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Mongol Rally 2019

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Mongol Rally 2019

What is the Mongol Rally?

The Mongol Rally is the greatest motoring adventure on the planet. This is 10,000 miles of chaos across mountain, deserts and steppe on roads ranging from bad to not-a-road in a tiny 1000cc car or a 125cc motorcycle or under.

There’s no backup. There’s no set route. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the end. It’s just you, and an earthsized bucket of adventure.

We are Crazy Ass Climbers (figuratively and literally) and like to think of ourselves as adventurers, travellers, pioneers pushing our limits and boundaries…and then we wake up. However we do like to do some interesting, cool things.

On our current project we shall do the possimpible and ride some small engined bikes, which we have never ridden, a very long way, through countries we know nothing about, for a long period of time. This is the Mongol Rally 2019! and you’re invited to follow us as we attempt to survive it’s perils. Along the way we are raising awareness, support and money for our selected charities: Climbers Against Cancer and Cool Earth. Climbers Against Cancer is looking after the heath of us fragile human beans, while Cool Earth is putting their resources into protecting the lungs of the Earth (our rainforests).

About us

Even before we met we both had a passion for travelling and doing stupid things.
Holly had no job or place to live for a while so thought it would be a great idea to solo
hitch hike to the top of Norway, in the middle of winter (-25 C), with a kids tent, and no money (hence the cheap tent). Turns out it was a great idea! Not a single penny was spent, except on a pair of waterproof boots due to incoming frostbite.

Paul can regularly be found in cold and high places such as the top of Mt. Blanc,
which nearly lost him his toes coincidentally,
(hopefully the Mongol rally will not try to claim our feet fingers).

He also likes to go places on his bike, far places, like Alaska and Vietnam because why not! Adventuring is fun. Paul is slightly more prepared having had his bike licence for 12 or so years.

July 19th – UK to France

The day is finally here, today’s the day we get the hell out of London for 2 whole months.

After a morning of packing and repacking the bikes as well as an imprompt decathlon shopping trip I finally got to ride my geared up bike for the first time. I nearly fell over at the first corner, having never ridden with a passenger or with more than 1 night of camping equipment I’ve never had to deal with the wierd light stearing that comes with a fully loaded bike. A voice in my head wonders if i can actually do this, but we know not to listen to the voices dont we?

We picked up out friend Tomasz from vauxwall who is riding to the UK launch with us and stopped by our favourite place in london to chill, the tea house theater. These lovely people gave us some Russian cavan tea to take on our epic adventure. The ride down to the launch actually was easier than driving round london, so I’m feeling more confident now.

We got to meet a lot of teams who are both crazy and also mental. One more sleep and then we leave the uk for 8 whole weeks. Bring it on.


So a slight change of plans due to timings mean we’ve been heading South instead of East. But Hey, France is still pretty. A quick fuel stop and now we head the way of the rising sun. .

Although we did have a minor 10 minutes of panic, we were exiting the toll road in france, holly comes over the intercom to let me know that she can’t find her card, I go over, put mine in and its fine . We pull over and we can’t find her purse, we spent the next 10 minutes ripping the bike apart, absolutly can’t find it anywhere, we decided we would have to head back to the UK. Holly took one last check inside her ventalation parts of her jacket and thankfully foudn it there. Panic over luckily but that was 2 bank cards which wern’t so important, but more importantly her licence was in there, the reason that is so important as without that we couldn’t get anywhere. We are taking a quick pitstop and a breather from our panic phase and back on the road we go.

July 20th – France to Germany

So it is Day 2, we decided to stay at a service station last night because it was late, and driving more would have been silly. It is now 6.30am today is going to be a big push we have 900km until prague and ideally would like to cover most of those today. In my mind I was thinking something around two thirds of that around 400miles maybe? We are up early so its going to be a very long day of riding.. at 50mph but we will get there. See you soon

Holly – Pit stop: We have travelled around 230ish km since 8am this morning and it is now 11.30am, which isn’t too bad really considering all the trucks are over taking us with our heavy luggage load going uphills which is always fun. France is still france, still warm and getting warmer but we will be in germany within the next half an hour. Paul – Although we are about to be attacked by ants, I’m thinking they are grouping up to take our bikes.

Holly – ‘What will you remember about france?’
Paul – ‘The Panic of you loosing your purse’
Holly-Well apart from that….. Random heated toilet seats and ladybirds with no spots on.

Germany – So we are here !! Around 60km away from the border in Prague, we have been riding all day since 8am, probably the longest I have ever ridden on a bike the time is currently 9.30pm. 13 and a half hours, butts a bit numb, backs a bit sore but life is good 😀 and we will hit prague tomorrow, total miles ridden today 450 miles or just under 700km.

July 21st / 22nd – Prague

So it’s mid day and we have made it to prague, little bit wet this morning but we basically just cracked on and got here in 3 hours. The pkan is to relax for abit, get some food and head off to junk town the official start line for the Mongol Rally!!!

July 22nd – Paul -Morning guys, as you can see its very noisy here at the start line, just outside prague at junktown, we have been asked to come here and take a drive around later on. They ahve asked all of the older cars to line up and get a nice shot of them all first, we got a bit drowned on yesterday, twice actually Holly – ‘ My socks are still wet ‘ Paul – so hopefully we will have a nicer, drier day, but we are a bit damp. Everything kicks off within the next 15 minutes with the leave and we are then going to follow behind them. We will see you on the other side.

July 23rd – Czech Republic

Hey humans! We managed to get into brno, we’ve actually randomly wondered into a DIY store like a B&Q and found someone who speaks to slowest english. Surprisingly they actually sell motorcycle oil which is a good result, time to sort hollys bike out then off to Slovakia.

Győr-Moson-Sopron County – Evening all, we have made it to hungry with a beautiful night sky aswell. So we left the Czech Republic at half 11 and we have been on the road since, we covered the entirty of Slovakia with a small detour up a beautiful moutain pass which was so much fun and such a great relief after all of the days of motorway miles. We are going to try for another bike day tomorrow, if we do that it means we get a little bit more chill time later on, so we can really do the good stuff down in romania, all of the awesome stuff down in turkey we are going to go slightly off road so its good to get ahead of ourselves. Its now nearly 10pm at night so we are going to try find somewhere to sleep.

For vlog link click here

Image to the left July 24th – We’re taking a couple hours to catch up, do the domestic stuff and importantly finally draw our sponsors logos on our bikes 🤣


July 24th – Budapest, Hungary – Romania

Hello everyone, so its just another day of mile munching, we took our time this morning so we didnt leave until around half 12, just spent alot of time at the campsite, doing laundry, charging things etc and now we’ve hit the road. We are currently in a service station in budapest, it is incredibly hot today, absolutly roasting so the mind is drifting but we are hoping to crack the border of romania today, we reckon its around another 2 / 250km to go so it’ll be a few more hours and its 10 past 3 now so we will see how we get along.

Holly – So we have been travelling a long way today we went across hungry and we are now in Romania. We just pulled up into a lovely campsite somewhere on the way to deva and surprise surprise, some of the rally are here. This is not planned in any way, we especially did not plan to be here again with the same people from the other camp we were at last night and its just purely coincidence. Feeling pretty good, we havent got lost yet.

Paul – Tomorrow we are up early to try and get over to Transfagarasan.

To the left – Early morning Romania vibes.

Today we push forth to the Transfagarasan Highway!

The mountain range of Count Drakul or as we know him Dracula. This is also the start of the infamous Transfagarasan Highway, one of the greatest driving roads…in the world.

July 24rd / 25th – Transfăgărășan

Good morning Romania! Thank you for the amazing ride yesterday. The awesome roads. The picturesque mountains and valleys and most amazing of all the wonderful bears. We were lucky enough to see 3 bears yesterday, one of them close enough that you start calculating how fast you get get to the bike and get going if he decides to chase you. Luckily it was a very chill bear and he seemed happy to simply pose for the camera. We drove on the greatest driving road in the world, after spending few hours on it, we are finding it difficult to argue against that. What a spectacular piece of road, in the middle of a beautiful and wild mountain scape 🐻

July 26/ 27th – Romania to Bulgaria

Made it to Bulgaria! Traffic at the border due to road works but a beautiful sunset to greet us.

27th – Good afternoon everyone, we are here in bulgaria heading towards the border with turkey / greece. We got in very late last night so decided to check into a guest house. Holly is very happily lubricating her chain, checking over the oil and all seems good.

Evening – So we have made it to the turkish border, we have just got out of the Bulgarian border control and we are waiting in the line for turkey so we may be here a while. Its been a really nice day riding on some very very nice roads and then some interesting roads. This is supposed to be the least used border, we are veru close to greece and could have popped over there and added another country to the tally but … this is were we are at. Looks like we might be here a while. See you all in Turkey.

Still here at the turkish border, we got stamped through once, had to go sort out the insurance for the bikes, was in the wrong que , got sent to another que, paid for it went back to another que and now theres apparently a problem with my passport so I am now back to border control, they have taken my passport at the moment and im just waiting for someone to come and get me to tell me whats going on. But still here a couple hours later and don’t really know whats going on. Fun times.

Finally made it into Turkey! The border insurance people couldn’t find our bikes of the system so input them as Aprilia Atlantic 250…Not sure of this is an upgrade or a not??

July 28th – Istanbul

Today we arrive to the traffic mayham that is Istanbul. I thought driving in London was bad but this is a whole other level. There appear to be no rules, it’s fine to undertake, drive in roadworks, go the wrong way down a one way street and cut across all lanes of traffic to reach your exit. Still our Sinnis Terrains got us here in one piece if slightly sweaty.

After sorting ourselves out and a much needed shower we head off on foot for the first time in a week. After looking at the map quickly and seeing the Hagia Sofia museum was north east of us we headed off armed with a compass. We did actually find the museum, as well as a sultan tomb and the Blue Mosque. The architecture here is amazing even if you do have to cover your hair to go see some of it. Though my favourite thing about Istanbul so far is all of the cats, cats are sacred here so everyone looks after them and plays with them in the street which is absolutely wonderful. Tomorrow we’ll be on the road again for the salt lake and the day after the fairy chimneys. .

Leaving Istanbul took a while, we found ourselves going in circle after circle. Once we eventually left the city and headed into Asia we stopped for breakfast at what we assumed would be just one more service station. However, it turns out that over here you have shops and cafes selling wonderful food. Our breakfast was very much like the traditional Bulgarian one albeit a savoury version and was a great way to start the day. While doing some food shopping (more cous cous) we met some wonderful people who seemed to think we were crazy for going to Mongolia on bikes. They seem quite amused by the crazy foreigners but have us some free cherries and got us to stay for a free cup of tea, which is of course the way to an English persons heart. In fact for the rest of the day we found the Turkish people to be very friendly and curious about what we are doing and took photos with many of them which was lovely. Heading onwards to the salt lake in the growing darkness we discovered a slight problem with my (Hollys) bike, the headlight had gone. The next few hours were a test of concencentration and endurance, with me following Paul close enough to see but not so close as to crash into him as we desperately looked for a place to stay. Turns out there were not any for about 100km which was fun. Eventually we pull into a town by the lake and drive straight past a hotel, cue lots of swearing as there is no way to turn around for 5km due to a stupid concrete barrier. Anyway we eventually get a room and pass out immediately.

July 28th / 29th – Turkey – Lake Tuz

Little bit of roadside maintenance yesterday. We left Istanbul early but got lost in the insane road system and ended up going around in circles for a while. We then did the same when we approach Ankara and went all the way around the ring road.

Early morning salt lake adventures at Lake Tuz! We realised there was no direct road to the lake edge so decided to follow a track where we thought some tourist buses had gone down. Turns out they were mini vans for fields workers and they seemed quiet surprised when we rode past. Our first “soft-roading” of the trip which rewarded us with fantastic views all by ourselves. .

July 29th – Capadócia, Turquia – Turkey

A wonderful time visiting #capadocia in #turkey. A very much tourist place (and the prices reflect that compare to the rest of the country) however has mesmerising natural beauty with the many ‘fairy chimneys’. This morning we got up and had a walk around however the intense heat sent us back to shadier abodes for now.

July 30th / 1st August – Turkey to Georgia

We’ve met a lot of awesome people on trip so far and here’s another! We met @elvin.ibraamin Istanbul at the Galley Hotel which was a great place to stay.

July 31st what a wonderful day again in Turkey. We rose at 5am to get an early start and was treated to watching the hot air balloons at sunrise.

Over 650km today and we are now in Bayburt just around the corner from the “Death Road” D915.

Also today we had one of those marvellous encounters you only really get while travelling. We pulled over to have some lunch/dinner in a lay-by up the mountains and met Metin. Now he didn’t speak a word of English and we just about speak that ourselves, yet we sat and chatted all through dinner and he parted with a gift of tea for us as well. Such a wonderful human being, as we’ve found most of the Turkish people to be. We will certainly miss this place.

1st August – Need to catch up!

Neither of us got much sleep last night as it was overly hot until the wee hours. Nevertheless we rose with the Sun determined to make the most of the day. The famous hot air balloons of Cappadocia take flight around 5.30 and we watch them glide through the air an ossasional roar of flame lighting up the sky. After packing up the tent we are on the road half an hour later balloons floating in the sky around us before dwindling to specs in our wing mirrors. Today is another of those days where we simply get as far as possible, our aim is Bayburt around 650km away. Luckily we are not on another motorway but a mountain road. Not too narrow to slow us down but with enough bends to keep us amused and awake. The scenery is also breathtaking, mountainsides change from a rich pink to blue green like the sea making it look as if we have waves all around us. When stopping for lunch at a lay by we meet a man called Metin. He shows us photos of his home, family and the area in winter when it’s covered in snow. As with many of these encounters we don’t speak Turkish and he doesn’t speak English but we’re now connected on Instagram. We drive away smiling, meeting people like this is what traveling is all about.

August 2nd – Death Road

The way down death road, and some views from the not so deathly bit on the way up.

Setting off to the D915 starts much the same way as leaving Instanbul, going round in circles. Once we do find the right road we head off north worrying that the road would now be tarmac the whole way and no longer so death like. Chugging up the very steep hills in 2nd gear the road starts to deteriate and our worries dissipate. The fun really begins once we hit the top, we make a wrong turn into a tiny village reach a dead end dirt track and have to do a u turn. Now I hate u turns I failed my mod 1 more than once because of U turns. So doing a u turn on very bumpy ground and loose dirt does not end well and I drop my bike. Damn. A nice villager comes to help and we once again set off, the bike doesn’t even seem to notice it’s mistreatment. The way across the top of the mountain and down the other side begins to live up to the name death road. Pot holes, gravel, shear cliffs dropping hundreds of feet to the rocks below and very narrow tracks are certainly enough to get the heart rate up. Along the way we meet two other rally teams, team voyage is having trouble with their suspension but valiantly keep rolling. Heading down hill is terrifying for me on the hair pin bends. No room for error here just one gravely hair pin bend after another. Despite stalling a fair few times to stop myself falling off a cliff we make it to the bottom in high spirits. Death road has been conquered by two 125cc Sinnis Terrains, I reckon that’s the first time this bike and maybe even this brand has done such a thing. They definitely did us proud.

August 3rd / 4th – Georgia

Welcome to Georgia, So we had a few problems getting through the Turkish border, records on the bikes were invalid for some reason so we sat in the office with them for 10 minutes while they sorted it all out, there was air conditioning which was good. Passed through customs all fine, they didnt have any issues with the whole toll road thing which si what we were worried about because we didn’t pay for any htm and didn’t really understand it, so that was all good. Pretty much flew through Georgia customs, we are just waiting on auto insurance now, minimum is 15 days even though we are only here for like 2 but it cost around £9 each so can’t really argue.

Last night we managed to get very lucky with finding a place to stay, we headed East out of Batumi hoping to find a place to wild camp on the advice of a man who told us there were many wide open spaces. He turned out to be completely correct however the wide open spaces were lakes with no shore as such. We pulled up somewhere light to ask if they k ew anywhere we could camp and it just happened to turn out that they were a guest house. They gave us amazing food both in the evening and morning. Breakfast was particularly Good, a traditional dish that looked very much like a pizza and had cheese (from the hairdressers cow no less) inside and out. Our hostess recommended we go for a very short walk to see the waterfall, which was indeed very pretty, upon arriving we stepped into a micro tourist area so different from where we were staying just a few hundred meters away. Over breakfast a German couple told us the road ahead is terrible and it took them 7 hours to do 100km. So setting off we were wondering just when it as going to start. We soon found out and spend a good 5 hours going around potholes the size of craters over gravel the size of your first, around cows and through streams. We did not get very far but the views were wonderful, especially one tiny meadow we found when we stopped for a rest. Hopefully tomorrow we will make it over the border and close to Baku.

Georgia to Azerbaijan

We’re alive! No updates for a few days due to being stick on a boat and then in turkmenistan where instagram in blocked.

Please pretend we are still in Azerbaijan as you read this.

Waking up to clean clothes and views of a castle is a pretty good way ro start the day. After last nights rest and laundry, Today we continued to ride through one of the most beautiful counties we’ve seen so far. Georgia. The roads may not have been the best, but the scenery, people and food more than makes up for that fact. On our way to the border with Azerbaijan we stop for some food in a tiny roadside cafe, no one their speaks a word of English and my half remembered very very basic Russian is met with confused smiles. Nevertheless the owner takes us to the kitchen and points at some meat and asks (we think) would you like some. We of course say “da” and wait. The food arrived and it was definitely worth the confusion, the seasoning is delightful. The only down side is we have no knives, after watching me stuggling to tear pieces off my food the man takes pity and brings me a small kitchen knife to help. We finish our food and say our goodbyes and once again hit the road. We do manage to make it over the border despite the border guard asking @whichwayround if he had a drone and Paul replying “yes yes” turns out he had no idea what was being asked and was simply agreeing with everything… despite this we make it through the border with hope in our hearts into our 11th country so far.

Baku – Turkenistan

We arrived at the ferry port at around 2pm and suprise, surprise the port is full of ralliers. We find out where we can buy our tickets from and feel extremely fortunate that there is a boat leaving at 10pm. “Wow” we think, “no waiting around for days for us” little did we know. As we had 8 hours to kill we thought we would try to change our tires over to the off road ones. We took the first wheel off and got the tire mostly detached from the wheel before getting a bit stuck. Luckily @teamcondo came to share his tip of getting the tire off using the side stand of the bike which was very useful. We had attracted the attention of a few truckers by that point who were watching intently as @teamflukelorico lent us their compressor to fill our tires, however as they are tubeless they seem to require very high pressure to create the initial seal and we failed misrably. The truckers then took over and took my wheel over to their trucks and much more powerful compressor. After a few tweaks they gave us it back and refused any offer thanks except a cigarette. Thankyou random truckers. We board the boat at around midnight and notice Harry the hair coo has a cousin doing the rally with @offthebeatenyak, feeling content we head upstairs to sleep only to be confronted by chaos. 2 hours of standing around while truckers and boat staff have a row over who knows what and the boat staff tell us to go to sleep and they will poke us when they need our documents. At around 5.30am they do poke us we pay for our bikes passage and head back to sleep hoping to be mostly there when we awake. However that was not to be. When we wake up we can still see Baku from the window and are told we will be there for 2 days minimum.

Right so situation update from the Caspian Sea, we are on the boat and due to horrible winds we are going to be stuck on here for at least another 24 hours apparently, thats what we have heard so far. So we have gone downstairs to the bikes got some rations out and we are trying to find some things that entertain us, so Holly is trying to teach me how to juggle and weve got a whole bunch of people stitching and learning to sew, how lovely. Good use of time, we don’t have the internet or anything so we have to do stuff, there’s people here just chilling and getting on with it really.

The boat part 2.

The 3 days we spend sat still on the boat are actually incredibly fun, once I managed tho haggle the price of breakfast and all other meals from 7 dollars to 1 we were all a bit happier. We meet with many other teams and get to know everyone a bit better. Some people have brought along a board game called Catan in which you must build settlements road and cities without being robbed of your resources. It was instantly addicting and many many games ensued. Packs of cards were produced from everywhere and games of all sorts broke out, @whichwayround ended up playing a game he didnt know the rules to with @condorlocoteam and people from turkmenistan who spoke no English. It was very amusing to watch them try to figure out the rules and if they were winning or loosing. @thetravellingholly spent a few hours playing salad bowl with some more rally teams, salad bowl is a Mish mash of articulate, charades and a quick fire round. The locals on the boat seemed to take great joy in our charades performances, I think they had never seen anything like a group of foreigners throwing themselves on the floor to act out wrestling or running like jack sparrow accross the boat. We also took the time to look at some maps and discuss with the truckers the best way to go. They told us that the road us to Nukus is terrible and that we should avoid it. Of course no one listened. We finally arived at turkmenbashi and were excited to get off the boat. Getting off the boat however involved waiting a very long time while a giant digger very slowly maneuvered it’s self using thick ropes under its tracks to not mess up the boat. Eventually we did make it off the boat only to be confronted with the border. 12 hours we were stuck being sent from one window to another with no idea of what we needed. We tried to leave 5 times only to be sent back and told we did not have all the required paperwork, back and forth between more windows more buildings. We only got out when they had to close the port due to the president arriving and they finally gave us what we wanted and let us go free. About 100 down the road and some teams had been pulled over by the police already….

Disaster strikes, Paul crashes his bike from the perspective of @thetravellingholly for @whichwayround recollection of the event check out IGTV here

The first day in Turkmenistan was a bit of a blur due to lack of sleep. The next day we head north hoping to reach the gates of hell. With 100 km to go, just before we fill up with fuel, I see @whichwayround head off the road into the sand running along side us. Many thoughts run through my head, chief among them are “what’s he doing now the silly bugger” and “oh crap he’s actually crashing” after managing to slow down from 50mph t about 30 he does eventually drop and he does it in style. Face first into the sand, the bike flips over and lands squarely on his head. At times like these the mind is a funny thing, it splits it’s self into the calm part and the “oh crap oh crap oh crap what do I do” part. Luckily my calm brain decided to take over and as paul was slowing I matched my speed to be there the second he stopped. 1st things first, don’t endanger the helper (me) so making sure I’m not about to run into a truck I leap off my bike and do stage 2, stop things getting worse, kill switch on engine – off now – good. Step 3, get bike off head. (Funny this part is never mentioned in first aid training) Paul’s head is current trapped between a wheel and the engine, luckily the crash bars combined with the helmet means despite the fact he can’t move there is enough space for him to be not dying. Feeling like I managed to get +5 strength from somewhere I grab the bottom of the bike and with a small amount of power screaming lift the bike clear of Paul so he is free to wriggle out. Word of advice, don’t lift bikes by their engines if you can help it, they are really freaking hot. Fealing very relived that Paul is up and moving we get a bit of a shock when he takes his helmet off. The whole left side of his face Is covered in blood coming from his ear. Before cleaning it up properly we check his pupils are reacting normally to light, they are, this is a good sign. We are very fortunate that the Spanish team doing the Mongol Rally on their own terms were passing by, they stopped and had a whole load of medical supplies.

Nukus!

The boarder out of Turkmenistan and into Uzbekistan was 1000 times easier that the border in. We were through in less than an hour, then again that could be because we arrived 5 minutes before the border closed. Stamps in our passport and another “welcome to our country” and we were once again on the road. Our first stopping point was a town called Nukus, the roads were terrible, the pavements non existent piles of dirt and it was amazing. We manged to find a guest house to stay in by asking a taxi driver at some traffic lights. When we found the guest house it felt like coming home, there was a very zen covered area with lots of cusions around low tables, wind chimes rang in the breeze and we instantly felt calmer. Our first night was spent on some sofas there as their rooms were full, we didn’t mind. The next day we met up with a guy call Sha who has been helping Mongol Rally teams for the past 4 years. With his help we found a place to finally change over our tyres to the off road ones, which was a very reasonable 15 dollars. With that done and after chilling out in the zen room again we headed of for dinner with Sha to say thankyou for his help. It turns out he want to become an ambassador and plans to go to westminster university. We wish him all the best and promise to show him around when he gets to London.

On the way to the border with Tajikistan we stopped to camp in yet another desert. Lunch was had with a group of guys from Uzbekistan who couldn’t get enough of @whichwayround and even took him to their house, I got an ice cream though which was good. .

On to Tajikistan.

We spend most of today travelling to Samarkand in Uzbekistan, after finding a place to stay we wander round the city at night taking in all of the architecture which has been light up spectacularly. Only one night is spent here and we are keen to get to Dunchabae in Tajikistan, the start of the Pamir highway. Crossing the border was once again painless. Uzbekistan has definitely had the easiest and friendliest borders in and out so far and getting into Tajikistan was also a breeze. Considering we were not expecting stunning mountains and wonderful scenery until the Pamir, the way to Dunchabae is a wonderful surpirse. This is definitly the prettiest road we have ever driven on, not only that but it is a real road, with smooth tarmac and no potholes, this makes it much easier to take in the view. We stop many times to just to enjoy the view and take some photos, passing a few more rally teams along the way. If the Pamir is anything like this the next few days are going to be wonderful. The one slight bad thing about the road is everyone else driving like maniacs, with trucks overtaking other trucks on blind corners and then heading directly towards you on your side of the road. That is a very good way to keep you on your toes.

Yesterday we chilled out in Dushanbe and did some touristy things. We saw the sights and visited victory park (which was incredibly pretty and we’ll maintained) and we also got our bikes sorted for the pamir. Some how both of our right side chain tensioners fell off 2 days ago, probably jumped ship on the many many many miles of not road, roads. All is sorted now and we can move onto the pamir! 

Well, the Pamir Highway. Over-rated? Not.A.Chance.
We’ve been wrestling with the road conditions of the Pamir for the past few days and challenging it is, but the reward for the perseverance is endless beauty after ever turn and every rise and fall of a mountain.
The scenery is constantly changing and just when you start to think you’ve seen everything the Pamir has to offer, it quite humbly proves you wrong.

 

Chilling in Kazack 

Despite the time pressures of our Russian visas we do need a day off from riding every now and again. We chose to spend a bit of time in the Altyn Emel region of Kazakhstan. The first day here we rode to go and see an ancient willow tree that is 700 years old, which is growing in someone’s back yard. The rest of the day we spent resting at the hostel which has both cats and dogs, sorting out our motorbikes with some maintainance and doing our laundry. It’s such a great feeling to have clean clothes and not have to rush anywhere.

A wild landslide appears 

So far on the Pamir highway we have been cruising along quiet happily. Yes, it is off road, there are bumps and gravel and hair pin turns and cliffs but we’re old hands at that now. Then we arrive to a tiny village, the way along the Pamir has been blocked with a line of stones and the only way now leads through the few houses. We have learned to trust the stones and so make our way through the village. First obstacle a wobbly bridge made from planks and logs, which we accross in one piece. Next we must ford a river which we do actually manage without too much drama though a stray rock makes @thetravellingholly wheel slip and ends up trapping her against a pile of rocks, @whichwayround leaps into action, ambling over to remove the offending rocks and get us on our way again. The final obstacle looms ahead. An incredibly steap, dirt track which looks like it was only used by donkeys until the Pamir was blocked by a landslide. With complete confidence and guesto we fly towards the track and take the first few tight hairpins in our stride (and first gear) things are going surprisingly well until the 4th corner which is just slightly steeper than the rest and causes holly to head too far towards the mountain side and drop the bike. Paul happened to be right next to her and so both bikes went down, hard. With a bit off team work we get them upright and luckily the only casualty is a broken wing mirror. As our Sinnis Terrains have proved time and again these bikes are genuinely built to take a battering. It requires the skill of waddling and pushing to get the bikes up the first bit off track but once were going we make it to the top and and re-join the Pamir. In the wrong direction.

Lunch with the crew.

We find ourselves riding through stunning mountainsides, dramtic drops and even some snow. That was a bit odd, gettong snowed on im the middle of august. We are just staying ahead of the rain/dnow on the Pamir highway, progress has been very slow between Duchanbae and Osh, and the journey we thought would take one day has taken three. Still it’s hard to be too upset about having to spend more time in such a wonderful place. We are getting slightly sick of noodles and water however, so when some construction workers call us over for tea we pull in without hesitation.

It turns out that the workers are putting up new pylons and electric cables for the mountain villages, the have a huge pot keeping warm over a camp fire which turns out to be full of rice, vegetables and meat which they offer to us in the bowlful. Despite having only just eaten an hour ago (noodles again) this is a treat not to be missed. We have a interesting conversation over tea with the crew mostly consisting of handsigns and find out that one of them is teaching himself English using a phrase book. Unfortunately the rain starts to catch us up again and we head off feeling much warmer and fuller than we did before.

The prettiest non country in the world

Crossing from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan was one of the easiest crossings yet. With just a few rally teams and other travellers the process was fairly simple. Between these two wonderful countries was 10 miles of snow topped mountain views. Despite wanting to get as far as possible we could not resist stopping for at least one photo. 

Yurt life

Trying to make up time on the road is hard, we are 4 days behind and getting more and more worried about getting out of Russia on time. We’re hoping to do a very long day and make it from Osh to Bishkek in a single hit. We were making good time until we hit the mountains, once again we are spoiled with breathtaking views, this time we also are treated to hundreds of horses, goats, cows and yurts as well. Mountain roads are not the fastest to drive on however and as the freezing night falls upon us we decide to stop for some tea before pressing on. We find a roadside yurt cafe (which are sadly lacking from British service stations) and walk into a feast. The lady sits us down at the table and we are treated to many courses of food, noodles, salads, biscuits, brioche , ice cream made from sour cream and of course gallons of tea. She asks us where we will be sleeping and we shrug as we have no idea, but it seems she has an idea, and we are invited to stay in the yurt. As we are now full, tired and slightly less freezing than we were we think it’s a great idea. We try to pay her, she refuses payment for anything but the tea, she asks for my deadpool keyring (thinking it’s something British) which I am happy to give but she gives it back when she realises it is not the queen. We managed to find a £1 and £2 coin for her though and her face lights up in a smile.

Altyn Emel National Park

Dunes, glorious dunes!
Well the “Singing Dunes” didn’t quite give a song today but they were quite spectacular indeed.

Zmeinogorsk

Paul: Hey everyone ! We are in Russia! In the motherland, it was actually a very quick border crossing, second quickest on the trip( Holly: Less than an hour 😀 ) Sorry about the no updates for the last 2 days, we have just trying to be mile munching at the moment as we are still a few days behind, so we are just trying to do as many miles as possible. We pretty much bombed through Kazakhstan, by bombing we mean literally their roads looked like they were bombed, there were many casualtys along the way, including my camera aswell. Which has now got a shattered screen, lost the top part of the lens and the shutter is kaput! So thats not fun at all, but we are in russia, we went the wrong way for a little bit and now we are heading back we found a nice guest house that Holly found, so we are going to stay there tonight, we are just trying to look for food and then we head out tomorrow.

Adventure starts somewhere, but with help and support we are carried further into the unknown and onto paths we may never have otherwise taken.
Our heartfelt thanks go to those who have given us their time and support.

The backbone of our support for the 2019 Mongol Rally comes from Sinnis Motorcycles.
They are providing not just our trusty steads, but also parts, support and advice in preparation for our 19 country, 15,000 mile round trip from London, UK to Ulan-Ude, Russia.

Having supported Anthony Jackson back in 2011 with a Sinnis Apache 125, Sinnis are old hands at the Mongol Rally and hence the perfect company to have onboard.

Back during the 2011 Rally Anthony was the 1st motorcycle to cross the line 8 days ahead of schedule travelling from London, UK through 12 countries including those in western Europe, Ukraine, Russia to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Read about Anthony’s journey HERE.

This time we’re travelling a different path, taking the Terrain from the baking hot deserts of Kazakhstan to the 4,600m high altitudes of the Pamir highway and across the wild grasslands of Mongolia!

Ever growing and developing, the Brighton based Motorcycle and scooter company is becoming a solid manufacturer in the automotive world and will soon be releasing their first larger capacity bike.

International Travel Maps and Books

ITMB has very kindly provided us with much needed maps for our journey, thanks guys!

ITMB Publishing (International Travel Maps and Books) prepares detailed travel maps and atlases of countries and regions around the world, specializing in Africa, Asia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

“We’re mapping the world, one little piece at a time…”

Duchy Arms

Every climbers favorite pub, and possibly the only pub in the UK to show live bouldering world cup screenings, we absolutely love the Duchy. From great food, good drink and a great space to chill outside they have everything you need to keep happy. For anyone showing a registration card from one of the 5 London LCC walls there is 10% off everything!Check them out below:

Hard Bar

We are very lucky to have hard bar fueling our journey with some awesome bars of theirs, hopefully they will keep us alive long enough to make the finish line!

Hard Bar started from a need for better energy. Headaches and sore teeth from a season of eating bars full of processed sugar wasn’t a sustainable way to go on.

Our Values
  • We aim to create a great product in a sustainable fashion. If we don’t do that, we can’t make anything else can happen.
  • We aim to be open, honest and transparent about where we are succeeding and where we could do better.
  • We aim to give back to the community that nurtures us.
  • We aim to try and spread any wisdom we might pick up along the way to those less fortunate than ourselves.
  • We aim to become a B Corporation with a tripe bottom line. https://www.bcorporation.net/
  • We care deeply about health and the environment and trying to help others make informed choices.

Lakeland Climbing Centre

Both Paul and Holly work for the Lakeland Climbing Centre at their London Walls. We would very much like to thank VauxWall, CroyWall, HarroWall and RavensWall for helping promote our charities and allow us to fund raise at their venues.

The Lakeland Climbing Centre currently has 6 walls in the UK, its original center (and the highest climbing wall in England) is located in Kendal in the lake district. Further south there are 5 bouldering walls in London: two walls in Vauxhall, one in Croydon, one in ravens court park and one in Harrow on the hill.

Dan Habershon-Butcher film and photography

Dan very kindly has helped promote us with a professional photo-shoot in Bristol! We will have the photos up in our gallery as soon as possible!

“Previously a Wlidlife TV Producer I’ve been a freelance cameraman, editor and photographer for many years now.

I love the outdoors and all things sports related.

I’ve filmed and photographed a wide range of subjects and enjoy the challenge each new shoot brings.”

Lowe Alpine

The Lowe Alpine brand was born from the hearts and minds of one of the greatest climbing families on earth. In 1967, Greg Lowe designed, tested and launched the Expedition pack from Lowe Alpine Systems, a revolutionary backpack that gave climbers more freedom of movement in the mountains and now providing us with the same qualities on our journey.

Not just for mountains, but a good place to start Supporting us with lightweight, supportive -and very importantly waterproof- packs Lowe Alpine have allowed us to move with more freedom off the bikes as well as on.

What is the Mongol Rally?

The Mongol Rally is the greatest motoring adventure on the planet. This is 10,000 miles of chaos across mountain, deserts and steppe on roads ranging from bad to not-a-road in a tiny 1000cc car or a 125cc motorcycle or under.

There’s no backup. There’s no set route. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the end. It’s just you, and an earth sized bucket of adventure.

About Us

We are Riding from Reality (figuratively and literally) and like to think of ourselves as adventurers, travellers, pioneers pushing our limits and boundaries…and then we wake up. However, we do like to do some interesting, cool things.

On this adventure we shall do the impossible and ride some small engine bikes, which we have never ridden, a very long way, through countries we know nothing about, for a long period of time. This is the Mongol Rally 2019! and you’re invited to follow us as we attempt to survive its perils. Along the way we are raising awareness, support and money for our selected charities: Climbers Against Cancer and Cool Earth. Climbers Against Cancer is looking after the heath of us fragile human beans, while Cool Earth is putting their resources into protecting the lungs of the Earth (our rainforests).

Even before we met we both had a passion for travelling and doing stupid things.
Holly had no job or place to live for a while so thought it would be a great idea to solo
hitch hike to the top of Norway, in the middle of winter (-25 C), with a kids tent, and no money (hence the cheap tent). Turns out it was a great idea! Not a single penny was spent, except on a pair of waterproof boots due to incoming frostbite.

Paul can regularly be found in cold and high places such as the top of Mt. Blanc, which nearly lost him his toes coincidentally, (hopefully the Mongol rally will not try to claim our feet fingers).

He also likes to go places on his bike, far places, like Alaska and Vietnam because why not! Adventuring is fun. Paul is slightly more prepared having had his bike licence for 12 or so years.

Let’s get started! – UK

Holly: The day is finally here, today’s the day we get the hell out of London for 2 whole months.

After a morning of packing and repacking the bikes as well as an impromptu Decathlon shopping trip I finally got to ride my geared up bike for the first time. I nearly fell over at the first corner, having never ridden with a passenger or with more than 1 night of camping equipment I’ve never had to deal with the weird light steering that comes with a fully loaded bike. A voice in my head wonders if I can actually do this, but we know not to listen to the voices don’t we?

We picked up out friend Tomasz from VauxWall who is riding to the UK launch with us and stopped by our favourite place in London to chill, the Tea House Theatre. These lovely people gave us some Russian caravan tea to take on our epic adventure. The ride down to the launch was easier than driving round London, so feeling more confident now.

We got to meet a lot of teams who are both crazy and mental. One more sleep and then we leave the UK for 12 whole weeks. Bring it on.

Getting through France

Paul: A slight change of plans due to timings mean we’ve been heading South instead of East. But Hey, France is still pretty. A quick fuel stop and now we head the way of the rising sun.

Although we did have a minor 10 minutes of panic, we were exiting the toll road in France, Holly comes over the intercom to let me know that she can’t find her card, I go over, put mine in and its fine . We pull over and we can’t find her purse, we spent the next 10 minutes ripping the bike apart, absolutely can’t find it anywhere, we decided we would have to head back to the UK. Holly took one last check inside her ventilation parts of her jacket and thankfully found it there.

Panic over luckily but that was 2 bank cards which weren’t so important, but more importantly her licence was in there, the reason that is so important as without that we couldn’t get anywhere. We are taking a quick pitstop and a breather from our panic phase and back on the road we go.

Highway miles – France to Germany

Holly: We decided to stay at a service station last night because it was late and driving more would have been silly. It is now 6.30am, today is going to be a big push we have 900km until Prague and ideally would like to cover most of those today. In my mind I was thinking something around two thirds of that around 400miles maybe? We are up early so it’s going to be a very long day of riding at 50mph but we will get there. See you soon…

We’ve travelled around 230ish km since 8am this morning and it is now 11.30am, which isn’t too bad really considering all the trucks are over taking us with our heavy luggage load going up hills which is always fun. France is still France, still warm and getting warmer but we will be in Germany within the next half an hour. Key things to remember about France? The Panic of losing a purse, random heated toilet seats and ladybirds with no spots on.

Germany – So we are here!! Around 60km away from the border in Prague, we have been riding all day since 8am, probably the longest I have ever ridden on a bike, the time is currently 9.30pm. 13 and a half hours, butts a bit numb, backs a bit sore but life is good and we will hit Prague tomorrow, total miles ridden today 450 miles or just under 700km.

Getting settled in – Germany to Czech Republic

Paul: It is mid-day and we have made it to Prague, a little bit wet this morning, but we basically just cracked on and got here in 3 hours. The plan is to relax for a bit, get some food and head off to Junktown the official start line for the Mongol Rally.

The second start – Czech Republic

Holly: Morning guys, as you can see its very noisy here at the start line, just outside Prague at Junktown, we have been asked to come here and take a drive around later. They have asked all the older cars to line up and get a nice shot of them all first, we got a bit drowned on yesterday, twice actually, with socks still wet. Hopefully, we will have a nicer, drier day, but we are a bit damp. Everything kicks off within the next 15 minutes with the leave and we are then going to follow behind them. We will see you on the other side.

Blasting through oil - Czech Republic

Paul: Hey humans! We managed to get into Brno, we’ve actually randomly wandered into a DIY store like a B&Q and found someone who speaks to some English. Surprisingly they actually sell motorcycle oil, which is a good result, time to sort Holly’s bike out then off to Slovakia.

Late night miles – Hungary

Holly: Evening all, we have made it to Kimle, Hungary with a beautiful night sky as well. We left the Czech Republic at half 11 and we have been on the road since, we covered the entity of Slovakia with a small detour up a beautiful mountain pass which was so much fun and such a great relief after all of the days of motorway miles. We are going to try for another big day tomorrow, if we do that it means we get a little bit more chill time later on, so we can really do the good stuff down in Romania and all of the awesome stuff down in Turkey when we are going to go slightly off road, so it’s good to get ahead of ourselves. It’s now nearly 10pm at night so we are going to try find somewhere to sleep.

Late start, late finish - Hungary to Romania

Paul: Hello everyone, so it’s just another day of mile munching, we took our time this morning so we didn’t leave until around half 12, just spent a lot of time at the campsite, doing laundry, charging things etc and now we’ve hit the road. We are currently in a service station in Budapest, it is incredibly hot today, absolutely roasting so the mind is drifting but we are hoping to crack the border of Romania today, we reckon it’s around another 200-250km to go so it’ll be a few more hours and its 10 past 3 now so we will see how we get along.

We have been travelling a long way today and crossed Hungary and find ourselves in Romania. We just pulled up into a lovely campsite somewhere on the way to deva and surprise, some of the other rally teams are here. This is not planned in anyway; we especially did not plan to be here again with the same people from the other camp we were at last night and just purely coincidence. Feeling pretty good, we haven’t got lost yet. Tomorrow we are up early to try and get over to Transfagarasan.

Transylvanian vibes – Romania

Holly: Today we push forth to the Transfagarasan Highway!

The mountain range of Count Drakul or as we know him Dracula. This is also the start of the infamous Transfagarasan Highway, one of the greatest driving roads…in the world. Let’s get to it!

Good evening Romania! Thank you for the amazing ride. The awesome roads. The picturesque mountains and valleys and most amazing of all the wonderful bears. We were lucky enough to see 3 bears yesterday, one of them close enough that you start calculating how fast you get to the bike and get going if he decides to chase you. Luckily, it was a very chill bear and he seemed happy to simply pose for the camera. We drove on the greatest driving road in the world, after spending few hours on it, we are finding it difficult to argue against that. What a spectacular piece of road, in the middle of a beautiful and wild mountain scape.

Transylvanian vibes – Romania

Paul: Made it to Bulgaria! Traffic at the border due to road works but a beautiful sunset to greet us.

Heading out of Europe – Bulgaria to Turkey

Paul: Good afternoon everyone, we are here in Bulgaria heading towards the border with Turkey / Greece. We got in very late last night so decided to check into a guest house. Holly is very happily lubricating her chain, checking over the oil and all seems good. Onwards!

Evening all! We have made it to the Turkish border, we have just got out of the Bulgarian border control and we are waiting in the line for Turkey so we may be here a while. It’s been a really nice day riding on some very, very nice roads and then some interesting roads. This was supposed to be the least used border, we are very close to Greece and could have popped over there and added another country to the tally but … this is where we are at. Looks like we might be here a while. See you all in Turkey.

Still here at the Turkish border, we got stamped through once, had to go sort out the insurance for the bikes, was in the wrong queue , got sent to another queue, paid for it went back to another queue and now there’s apparently a problem with my passport so I am now back to border control, they have taken my passport at the moment and I’m just waiting for someone to come and get me to tell me what’s going on. But still here a couple hours later and don’t really know what’s going on. Fun times.

Finally made it into Turkey! The border insurance people couldn’t find our bikes of the system so input them as Aprilia Atlantic 250…Not sure of this is an upgrade or a not??

Where East meets West – Turkey

Holly: Today we arrive to the traffic mayhem that is Istanbul. I thought driving in London was bad, but this is a whole other level. There appear to be no rules, it’s fine to undertake, drive in roadworks, go the wrong way down a one-way street and cut across all lanes of traffic to reach your exit. Still our Sinnis Terrains got us here in one piece if slightly sweaty.

After sorting ourselves out and a much-needed shower we head off on foot for the first time in a week. After looking at the map quickly and seeing the Hagia Sofia museum was north east of us we headed off armed with a compass. We did find the museum, as well as a sultan tomb and the Blue Mosque. The architecture here is amazing even if you do have to cover your hair to go see some of it. Though my favourite thing about Istanbul so far is all the cats, cats are sacred here, so everyone looks after them and plays with them in the street which is absolutely wonderful. Tomorrow we’ll be on the road again for the Salt Lake and the day after the fairy chimneys.

Running from the chaos – Turkey

Holly: Leaving Istanbul took a while, we found ourselves going in circle after circle. Once we eventually left the city and headed into Asia, we stopped for breakfast at what we assumed would be just one more service station. However, it turns out that over here you have shops and cafes selling wonderful food. Our breakfast was very much like the traditional Bulgarian one albeit a savoury version and was a great way to start the day. While doing some food shopping (more cous cous) we met some wonderful people who seemed to think we were crazy for going to Mongolia on bikes. They seem quite amused by the crazy foreigners but gave us some free cherries and got us to stay for a cup of tea, which is of course the way to an English person’s heart.

In fact, for the rest of the day we found the Turkish people to be very friendly and curious about what we are doing and took photos with many of them which was lovely. Heading onwards to the Salt Lake in the growing darkness we discovered a slight problem with my (Hollys) bike, the headlight had gone. The next few hours were a test of concentration and endurance, with me following Paul close enough to see but not so close as to crash into him as we desperately looked for a place to stay. Turns out there were not any for about 100km which was fun. Eventually we pull into a town by the lake and drive straight past a hotel, cue lots of swearing as there is no way to turn around for 5km due to a stupid concrete barrier. Anyway, we eventually get a room and pass out immediately.

Salt Lake Tuz – Turkey

Holly: Little bit of roadside maintenance yesterday. We left Istanbul early but got lost in the insane road system and ended up going around in circles for a while. We then did the same when we approach Ankara and went all the way around the ring road.

Early morning Salt Lake adventures at Lake Tuz! We realised there was no direct road to the lake edge so decided to follow a track where we thought some tourist buses had gone down. Turns out they were mini vans for fields workers, and they seemed quite surprised when we rode past. Our first “soft-roading” of the trip which rewarded us with fantastic views all by ourselves.

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia – Turkey

Paul: A wonderful time visiting Cappadocia. A very much tourist place (and the prices reflect that compare to the rest of the country) however has mesmerising natural beauty with the many ‘fairy chimneys. This morning we got up and had a walk around however the intense heat sent us back to shadier abodes for now.

Hot, airless miles – Turkey

Holly: Neither of us got much sleep last night as it was overly hot until the wee hours. Nevertheless, we rose with the Sun determined to make the most of the day. The famous hot air balloons of Cappadocia take flight around 5.30 and we watch them glide through the air an occasional roar of flame lighting up the sky. After packing up the tent we are on the road half an hour later balloons floating in the sky around us before dwindling to specs in our wing mirrors.

Today is another of those days where we simply get as far as possible, our aim is Bayburt around 650km away. Luckily, we are not on another motorway but a mountain road. Not too narrow to slow us down but with enough bends to keep us amused and awake. The scenery is also breath-taking, mountainsides change from a rich pink to blue green like the sea making it look as if we have waves all around us.

Also, today we had one of those marvellous encounters you only really get while travelling. We pulled over to have some lunch/dinner in a lay-by up the mountains and met Metin. Now he didn’t speak a word of English and we just about speak that ourselves, yet we sat and chatted all through dinner and he parted with a gift of tea for us as well. Such a wonderful human being, as we’ve found most of the Turkish people to be. We drive away smiling, meeting people like this is what traveling is all about.

The Death Road – Turkey

Holly: Setting off to the D915 starts much the same way as leaving Istanbul, going round in circles. Once we do find the right road, we head off north worrying that the road would now be tarmac the whole way and no longer so death like. Chugging up the very steep hills in 2nd gear the road starts to deteriorate and our worries dissipate.

The fun really begins once we hit the top, we make a wrong turn into a tiny village reach a dead-end dirt track and must do a U-turn. Now I hate U-turns I failed my mod 1 more than once because of U-turns (Holly). So, doing a U-turn on very bumpy ground and loose dirt does not end well and I drop my bike. Damn. A nice villager comes to help, and we once again set off, the bike doesn’t even seem to notice its mistreatment.

The way across the top of the mountain and down the other side begins to live up to the name death road. Potholes, gravel, sheer cliffs dropping hundreds of feet to the rocks below and very narrow tracks are certainly enough to get the heart rate up. Along the way we meet two other rally teams, team voyage is having trouble with their suspension but valiantly keep rolling. Heading down hill is terrifying for me on the hair pin bends. No room for error here just one gravely hair pin bend after another. Despite stalling a fair few times to stop myself falling off a cliff we make it to the bottom in high spirits. Death road has been conquered by two 125cc Sinnis Terrains, I reckon that’s the first time this bike and maybe even this brand has done such a thing. They definitely did us proud.

S1 Highway – Georgia

Paul: Welcome to Georgia, So we had a few problems getting through the Turkish border, records on the bikes were invalid for some reason so we sat in the office with them for 10 minutes while they sorted it all out, but there was air conditioning which was good. Passed through customs all fine, they didn’t have any issues with the whole toll road thing which is what we were worried about because we didn’t pay for any htm and didn’t really understand it, so that was all good. Pretty much flew through Georgia customs, we are just waiting on auto insurance now, minimum is 15 days even though we are only here for like 2 but it cost around £9 each so can’t really argue.

Last night we managed to get very lucky with finding a place to stay, we headed East out of Batumi hoping to find a place to wild camp on the advice of a man who told us there were many wide open spaces. He turned out to be completely correct however the wide-open spaces were lakes with no shore as such. We pulled up somewhere to ask if they knew anywhere we could camp and it just happened to turn out that they were a guest house. They gave us amazing food both in the evening and morning. Breakfast was particularly Good, a traditional dish that looked very much like a pizza and had cheese (from the hairdresser’s cow no less) inside and out. Our hostess recommended we go for a very short walk to see the waterfall, which was indeed very pretty, upon arriving we stepped into a micro tourist area so different from where we were staying just a few hundred meters away. Over breakfast a German couple told us the road ahead is terrible and it took them 7 hours to do 100km. So setting off we were wondering just when it as going to start. We soon found out and spend a good 5 hours going around potholes the size of craters over gravel the size of your fist, around cows and through streams. We did not get very far but the views were wonderful, especially one tiny meadow we found when we stopped for a rest. Hopefully tomorrow we will make it over the border and close to Baku.

Speed through to Baku – Georgia to Azerbaijan

Holly: We’re alive! No updates for a few days due to being stick on a boat and then in Turkmenistan where Social Media is blocked.

Please pretend we are still in Azerbaijan as you read this.

Waking up to clean clothes and views of a castle is a pretty good way to start the day. After last night’s rest and laundry, today we continued to ride through one of the most beautiful counties we’ve seen so far, Georgia. The roads may not have been the best, but the scenery, people and food more than makes up for that fact.

On our way to the border with Azerbaijan we stop for some food in a tiny roadside cafe, no one them speaks a word of English and my half remembered basic Russian is met with confused smiles. Nevertheless, the owner takes us to the kitchen and points at some meat and asks (we think) would you like some. We of course say “da” and wait. The food arrived and it was definitely worth the confusion, the seasoning is delightful. The only downside is we have no knives, after watching me struggling to tear pieces off my food the man takes pity and brings me a small kitchen knife to help. We finish our food and say our goodbyes and once again hit the road.

We do manage to make it over the border despite the border guard asking Paul if he had a drone and him replying “yes, yes” turns out he had no idea what was being asked and was simply agreeing with everything… despite this we make it through the border with hope in our hearts into our 11th country so far.

We’re on a boat! – Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan

little did we know. As we had 8 hours to kill, we thought we would try to change our tires over to the off road ones. We took the first wheel off and got the tire mostly detached from the wheel before getting a bit stuck. Luckily Pedro came to share his tips of getting the tire off using the side stand of the bike which was very useful. We had attracted the attention of a few truckers by that point who were watching intently as team Flukelorico lent us their compressor to fill our tires, however as they are tubeless they seem to require very high pressure to create the initial seal and we failed miserably.

The truckers then took over and took the wheel over to their trucks and much more powerful compressor. After a few tweaks they gave us it back and refused any offer thanks except a cigarette. Thank you random truckers.

We board the boat at around midnight and notice Harry the hairy coo has a cousin doing the rally with team Off the beaten yak, feeling content we head upstairs to sleep only to be confronted by chaos. Two hours of standing around while truckers and boat staff have a row over who knows what and the boat staff tell us to go to sleep and they will poke us when they need our documents. At around 5.30am they do poke us we pay for our bikes passage and head back to sleep hoping to be mostly there when we awake. However, that was not to be. When we wake up, we can still see Baku from the window and are told we will be there for 2 days minimum due to storms at Turkmenbashi.

The boat – Part 2 – Caspian Sea

Holly: The 3 days we spend sat still on the boat are actually incredibly fun, once we managed the haggle the price of breakfast and all other meals from 7 dollars to 1 we were all a bit happier. We meet with many other teams and get to know everyone a bit better.

Some people have brought along a board game called Catan in which you must build settlements road and cities without being robbed of your resources. It was instantly addictive and many games ensued. Packs of cards were produced from everywhere and games of all sorts broke out, Paul ended up playing a game he didn’t know the rules to with Pedro and people from Turkmenistan who spoke no English. It was very amusing to watch them try to figure out the rules and if they were winning or losing. I (Holly), spent a few hours playing ‘salad bowl’ with some more rally teams, salad bowl is a mish-mash of articulate, charades and a quick fire round. The locals on the boat seemed to take great joy in our charades performances, I think they had never seen anything like a group of foreigners throwing themselves on the floor to act out wrestling or running like Jack Sparrow across the boat.

We also took the time to look at some maps and discuss with the truckers the best way to go. They told us that the road us to Nukus is terrible and that we should avoid it and of course, no one listened.

We finally arrived at Turkmenbashi and were excited to get off the boat. Getting off the boat however involved waiting a very long time while a giant digger very slowly had to manoeuvre itself using thick ropes under its tracks to not mess up the boat.

Eventually we did make it off the boat only to be confronted with the border. 12 hours we were stuck being sent from one window to another with no idea of what we needed. We tried to leave 5 times only to be sent back and told we did not have all the required paperwork, back and forth between more windows more buildings. We only got out when they had to close the port due to the president arriving and they finally gave us what we wanted and let us go free. About 100 metres down the road and some teams had been pulled over by the police already…

Disaster strikes – Turkmenistan

Holly: The first day in Turkmenistan was a bit of a blur due to lack of sleep. The next day we head north hoping to reach the Gates of Hell. With 100km to go, just before we fill up with fuel, I see Paul head off the road into the sand running alongside us.

Many thoughts run through my head, chief among them are “what’s he doing now the silly bugger” and “oh crap he’s actually crashing” after managing to slow down from 50mph to about 30mph he does eventually drop and he does it in style. Face first into the sand, the bike flips over and lands squarely on his head. At times like these the mind is a funny thing, it splits itself into the calm part and the “oh crap oh crap oh crap what do I do” part.

Luckily, my calm brain decided to take over and as Paul was slowing, I matched my speed to be there the second he stopped. first things first, don’t endanger the helper (me) so making sure I’m not about to run into a truck I leap off my bike and do stage two, stop things getting worse, kill switch on – engine off now – good. Step three, get bike off head. (Funny this part is never mentioned in first aid training) Paul’s head is current trapped between a wheel and the engine, luckily the crash bars combined with the helmet means despite the fact he can’t move there is enough space for him to be not dying. Feeling like I managed to get +5 strength from somewhere I grab the bottom of the bike and with a small amount of power screaming lift the bike clear of Paul, so he is free to wriggle out. Word of advice, don’t lift bikes by their engines if you can help it, they are really freaking hot.

Feeling very relieved that Paul is up and moving we get a bit of a shock when he takes his helmet off. The whole left side of his face is covered in blood coming from his ear. Before cleaning it up properly we check his pupils are reacting normally to light, they are, this is a good sign. We are very fortunate that the Spanish team doing the Mongol Rally on their own terms were passing by, they stopped and had a whole load of medical supplies.

Luckily Paul’s bike runs completely fine, the display has come loose so he has no idea what speed or revs he is doing, but the bike goes, he is okay and we are very lucky. We don’t quite make it to the gates of hell that night as by the time we reach the Sandy track that leads there it is too dark to see which way is safest to go. We set up camp for the night with the glow of the crater on the horizon.

Stitched up – Turkmenistan

Holly: After an interesting day yesterday and a slightly sketchy road covered in a few places with sand drifts. We finally make it to the gates of hell! Despite still being on normal road tires our Sinnis Terrain bikes handled the terrain admirably and we arrived with no more mishaps. Hearing about the gates of hell and seeing photos of it simply does not do it justice. It is like something from another world or a giant special effect. The mind boggles to think that these fires have been burning for the last 40 years. We take a day to rest here and at night the sight is even more spectacular, I’m pretty sure we stand mesmerised for a good half hour simply watching the flickering flames in the night. It’s here that we meet Esme another rallier who happens to be a doctor. She takes a good look at Paul ear, cleans it properly and stiches it back together for him. She did a wonderful job!

Nukus! – Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan

Holly: The border out of Turkmenistan and into Uzbekistan was 1000 times easier that the border in. We were through in less than an hour, then again that could be because we arrived 5 minutes before the border closed. Stamps in our passport and another “welcome to our country” and we were once again on the road.

Our first stopping point was a town called Nukus, the roads were terrible, the pavements non-existent piles of dirt and it was amazing. We manged to find a guest house to stay in by asking a taxi driver at some traffic lights. When we found the guest house it felt like coming home, there was a very zen covered area with lots of cushions around low tables, wind chimes rang in the breeze and we instantly felt calmer. Our first night was spent on some sofas there as their rooms were full, we didn’t mind.

The next day we met up with a guy call Sha who has been helping Mongol Rally teams for the past 4 years. With his help we found a place to finally change over our tyres to the off-road ones, which was a very reasonable 15 dollars. With that done and after chilling out in the zen room again we headed of for dinner with Sha to say thank you for his help. It turns out he want to become an ambassador and plans to go to Westminster University. We wish him all the best and promise to show him around when he gets to London.

On the way to the border with Tajikistan we stopped to camp in yet another desert. Lunch was had with a group of guys from Uzbekistan who couldn’t get enough of Paul and even took him to their house, I got an ice cream though which was good.

Further along the road we stop to sleep in yet another desert, sand is not the best surface to put a tent up in as it either is full of rocks 2 inches down or so fine the pegs don’t want to stay in. We are used to it by now though as well as used to constantly having sand all over everything.

Dreaming of mountains – Uzbekistan to Tajikistan

Paul: We spend most of today travelling to Samarkand in Uzbekistan, after finding a place to stay we wander round the city at night taking in all of the architecture which has been light up spectacularly. Only one night is spent here and we are keen to get to Dushanbe in Tajikistan, the start of the Pamir highway.

Crossing the border was once again painless. Uzbekistan has had the easiest and friendliest borders in and out so far and getting into Tajikistan was also a breeze. Considering we were not expecting stunning mountains and wonderful scenery until the Pamir, the way to Dushanbe is a wonderful surprise. This is definitely one of the most beautiful roads we’ve ever driven on, not only that but it is a real road, with smooth tarmac and no potholes, this makes it much easier to take in the view.

We stop many times to just to enjoy the view and take some photos, passing a few more rally teams along the way. If the Pamir is anything like this the next few days are going to be wonderful. The one slight bad thing about the road is everyone else driving like maniacs, with trucks overtaking other trucks on blind corners and then heading directly towards you on your side of the road. That is a very good way to keep you on your toes.

Pre-Pamir Prep - Tajikistan

Holly: Yesterday we chilled out in Dushanbe and did some touristy things. We saw the sights and visited Rudaki Park, reportedly the most beautiful park in Dushanbe. Rudaki park is filled with sculptures, rose gardens and fountains, a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.

Two days ago we noticed the right side chain tensioner had fallen off both of our bikes! This is more than likely due the terrible roads and equal awful not roads of Uzbekistan. Not to worry we found a local mechanic who fashioned two new ones from a piece of plate metal and 2 bolts. With the oil changed and our bikes with most of their parts again (I lost a handguard somewhere) we feel ready to move onwards to the Pamir highway.

The Pamir Highway – Tajikistan

Holly: We are finally heading off on the Pamir Highway! We decide the take the route to Khorog that leads through what looks like the most mountainous part on the map.

We had originally planned one day to do this leg of the journey…we may have overestimated how good the roads would be. There were in facts no real roads, just dirt tracks. Despite slowing us down this only added to the enjoyment of the ride, we had more off roading challenges and the slower speed meant more time to enjoy the view – and what a view it was.

About half-way through the first day, we came to a roadblock in the form of a few rocks put across the road, we detoured to the village nearby to ask why this was. Apparently, the road was Kaput and we had to take a detour over a mountain using what looked like a donkey track. Fair enough. Away we went crossing a river with a rickety bridge a river without any bridge and then arriving to the track. Now hair pin bends on tarmac going uphill are fairly uneventful, when translated to a 2 m wide mud and rock track things are slightly different. One foot down on the corners, 1st gear revving way up into the red and of course dropping the bikes (only once though). We do eventually make it up to the top and get to see the road we were meant to be had been made impassable by a landslide.

The altitude meant that we had a few spots of snow along our way and we were incredibly glad we had packed winter gloves and extra layers. On one of these cold days we were pulled over by some construction workers putting up pylons. They invited us for tea and food next to their fire. They fed us rice and seasoned vegetables from a giant pot hanging over the fire, the food was delicious, hot and filling just what we needed. We also had some very interesting conversations from a phrase book one of them had, trying to talk about where we are from, where we are going and a few silly questions.

Yurt Life – Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan

Holly: We had originally planned to take the Wakhan valley route of the Pamir highway that Runs along the border with Afghanistan. Due to time restrictions however we had to take the more well travelled (and more tarmacked) route leading straight across Tajikistan. On our way to Kyrgyzstan where the road runs along the border of no-mans land between Tajikistan and China we found a broken part of the border fence, so hello sort-of China.

Crossing from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan was one of the easiest crossings yet. With just a few rally teams and other travellers the process was fairly simple. Between these two wonderful countries was 10 miles of snow topped mountain views. Despite wanting to get as far as possible we could not resist stopping for at least one photo. 

Trying to make up time on the road is hard, we are 4 days behind and getting more and more worried about getting out of Russia on time. We’re hoping to do a very long day and make it from Osh to Bishkek in a single hit. We were making good time until we hit the mountains, once again we are spoiled with breath-taking views, this time we also are treated to hundreds of horses, goats, cows and yurts as well. Mountain roads are not the fastest to drive on however and as the freezing night falls upon us we decide to stop for some tea before pressing on.

We decide to stop in a road-side Yurt cafe -which seems to have a whole feast laid on- for food and tea. We do our best to chat with the women who run it who seem over the moon to meet some people from Britain and really want a souvenir of something British. They first of all ask for my Deadpool Keyring (not realising what it is) but then seem much happier when we manage to find a few pound coins that have somehow travelled with us from the UK.

As darkness falls, they ask us where we are sleeping, as usual we have no idea and so they invite us to stay in the yurt! We have lots of cushions piled up to sleep on and bring our sleeping bags in from the bikes. It was an exceedingly cold wet and windy night and so we are very grateful we no longer need to pitch our tent. Tomorrow we head for Kazakhstan.

Dunes, Glorious Dunes! - Kazakhstan

Paul: After the days on the Pamir we arrive to Kazakhstan, a huge country of grasslands. Despite the time pressures of our Russian visas we do need a day off from riding every now and again. We decide to take a rest day in the Altyn-Emel National park so we can have a little bit of chill time and spend a bit of time checking over the bikes.

The first day here we rode to go and see an ancient willow tree that is 700 years old, which is growing in someone’s back yard. The rest of the day we spent resting at the hostel which has both cats and dogs, sorting out our motorbikes with some maintenance and doing our laundry. It’s such a great feeling to have clean clothes and not have to rush anywhere.

On the next day we decided to head to the singing dunes in the middle of the park. On our way we see herds of wild horses galloping across the desert, which is a sight once seen not forgotten.

Getting to the dunes takes some time as the road is 50 km of sand washboard, this slows our progress to a bone rattling 15 mph. We do eventually make it to the dunes and tackle the hike to the top – walking up sand dunes is hard. We are very lucky to have the place to ourselves as we set off early that morning. As we run down the side of the Dune back to the bikes buses of tourists start to arrive – we ride back to the hostel feeling pretty grateful to have enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Through the Altai Mountains – Russia

Paul: After resting in the south of Kazakhstan it is a 3-day slog to the border of Russia. Most of the main road does not currently exist, resulting in a mile or so of tarmac detour off to a few hundred meters of potholed gravel track curve back to the “road” for maybe half a mile of sort of Tarmac… and repeat. Not the most fun part of our journey I must say with many casualties along the way, including the camera as well. Which has now got a shattered screen, lost the top part of the lens and the shutter is kaput!

Surprisingly the Russian border is not so difficult, they are very thorough, but everyone knows what is happening and is very helpful in telling you the process. So with the minimal of fuss we make it into Russia!

Most of our time is simply spent trying to get to Mongolia but to do so we get to ride through the wonderful Altay Region. The scenery is once again changing at every corner new mountains, valleys, and picturesque rivers to guide us on our way.

Mongolia At Last – Mongolia

Holly: We cross the Russian-Mongolian border in the late afternoon, like many of the other borders we have passed through this once consisted of the road being blocked with a small hut and barrier but open fields to either side with cows happily ambling from one country another. The only difference here is that they were Mongolian Hairy Coos (Yaks) Harry (our hairy coo and travel companion) was very excited by this as all of the other cows we had seen on the way just weren’t fluffy like him.

The landscape is much like northern Kazakhstan, grassy a bit hilly and devoid of civilisation, but with many, many off roading opportunities and a huge amount of choices of place to camp.

We meet up with Team Navigator while waiting to cross and decide to camp together that evening. Somehow we manged to make it all of the way to Mongolia without wild camping with anyone else so this is a good chance to change that. We set up camp with their car providing a wind shield, of course as soon as the camp is set up the wind dies down and no shield is necessary.

Night falls and we teach them what little of star photography we managed to figure out on the Pamir highway and they teach us where the stars in the night sky are. Seen as they all work on or are about to work on boats, they have a pretty good idea about this stuff.

The next morning we trade vehicles, I drive their panda round the grass lands and they ride Paul’s bike. Much fun is had by all and no one hits anything, always a plus.

A spot of bother with the locals – Mongolia

Paul: Our first day in Mongolia was a massive surprise. We spent the whole time on well-made tarmac roads, something we were definitely not expecting. There was not a huge amount of people around just a few yurts spaced between the towns and villages.

We stopped for the night near one of the towns choosing to wild camp rather than get a guest house. The next morning was a bit of a shock as we were packing up when a car approached with three random guys getting out and saying hello. Nothing out of the ordinary with journey’s like this, people are curious and some like to try to ask questions and engage. The “conversation” changed pretty quickly when they started asking us for money, cigarettes and vodka (hand signals are an international language).

After we politely refused, repeatedly things started to really change with one guy getting violent trying to push us away from our bikes and yell at us. I was starting to lose my patience and temper and faced up to him telling him in hand signals and a loud voice to leave and drive away. He decided I wasn’t the easy target they wanted and tried to approach Holly who cleverly had packed the tent up during this and was still holding the camping hammer. One of the other guys applied some sense and got the others back into the car and started driving off. Surprised and shaken by the whole thing we quickly packed up and got ready to leave when the car started turning back to us. Not wanted a round 2 we drove off quickly and gassed it down the road, they decided not to follow…

Making Tracks – Mongolia

Holly: After two days we get a bit bored of pristine tarmac roads and decide to head off into the unknown. Mongolian tracks are a wonderful thing, there are multiple tracks all running alongside each other weaving in and out, joining and spiting. Most of them all go the same way and simply have different hazards: foot deep sand, giant holes, cracks that open up in the ground that you can’t see the bottom of, washboard, mud, the list is endless. So you choose a track and hope for the best, this style of riding is a huge amount of fun and keeps you on your toes every second. Occasionally however you realise that you have followed a track that has changed direction so subtly you did not notice and you are no longer heading in remotely the right direction.

Paul and I managed to head for 5 miles in the wrong direction on the way out of a town, this may not sound like much, but with all of the falling over or nearly falling over and the fact that most of that 5 miles was deep sand, it took at least an hour of our time to get lost and get found again. after that incident we gave Harry the Hairy coo the compass and he kept us going the correct way.

Another interesting fact about navigating through Mongolia: everything you are looking for is around the next mountain, or maybe the one after that. That town you have been searching for, the hot springs, the next place for petrol, just pick a mountain go around it and there will be…. not much. Just more tracks and another local telling you to go around the next mountain. This was one of my favourite parts of the journey, there is something special about riding your bike through stunning, practically empty scenery, up mountains, over mountains, through valleys, wherever you like. If there isn’t a track, make one. You are free to go where you wish.

We did occasionally aim for a destination, one of these was a hot springs tourist resort. It was marked very clearly on our paper map of Mongolia so we assumed it would be easy to find and get to. Not so. There was not a single signpost from the main road telling us to leave the road. We headed off anyway, because Harry said we needed to. After rising for about 10km of the road following some pylons (a good way to navigate between places) there was a hand drawn sign smaller that an A4 piece of paper saying to go right to the hot springs. Cool, it was amazing we even found that sign considering how many tracks there were around but let’s veer a bit more to the right. We then found a river and thought this can’t possibly be the right way, there is no bridge! Well the locals said we should go that way so why not. We just manged to make it across the river, though it was a close thing with the water coming up high enough to give the number plates a bit of a wash. The bikes did incredibly well through all of this and didn’t even splutter even when I got a bit stuck on an underwater rock. After another 14km or so we turned into a valley and were astounded to see 4 touristy yurt camps with about 30 yurts each, as well as a few hotels. It seems most people are driven in via Ferguson van but we made it on our tiny bikes.

We head off to find a yurt for the night and very much enjoy the water from the springs which has been piped into a little hot tub cooling down enough on the way so as not to cook us. A much-needed rest is had that day.

Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia

Holly: We head to the Capital of Mongolia – previously the finish line of the Mongol Rally – to meet up with a friend of a friend. As climbers we know many other Climbers, so our friend Paulo told us about an international school in Mongolia where he helped teach some of the teachers how to run climbing sessions for the kids on their wall.

We meet Maree at the school, who shows us around and tells us about the climbing program they have. Maree is a wonderful person full of knowledge about Mongolia as well as many other places across the world. She travels across the world from school to school every few years and so has a wealth of experience of living in different places and cultures.

Ulaanbaatar is a bit of a culture shock for us. It is so different from every other place in Mongolia, much bigger, noisier, so many shops, restaurants and traffic. The change of pace is slightly jarring. Having Maree to show us round really helped with that, she took us to a lovely Japanese restaurant and invited us to stay at her place.

For the first time in a very long time we got to do some laundry, have a hot shower and put on clean clothes. Something we cannot describe how grateful we were for.

The next day after an all you can eat breakfast we got on the road with much haste, as we had just been informed we can no longer put our bikes on the trans-Siberian express. We now have no idea how we will get ourselves and our bikes out of Russia before our visa expires.

To the border – Mongolia

Holly: In typical Mongolian style the road north is not a road. Unlike the rest of our off-road experiences however, there are a lot of cars and trucks here. The ground is churned up and after the last few days of thunder storms the hard packed ground has turned to thick, sticking, deep, mud.

We head north regardless, going as fast as we can as are now somewhat worried about the looming Russian visa. Night falls, my head light blows, and the high beam. I have no way to see anything and only my side lights are keeping people from crashing into me. It is freezing and raining, we are covered in mud and completely exhausted. Truckers with no regard for any sort of common sense see us coming along a single lane width of track and decide to drive towards us anyways rather than waiting for 1 minute. We are pushed off the road into even deeper mud, halfway up our shins where the truckers then have the cheek to gesture at us to say “what the hell do you think you’re doing being on my road”. We are both pretty tired and annoyed at this point and want nothing more than to be warm and dry.

We find a hotel and we walk in, covered in mud from head to toe and just pay the rate, at some point money stops mattering and you pay just so you can rest.

We made it! Ulan-Ude! – Russia

Holly: Today we managed to cross the border and hit the finish line! Everything just felt completely surreal. I’m not sure if I didn’t want the rally to be over, to just be back home, or something completely different, but for whatever reason it didn’t feel real. The main thought for me at least was simply “Oh, we’re here.”

We headed to the finish line yurt got our golden stickers and headed on stage for a photo. It still didn’t feel real. But we did it, we crossed over 10,000 miles on 125cc bikes without any proper (mechanical) breakdowns, and without dying. We wild camped most of the way, ate local food, had so many random chats at the side of the road and have so many memories. We’ve been to the gates of hell, ridden the Pamir highway, gone of road in Mongolia, seen volcano craters, yaks, miles of desert, had dinner with construction workers and truckers, and been to so many places we barely even knew existed. It was completely amazing. Yet at the end none of it has sunk in yet. Maybe in a few weeks or months we will finally realise what we have achieved.

For now the next problem is to figure out how to get back. We decide to take one of the rally cars that is being scrapped, rip out the insides and throw the bikes in the back. This will give us time to rest while moving as we can switch drivers when we want and sleep in the van. We sort out the van, just manage to squeeze the bikes in and go to sleep at the organisers flat.

A bittersweet ending – Russia

Holly: That night however, our van is broken into. All our camera footage we had not already uploaded is gone. All the videos we had are gone. Added to the surreal feelings of finishing the Rally we can’t really understand why this happened, we have no way to change it and no time to try, our visas are running out and we must fly.

We did make it back to London and through the Russian border in time…but only just. We’re now planning the next few projects and adventures.

To read more about the adventure post trip check out the articles below:

Adventure Bike Rider

DriveTribe

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