight to Peking. Next surprise came when Marien invited Anty on the fight deck for take-off, an excellent training for his rally navigation.
It is rumoured that Marien will invite me to be on the flight deck for the landing into Peking airport as a 60th birthday present. Yes I am turning 60 on this flight to Peking…
Anty on the flightdeck for take off! Anty has been asked to join captain Marien van den Engel on the flight deck of the KLM Boeing 747 en route to Peking.
He will act as navigator on this flight.....
We are in Peking, but not before I experienced one of the most memorable flights in my 'flying' life.
After Anty had taken the KLM 747 into the skies, life in the business class settled into its comfortable routine with a meal, a film and a bit of sleep.
The KLM flight staff was very interested in our forthcoming event so we gained quite a few followers on our site.
At about 17.00 hrs (Peking time), Marien woke us from our light sleep. He invited us to the flight deck of the Boeing. When we were strapped in our seats Marien produced a birthday cake with a drawing of the P2P route and a happy birthday card plus four plates.
Then Marien, Michiel the co-pilot, and Anty were singing happy birthday to me at 36.000 ft with a magnificent view of the desert of Mongolia, the scene of our rally route next week.
To cap it all, I was later invited back to the flight deck to witness the landing at Peking airport…
Wonderful! Many thanks to all of you for such a special surprise.
Peking is very hot and the trip to the hotel in dense traffic took about an hour. We checked in and had a shower and short rest before going to one of the hotels many conference rooms for a briefing by the local police about traffic and traffic rules in China. Many competitors turned up and we learned very useful information such as: red traffic lights mean stop and green lights mean happiness so you can go (or not).
Most competitors have arrived and they come from all over the world. Many have not done this sort of event before so it will be even more a challenge for them as to will be for us.
The other CNN news brought us weather information for China and Mongolia, which spells rain and hail storms and severe sand storms in other places…
Tonight I had another pleasant birthday evening with drinks in the hotel garden with Ellen and Willem Vermeulen. Anty and Marien who dropped off our 'excess' baggage which he took from Amsterdam for us.
The five of us had a nice dinner with a variety of Chinese dishes and a good glass of wine.
It was a very special way to celebrate my 60th birthday. Thanks and a special thanks to Marien for all the good things he did to make the start of the trip so memorable! A very good neighbour…
Grace, Ellen has already been to the shopping centre and has stacked up on down jackets, Todds and polo's…
When we came back to the room, I found another birthday cake with the compliments of the hotel management. It never stopped.
Now to bed and tomorrow at 10.00 hrs we go with the bus to the warehouse where we can collect our car….
This morning we collected our driving licence and the Chinese registration plate for our car from the rally desk at the hotel. All very well organized.
Then we went with the first group of competitors on the bus for about 45 minutes to a warehouse on the outskirts of Peking to collect our cars. Always a tense moment as you never know how you get your car back after an almost two months journey in a ships container.
As it was, the car was in excellent condition and started on the first push of the starter button. The Red Lady was clean and dry inside and all the spares, toolkit, etc. were still where we left them. Many compliments to the transport company 'Cars UK'.
We were in the first batch of cars to take the 'tulip' route to the hotel on the other side of town. We stopped at the first fuel station in the route book to fill up the two tanks and then headed towards the hotel, a 50 minutes ride in dense traffic straight through Peking.
It is a magic moment to be in our Dutch Mercedes driving through Peking. The same Mercedes that took us to Istanbul, Theran, Katmandu, Buthan, Buenos Aires, La Paz and Rio and now hopefully to Paris...
Anty did an excellent navigating job and got us to the hotel without a problem. The special reserved hotel car park quickly filled up with the colorful group of 96 P2P cars.
The atmosphere amongst the competitors is already very friendly. Many have never done such a rally before and quite frankly, they have no idea what is waiting for them outside Peking.
Anty and myself have used the afternoon to repack the car so that there is room for our day-to-day luggage. We checked the engine oil, the tyre pressure, etc. All fine. Then we fitted the camera mounts in the car.
With a day to spare I think we are ready for the start, but this often means something will crop up at the last minute.
At 6 pm the rally organizers had organized a cocktail party in the hotel garden, the first official event of the rally. Very pleasant, and being Dutch we were with the Dutch teams, the Vermeulen’s and Smaal and Boers. Philip Young, the boss of the rally, came over to have a chat and warned us for what was in store for us in Mongolia but also said that the company who looks after us in Mongolia, NOMAD, for the camping, food, etc. is very very good. So we are looking forward to some 'fresh' but starry nights in the Mongolian dessert.
Tomorrow is the drivers briefing and technical check of the car and then we are nearer the start of the rally on Tuesday.
Anty, after his sleepless nights waiting for his Russian visa, is visibly more relaxed and is also looking forward to the start. Or did he smoke another?
See some photographs on the pictures page
One more day and we are off. It’s getting time to leave and today we finished all the preparations for the start.
The weather has been horrible the last two days, humid, overcast and very smoggy. Not nice to be outside but also not nice to be in an airconditioned hotel.
This morning we all had to be in the hotel car park for the technical inspection of the cars. Considering that a lot of cars come from all over the world it would be difficult to fail a car during the inspection, but there still are quite a few issues with various competitors.
Ours was inspected for medical kit, triangle, towrope, fire extinguisher, lights, indicators and horn. All worked. When the inspection was done we received a signed form to take to the rally office in the hotel where we received the route books, map book of the route and then we got our waypoint pre-programmed Garmin GPS back.
Considering there are 96 teams, it was a very well organized and smooth running operation. We started the process at 10.00 hrs and we were finished and ready by 11.30 hrs.
With route book and maps Anty immediately disappeared to the hotel room to see if there were any surprises. He had already obtained a provisional route book a few months ago, so he knows the route by heart... There were no surprises and I can see Anty relax more and more the closer we get to the start of the rally. Don't get too relaxed... please.
Some crews take the route books and maps very serious, or they had never seen one. The Belgian contingent sat around a big table for hours, coloring-in their route books, and putting post-it stickers in various pages of the books. I hope they know what they are doing because if you make it too complicated you never leave town. We will see (see picture).
In the afternoon all the competitors received an extensive briefing by the rally organizers. Again, it was all very professional and efficient. A slide show of the route and a presentation by the four strong (in two cars) medical team, with tips about viper bites and scorpions in your sleeping bag.
Mongolia is going to be the toughest part of the rally but also the most memorable part.
A bit of bad news is that the Yellowbrick tracking system that we and most other competitors subscribed to, has been confiscated at customs and won't be released before the start of the rally. It means you cannot track us during the rally, which is a great shame. So far its been the only hiccup in the the planning of the rally.
After the two hour long briefing, we packed our last bags and put them in the car. It almost all fits but we will have to eat all the sweets, protein bars, ‘drop’ and pot noodles that were given to us by many of you to create some room in the car.
Then tonight there was the first official rally dinner where everybody enjoyed a last meal in Peking.
It has been pleasant in Peking where the people were very nice to us, and the hotel staff (there are many of them) was incredibly helpful.
Tomorrow we have to get up at 4.45 hrs and will leave the hotel car park for a 60km ride out of town to the Great Wall. There, at 7.30 hrs, will be a ceremony after which the cars will start with a 30 second interval. The route will be about 400km till the night stop Daihai where we are told, are hot springs.
It's time to go and see some of the country. The first two days in China will not be competitive yet, as the Chinese authorities will not allow this. It will be an ideal time for the crews to get used to the route book, the tulips and the GPS system.
Many thanks for all you kind email messages and questions. I also receive many Facebook notifications. Please know that Facebook is not allowed in China, so we cannot open Facebook. Hopefully this will be the case in Mongolia.
Xander asked about the various classes in the competition.
Basically there are two classes: Vintage or pre-war and the Classic class. The Classic car class is basically everything else but split in engine capacity groups. We are in the highest category of 2000cc and higher.
In the words of the rally director Phillips Young yesterday when he came to talk to us at the drinks party: some of these cars will not reach the border of Mongolia and some will not even reach the outskirts of Peking...
Update by text message
Breaking News 8.40am Car no 83 has started the 5th Peking to Paris rally.
Update by text message
Team no 83 finished the first day in 8th place after starting the morning in 83th place. Nice 480 km run with some 80 km of badly potholed roads.
At 7.30 hrs this morning the first P2P rally cars were flagged away from a spot near the Great Wall for the 5th Peking to Paris rally.
The day started early for us this morning with Anty’s alarm clock going off at 4.30 hrs. After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, all rally teams had to drive out of the city of Peking to a location near the Great Wall.
The weather was awful, gray and wet, but not so humid as the previous days. However we were glad to leave the smog covered city and find some clean air.
The distance to the start of the rally was about 60km, which each team had to find through a Tulip route map. Quite a spectacle all these cars leave Peking so early in the morning. Fortunately everybody arrived to take the start.
At the start location it was also grey and dark but we had a good view of the Wall and its surrounding hills.
After some music, dragon dances and ceremonies the first car, the La France Tourer, was flagged away at 7.30 hrs. It was our turn at 8.40 hrs and our first stop was a PC or Passage Control after about 80 km. Anty has picked up his navigation skills again and he has given us a faultless day.
Because the first stretch of the route was mostly motorway, the Benz managed to cruise at 130 km an hour. In no time we caught up with the vintage competitors that were all struggling with the fairly steep uphill sections of the road.
We reached about 1450 meters, when it evened out on a high plain with a fairly nice countryside. The weather started to clear and although there was a ‘Mistral’ type of wind, the temperatures were around 20C. This rally provides no lunch stops, which is something we are not used to.
In the afternoon the roads started to get worse with some big potholes in the main road. You need to be very careful because if you miss one, say with 80 kms an hour, you could easily break the front suspension. Other than stopping for some PC-controls, we drove straight to the finish.
There was this water puddle where the road went under a railway bridge in the middle of a small town. It looked like a wet road but when we went through, it was at least 40 cm deep in the middle. Just before I went in I realised this was a ‘special ‘one, because at the other end I saw a camera crew and rally director Phil Young watching us.
There is a technique to get through deep puddles and streams like this without ruining your car. But, if you get it wrong, water gets sucked up into your exhaust or engine air inlet which could end your rally there and then.
Stay in first gear, keep the revs up and slip the clutch and go through it steady and not to fast. If you go to fast the car creates a wave in front of it and that will slow you down like a wall.
When we came to the other end we got thumps up from Mr. Young, but others behind us were not so lucky.
The engine of the Vermeulen’s MK2 Jaguar stalled in the middle of the puddle. First Ellen climbed out, then Willem. Together they had to push the car to the other end. No fun and although the car started right away, their shoes and trousers were soaked with filthy muddy water.
In the afternoon we had a really bad section of about 80 km of potholed or non-existent road. Similar to the sort of roads we found during the 2008 Himalaya Trial in Pakistan and India.
Not good but for the first time the Benz coped very well with the holes and rocks and it never once hit the ground or the exhaust. It means that finally we got the ride height right for this terrain. I think that all the modifications that were made seem to have helped. But it is only the first day, so lets wait and see.
The countryside of China is green but quite plain. In the small villages that we pass on the outside, you can see that there are a lot of housing developments. Many people line the road and wave at us and on the first part of the route there was a lot of police to show the way or keep an eye on us.
At petrol stations everybody is very friendly but no one speaks Dutch. But petrol and money have an international language…
Because we had such a good run, we arrived at the hotel as the no 8 car. Considering we started more then an hour after the first car, this was quite good. But today and tomorrow are not part of the competition so it does not count for the end result.
However it shows the car is in good shape. We have had bad weather, motorway and some mountain driving and 80 kms of very bad roads and a mud stream.
The car, and therefore its crew, feels good. Lets hope it stays that way because many other teams were arriving sometimes two hours behind us and many were working on their cars until dark.
Mongolia will not be about speed it will be about survival. I think we are ready for it.
The hotel we are staying in is a sort of old state resort hotel near a big lake that has just opened up for us in the spring. It is adequate for our needs; a good shower, a basic meal and only beer and coke. And yes, that lunch that we’d missed. We had some of Marco’s special protein bars, a croissant we pinched at breakfast this morning and when we got to the hotel we had some pot noodles from the supply that Grace gave us.
For the next few days it will be the same, so I guess we will have to rob the breakfast table in the morning and make our own lunch.
Tomorrow is the last day in China and an almost 500 km drive.
‘A magic day through rural China’
Today, after driving through rural China, I can confirm China is humming.
The Chinese are building a new country so fast that this must be the place to be for our kids to work and do business. Why do we bother pumping more money into Greece when we can do business with 1.2 billion Chinese who are hungry for everything that we make? Like cars, luxury goods, expertise in building and construction, and much more. Sorry, I lost myself a bit. But what we have seen today driving through the Chinese countryside beats everything I have seen before.
But back to today’s story.
Not an eventful day but more a 480 km liaison to get to the Mongolese border town of Erenhot. This is where we are now in a typical old state hotel. But it is clean and the shower works and that is what counts. The day started clear and bright and there was a stiff breeze all day. The first part of the route was still badly potholed so we had to be careful not to damage the suspension. After about 60 kms the road got better, even some sort of motorway.
Then we climbed into a mountainous region with light traffic and nice winding roads. The Lady in Red comes into its own with the V8 on ‘full song’, up and down the passes. Despite the big heavy van tyres that we run, she still handles quite good and goes everywhere I want her to go. It’s a bit like driving a Land Rover Defender, but than faster. Also we find the fuel consumption better than ever with an approximate 1 litre per 7 kilometers.
We are still starting according to the start number so with our number 83, once started we pass a lot of other rally cars. The rest of the traffic is very light, sometimes a bit heavier in the towns we pass. Interestingly there are no old cars to be seen. The oldest are, I guess, not more than 10 years old. So our odd little group of 96 crazy men and women and their classic machines bring down the average age of a car in China considerably.
In the countryside there are more trucks than cars but again they are all relatively new and well maintained. Driving skills is another matter… For anyone with a driving school in Holland, please apply here...
Not much to tell about the route or the car, they are both fine.
However, Anty is another matter. This morning after breakfast he gets in the car and pulls a face... and I know that face. His stomach is playing up. In England they say ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ is on its way.
So he takes some pills and gets on with his normal day in the office. Next up is the first PC/passage control on top of a mountain pass. He gets out of the car and rushes off with a toilet roll behind some bushes. After a while he returns and his face looks better. Nothing said, just get on with the job and off we go.
I believe it was caused by the bad dinner and breakfast we had yesterday. We also had no lunch to speak off but we drink plenty of water and I found him a bottle of coke, which should help. Tonight after a few beers and a relatively good meal with the Vermeulens he feels much better.
Tonight, because there is no work to do on the Benz other than to check oil, water and tyre pressures, Anty goes off to help Willem Vermeulen to fix a steering linkage problem on his MK 2 Jaguar in the hotel car park. Maybe after all, I need to find him something to do on the Benz.... On the route many rally cars have broken down with smaller or bigger mechanical problems. Touch wood but so far the Benz runs without a problem.
Later in the day we were cruising on a vast empty plain at about 1200 meters altitude when we spotted a town in the distance. When we got nearer we found the whole town enormous and completely newly build. There are at least a thousand new highrise buildings, in all shapes and sizes, while twothirds is still being build. Most of it is housing. Through this brand new town there are a large number of six to eight lane avenues. It’s in the middle of nowhere but it’s there. There is a complete new infrastructure and we have no idea where the people are coming from or who are going to live there. What I do know is that they all want a car, an iPhone, an iPad, a Mac, a job and everything that we have.
It took us at least 30 minutes to get from one end of this town to the other, and it was not because of the heavy traffic, it was just the size of the town. The amount of construction work that goes on in China is awesome. We passed through two more of these types of new towns. A bit smaller than the first but again with a lot of construction work going on everywhere.
Outside these towns the road network is quickly expanded with miles of new roads going through the countryside. We passed a car transporter truck loaded with new Audi’s and VW’s. On the top deck of the transporter there were two rows of cars parked next to each other. We took a picture, which I will send later.
The last stretch of the road to Erenhot was a vast empty motorway. You have to pay toll now and then but it’s worth it. Erenhot is a mix between old and new and maybe a typical border town. The rally is split over two hotels, quite close to each other.
Tomorrow at 7.45 hrs the rally drives in convoy to the border of Mongolia. We don’t know how long it will take to get through with 96 cars, but we have a start time for the rally in Mongolia for 10.53 hrs, so we’ll see if we can make this.
As Mongolia will be the toughest part of the rally, the Dutch teams have agreed to try and stay together for the Mongolian stretch. They are the Vermeulens, Groen, Boers and Smaal and ourselfes. We have been told that 90 % of the Mongolia trail will be off road, so we will see.
Tomorrow night our first camp night and Friday night we will be in Ulaan Baatar, where on Saturday we will have a rest day. We will switch to satellite phones from tomorrow for the duration in Mongolia so I cannot promise regular updates after Ulaan Baatar.
I will try and sat phone a short message to Cara tomorrow and hopefully can do this every day.
Oh and Marien, the yak has been spotted. It will be on the spit tomorrow night at the campsite.
Mick and Anty (vast asleep)
Just a short update while we are waiting between the Chinese and the Mongolian border.
At 7.45 hrs all cars moved from the hotel to the border post where we arrived at 8.10 hrs.
Everything goes in orderly fashion but it takes time to clear 96 cars through the Chinese customs.
It is now 10.28 hrs and we are no in no man’s land/desert between the Chinese and Mongolian border. It is windy and hot in the desert but it gives us time to get to know the other competitors while we are waiting.
The 10.53 hrs rally start will not happen, I guess but we will see.
To be continued…
It is 11.30 hrs and we are in Mongolia!
Biting the dust…
We are now in the middle of the Goby desert and I am in our tent whilst I am writing this.
To our surprise we found that there is a gsm signal as there is a small village near by.
(Small note from Cara: this email was sent by Mick May 30 at 5pm in the afternoon and it only arrived this morning May 31. Very slow gsm signal!)
It was a long, hot and very dusty day. The route was rough desert terrain, the sort that you need to drive with a 4x4.
After the border process the rally started proper a few miles down the road where we checked out at about 13.05 hrs. Two hours later then scheduled so the whole timing of the rally moved by two hours.
As soon as we started the road turned into sand and hard rocks and it stayed that way for at least 125km. It’s in one of those moments that the car is getting so much beating and shaking around, that you really wonder why you are doing this.
During this route section we got a 25 km time trial. This means that from a certain starting point you have to go as fast as you can over that particular section of the route.
As it is the desert the only way to find the route is to connect the waypoints that are programmed in our GPS.
The desert has not one given road but a load of tracks that you can choose from. If you choose the wrong track you might end up going the wrong way.
It is teamwork between the navigator checking the waypoints and the driver finding the route and going as fast as the track allows. Speeds vary from 30 km on really rough sections to 60-70 km on smoother sand. However that smooth sand can suddenly change into hard rock and you can break the whole suspension of the car in a minute.
If you have done it for a while you start to read the terrain and you can go faster and faster. Until bang... you hit a big stone and you have to start again.
The sun was beating down on us and there was a severe wind sandblasting the car and us with dust. The dust is everywhere even with the windows closed.
We did the time trial 20 minutes faster then the allowed time.
Then we had a long tarmac section of about 120 km in the middle of nowhere followed by another desert section of about 85 km.
Just before the tarmac section we caught up with the Vermeulens and stayed with them until the finish. We reached the finish at about 18.33 hrs with three minutes to spare within the allowed time.
Throughout the last hour, our in-car camera followed the Vermeulen’s car in front of us. Racing at 80 km through the Goby desert in stunning scenery!
There were a lot of broken cars today. By 18.39 hrs half the field was still in desert. At this moment it is 23.00 hrs and cars are still coming in.
After the finish, we were guided to a specially made campsite where we all pitched our tents next to our cars. It was very windy but we managed to set up the tent in 20 minutes.
There are shower tents, a bar and a dinner and breakfast tent. To take a shower after the heat and dust of today was magic.
We are now ready for our first night in a tent. It’s warm, windy and the sky is so full of stars it's unbelievable.
Tomorrow we’ll have a long and dusty run to Ulaan Baatar for our first restday. Time to check the car and clean our clothes and ourselfes.
Good night. Mick and Anty
Just a short message to say that tonight, at about 18.30 hrs, we arrived at the hotel in Ulaan Baatar.
After a short night in the tent (we had a big storm during the night) we left the camp at 9.23 hrs for the 400 km drive to Ulaan Baatar.
The first 200 km’s were off-road through the desert. The last 200 km were on a very long single carriage way all the way to the finish.
Tomorrow on the rest day in Ulaan Baatar, we have an 8.30 hrs date with a Dutch speaking Mongolian who will take us to a garage to check our cars.
All the Dutch teams will come with us. Our car is still in good shape but we want to check it and look underneath as it has had some hard punches in the desert. The only real problem is with the trip meter, it has a mind of its own. We have a reserve trip meter but that one has not all the functions we want.
With a bit of luck a new one will be shipped to Novosibirsk in seven days time. Maas Maassen and Cara are working on it in Holland. Thanks for that!
In Mongolia we don't use the trip meter a lot as most of the driving is done with GPS. If we have the new one in Novosibirsk we should be fine.
After we have finished at the garage, I will have a bit longer to reflect on the first four days of the rally and sent some more pictures.
Good night, Mick and Anty (snoring)
The day is almost over when I am writing this and as usual on rest days, we spent most of it getting the car in order for the next week.
Through rally friends in Holland, Dick Derksen en Ronald Hof, we were able to make contact with a local Mongolian named Bayar. He has lived in Holland for more than 10 years.
Despite the fact that it is a Saturday, he fixed us up with a small garage of a friend. It had two service ramps and all the facilities we needed to check over and clean the car.
Ellen en Willem Vemeulen with their MK2 Jaguar joined us together with Jesse and Jack in the no 88 Studebaker.
At 8.30 hrs our Mongolian host Bayar, who speaks fluent Dutch, picked us up and we drove in convoy 5 kms to the garage. Within five minutes Anty was in his blue overalls and the car on the ramp.
Underneath the car we saw the result of three days desert driving at sometimes 70 - 80 kms an hour. The protective undertray was dented in several places. And this protective tray is made of 5mm specialy hardened aluminium!
However it was still in place and with a crowbar most of it was put right again. Then we greased all the greasing points on the suspension of the car, checked the diff oil, brake pads and lubricated some of the suspension parts.
The exhaust is still in place, which was a first for us after such tough days. Altena Classic service deserves credit for building this new undertray and exhaust. Thanks Jan, Dick and team!
Overall the car is in good shape but there is still a long way to go. But having had a chance to check the car over on a ramp makes us feel much better for starting the second section of the rally.
We spent considerable time trying to de-dust the car inside and out. It's unbelievable where this fine desert sand can go. It is everywhere even inside closed bags in the car. The silly thing is that after another desert day tomorrow we will have to start all over again.
We finished at about 13.00 hrs and then attempted to drive back to the hotel. By that time all the inhabitants of Ulaan Baatar were on the road and traffic was at a complete standstill. It took an hour and a half to get back to the hotel. We were warned that traffic and driving behaviour was bad and it is. Everybody seems to want to go in the same direction but they constantly change from one lane to another.
Anty and I have already seen some of the worst driving cities in the world such as Istanbul, Tehran, Calcutta, Katmandu and I sometimes quite enjoy driving in this chaos. But this was different and not fun.
When we got to the hotel we took a late Chinese lunch at about 15.30 hrs after which it was repacking our stuff for the next six (!) days of camping.
Ulaan Baatar is a strange city. After the Chinese style cities and villages we have seen, we are suddenly in a town that in term of building style, looks like an old communist Russian town with a lot of grey old buildings. There are too many people and far too many cars. There are also still quite a few communist symbols and texts on building and in parks.
Strangely enough many cars have right hand drive steering wheel although they do drive on the right hand side of the road. Our host told us that it’s a status symbol but also a practical issue, as apparently, second hand Japanese imports are quite cheap.
The weather is nice and sunny but quite fresh and very dry. Apparently in the winter it can get down to minus 40 C.
Tomorrow we start the next section of Mongolia, but before this, a small reflection on the rally thus far.
It's the first time we rally with Philip Young and his team as organisers and so far we are impressed how things are run. No nonsense, everything is there, no more no less and the route is well planned.
Only the lunch stop is missing during the day and you are expected to look after this yourself. But there are no Burger Kings in the Goby desert and at breakfast, early starters fill plastic bags full of bread and other food to take for lunch. By the time we, the late starters get there, it's all gone.
We have lived the last three rally days on protein bars, which we brought and water. But for the next six days we will get a packed lunch daily from the camp organisers, Nomad travel.
With 96 cars I was initially worried that it would be chaos on the route. But this is not the case, though we have had some nice scraps with other cars on the desert trails. You can sometimes drive on three different sand and rock tracks next to each other at 60-70 km an hour and then suddenly, all three tracks converge into one. It is nice to see who blinks first.
One such scrap we had yesterday morning. Anty and I were cruising along at a steady 60 km in third gear when we caught up with the Jaguar MK1 of Swiss father and daughter team Daniel and Alexandra Spandini (car no 71) and the Jaguar MK2 of Willem and Ellen Vermeulen. Each was driving its own track, next to each other on full speed. I switched on the Contour in-car camera and captured some beautiful footage with the Goby desert as backdrop. We raced along with the three cars for at least half an hour. Sometimes I could not see anything in front because of the dust of the other cars.
At first I thought that father Daniel was behind the wheel of the MK1 Jag. But then I realised that he was sitting in the passenger seat taking pictures of us while his 24 years old daughter, in her first rally, was behind the wheel.
It was one of those moments that make this rally fun.
Daniel is in love with our Red Lady and he has promised to give us some of the pictures he took from us during this section.
The rally group is an interesting mix of nationalities as you can see from the entry list. As usual the Dutch stick with the Dutch, the French with the French and the Germans with the Germans, etc. but now everybody is starting to mix quite well. After another 28 days, I think, we will know each other.
Tomorrow morning we have a very early start as we all have to be at the main town square for the official starting ceremony at 8.00 hrs. The mayor of Ulaan Baatar will sent us of. Because it is Sunday morning and because we are told the Mongolians like to sleep long on Sunday, traffic should be relatively easy.
The sooner we get out of town the better. There will be six days of hard rallying, probably the hardest part of the rally, and six nights of camping.
I am not sure how much phone/GSM signal we will have, but I will try and report every night and sent it when we have signal.
A special thank you to all of you who sent us kind and/or funny messages. It's good to know that you are all keeping an eye on us.
David Ingram and Tim Beven in the UK; it is time you both start joining the classic endurance trail... You are both old and wise enough!
Tim Duval in NY; there are loads of too fanatic Aussies on this rally and there is a famous Mercedes F1 engine builder (Mario Illien and his daughter) in a well-prepared Citroen Traction Avant. So dust off you Traction and join the next rally…
Charlie, Mickey and Luc, enjoy Norway and be careful!
The next six days are going to be interesting… We come out at the other end of Mongolia in good shape or in whatever shape, but then we will be half way there...
Good night, Mick and Anty (not snoring)
We have just arrived at the Nomad campsite near the small village of Bulgan. We have a GSM connection so I can send a report.
This morning started early with the convoy at 7.45 hrs from the rally hotel to the Ulaan Baatar main square in the middle of town. Sunday morning was quiet but at the main square there was also the start of the Ulaan Baatar marathon. After the marathon of New York, London and Berlin this marathon must rate as one of the world top events with at least 50 people running....
Good idea of the major of Ulaan Baatar to have both events in the main square. He first made a speech for the start of the marathon at one end of the square and then, for the Peking to Paris crowd, at the other end. I guess he was home and back in bed by 10 hrs this morning.
Joking apart it was a nice spectacle with all cars lined up for the start, with the major and rally director Philip Young making speeches.
We had a quite long wait in the square so we had some time to chat with some of the other competitors. Most are apprehensive about the coming week as it will be the toughest part of the rally.
Because of the ceremony we only started at 10.51 hrs for the 340 km run to Bulgan.
After about 100 km on reasonable paved roads, the route changed in an off road track and it stayed like that for most of the route.
The surface however is a sort of dusty clay rather than the fine sand of the Goby desert.
After 60 km there was a time trial. This means that over the next 23 km you have to go as fast as you safely can until the next control point. For some competitors this means they can pretend they are in the Dakar rally as they thrash their cars over the rough surface, rocks and potholes like they have to catch the next bus. It makes no sense at all, other than to wreck your car. Some competitors have cars that are suitable for such beating, such as the Australians with a Dakar type Citroen DS. They drive next to the real tracks to pass the other competitors, but one day they will find themselves in a big ditch and far from Paris.
So the time trial means 'easy does it'. Our time will come in the Alps when the smaller engined cars like the DS are gasping for breath to go up hill and our 3.5liter plus will leave them standing.
All this driving was done on rough surfaces and sometimes on fairly smooth Alp like tracks. When I got into the groove we were actually motoring along quite fast. At one stage I went 100 km in fourth gear on a twotrack stage. Maybe next time Anty and I should do the Dakar after all.
After the test, we had another 50 km through unreal landscape with nobody in sight. Beautiful Mongolia! Then another time trial and a final section to the last time control of the day.
Interestingly enough, at the last time trial the marshals told us that we were only the 17th car past their control. Considering we started in 41st place this morning (including the Vintage cars that always start before the Classic cars), we must have overtaken a lot of other cars.
By the last time control we were 13th so we caught a few more en-route.
You realize that it was a good day for us with glorious weather. Anty was in top form with his GPS navigation and the car (cross fingers) behaving impeccably.
There are some squeaks and growls and the replacement trip meter also did not function well but everything else is good. Tonight at the camp we first took a very nice hot shower in the shower tent and a Mongolian massage (Anty only today). Then we pitched our tent and were ready for a beer before the Vermeulens and Broers and Smaal arrived at the camp.
We checked water and oil, dusted off the interior of the car and are now ready for the camp dinner.
Tonight we have our second night under the stars.
It will not be this easy every day. Our time will come but we enjoy it while it is here.
Good night and hopefully we have a signal tomorrow for another update.
Mick and Anty
Ps: Maas, our spare tripmeter has same problem. It cuts out after about 4 km and then starts again so I think it's a wiring problem. Any suggestions? And please continue sending the new trip meter to Novosibirsk.
Note from Cara:
Mick called this afternoon by satellite phone to say they had arrived in the village of Murun. Apparently there is no GSM signal in that area.
They arrived safely, slightly shaken and stirred, at the campsite after a very rough day through a magnificant landscape. The Lady in Red is doing fine but she is a little battered and bruised.
The problem with the tripmaster is probably solved thanks to the tip Maas gave them. But we sent them a new one anyway. It should arrive this week at the hotel in Novosibirsk (depending, of course, on the courtesy of the Russian customs; but we have faith!).
We arrived at the camp after the roughest and toughest day so far. When yesterday was tough but enjoyable, today was a horror day.
The start was at 9.06 hrs and we came to the final time control at 17.29 hrs. It was 350 kms nonstop and of those 350 km, 250 km was off road on nonexisting roads, sheer rock faces, fine black sand and a lot of rocks, and it was very hot and very dusty. There is dust everywhere.
A car breaker; but not a spirit breaker.
Most of the time our average speed was no more then 20-30 km. Patience, patience and try to keep the car in one piece…
That is what we did and with the exception of one full hit with our sump guard on an invisible rock, the car survived the ordeal relatively good.
Now in the camp the other survivors are limping in. There is a lot of suspension damage, broken shock absorbers and springs. The Japanese crewed Datsun 240 Z had a roll but eventually arrived at the camp with a severely damaged roof and side. Drivers were unhurt, but their pride was.
The day started with 80 km of tarmac road after which it turned into a dirt road. Then a road full of rocks, potholes and everything else what can break a car. To do any sort of speed is very difficult, so you have to drive carefully to make sure the car survives the ordeal.
The day started very cold and it even looked liked we were going to get rain. Gradually it cleared and by 10.30 hrs the sun was burning down on us.
Unfortunately because of the dust of the other rally cars and passing trucks, we could hardly open the windows. So it got very hot in the car.
During the day we had three time trials. This means you follow the route but you try and set a fast time between a start and finish point. Quite frankly, on terrain like this, it is complete madness to try and go faster but still some competitors do. Not us though.
During this type of day there is not much to do for Anty, he just needs to make sure we drive from waypoint to waypoint. Sometimes in the mountain areas there are six or seven tracks to choose from, all seemingly going the same way. However if you choose the wrong one, you might end up going the wrong way. Turning back is then the only solution.
Some try to be clever and cut through the grass to reach another track. Yesterday, four cars did and they got stuck in swampland. So you need to be carefully.
Camp at night is a very comfortable experience. Nomads (the Mongolian organizers) are there and the kitchen and dining tents are in place.
In another location there are WC tents (a whole in the ground with a box on top of it) and a shower tent linked to an ingenious wood fired boiler unit. It is so nice to take a hot shower after a day of dust.
The diner and breakfast are really good considering we are in the middle of nowhere. It is run by a couple of German girls who have recruited Mongolian cooks. The food is therefore quite western style and even has a vegetarian section. All this served out of old green army tents.
It's sounds luxurious but it's basic as we are in the middle of nowhere and where we are now, we are at 1350 meters altitude with no water or power connections.
Tomorrow another 300 km route with no tarmac at all, so we are prepared for the worst.
Good night Mick and Anty
We have arrived at the stunning Telmen Lake after another tortuous day. This is in the middle of nowhere, with no one around and a stunning scenery.
We started at 9.06 hrs and finished at 17.25 hrs after driving 280 km of virtually nonexisting tracks through rocky mountain passes.
It was a long and dusty day but the scenery we were driving through is breathtaking. We try and make as much film as we can with our dashboard mounted little contour camera. We switch it on when we think we see something worthwhile.
Other than the bad roads, our worst enemy is the dust. Today we have driven through three colors of it, red, green and black. It gets everywhere. The worst time is when we have to pass another car. If the wind is in the wrong direction you see nothing in front of you and with only one or two tracks to drive on, it gets very tricky. We close the window but even than it gets in the car. At night we clean most of the relevant parts of the interior such as the GPS, tripmeter and switches, but leave the rest.
With about 120 liter of fuel in the car we can drive all day without have to stop.
In Mongolia we have prepaid our fuel to the organizers and at the end of the day there are designated fuel stations in small villages (if they are there). Or, if there is nothing like tonight at Lake Telmen, there is a tank truck at the campsite to refuel all the cars. Takes a bit of time but it works.
Lake Telmen is a massive lake at 1820 meters and the Nomad camp team, have set up camp right next to it. We are free to pitch our tent where we want.
During the last three days we have got the Dutch teams together and we try to park the cars in such a way that they are protecting the tents from the wind.
Once we have arrived at the campsite we do whatever we need to do with the car. Then we try and have a shower (tonight the shower team was late arriving) and have dinner in the dining tent. An old green army tent, just to make sure this is not a luxury fourstar campsite. The whole Nomad team travels in very old large Russian 4x4 trucks and part of this team travels ahead one day to set up the next camp. They have to use the same tracks we do to get to the destination.
After dinner it is dark and at about 9pm we, Vermeulen, Smaal and Broers, gather in our small tent (the largest of the teams) and have a last drink before we go to sleep.
Tonight, here at Telmen Lake, it has been very cold. I woke up at 3hrs and thought it was below zero. But our sleeping bags are warm and I did not have to put Anty in the oven this morning to defrost him.
The car gets a severe beating and yesterday afternoon I noticed the water temperature rising.
We were climbing quite high, so I thought this was the cause. But when we stopped at a time control, we checked and noticed a small leak from the radiator. It is a brand new one, so very curious.
We acted quickly. We looked up in the parts list where we packed the radiator leak fluid (container 3), put it in the radiator and refilled it with our drinking water. We continued and did a speed test after which we checked and found the leaking had stopped. Hopefully it will last.
The protective under tray under the car is a mess from the beating it is getting from boulders and rocks that we cannot avoid. I hope it will last until the border of Russia where we must find a garage to fix it.
Today, June 5, we will have another 295 km crawl to another lake.
I am not sure when this message will reach you but I will keep on sending them.
Mick and Anty
I am sitting here on the edge of an enormous lake at 1100 meters altitude surrounded by a magical Mongolian mountain landscape. You have to see the pictures from the official P2P site to understand how special it is here in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia.
It is almost 10pm, mild and still light.
You will almost forget what a tough day we have had to get here. Nobody has ever been here with a normal car let alone a classic or vintage car.
Yet there are still quite a few of us left. Some limp in and some are in need of repairs every night. We have been told already 14 cars have dropped out.
Some of these are trying to join the rally again in Novosibirsk, but how they will get there is anybody's guess.
We are counting down the days that are left in Mongolia because our car deserves a rest after this tortuous trip.
Today was much like yesterday. All off road or no road at all, just al lot of rocks and stones. And mountain passes you would not consider taking in a 4x4 in the Alps. But here these mad men and women still soldier on and on.
Today we did 295 km with an average speed of no more than 35 km per hour. It's about survival to the Russian border now.
We took it easy today and made sure no more damage was done to the underside of the car. That is difficult though if you sit behind the wheel for eight hours, constantly weaving between potholes and rocks. This afternoon much of the road was of corrugated clay.
It's heartbreaking to have your car rattle and shake so much for hours. During the afternoon the Vermeulen's Jaguar caught up with us at the start of a time trial and we drove together the rest of the afternoon taking turns in leading the way.
With all corrugated road surfaces it is better to let the tyre pressure down, to let the tyres do more of the work. Anty has always been dead against it because he fears flat tyres. This afternoon after an hour of shaking, I stopped the car and let the tyres down from 2.9 to 2.4 bar. It's has transformed the ride and feels a lot more comfortable. I just hope we don't have a puncture tomorrow.
Willem had a tyre blow out in front of us, but with teamwork we were back on the road again in 10 minutes.
We finally got to the campsite at the border of the lake at about 5.25 hrs again within the allowed time limit.
When we selected a spot to pitch the tents, a mighty sandstorm approached over the lake. I have never seen a real sandstorm and we quickly went back into the car to sit it out. It is frightening. It was a very strong wind and a very fast moving cloud of sand that gets into the car, even when all the doors are closed. It disappears as soon as it has arrived. Then the wind died down completely and it has become a very pleasant evening.
We are settling into the camp life and even Anty admitted sleeping very well in his sleeping bag. It's also nice to live next to the car so we can work on it any time we want. The tent we have is comfortable enough (it sleeps four) but is also small, light and easy to pitch and take down.
Maybe when we get to Russia we will continue sleeping in the tent in front of the hotel....
Tomorrow, it is another day with only 259 km to drive, with probably bad roads. We will take it slow and easy but are looking forward to the first road with tarmac. That will be on Friday… hopefully.
Good night and please look at the Peking to Paris 2013 website for some of the pictures of Mongolia.
Mick and Anty (dreaming of potholes and corrugated roads)
Ps: I sent these reports to Cara every night from my i-Pad with no phone signal around. I then put the i-Pad in my bag in the car and it seems to find a GSM connection along the route where it gets sent to Cara automatically. We will catch up with pictures when we get tote first hotel.
May thanks for you kind messages. Its great to know you are all following us.
Note from Cara....
The last story I posted was not as it says on the heading from June 5, but from June 4. The date is generated automatically and as I get the text usually sometime during the night, it is put on the site a day late.
Early afternoon yesterday, June 5, Mick left me a message to say that they once again, had arrived safely at another lake called Chjargas Lake. They had another beautiful day with lots of dust (grey this time) and with the slow speed of about 25 - 30 kms it took them a long time to drive the 288 km route.
When I looked at my incoming emails this morning (June 6), expecting yesterday’s story, I only found a photograph of a how Mongolia looks at 7am…. It should be up on the site soon.
Some small spareparts are on their way. One package is en route to Novosibirsk and another, for the Vermeulens, to Yekaterinburg. I hope both will arrive in time.
Another note from Cara
The photograph of Mongolia arrived in my inbox this morning; but the story Mick also sent did not. Hopefully it will get sent once they are back on the road tomorrow.
After another long and dusty day in the car, Mick and Anty both say hello from the campsite next the last of the three lakes, Uureg Lake, in Mongolia. Mick says this lake and landscape are stunningly beautiful.
Tomorrow they will cross the border into Russia.
Another arduous day in Mongolia, seven hours over 260 km…
Yes, this is what we wanted; going through Mongolia to Paris. It is much easier by plane but this group of crazy world citizens wants to go through this ordeal to end up in Paris.
Again, breathtaking landscape (how much can you take?) and many not existing roads. The rally ploughs on with many cars now struggling to keep up.
There are the Vintage class drivers in their Bentleys, Rolls Royces and the La France with its Austrian crew. The last one battles through the elements with a totally unsuitable car for this event.
But every night they turn up at the camp and work for many hours to get the chain drive motor vehicles ready for the next day. Their faces are black, like cole miners, from the dirt, the dust and the sun.
Our red Benz soldiers on. Sometimes we have to step for step from rock to rock get her safe down a rockey mountain pass. Like today when we had a difficult 30 km to start with followed by a gravel road that was ready to have Tarmac laid, that was followed by a very bumpy clay road and then the first 50 km of new black Tarmac road. We had not seen that in days. I could finally speed up to 140 km on this brand new road in the middle of a dusty mountain range with no cars in sight.
Then we hit a small town, something we had not seen either for a few days. You really feel like wild animals. Driving a dirty, crunching and screeching car with a dusty and blackfaced Anty and Mick. Fortunately we were out of this town very quickly and soon found ourselves on another dirty track leading up on another mountain pass.
On the next pass a time trial where we climbed to 1959 meters altitude.
Over the pass and in the distance snowy mountains and the most beautiful mountain lake we have seen until the now. And we have seen a few lakes...
But when you see the lake you are not there yet. Because what was supposed to be a road, turns out to be a two track farm track. But we got to the camp at the lake site quite early.
This afternoon was the first time that I realized I had enough of Mongolia. Not because of the country but because the tortuous tracks we have tot take to get through it.
The shower unit-in the camp was not working yet, so I decided, like Willem and Ellen, to take a dip in the ice-cold lake. Great, but very cold.
One more day and we are through.
Mick and Anty
Another note from Cara
Mick and Anty, as well as Willem and Ellen Vermeulen (#74) and Smaal and Boers (#88), all have arrived safely at the border for their last night in a tent. Tomorrow they will cross into Russia, onto the next part of the rally. They all are looking forward to a real bed and a real shower to wash away layers and layers of dust.
Arrangements are made for the four cars to visit a workshop in Novosibirsk to make the necessary repairs. Unfortunately the new tripmasters were returned to us (never made it past Paris Orly) but are now on their way to Yekaterinburg. Please keep your fingers crossed they will get there….
Mick and Anty’s story is somewhere in space, so again, when it lands in my inbox, it will be put on this website.
We have reached the Russian border!
After six of the toughest rally days for car and crew ever, we reached the last camp of the rally, high up in the mountains, at about 17.25 hrs.
It was probably the worst day for the car as the 275 km route saw us crawl over goat tracks, mountain passes with only rocks as tracks and desert sections with so much fine dust that breathing was difficult if there was a car in front of us.
We did not realize today would be that bad.
During the morning Ellen and Willem Vermeulen, who started a couple of minutes behind us, caught up with us and we stayed together for the rest of the journey, taking turns to lead the way. We almost drove nonstop, taking short breaks to stretch our legs.
Progress was slow, very slow sometimes at not more than 25 km an hour. Faster would mean breaking the car.
However the worst was yet to come. We reached the camp, which was located at an altitude of 2200 meters and there was an icy wind blowing. It felt like minus 10 degrees.
Those who still had to work on their cars had frozen hands and feet and there was nowhere to hide from this wind. We pitched our tent quickly and put them close to the tents of Ellen and Willem and our other Dutch friends Jesse Smaal and Jack Broers.
Their Studebaker front suspension had collapsed and needed welding (it was fixed). Our car is still in one piece but I wondered this morning (8 June) if it would start. Because when we woke up this morning the wind was gone, but Anty and I had ice (!) on our sleeping bags inside the tent. Yes, it was minus 5 degrees and so cold.
But we passed the Mongolian section and are still running. This was Anty's biggest worry, to stay behind with a broken car in Mongolia. Now we’ve made it....
This morning we were up at 5 am. At 8.30 hrs we drove in convoy to the border (14 km) and depending on the time it takes, we have another rally start at 10am.
Hopefully from today we have more regular reports again.
Mick and Anty
After scraping the morning frost off the tent, we packed up and at 7.30 hrs left for the Mongolian border where we arrived at 8.00 hrs.
The rally was due to start again at the Russian side at about 10 hrs. But it is now 14.10 hrs and we still have not crossed the Russian border. We have another 560 km to the next stop and first hotel in Russia.
We don't care what the hotel is like, as long as it has a shower. We will probably need two hotel stops to clean all the grime from our faces.
A reflection on Mongolia.
After nine days of Mongolia we know that its capital is not pretty, huge traffic chaos but has very nice people.
Then the country; it is vast, it is very empty, and it has no road network to speak off.
However when you drive through one of the few villages in the mountains or desert locations you find that all the houses are clean with colorful roofs and that the people are nicely dressed. The kids look colorful and are very curious about our rally caravan. Some kids even speak some English.
The first two days in the Goby desert were probably the most fun drive wise. The last two days to the border the worst we have ever done.
If you want to tour Mongolia take a good 4x4 like a Toyota Landcruiser.
We can see however that a lot is happening in this country and it would not surprise us that in 10 years time Mongolia would be a lot more accessible for tourists. Then it will be nice to visit and you will laugh at our stories about goat tracks and dusty roads.
Bye for now Mongolia and hello Russia.
More tonight if we ever come across this border.
We arrived at 21.00 hrs at Aya, our night stop. And what a difference a day makes.
Yesterday was tough even for young guys like us. Today after we finally crossed two borders, the world changed completely.
But first things first. I left you earlier today at the border between Mongolia and Russia.
We arrived at the Mongolian exit border at 8.00 hrs and moved on to the first Russian checkpoint at about noon... We were finally through the Russian border at about 15.00 hrs. The crossing of these two borders all happened on a high mountain plateau at 2500 meters. It was bright but cold.
We went into start number order and as we are #83, we were in the last batch to get through. So much for getting up at 5.30 hrs!
At 15.00 hrs we clocked in at the rally organizers meeting point with our time card for the start of the day, a 500 plus km track to our first hotel after a week in Aya.
500 km on a normal road starting at 3 pm is quite a task after the six days we’ve had…
However as soon as we hit the road in Siberia the scenery changed completely. After the rough and desolate countryside of Mongolia, here in Siberia we see lush green mountains with the big peaks still full of snow.
We found ourselves on one of the most beautiful and best mountains roads I have ever seen or have driven on. This should be the location of the next Top Gear special.
The road virtually went the whole 480 km to Aya. There was almost no traffic and the condition of this road is better than most European roads. It weaved along a large river and followed us through valleys and various mountain passes. The weather was quite warm again and the Benz and its occupants suddenly felt in a different world.
Still 480 km is a long haul so we were glad to arrive at the hotel. It is actually large holiday resort within a green mountain area. When we arrived at the hotel car park, many Russian families and their kids greeted us. They had programme books with pictures of our cars and asked Anty and me for autographs... Yes, really!
Then came the shower after six days in a tent. It will take two hotel nights to clean us up completely, but the first one already did a lot of good.
Tomorrow we have another long trek of about 600 km to the location of our rest day, Novosibirsk.
Cara has hopefully found us a man with a garage for Monday so we can get the Benz into shape for the rest of Russia.
More about beautiful Siberia (you must see it to believe it) and pictures from the past days will come to you tomorrow night.
Mick and Anty
We have arrived in Novosibirsk!
Car and crew are all in good shape. Tomorrow rest day.
More news later…
Mick and Anty
Today was a long day with 620 km, of which 90 km off-road and three time trials, also off-road.
We are all dead tired after the Mongolian week and today we have another long run to our rest day destination of Novosibirsk.
Nobody is happy with going off-road for 90 km but we do it anyway. The first off-road stretch was heavy gravel and I later discovered that whilst passing a Japanese entered Bentley on these gravel stones, we chipped the windscreen and shattered the glass of one of our Hellas spot lamps. Fortunately Smokey Windows have covered the lamps with a strong foil so the light is still in one piece.
The first time trial was on a black sand/clay track and we avoided the rocks that were sticking out of the surface.
Then came 20 km of dirt road through some very poor looking villages. The next time trial section was in a forest with a fine white sandy track. The marshals at the start had wrapped their faces in towels because they were eaten alive by the mosquitoes. This time trial and the next one were great fun. Driving on these beach type sand tracks is like driving on an ice lake; the technique is similar.
I used the throttle and the rally handbrake and floated the Benz at high speed through the curves, left, right, left, right, a straight and a blind left-hander. You have to use both to balance the car through the terrain.
Anty as passenger even enjoyed the high-speed ride and his GPS recorder at one stage noted a speed of 97 km. Not bad for driving on soft sand. I think we did well on both sand time trials and that was reflected in the overall results at the end of the day.
We climbed from 20th to 16th overall. For the statistics we are now the best Benz in the rally and the leading Dutch team. Whatever that means…. For us Paris is the target, not the overall result. But it is ironic that a lot of cars passing us at far too high a speed in the timed sessions, are now all dropping away with damaged suspensions, exhausts falling off and engine problems.
However we are not there yet.
The afternoon was spent making the long run into Novosibirsk. It was at least 500 km on a road of good quality but with a lot of Sunday traffic.
It got much warmer nearer our destination.
When, by about 5pm, we reached the outskirts of Novosibirsk, we stopped for fuel and found a high pressure washing facility at the petrol station.
We had about an hour and a half before our official clock time, so we decided to clean the Lady in Red before going to the hotel.
The amount of dust and mud that came from under the car was astonishing. I had to do the underside of the car at least three times and even then, it was still coming out from under the car.
The station manager and his staff became very interested in our car and helped where they could.
Then they treated us to two very nice cappuchinos and we could not leave before a picture was made with the car and all the station staff. I am sure it's on their website now.
Very nice people these Russians. Shame that the communication is difficult, but if you know what you want, it always works.
When we left we hit the Sunday night traffic into Novosibirsk, so it took quite a while before we reached the Congress Hotel.
The shiny Benz made quite an impression between all the dirty and messy cars. There were a lot of spectators and media to welcome the cars and it has been like that well into the rest day.
Mick and Anty
They call it a rest day but it really is a workday. After eight days of hard rallying, the car and crew are in need of a service.
With 96 cars looking for a garage, this always was going to be difficult. So we asked Cara de Vlaming, who is our day-to-day liaison in Holland and shipping parts to rally locations and translating my website texts into acceptable language, to see if she could find a suitable place for us to work on the car.
We needed a ramp and some welding equipment. Cara found Artem through the internet. A young Novosibirsk internet entrepreneur (who spoke good English) who offered to find us what we needed.
Cara looked him up on Facebook and asked him to come to the hotel at 8.30 hrs this morning. I called him last night when we arrived and all sounded good.
He duly arrived at the hotel at 8.45 hrs this morning and he turned out to be our perfect guide and fixer. He brought us to a garage 10 minutes away from the hotel. In tow we had the cars of Vermeulen, de Groen, Smaal and Boers and British Benz of Michael Velasco.
At 9.15 hrs our car was on a ramp and we could survey the damage underneath.
The 5 mm reinforced aluminium protective underpanel was completely pushed into the gearbox. The steel brackets holding them had bend so much that they looked beyond fixing.
Then in comes Igor (artist name). A small but sturdy Russian mechanic. He took a look at the mess and got some hammers and some crowbars. We took the aluminium plate off and Igor started to work at the beams that hold the plate. After an hour and a half, beating, bending, welding and straightening the aluminium plate is back in place again. A miracle and a joy to watch him work. Anty and I tried to help where we could.
Anty greased the points of the suspension (old cars need that) and we checked all the essential parts on the cars. Touch wood. Everything is still in relatively good shape, particularly comparing with other teams.
After paying $200 we were back at the hotel at 3pm, ready for our laundry to arrive and repack our luggage for in the car.
Cara and Artem many thanks for your help from all of us here!
Tonight we had a nice Italian meal with the Dutch teams.
For tomorrow the organizers have cancelled all the rally activities and we are just driving the 650km from Novosibirsk to Omsk. I think they realize the rally needs a small breather after the Mongolian nightmare.
Novosibirsk is not a very nice town compared to the Siberian countryside. It is a mix of the old communist living quarters and some new developments. The people are pleasant and it's a shame that we cannot communicate better with them.
Like in China, a lot is happening here and there are many young people around. Come back in 10 years time and you might find this a nice place to visit on your way to the magical Siberian mountains.
Tomorrow Omsk. For the Dutch readers the city of the famous drs P. song; Troika here, Troika there... We will probably have to throw the little Pjotr for the wolves before we reach Omsk…
Think about us tomorrow afternoon on our way to Omsk.
Mick and Anty
To be quite honest, it was the most boring day of the rally so far. Not only because it was raining for the first time since Peking, but also mostly because the 650 km two lane road. It was so boring that it was difficult not to fall asleep.
It was not an official rally day but a liaison day. Which meant that the competitors were allowed to leave for Omsk in their own time with no rally clock ticking.
The official reason from the organizers was that the off-road sections on this day were too muddy to use. But I think the real reason was that they still wanted to give the competitors a chance to catch their breath after the heavy Mongolian section.
The three Dutch cars of Vermeulen, Smaal/Broers and us, decided to drive together. We left the hotel at 8.30 hrs. We took a coffee break at a Russian truck stop after about 220 km.
The scenery has become quite boring. It was a sort of large green wet marshland with trees scattered around and very dark soil. The option lane road no 51 were sometimes good, sometimes very bumpy from the heavy winters that they have here.
In Omsk it can be minus 45C in winter and plus 40C in summer. The truck stops and villages around here are looking very poor and clearly date back from the old regime.
There are a lot of trucks on the road, all modern and in good condition. Driving standards are reasonable good. Some SUV’s stick to the 90 km speed limit, which makes overtaking quite easy and safe. Then there are the old Ladas and Russian Fiats mixed with brand new SUV’s like Mercedes ML, BMW X5, Audi Q 5/7. Also many Toyota Landcruisers and other Japanese SUV’s.
After about 459 km we stopped at another truck stop to see if we could get lunch. It was clean inside and after some sign language from Ellen and Jack, pointing at the food that truckers were eating, we were given each a bowl of greasy but tasty soup and a plate of macaroni with some type of meatballs. This was complemented with some sweet black coffee. Total cost for six persons € 35.
Then we were on the road again to Omsk. The landscape became more and more dreary when we reached the outskirts of Omsk. When we reached the Tourist Hotel on the bank of a large river, things brightened up a bit. We were asked to park our cars on a special boulevard near the river. There were thousands of spectators, TV crews and media. The Russians are really into cars and they love our red Benz.
The hotel is a typical old Russian statehotel and so was the dinner tonight.
Tomorrow, we have another long rally day of 670 km over normal roads. We have a start time of 8.03 hrs, so we have an early night although I think Anty was having one more beer with Tatyana (stage name).
Serious though, there are a lot of young people around like in China. They all are well dressed and seem to have jobs, iPhones and cars. Russia is changing fast.
All they need to do now is learn English, because Russian is just not easy.
Mick and Anty
PS for the Dutch readers:
"When we approached Omsk this afternoon we were chased by a pack of wolves. So one by one we threw our children overboard to keep the wolves at bay and close to Omsk we had to sacrifice small Pjotr to the wolves to safe our own skin.'
Small Pjotr was such a nice kid...
We made it to Omsk safe and sound.
Troika here, Troika there…"
From a song from Drs P.
Tragedy has hit the rally today.
What was supposed to be a long but very easy driving day, turned into tragedy when one of our fellow competitors was killed in a road accident.
The organizers have asked us to be discreet about the details until all the facts are known.
We would therefore only want to let you know that Anty and I arrived safe and well at our night stop in Tyumen.
We are all devastated and tomorrow the rally will drive at slow pace to Yekaterinburg.
Then I hope to be able to tell you a bit more about what happened today and how we will continue with the rally.
Mick and Anty
First of all… Big congratulations to Mickey who heard today that he passed his final VWO exams. School is over for you and now the world is yours!
The events of yesterday afternoon have changed the rally considerably and our 400 km drive from Tyumen to Yekaterinburg today, was a day of reflection for everyone.
But lets get back to yesterday. We started the day with the prospect of a very long day with over 600 km of driving. Because of the weather conditions the night before, we only had one off-road time trial at the end of the day.
Anty and I started at about 8.30 hrs and, as opposed to the previous day, we decided to do the route on our own and not with the other Dutch teams. The road was long and bumpy with sometimes many trucks to overtake. It was quite hot and humid.
There were a number of PC's (passage controls) to do. These are set up by the organizers to make sure all the rally traffic comes through at certain points.
The route suited our Benz as with its big engine it makes overtaking quite easy. In traffic like this however, you need to be alert at all times for oncoming traffic and trucks. They suddenly swerve to the left when you are passing them as they try to avoid potholes. So I always have a plan B when I am going through this traffic. E.g. I always look for an emergency exit in case something happens on the road.
However traffic in Russia is actually quite good. Drivers behave quite sensible and many people wave at us or flash their lights when they are approaching us.
We made good progress and at the end of the day, when we went off-road for the time trial section, the start marshals told us we were only the 8th car at the start. We drove sensibly to the finish of the time trial. Then we drove to the hotel in Tyumen. When we parked the car, we were only the 7th car in the hotel car park.
We checked in, settled in the room and went downstairs to have a beer. At the hotel bar I heard some Swiss contestants talking about the time trial being cancelled because of a serious accident involving one of the women competitors. Initially we thought the accident happened at the time trial, but it was pure guesswork because there was no information at all.
A bit later, more competitors arrived with stories of an accident but no details.
At that moment, none of our Dutch friends had arrived yet. Willem and Ellen Vermeulen and Dutch/American couple Dirk and Alexandra de Groen had not arrived at the hotel.
Eventually we heard that car no 92 of Peter Davies and his partner Emma Wilkinson, who just rejoined the route after the time control, had a head-on collision with an oncoming car. Unfortunately some competitors were behind the crash and witnessed the drama.
Emma was behind the wheel and was killed instantly, so was the driver of the other car and a young child, also in this car. Peter escaped with few injuries.
How the accident could have happened is not clear. Some tell us that the Russian car swerved onto the path of the Chevy pick up of Emma and Peter.
When the news reached the hotel we were all stunned.
We also learned that Emma's brothers, Robert and Mark Wilkinson, were also in the rally in their 1926 Bentley 6.5 tourer.
We did not know Emma very well but from the start of the rally, she and her partner Peter with their classic Chevy pickup, were a special team.
Emma was a sparkling girl who drove the heavy pickup with great verve through the Goby desert.
She had the appearance of an attractive Texan American girl. But when she started speaking, you heard this perfect English accent, which did not fit the pickup truck she was driving. She and Peter were having fun.
A few days ago when we arrived at the hotel car park in Novosibirsk, she parked the pickup truck next to our car and we asked her about their Mongolian adventure a few days before. They had had a suspension problem with the pickup and had to stay behind for a day to have it fixed. They drove partly through the night to catch up. That night on their own, she told Anty, they pitched their tent in the middle of nowhere to get some sleep.
When it became daylight, the tent and the car was surrounded by friendly locals that came out of nowhere and offered them water and yak yoghurt. Emma described to Anty how she and Peter tried to be polite and not have to eat this not so nice smelling yoghurt. It was a nice conversation that evening with an enthusiastic and outgoing girl, who was clearly fit to tackle this challenge.
We all think we know this rally is not without its dangers. Anty and I have been in other rallies in countries with some interesting traffic situations!
This accident, from what we know, could have happened anywhere and had little to do with the rally or safety of the rally. Maybe classic cars are not as safe as modern cars, but in the case of this accident I think it would not have made a lot of difference to the end result.
Last night at the hotel our Dutch group had a quiet dinner at the hotel restaurent and a drink outside by the hotel fountain.
Everybody was confused and upset. Rally organizers Philip Young and Kim Banister have dealt with the situation very well. They informed us during dinner what had happened. The whole group held a minute silence for Emma.
Today we were all free to drive to Yekaterinburg in our own time. We used the route in the routebook, which most of the time was quite a nice country road with really very nice green scenery.
We started with the three Dutch cars but soon other rally cars caught up with us and stayed behind the lead car of Willem and Ellen Vermeulen. Nobody was overtaking, just a silent procession of very sad rally drivers. All our thoughts were with Emma, Peter and Emma's brothers.
We stopped at a village cafe for a Russian lunch (salad watery soup and fish and rice) and continued at a leisurely pace to Yekaterinburg. We stay at a very nice hotel, the Hyatt, and it gives us time to reflect on a tough 24 hours in comfort that we have not seen for quite some time.
The rally will continue but none of us will forget what happened yesterday. We will never forget Emma and her pickup truck.
Our deepest sympathies go to Peter, Emma's two young children and her family.
Emma, rest in peace.
Mick and Anty
These are the days we have to make the kilometers to cross Russia. So today we had another long drive through the Russian countryside.
The day started quite cold and overcast as opposed to last night, when it was hot and humid.
Two of the time trials were cancelled; there was only one at the end of the day.
After our 9.03 hrs start we had the first passage control after about 65 km. This is also the location where Asia crosses into Europe. As you can see from the picture, there is a big statuesque thing to mark the place but not much else.
Yet it feels different driving into Europe. The next two hundred kilometers were through very nice countryside, very much looking like the German Eifel region with its famous Nurburgring racing track.
Although we were warned the road might be bad in places, overall they were nice and empty. So we cruised along at 110 km catching many of the slower competitors.
Anty and I had a coffee stop at the next passage control and continued on our way.
The landscape and the houses in the villages we passed through, look a lot better and colorful than we had seen in the previous days.
Many people waved at us and upcoming cars flash their lights and blow their horns. At the control stops, there are often crowds of people and kids admiring the cars. All are well behaved and even ask if they may take pictures of the car.
On the route we see many people taking pictures of the passing rally cars with their mobile phones. It makes us wonder what they will do with all these pictures. Cars follow us on the road and, when I look in the mirror, the driver and co-driver are taking pictures from behind. Once they pass, they stay in the left lane next to me, to take more pictures of the car.
Then thumps go up and they disappear in the distance to look for another rally car. Not very safe but they love our cars.
We have not talked about our car for a while for two reasons. One, if we say there are no problems, we will hit one the next day. And two, because we just have no significant problems so far. This is amazing after the beating it took in Mongolia. If you really want to know our technical problems, here they are:
Every night once we get to the rally car park we see loads of cars being worked on. Mostly there are suspension problems, but also engine and electronic problems.
All we have to do so far is check the oil and water, clean the windscreen and take our bags out. It's a big difference with our 2010 South America rally, when Anty was virtually sleeping in his blue overalls.
But there is still a long way to go and many off-road sections to do. So touch wood for us that it will all stay together. Anty is not throwing his blue overalls away yet…
The afternoon finished with a timed off-road test where we had to drive for 11 km at exacty 60 km an hour. The track was not too bad and Anty was in his navigator element. He has to keep me up-to-date with the average speed and time. You never know what is round the corner, so you can't exactly go at 60 km an hour. We got to the finish with a minute to spare. We waited just before the finish before we clocked out.
After the test we had another 120 km to our night stop in Ufa. It was a busy road with many trucks on both sides. So patience is required. After so many hours in the car and the afternoon sun hitting the car, you have to stay awake.
We got to the hotel at 17.30 hrs as one of the first in the rally.
It was a good day overall. Tomorrow another 500 plus km to our rest day stop in Samara.
Until then, good night.
Mick and Anty
We have finally arrived in Samara where we will have a well-deserved rest day tomorrow. Today was an uneventful day, another nearly 500 km with about 50 km of gravel road. Some hairy Saturday drivers on the road but we survived another day on the road in Russia.
Tonight we have a relaxed night in the hotel, with a week’s laundry in the hotel washing machine.
Tomorrow morning we will have a couple of hours work on the Lady in Red and a bit a free time to reflect on the events of the past week.
So, until tomorrow.
Mick and Anty
When we arrived at the hotel our clocks moved back again so we are closing in on Paris time...
Two hours time difference now.
Time to reflect on the last five days of the rally.
Five days ago we were all exhausted and happy to have come through the Mongolian part of the route. Many cars were beaten up by the rough tracks we had to take. Many crews were exhausted from the long slow days and the short nights in the tent.
After a pleasant rest day and some good repairs for our cars, we were ready to tackle Russia. The route from the border of Mongolia, via Novosibirsk to Samara, has seen some interesting changes.
First the beautiful mountain region from the Mongolian border to Aya was a revelation. Beautiful road, fantastic scenery and hardly any traffic.
Then after Novosibirsk it all became grimmer. The roads were much busier, the driving standards more erratic and the surrounding countryside sometimes drab and dreary. We saw whole dead forests with only the trunks of the trees still standing. A lot of wet marshland and poor looking villages.
However, until the fateful June the 13th, the mood in the rally was upbeat. Everybody thought the most difficult part of the rally was behind us. Still many cars had mechanical problems as a result from going too fast in Mongolia or bad preparation. Many skipped rally days, and the cars have been transported on the back of the truck to the rest day for repairs.
Then on June 13 disaster struck with Emma’s fatal accident. We were all very upset and realized that this rally was not without danger. Since that day, not much has been spoken about it, but you notice that many competitors are still thinking about it.
The rally moved on, but the organizers have clearly chosen to take no risks at all.
Many of the time trial sections, sometimes three per day, were cancelled. Sometimes because the off-road tracks were not suitable, or the organizers deemed them to dangerous because of oncoming traffic on the trial route.
It has meant that many days have been long days of driving without much happening. Just find the route and report to the passage controls. The final check-in time at the end of the day gives us all enough time to stop on the route and have a coffee or lunch.
It is interesting to see 22 nationalities deal with this week. The group has certainly become a lot closer since the accident. We have made a lot of new friends already.
Russia so far has been an interesting experience. It is a country that has seen capitalism for 20 years or so and a lot is happening. It is a mix of old and new. Most of the apartment buildings in the cities we visited looked really dreadful and as old communist projects.
Outside the cities, we saw new developments. Sometimes all new mansion type houses, finished or in the progress of being built.
The cars on the road are a mix of old Lada’s and new European and Japanese cars. SUV’s are favorite; lots of Land cruisers, Lexus and Nissan. But also quite few Touareg’s, Audi’s, Mercedes ML's and BMW X5’s.
By the way, after days of seeing many Lada Samara’s driving around, the penny finally dropped when we entered the city of Samara yesterday... Now we know where the name comes from.
I guess the Moskovitz is called after the well know Dutch crime lawyer...
This rest day in Samara we stay in a comfortable hotel where I managed to get an extra room so that Anty and I can sleep separate for a few nights. After three weeks it is good to be able to unpack everything in your own room.
Yesterday afternoon, when the rally arrived in the hotel, it was quite funny. During our arrival, the lobby of the hotel hosted a traditional Russian wedding. All nicely dressed up family members of the marrying couple while in the background all these beer drinking dirty rally people. I hope the hotel gave them a discount.
Today we serviced the car in the hotel car park under the blazing sun. Anty was up earlier and had already done most of the work when I came down. New front brake pads (they were only a third worn) and a new airlfilter. Together we changed the left rear shock absorber as a precaution. Oil and water was checked and we then drove to a car wash place to have it cleaned and vacuumed inside. It was a delight to watch other people cleaning our car.
When we got back, the laundry was back in the room and we took a bit of rest. Tonight we had dinner with the Dutch crews in a local Russian restaurant. Nice food and dirt-cheap.
We are ready for tomorrow.
Mick and Anty
PS: I have to make a confession.
We have developed a weird hobby during this rally. We are staying in many hotels and have decided to photograph every loo/wc in every hotel bathroom.
This also includes the tent loos in the campsites in Mongolia. So far we have not missed one and I think at the end of the rally we will make a poster of all of them together. Yes, you have to be a bit strange to do these rallies....
After the welcoming and relaxing rest day, today was a relatively short day to Saratov.
We started at 9.03 and covered the 435 km in 7 hours and 10 minutes. I drive to Frankfurt from Laren within 4 hours, so you get an idea that it is not all that easy.
The road was really in a very bad condition. It's the main road between the two cities, but it is in such a bad state that driving over 90 km an hour is dangerous. Once out of the Samara rush hour the traffic quieted down quite a lot. But the road was bumpy, deformed by the heavy trucks and full of small repaired potholes.
The worst enemy was the heat. When we left at 9 hrs it was already way over 25C and after midday we recorded 36C + outside the car. The sun was beating down on us so it was a matter of drinking water and keeping the windows and roof open to get some air into the car.
I handled the car carefully with short gear changes and no excessive revs on the engine to make sure nothing was overheating.
We had three passage controls en-route and we gradually noticed other teams taking longer breaks at these controls.
We decided to push on and not stop for lunch so that we could be at the hotel at Saratov quite early.
We made a fuel stop at the second passage control where Anty found us a sausage sandwich, which we ate while driving.
So we got to Saratov quite early. Before reaching the hotel, which lies on the banks of the river Volga, we crossed a bridge from which we saw that the riverbanks on both sides were sandy beaches and many people were bathing in the river.
We came in at the hotel carpark seventh. Later we learned that many other teams, who had stopped for lunch or had some mechanical problems, found themselves in the Saratov rush hour, which we managed to avoid.
When leaving the car I was interviewed for the local Russian TV with questions about the state of the Russian roads, the problems we have had so far, the preparation of the car, etc.
So watch me tonight on Russian TV….
All in all we had a good day with not so very nice driving. The car is okay but we need to treat it carefully, especially in this kind of heat.
We are almost out of Russia. Tomorrow we have one more full Russian day before we cross into the Ukraine the day after.
Many thanks for all your mails and facebook messages.
Xander asked a few questions about our rest day rituals.
Re: clothing and washing
We have two bags each with clothes, etc. One is a small bag in which we put clothes, underwear, wash bag, etc. for the next few rally days. These things will last until the rest day. The big bag has the rest of the clothes, sweaters, shoes, etc. which we do not use all of the time.
We take the small bag plus our valuables bag into the hotel room every night. My rucksack has the laptop, iPad, phone, charging cables, camera equipment, etc. Anty's bag also has the route books and time cards for the next days.
When we were camping in Mongolia we had the car next to the tent, so we could access both bags easily.
At the end of a rally cycle of five or six days, all the dirty laundry goes to the hotel laundry. At the rest day we stay at the same hotel for at two nights, so there is time to do this.
It's always interesting to see if all the laundry gets back. Yesterday I was missing a boxer short, so if anyone sees Natasha in my red and white boxer shorts, please ask her to give me a call...
Re: spare parts
We have about 120 kg of spare parts, which includes four new shock absorbers. The one we changed yesterday was actually still good, so we keep it in case another one goes bad.
The brake pads we changed yesterday were only 1/3 worn, so we keep them as well, although we have two extra sets.
We also carry fuel additive for when fuel get below 90 octane. In Mongolia they often sell 82 octane, so we add a bottle of additive to every 80 litres of fuel.
In Mongolia fuel was prepaid to the organizers. On two days tank trucks were at the campsite and we queued for our refill. The other days there were designated fuel stations en-route where we could fill up for free.
We hold about 125 liters in two tanks, which means we can do about 600 km. However, if we can organize it, we never go below 40 liters capacity and fill up when we see a good fuel station.
In Russia you first have to pay your fuel at the station office before you get to use the pump. It means you have to know how many liters you need. If you pay for too many liters and your tank is full and if another competitor is next to you, you give him your surplus fuel for his tank.
We also carry an aluminium air jack, axel stands and a fully equipped toolbox. It is a lot of weight, so we don't worry about losing a boxer short here and there.
Tonight the hotel and the car park with all the rally cars was one big party. Many people from the local car clubs crowded the street. It feels a bit like a seaside resort here on the banks of the Volga.
Tomorrow we will have another 500 kms. I hope it will not be as hot as today.
Good night from the banks of the Volga.
Mick and Anty
We had a trouble free run today in cool but partly rainy weather. The first real rain of the rally and it is refreshing for us and for the car.
Today included a nice off road time trial. It took us all together just over eight hours to get to Voronezh. The countryside seems to get more friendly and the roads are gradually getting better although this morning there was still a lot of bumping around the small two lane road.
It was our last full day in Russia. Tomorrow we drive 360 km to the border where at a local circuit we will have to do a time trial after which we will move to the Ukraine border. How long that will take I can tell you tomorrow.
Tonight at the hotel car park, a Russian fan interviewed me. She had a list of very good questions about my work in motorsport, formula 1 racing, the NEC formula Renault series and the rally. It is very nice to know that we have fans in Russia that know everything about us before we meet them. More about this tomorrow.
Finally a quick answer for Xander. The airco was taken out of the Benz 3 year ago. The old system including a cooling radiator weighed more than 45 kg so we sacrificed some comfort for speed...
Today after eleven days in Russia we crossed the border into the Ukraine and we are now in Kharkov.
This morning started with free and untimed 320 km run to a racing/kart circuit near the border with the Ukraine. We had to be there at 12.15 but we did not know the road conditions so we left at 6.30 to make sure we got to the circuit on time. As it was, the roads were actually quite good and got better the closer we got. Nevertheless it took us four hours.
Then we waited at the circuit for our start time. The circuit had a tarmac track and a dirt track or rally track beside it.
First we had to do three laps at full speed on the normal track and then the full four km on the dirt track. It still amazes me how well the big Benz behaves on a tight circuit. I think we impressed many people and I hope they filmed our laps, because they must have looked spectacular. The time was good too. We did under five minutes for the three laps. Most others were well into the 5 –6 minute mark.
Then we did the dirt track. Not one straight line, just very fine slippery sand. However with the magic rally handbrake we managed to do very well and even caught the car ahead of us of the very experienced British couple Peter and Allison Cotes.
After the tests we stopped the car to cool down and we reloaded the luggage that we took out to safe some weight.
When we left the circuit we heard a noise from the gearbox.
Anty’s face went gray (he is a worrier) but after inspection we could not find anything wrong or leaking from the car. So we went on our way to the designated lunch stop in a brand new shopping mall near the local town. It was an Italian restaurant with real Italian pasta and a real double espresso. You do not know how good that tastes after 10 days of weak coffee.
When lunch was done there were another 20 km to the Ukranian border. It was 3.15 hrs by then and we had no idea how long crossing the border would take. Considering Mongolia – Russia took about five hours we were prepared for the worst.
While driving the gearbox noise persisted in first and second gear and for those who know Anty will understand that it got more and more quiet in the navigator seat. We may have broken the gearbox at the circuit so I worried as well, but try and think about solution and not retirement. We talked about causes and what to do. The noise is only there at certain times and the gear changes and clutch work with no problems.
Then we get to the border and the Russians had everything prepared. We get a stamp in our passport; they check the boot of the car and wave us off to the Ukrainian border a mile down the road. There they sent us into a special lane. A nice hostess from our local rally agent welcomes us, takes the car papers and the passports and within five minutes we drive into the Ukraine.
Heaven.... It is almost as easy as going from Holland to Germany. Thanks to all that made this work so well!
Then on our way to Kharkiv. The 40 km road and scenery are a stark contrast to Russia, green, clean and with the nice sunny weather it feels a bit like driving through the Provence in France (did I not say this before somewhere else?).
In the city of Kharkov we were all received as heroes at the large city centre square. There were a few thousand spectators, film crews and media.
Close to the square is our hotel, the best hotel we have been in so far. I think even better than the Hyatt we stayed in Russia. Driving into Kharkov feels like driving into a European city with many luxury brand shops, espresso bars and lots of beautiful people. It feels like we are almost home.
We also moved back an hour again so we are now only one hour ahead of Amsterdam time.
Tonight we have a relaxing evening before we drive to Kiev tomorrow for our rest day on Friday.
Oh yes that gearbox...
When I got to the hotel I phoned the original father of our Benz, Geert Jansen in Ulft. I described what I had done with the car at the circuit and the resulting noise. He got me to go back to the car in the rally car park and test a few things with the gearbox while on the phone with him
I think we found the problem and if the diagnoses is right, we should have no further trouble but we will keep the noise. Lets hope it is what we think it is. I prefer to think in solutions rather than in dark scenarios but time will tell.
Talking about problems, there is a Citroen DS in the rally who already drives a full week with a collapsed suspension system. The nose points in the air and one rear wheel has no suspension at all. They are still in the rally and I think they will get to Paris one way or the other.
A good bye to Daniel and Alexandra's (Jaguar MK1) Dutch guest Paul who joined the rally a week ago and had to fly back to work tonight.
Paul, it was pleasure to meet you and let’s keep talking about Gullwings, Goodwood and Le Mans.
That is it for tonight please have a look at some of the new pictures on our site but also look on the P2P 2013 website that feature some fabulous pictures of our Benz in full flight.
Mick and Anty
We have arrived safely in Kiev.
Tomorrow a well deserved rest day and more stories and photos.
Mick and Anty
Yes, we are in Kiev and yes, we have a rest day. Rest we need after four long driving days with an average of eight hours a day.
The Ukraine is a revelation in terms of countryside and people. We are starting to see shops with neon signs. We recognize IKEA, McDonald's, Castorama (French) even a Bognor shop. It is almost a bit of ’our’ Europe.
We have not found a Starbucks yet, but yesterday on the way to Kiev (spelled very differently here), we spotted the first real Shell petrol station.
We are getting nearer to our target Paris. From Kiev it is only about 2500 km to go.
But first a small tale about something that happened on one of the last evenings in Russia. When we arrived at the hotel in Voronezh on June 18, we checked in the hotel, took a shower, checked the car over and took a beer with the other crews by the hotel entrance where all the rally cars were parked.
There were a lot of locals milling around our cars and suddenly someone called my name. A girl and a boy rushed up to me and to all our rally friends’ surprise she exclaimed; ‘Mick de Haas’ we have found you!
I later learned that the girl is called Zoe Kielstock and is from Voronezh and a fanatic motorsport fan. She knew all about my company, our work in F1 with Canon and ING and our Formula Renault series (NEC Cup). She had followed our CNNTY site on a daily basis so she knew that we would be in Voronezh that night.
She came with her brother and a pack of cards with many questions about sponsorship, motorsport and Russian racing drivers. I did not realize that there were so many racing fans in Russia, but Zoe certainly is a very big fan. They recorded the interview and Zoe’s brother brought a (Canon) camera to take some pictures that you can see on her facebook page. I think we can make her our Russian representative for MdH Russia, as there will be a GP circuit in Sochi next year.
Nice! Zoe, please keep in touch and enjoy your trip to the Monza GP.
Last night in Kiev we dined with the Dutch crews in the hotel restaurant and tonight we went to the old town by cable car for an Italian meal.
During the rally we eat every night in a big room from a buffet with limited choice so indulging in a few good meals is not a luxury. It's not cheap anymore in Kiev. That is also part of getting closer to ‘our' Europe.
Anty and I decided not to take the car to a garage. Instead, Anty checked the car this morning in the hotel underground car park. He greased some points, added some oil to the differential, we checked water and oil levels and the tyre pressures.
Everything is in order. The only worry is the gearbox noise, so we will try and nurse it home to Paris.
Difficult though, as tomorrow morning we have another circuit test and later next week some Alp passes to climb.
Tonight on the way to the restaurant I saw a bit more of Kiev. Very, very nice. The old town is a bit like Montmartre in Paris with many terraces and tree lined streets.
Shame we have to leave already but Paris is waiting.
Mick and Anty
After the rest day in Kiev the rally restarted for the final leg to Paris.
A very hot day started with a 20 km run out of Kiev to a local racetrack. There we regrouped to each do three speed laps at the circuit. At the track many classic car enthusiasts had already gathered to watch our cars in action.
Our laps went well and we set one of the better lap times in our class. Other competitors love watching the lady in red at speed at the circuits and many come up to us afterwards or in the evening at the hotel to say how much they like our car.
We did not take any risk though and I try and am very careful with the gearbox and clutch.
However, when I made the ‘a cheval’ stop at the end of the three laps, my brakes were virtually on fire. After clocking in, I quickly moved on to cool the brakes.
The rest of the day was just driving on virtually one main road to Liviv. It was not easy to stay awake over 480 km in scorching hot weather. In the villages, many people waved at us, or took pictures. The reception we received, once we reached Lviv, was great with many spectators and TV crews.
It is our last night in the Ukraine and it has been a nice experience with a lot of enthusiastic people on the route and at the hotels. Sometimes we had good roads and beautiful countryside.
Thanks you for having us!
Anty and I share a hotel room for the first time in a week. We have been lucky that the rally organisers have given us single rooms for the last week or so. At the rest day we each had a large room in Kiev.
Tomorrow we cross the border to Slovakia.
Mick and Anty
Today we crossed the border into Slovakia.
Gradually the landscape has changed and also the money has changed. We are now into Euros.
It has been a fairly long and tiring day. Not because the distance covered but because we had to drive 280 km to get to the border first.
The border crossing between Ukraine and Slovakia actually took no more than half an hour. The organisers and their local agents had done an excellent job and there were no delays. The fact that it was Sunday must have helped as well.
After the border it was 20 km to a large Tesco superstore car park, where we had to wait for over an hour for our new rally start time. It was hot and humid and there was very little to do, so we had an espresso and waited.
At the restart we had to drive another 50 km into the mountains to a closed mountain pass road for a special speed trial over 8 km.
When we got there it took another hour before the road was cleared and, as we were car no 28 in line, we started 28 minutes after the first starter. The trial was quite a tricky hill climb on a very narrow road. First uphill with some tricky hairpins and then downhill with some more hairpins. We drove at medium speed to preserve the clutch and 2nd gear, but still did a decent time. At the 'a cheval' finish the brakes were smoking hot again.
The pass was full of spectators, particularly in the hairpin corners. With the speed we were doing we found it quite dangerous to have the people and their kids so close to the road. But nothing happened and after we completed the session we drove another 30 km to the town of Kosice. There was a big welcome for all the cars in the town square and a short route to yet another hotel.
Tomorrow we have an early start and five time trials including a circuit session at the Slovakia ring. I think Claire knows a few people there, so please let them know we are coming.
The night stop will be in Bratislava where we will try and find a restaurant to have an a la carte meal.
Every night a buffet dinner gets a bit boring.
When Anty and I get home we will not want to see a buffet breakfast of buffet dinner for at least a year or longer...
Mick and Anty
Late this afternoon we arrived at the Sheraton hotel in Bratislava. It was a long, tiring day and completely different from the last 10 days, when we did a lot of driving and not much competition.
Today we had four time trials in the hills and mountains between Lviv and Bratislava, while at the end of the day we had to do a fast lap on the brand new Slovakia Ring near Bratislava. Five tests in a day with tired cars and crews is suddenly a bit much. The weather started hot and humid this morning. But it was nice and cool higher up on the mountain passes. Then it started to rain and it got cold when we drove into the city.
The first four tests we did were all on closed mountain roads. They were partly uphill at the start and usually downhill until the finish. On average, each section was about seven to nine km, but the roads were small and often very rough. We set decent times, keeping in mind the condition the car and particularly our gearbox and brakes.
After that, a 35 km liaison on a brand new autobahn and immediately the Benz came into its own. Where most rally cars have a top speed of 120 km we cruised at 140 - 150 km. On this short stretch of motorway we caught of lot of rally cars ahead of us. This meant we had an early start at the time trial at the Slovakia ring.
On the long and winding mountain road the torque of the big V8 works very well so in general we had a nice day 'at work' today.
Bratislava is the last of our 'East block' stopovers, as tomorrow after 30 km we are already in Austria, where the Schnitzels are waiting for us...
Unfortunately there is no time to see the sights of Bratislava and the Danube that flows through it. Tomorrow we have another early start, and tomorrow night we will be in Schladming, Austria. It is the ski resort where the 2013 Alpine Ski Championships took place, so maybe we can do a downhill tomorrow night.
Mick and Anty
Last week we were under the false illusion that the rally was over. Many time trials were cancelled in Russia and Ukraine and daytime clock-in times were moved regularly, because of unsafe roads or roads in bad condition.
We thought when we get to Austria we would have a nice cruise through the Austrian and Swiss Alps on the way to Paris.
Far from it! We are now wrecking our cars in a different way. Not over rough roads but by running them up and down steep or very steep mountain passes. It is cold and damp and we thought the summer had started. Our clutches are groaning and the brakes are fading badly.
When leaving Bratislava we took a few miles of motorway before entering Austria. No border controls and considering how easy we crossed the border from Russia in the Ukraine and the Ukraine into Slovakia (an EU member), our overlords in Brussels should maybe have a better look at the security of the outer borders of the EU. But Brussels is far away from the Ukraine and Slovakia...so please do not wake up.
Once into Austria, we were summoned to a small test track and do a rather complicated timed lap.
We do not race around this track because the guy in front of us, in the overall standings, is 12 minutes ahead and the guy behind us, Dirk de Groen, is more than 15 minutes behind. So there is no point in trying to win here at the track.
After completing the lap we moved on for a long driving day into the Austrian hills and mountains. We had five time/pass controls on five different small passes and to cap it all, a hill climb of eight km on a totally closed mountain pass. This climb is used every year for the Enstall Classic Rally, a rally similar to the Dutch Tulip rally. Quite spectacular, particularly as it was raining and slippery and thick fog half way up the mountain at about 1500 meter. I nearly turned right at a left turn hairpin bend.
Because of our engine power and torque, we run upfront most of the day. The smaller cars are all struggling to go uphill and as a result, we are now only nine minutes behind the Renault Fregatte in front of us in the overall standings. The driver is very good but the engine is too small for these steep mountains.
However we need to do at least another two days like this to catch him, but than we only move up one place, so there really is no point.
The plan is to keep the car safe. The closer we get to Paris the more we worry about something going wrong. The clutch still holds and the gearbox still changes gear but it feel rough sometimes.
Schladming is a nice village in a valley and it was the scene of the 2013 Alpine Ski World Championships. Not much to see though, as all the snow has gone and we arrived quite late at the hotel and will leave early (7.30 hrs) for another long day into the mountains.
Tomorrow night though, with a bit of luck we will see Grace, Charlie, Mickey and Cara plus a lot of our Pany neighbours at the finish in Davos.
We have invited all the Dutch teams to have dinner at the house in Pany. Willem (bold since tonight) and Ellen Vermeulen, Jesse and Jack (also bold since tonight) and Alexandra and Dirk de Groen. Hopefully everything works.
It is something to look forward to.
Another milestone… We have arrived in Davos Switzerland!
It has been a long and frustrating rally day but the reward was great.
This morning in Schladming there was no breakfast at the hotel. Instead we left very early and drove to the foot of the Palanay mountain road. This is a five km gravel road leading to some ski huts at about 1850 meters.
The start point for the rally was at the bottom of the mountain. Each team needed to drive up the mountain as fast as they could. It was early and I had not had my coffee yet, but we did it under six minutes. There were many tight hairpins and steep sections where you have to choose between first and second gear.
However, at the top of one near some ski huts an enormous breakfast was waiting for us with lots of fresh coffee. When everybody was up on the mountain, we went back the same way and started the day section of the rally.
Like yesterday, there were many small passes and valley roads we had to take which were quite busy with holiday traffic. At this time of year they are mostly grey people driving at a very leisurely speed. So much driving with so little progress.
It got more interesting when we started going towards the Swiss Alps. The weather is cold and rainy and higher up the mountains we had fresh snow.
One of the roads was cancelled because it was covered with snow. It saved us 40 km of driving, so we were happy. By 15.30 hrs we crossed the border between Austria and Switzerland and about 45 minutes later, we turned right to climb the last mountain of the day, the famous Fluela pass direction Davos.
This is one of Top Gear's favorite roads and it climbs up to 2280 meter and with so few days left to Paris, we took it very gently. A few kilometers over the top and down the valley we saw the first glimpse of Grace, Charlie, Mickey, Cara and Fritz waiting for us to come down.
When we reached them on a parking space next to the road, the welcome was emotional.
After four and a half tough weeks driving from Peking to Davos it certainly is something to reflect on and something I have always looked forward to as one of the goals to reach.
On that cold and windy pass we came back to the real world. Other competitors came by waving at us and tooting their horns. Our Pany nabour, Fritz Kleinert, was all over our rally car looking inside, looking in the engine compartment. I think he wants to do the next rally...
We then gently drove down the mountain to the final time control at the hotel at Davos. Here we waited for the other Dutch teams and when they had arrived, we took them to our family house in Pany for drinks and dinner.
Anty and I took the Benz to Pany and before the others arrived, we checked the brake pads. They were pretty well gone so we replaced them quickly. Our trip meter went on strike this afternoon with a mysterious bug. The second trip meter was fitted but showed the same problem so we have to probably drive to Paris with the GPS device. Anty is very skilfull with that, but it is inconvenient not to have the trip meter.
The dinner with Alexandra, Dirk, Jesse, Jack, Willem and Ellen, Grace, the boys and Cara was great, but it shows that we are all very tired. Paris is so close but oh so far away.
Tomorrow will be another tiring day with many mountain passes including the old Gotthart pass to our destination Gstaad.
Anty and I will sleep here in Pany tonight, but we must make sure we leave in time for the restarts of the rally.
You thought these boys in the red Mercedes are there! With three days to go to Paris and they must be cruising in the Alps basking in glory.
Well, that is what these two boys thought too, but rally organisers Philip Young and Kim Banister thought differently and the cruise in the Alps became a race for time over seven, yes, seven mountain passes.
We barely made it in time for the final time control at the Gstaad Palace hotel.
A horrible and difficult day, so where shall I begin?
Lets begin at the end, because we are now staying at the Gstaad Palace hotel in Gstaad. Google the hotel and look at the pictures. It has it all and it’s beautiful. We have a large room with a view of the snowy mountains. There was a cocktail party in the lobby and a ‘buffet’ dinner, with the emphasis on dinner.
The day started at our house in Pany and after a good night sleep, we found a car that was washed by Mickey. We have unloaded some of the unwanted weight, like the second spare tyre, tent, sleeping bag and clothes.
We drove back to Davos for the start of the rally. Today we had one circuit test, two time trials, one climbing up the old road of the Gotthart pass, and one up a mountain pass by Verbier. Further two time controls you have to pass at a certain time otherwise you get a time penalty.
Driving through the mountains in the early morning we realised that we would have to push all the way to get everywhere in time.
The circuit test was on a road training track and it was really a Mickey Mouse test around some pylons and some stop and starts. It was a waste of time, also because it costs a lot of time. Then on to a time control on the top of another pass (we got there eight minutes late) and then up the old Gotthart pass with rain turning into snow the higher we got. We drove down the Gotthart and up the Nufen pass (2400 meters), where the snow and fog got serious. On the pass into Wallis, the snow turned into heavy rain, but later it started to get drier.
The second time control was on the main road just past Brigg in the Wallis canton. We raced to get there and did a few things that the Swiss police would not approve of, but we got there only two minutes late. When we sprinted into this time control car park, Anty’s brother and sister in law, Butch and Spook, were waiting for us with sandwiches and juice. We were in a terrible rush but we took a few minutes to say hello. We were in such a rush that we totally forgot to wish Butch a happy birthday, so happy birthday!
The sandwiches they made us were a godsend because we would not have had any time to stop for lunch. Up and over the next mountain, then down to Verbier, which was a nice gravel time trial on a closed track. Back into the valley and onto the motorway for a few kms where we turned off to go towards Villars and behind Villars over the mountain (pass) into the Gstaad valley.
It was a hectic day. We were frustrated by very tight time controls and bad road conditions. Switzerland seems to have decided to repair all its secondary roads at once, so we got stuck many times behind temporary traffic lights. Many other competitors got frustrated and overtook waiting cars or crossed lines to overtake other cars at a too high speed.
The Swiss must not have been very happy with our bunch.
When we clocked in at the Gstaad Palace hotel we were still one of the first to arrive. There was a lot of anger and frustration from the late arriving crews about this difficult day.
The car is still doing what it needs to do but with so many steep mountain passes, time and time again second gear, third gear, and back to first just to keep the speed up, must take its toll. We are almost there, baby...
Maybe tomorrow we can be a bit more relaxed about the journey to Troyes in France, but I am not counting on it.
Mick and Anty (fast asleep in his Gstaad Palace bed)
A short message from Troyes where we arrived after a nine hour drive from Gstaad at 18.00 hrs.
It was not a tough rally day but a very long one.
Tomorrow Paris. I think we can safely say that we have completed the rally without missing one time control and speed test.
This means we have earned a gold medal. Something that only about 20 crews from the 96 cars have achieved. We are the best Dutch team and the best Mercedes in the rally.
A lot of credit for this goes to Anty, who made sure we were always on the correct route and we never missed a time limit. He has put up with my driving in sometimes-scary circumstances.
Also a lot of credit goes to the team of Altena Classic cars, who prepared a car that virtually ran faultless all rally. Most of the days just check water and oil... It earned us a lot of admiration from the other competitors and the organisers.
Thanks Jan and Dick and the Altena team!
Tomorrow we celebrate at the Place Vendome in Paris.
We have made it to Paris!
And what a welcome it was! You have seen the pictures and here is the story.
The last night before Paris in Troyes was dissappointing. The rally members were in three different Ibis type hotels and although they were all in walking distance from each other, it was a missed opportunity to have one final night together with all the competitors and rally organisers.
In Paris we would be reunited with our family and loved ones and we would have to behave ‘normal’ again. Here we could have celebrated together.
Anyway, we made the best of it and found a nice steak restaurant around the corner from the hotel where we had dinner with the ‘Dutch’ crews.
At this stage Anty was still dead serious about the final day of the rally, whereas most of us know that this is just a tour to Paris. He is right about something else though, we are going for the ‘Gold Medal’ and that means you have to get all the control stamps until the end.
Saturday started with the first 100 km going through small country lanes and many passage controls. This was the last round past all the rally marshals and an opportunity to thank them for all their good work and help.
Then we finally got onto a more regular route national in the Versailles region, after which we joined the A6 Autoroute. We made a fuel stop at one of the autoroute fuel stations. This was where we regrouped with Ellen and Willem, Jesse and Jack (on speaking terms again after a small navigational/timing altercation) and we drove the last kms into Paris with the three Dutch cars.
Next up was a regroup at the Avenue Foch near the Bois de Boulogne before our victory drive down the Champs Élysées. The rally cars were collected at a parking and let through in groups of ten.
At this regroup point we all had to wait a while and I think this was the moment we all (including Anty) finally realised that we had made it to Paris. There were hugs and tears and a lot of very happy and very tired rally crews.
The victory tour through Paris was really great and the last bit to the magnificent Place Vendome was slow but really special. All our family and friends were there and it finally sank in that this was it!
The evening saw a final (non buffet) dinner in the grand ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel. We were shown a 20 minutes long film with impressions of the rally. The Lady in Red was featured a number of times and our families got a good impression of what we endured over the past five weeks.
The prizegiving was long but fun and we all went to bed very tired and satisfied.
Dear friends, we hope you enjoyed our adventure.
It hass been another big experience for us, and something we will not forget ever. We have travelled through new territories and learned that in China, Russia and the Ukraine there is still much to do. But there is a young generation hungry for making up for lost -communist- time. Our young generation should seize the opportunities that are there.
Mongolia is something else. Next time we will take a 4x4, but the camping was unforgettable in many ways.
We have met a lot of new people from all around the globe and have enjoyed, once again, rallying with Willem and Ellen Vermeulen. They are always a very welcome sight when we see them during the rally or at night in camp or the hotel. We have now done at least 45.000 tough rally kilometres together and are still not tired of each other.
Thanks Willem and Ellen, you don’t know how important you two are for us sometimes!
Then the Dutch rookies, Jesse and Jack, with their magnificent and far too heavy Studebaker. Great to have such a good time with you and next time make the Studebaker even better because it had enough speed.
Dirk and Alexandra de Groen. It was tough for both of you but you did really well. I hope we can keep in touch.
We need to thank all the people behind the scenes that helped us one way or another, before and during the rally.
First of all a big thank you to Altena Classic cars who build a ‘bullet proof car’. The car has gone through hell and back, but every day it started on the button. It was fast and reliable, we never had a flat tyre, and all shock absorbers are still good. Each night we checked oil and water. We changed brake pads twice and repaired the sump guard once. During the final week of the rally more and more competitors asked us if we have had any problems. The car and its performance impressed them all.
It has taken some time to build, but it has never been so good. If you want to do a rally like this I can recommend you to talk to Jan Altena first.
Thanks team at Altena!
We ended 15th overall, earned a prestigious gold medal for not missing one control point and for competing at all the speed tests during the whole rally.
We are the best Mercedes of the eight MB cars entered and the best Dutch team in the rally.
We have to thank Cara de Vlaming for sometimes staying up very late to receive my scribbling and put them on the site. Cara also found us a garage in Novosibirsk, the only time we really needed one. Peter van den Heuvel from Kwamedia who, once again, maintained the CNNTY site to perfection.
Also a big thanks to Niels and Jasper Smeenge at Fit promotion in Laren. They got me fit in time and cured my ‘frozen’ left shoulder just in time.
Thanks to Marco at Health Plus in Laren who spent an evening with Anty and myself preparing us for bad food, low energy and good sleeping. We took the vitamins and powders regularly and it kept us clear headed despite the tough days.
Thanks to Michiel at Smokey Windows for doing all the sticker work on the car. After all the kilometers the car still looks very good and the protective film on the front lamps has prevented a lot of damage.
Thanks to ERA, the organisation of this magic adventure. It has been a revelation. Before this rally we had mixed review from ERA particularly from some Dutch rally teams. But it has been a very well organised rally, with a perfect route book, good accommodation and very good and pleasant staff.
It has been worth every penny and after the last two rallies, Carrera and Himalya, we said never again. But with ERA, we are confident that we might do another rally with them in the future.
Thanks Philip Young , thanks Kim Banister, thanks ERA team!
Thanks to all of you that followed us throughout the rally. Your mails and Facebook message gave us the feeling we were not alone. There will be a film of the rally and a book, so let us know if you are interested to see them.
Then a big thank you to Grace, Sonja, Joe-Jay, Joris, Charlie, Carlot and Mickey for allowing us to do this.
I am sure the episode with the fatal accident of Emma in Russia must have made you a bit worried about what we were doing, and so were we, but you never complained. You need partners like Grace and Sonja to be able to do such crazy things.
Thanks, thanks and thanks, we love you!
Will we do it again? We don’t know yet.
Should you do this? Yes! Time and time again we meet people who live their whole lives dreaming about such things, but never do them.
Do it, because life is too short and if you decide to do it, we would be happy to share our experiences so that you can start well prepared.
Till the next time.
Mick and Anty
PS: Erik van Steenbergen happy 60th birthday. Now go and do the next P2P!