Mongol Rally 2004 & 2005 Blogs & Photos
A brief description
The Mongol rally is by nature an adventure, a challenge and fantastically good fun.  The aim of the rally is to drive from London to Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia.  You could do this in a 4x4, and you would have some fun and see some amazing places.  It would also be comfortable, it would also be easy.  The only rule of the Mongol Rally is thus designed to make it considerably more difficult, and to add a little eccentricity.  To take part in the rally you must drive a crap car, specifically one with an engine size below 1 litre.  These cars, ranging from Fiat Pandas to Citroen 2CVs and taking in a Reliant 3 wheeler, are ill suited to pottering around the highways of Britain.  It is downright stupid to try and drive one through central Asia and then Mongolia.  It is also much more rewarding. The most interesting things always seem to happen when something goes wrong.  
The Route
We set off from London on 30th July and make straight for Prague and the first checkpoint. This is the warm up leg.  From Prague the rally does a shamrock, or perhaps more aptly a Reliant turned turtle, and splits into 3.  The northern lot make for Moscow, the middle group will head for the Ukraine and Kiev, and the southern bunch for Istanbul.  Each of these 3 cities will then host their own stopovers.  We shall be taking the southern route.
From Turkey the next official stop is to be Samakand in Uzbekistan (the unofficial stops are a touch harder to pinpoint).  To get there we have a number of choices, either to go through Iran to the south of the Caspian sea, or to get a ferry across it.  This involves travelling through Georgia and Azerbaijan, and going a little less close to Iraq and Afghanistan but considerably closer to Chechnya.  We would disembark from the ferry in Turkmenistan and from there cross into Uzbekistan.  From Samarkand it is a quick trio in Kyrgystan, then up into Kazakhstan before a brief hop into Russia for a day or so, a right turn at Barnaul and back towards Mongolia and Tsangannur.  Once into Mongolia it is a mad rush for the finish line in good old Ulaan Baatar.  Then home i guess.
The Driving
The overall distance is between 8-10 000 miles.  We aim to do it in between 3 weeks and a month.  That works out in the region of 300 miles a day.  That's easy when the roads are good, they wont be.  We will be driving 20-22 hours a day, sometimes 24 (some times 25...), with the co-driver trying to catch some sleep when not looking for the right page on the map.  Music and story tapes will be lifesavers, as will pro-plus.
The Roads
To set the scene a bit more it must be remembered that not everyone drives like the British, the from eastern Europe onwards overtaking is considered acceptable, if not downright imperative, provided there is space in the middle of the road.  Traffic going in the other direction is just a minor irritant.   Then you must factor the roads into this.  There will be a constant deterioration in the quality of the roads the farther east we get.  Firstly they will be inconsistently surfaced, then the potholes will start.  Eventually the potholes will cover the majority of the road's surface, at which point it is better to drive on the dirt tracks either side of the road than on the remaining tarmac.  There will be brief interludes of flat tarred road, often seemingly at random, they won't last.  Once we get to Mongolia the roads will run out all together.  It will be dirt tracks all the way, and these are often described as migratory.    They will branch at regular intervals, with no indication of which branch goes where.  There are no signposts in Mongolia (apart from in Ulaan Baatar), a compass will be essential, but as there are no maps that are anything like accurate, only quite useful.
The People
There will be a mixture of everything, from bribe hungry policemen to children with winning smiles  Generally people's attitudes seem dependent on whether they are employed by the state or not.  We will be going through some of the least travelled areas of the world, and thus be met by some of the least cynical and most hospitable people there are. It is both refreshing and strangely embarrassing.
The Countries
I haven't been to most of them, I'm looking forward to finding out.  We will for part of the time be following the silk route, which promises to be fantastic.  At the same time we will be travelling in   parts of the old Soviet Union, from Georgia to Kazakhstan, and it will be very interesting to see how much of that influence remains.  Mongolia itself was the second ever communist satellite state.
An Overview of the Rally