Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Tashkent and Mongolia is still taking its toll!

After a short 220km run today we are now in Tashkent which is a very modern city bussling with life. Only 4 hours to get through customs today so we are getting better at it. That said my dream of a warm bath and a relaxing dinner as we have now got a broken rear spring. It seems all the bashing in Mongolia has taken its toll. I am writing this having stripped the rear suspension again and Adrian has gone off to try and source a new coil. Another late night beckons and our third place is taking some holding onto. Its time for some luck!

Waiting for The Kazak to Uzbek border control.

Judging by the number of Kazak money changers hassling one to buy Uzbek sums from them, we can deduct that Uzbekistan is not doing quite as well as Kazakstan.  We now have 1.5 million sum which looks like 5 house bricks in size and was about $100 worth. Ummh. Think we are going to need another wallet, actually a small wheel barrow should do.   

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Pot holes Kazak style

We are on a fantastic smooth tarmac road interspersed with bomb craters. Anyone of these holes has the capability of finishing your challenge. They make Kents finest look positively pathetic.  Anyway we are half way to Shymkent and the scenery is beautiful.  A mixture of mountains and big open plains.

A fairly typical roadside scene in Kazakstan.

Wild horses and cattle wander freely onto the roads.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Goodbye to Almaty

Its bright morning sunshine as we make our way out of Almaty in the early morning rush hour. Only a short day today, 729km! We liked Almaty. It was quite a surprise to find such an old and estblished almost westernised city in Kazakstan. Our evening out last night was great fun and I am sure we found one of "in restaurants" to go to. Outside they had a trapease erected and normally dinner is served as you watch the high wire act. Last night was too cold for this and so we had a floor show inside. Must get back to my navigating now or we will be lost!

Thing's are looking up!

The ceiling at our restaurant.....  

More traditional Kazak dancing.  The costumes are fantastic.  Very vibrant coloured silks.

Its not all hard work you know!

We are just having dinner at one of Almatys best restaurants and this is the floor show. Food was superb a mix of Kebab and dumplings , soups and spices.  

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Snow on the hills in Kazakstan

The marvellous Itala which is the same as the Prince Borghese 1907 winning car

Who' s idea was this?

We are now in our hotel in Almaty after aanother 540km day. The car ran fine after some fettling in Semey. A new set of points and condensor had it running on 6 cylinders again and we are still third. The cars in front of us are both seasoned rallyists and worked out, when we didn't, that you are against the clock from the off. We get it now but not nefore taking a 2 hour time penalty for sightseeing. Typical. You can cut the competitive atmosphere with a knife but nobody wants to appear that they care. Except me! We are gutted we messed up the instructions day one as we would be running very near best or a v close second! The other contestants are really very good company and we are having a whale of a time. Made quite a lot of friends but the Aussies are the most competitive. Where have I heard that before? Much enjoyement from everyone seeing the Aston. It seems Goldfinger reached these parts. Of course I am perfecting my Sean Connery accent and Adrian has been growing a beard even though 007 never had one. Servicing the car tomorrow before sampling what cuisine Almaty has to offer. Many cars have arrived on lorries and some could well be out if they cannot be fixed here. Adrian keen to find a car wash and me keen to change the oil. It is an awesome experience and quite unlike anything we have done before. Highly recommended but if you do it pick your steed carefully. Even the enormous La France fire truck of David Wenman broke its chassis! More tomorrow.

Spaceinvaders in Kazakstan

Ok ok we got it wrong. WE THOUGHT that once we had left Mongolia the bad roads had finished. Bring on Act 2. Driving in Mongolia is , well challenging to say the least but at least you know there are no roads and even the greatest names in 4 x 4 s are summarily wasted within weeks if not days. But Kazakstan has a whole new game. Spaceinvaders. Those of you old enougth to remember the first mass electronic game will relate to this. The first 5 miles of tarmac out of Semey were really pretty good. Just the odd spaceinvading critter to evade but nothing to serious. Just as you get confortable with your game the invaders step up the pace. Suddenly you are in the swing of it dodging almost every pothole. Its really going well even a cow or two wander into the road to take a look at the action. No problem bow, level three and the space invaders are beat. BUT THEN.....just when you had them beat the Mother Ship appears. This is the biggest pothole we have ever seen, even the cows in the highway take a gasp. The Aston hits the bomb crater and we both close our eyes waiting for the inevitable smash............we are through but there is one more rattle and we still have 523km to do.

Black hair - ginger beard? erm....

Friday, 24 September 2010

A cold beer at last.....

Just arrived at second Kazakstan night stop. 570km and the Aston is awesome. Last 120km good roads and after all the rattles she is still free from them on good tarmac. Sitting on a veranda at a cafe having a well earned beer.  
Great news too.....this is our last night camping although last nigh's hotel was marginal as to whether camping was better!   One more 550km to Almaty tomorrow and then it's rest time for 2 days. Hopefully Adrian's wife has our new shockers which will transform my digestive system which is in trauma after our 1500km on these roads with our chinese shocks.  
Thx for watching.  A

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

a very long day

700kms and 6 hours to get through Russian immigration made yesterday our biggest day by far. We got to the hotel at 12.30 am only to go straight to bed. I am writing this from the passenger seat as we storm through Russia. 450kms to the Kazakstan border and god knows how long the wait will be there! More later

To Russia with love....

Car running fine other than the replacement shockers from China make it feel like a drunken sailor. Back on tarmac for the first time in over a week. 

We are now out of Mongolia and sitting in No mans land awaiting clearance through Russian customs. It is now 13.00 local and we have just 700km to our overnight hotel stop!  

Sunday, 19 September 2010

We are back!

I feel like we have been to the moon and back. Mongolia is like that! It is immense and you can travel for 000's of km without seeing anyone. A few camels and wild horses and the odd skeleton and that's it. For the last 3 days we have had no data coverage so sorry no blogs. In this time we have experienced the most appalling conditions for road traffic that I have ever seen. If you think of the worst farm track you have ever driven, times it by 10 and imagine racing over the that for 350km a day then you are somewhere near. Unsurprisngly we have eaten 4 rear shockabsorbers and I am now a dab hand at replacing them in double quick time. The rest of the Aston continues to run perfectly and has taken to third overall. If we can hold this postion until out of Mongolia we will the move to much better roads for the DB5. Adrian and I continue to enjoy it but the days are long and dusty and there is little by way of respite. Last night was freezing and I am now sitting in the cold car as its warmer than my sleeping bag and tent! 2 hours until breakfast and today is a day off. We may clean the car! Thanks for following and I will be back with more soon.


Make of these 'photos what you will. Still getting practically no narrative from Andrew. Can't spot him in the pics, can only assume he's a bit tied up!

Khovd we think

Our intrepid travellers should be arriving in Khovd in the west of Mongolia close to the border with Kazahkstan  around11.00 GMT Sunday........

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Back soon...

Greetings - Andrew has managed to get a message through, saying that he is travelling across the desert in Mongolia and due to the lack of Wi Fi, has been unable to upload his blog for a few days.

He hopes normal service will be resumed in the next day or two and asks that you keep following.

Chris O

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tracking facility

Dear fellow followers - you can track Andrew & Adrian's progress on

All sorts of interesting info.


Chris O

Andrew, you're too kind....

my new horse

I forgot to mention that I was given a horse today! You will see the photo it was the horse on the left. I had to decline sadly for my daughters!

stepping up the pace

We are now at the end of day three in Mongolia and have moved from 4 star hotel in UB to 5 star tent (yut) in the foothills of the most stunning mountain scenery. Our position as of this morning was rather more due to our inexperience on rallying than any failure to perform to the necessary level. Basically we took a relaxed drive in between timed sections on day one and two and incurred an unexpected time penalty. We feel we have now worked out where we went wrong and the Aston responded accordingly. She is running beautifully and in spite of increasing altitude and deteriating fuel quality she has performed perfectly. In spite of starting one and a half hours behind the leaders due to class we arrived at our over night with the early cars. Not only does this mean we have the pick of the beds in our shared yut! We also received a tipple or two of very fine Talisker from the Bentley Boys before it all ran out! We had one time trial which was most easily described as a 30km run through a game reserve. In fact at one point our path was blocked by two very large camels. We managed a stop to meet some local nomadic herders and are about to discover the joys of whatever stew is on offer. The scenery is simy awesome. We are now at Kharakorin the former capital of Mongolia. 360 km in total. The day started at only 8 degrees and is now about 20. Time for supper. Thanks for watching. Andrew and Adrian

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Running repairs in Ulaanbaatar

A day of mainenance

So much for the rest day in UlaanBataar or UB as it is known. The underground hotel car park looks like a car graveyard. The problems entrants have with cars are legion. Most crews have embarked in major surgery with cars in all sates of diassembly. Problems range from broken steering wheels to trashed gearboxes and disintegrated steering column bearings. Fortunately we have been able to focus on preventative work with spanner checking and greasing. I checked the fuel filter which was distinctly sandy in colour. Adrian managed to clean the inside of our home which had been covered in a thick brown dust! We have now moved upto to sixth in class but our strategy remains to get through Mongolia in one piece. We also m$anaged to find a superb local engineering shop who repaired our errant shock absorber for use as a spare. They fabricated a new top eye and welded it onto the top as original. A really beautiful job even extending the shocker and cooling the cylinder whist they welded the top. I think this must be a standard repair out here. UB is alive with US mining engineers and its evident to me that chinese demand for copper and other minerals will change this country over the next decade. Come and see it before it changes for good. Off early tomorrow for 5 more days in Mongolia with yut camping tomorrow night. We are told to expect snow and the weather has really changed!

Monday, 13 September 2010

A shocking day

We have just completed our first beer, oops sorry our 2nd day in Mongolia and we are running 7th in our class. That's not bad given that we are not trying to be competitive in Mongolia as we do want to see Paris. I can only assume that there must be well over half the field who are trying even less hard than us! Today we experienced our first component failure. One rear shock absorber decided that when he signed for the job of rear absorber, DB5 Mongolia was not in the job description. The odd jaunt upto St James for lunch and maybe a week away touring the French Vineyards were all part of the plan, but Mongolia...NO way. Net result is he resigned his job half way through the first stage typical disgruntled employee no consideration for his employers. Anyway, we managed to bring in replacement we had been training and he seems happy in the job.

This little inconvenience actually cost us 2 mins in total for the day and no penalties thankfully. We are now in Ulaan Baatar with a day off tomorrow. We all need it including our new employee. More soon

The long and winding road...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Mmm... Yak's milk smoothies

Mongolia is a warzone. Absolute carnage. 
Thankfully DB5 still running perfectly. 
Arrived at first night camping today and just serviced the car. It took a real pounding today but was very very impressive. We await our times with interest. 

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Into battle and the fall out begins

There is a mounting air of trepidation as we await todays border crossing into Mongolia and the harsh conditions we are told to expect. So far the Aston is running as it should and the whole driving experience is wonderful. If we want to compete to win we will need to drive aggressively in atrocious conditions for the next five days. Maybe this is the time to save the car and hope to make the time up when conditions favour an Aston Martin more.

So far there are 6 seriously disabled cars with many different ailments. 2 or 3 bottom ends gone due to overheating and thinning oils. A Lagonda with a seized rear piston and a Bentley with a seized clutch bearing. The on event back up mechanics are fantastic and they were working well into the morning getting cars sorted for grateful crews. We are expecting a long wait at the border today maybe time to get really familiar with the GPS as we have mainly been using Tulip books until now. More soon

Friday, 10 September 2010

we made it!

Well actually we only made it to the end of day one and the biggest challenges so far, apart from the suicidal lorry driversn are the potholes. Think bomb crater and you will be somewhere near. We have covered a very easy and comfortable 398km in the marvellous Aston which is running beautifully (that's for you Richard) and driven from Peking to The Great Wall and onto to our first rest at the Daihai Hotel. We are now enjoying a quick beer whilst we watch the stragglers arrive and Adrian says he is very much hoping that dinner will provide something that he can bite on! Does he sound hungry already? China is already presenting itself as a country of extremes. In Bejiing you can see the new money pretty much evident in the cars and the boutiques. But where we have been today, through the coal mining towns, was eye opening and makes you appreciate how communism just didn't work. Its an huge landmass and just goes on and on as far as the eye can see. More tomorrow all being well. Bye for now. Andrew and Adrian

Ready for the off

The Great Wall.  Just arriving for the official off.  Very warm and my feet are roasting.  Typical Aston!  

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Outside the shangri-la hotel after Adrian picked the car up from the docks.  Going to have to watch out for Herbie!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

6 days and Counting

we are nearly there now, Adrian flys out next tuesday and I follow the day after. First job for Adrian is to pick up the DB5 from the docks and start wading through the paperwork.  I have to say, ERA the rally organisers can certainly produce some material.  Scrutineering is the 9th with the off on the following day.  Its only just dawned on me that my job is to be the navigator, well and the mechanic, and I have not done a road rally before.  So if anyone can help me with some deciphering of terminolgy...

MTC  main time control
PC    passage control?
TS and RC  I have no idea.  these are marked on our route maps and in the route books.  I have all the gizzmos one could wish for, including a marvellous gadget called a Monit which is the modern digital equivalent of the old mechanical Halda time keeping machine so often seen in rally cars. I am glad the first few days are not racing as it will give me time to get used to the sytems and the nav instructions. 

Really looking forward to it now, especially seeing the DB5 again.  Its been beautifully prepared by RSW and we have great confidence in it.  I only hope we can live up to its capabilities.