They've made it!
Skye rally pair Anne MacAskill and Kay Simpson have crossed the finishing line after the adventure of a lifetime in the 10,000 mile long Mongol Rally.
Since leaving home in early July the pair and their 20 year old van, have driven across England, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and finally into Russia.
Writing on social media yesterday Anne said: "We reached the finishing line this morning at about 9am!"
"We made it into Russia on the 12th and had a fairy enjoyable run down to Ulan Ude.The roads were bad in parts but mostly not too bad and the countryside was beautiful - undulating and lots and lots of trees.
"We were about eaten alive by mosquitoes when we stopped in the evenings and decided after the first night that we would have to find hotels, but we just never seemed to see them when we needed them. Although we found a wonderful motel last night - thought we were being led down the garden path to a shed, but the folk were kindly and food was good and only had about 100kms to drive this morning - made a change to doing 700 to 800!
"Finding our way through cities has not been our forte. We followed the sign posts to Irkusk in Kansk and ended up on the most awful road and heard later that you head through the town centre and it is the lorries who have to take the other road!
On their journey the paid have been raising money for charity so if you want to support them follow the link here
Although Anne and Kay still have to return home they will have plenty of memories to bring back with them. Here some of the incidents of during the last week of their mammoth road trip.
It is now Tuesday, 10th and we have had a remarkably unadventurous, lazy few days apart from the the 800km drive back to Semey. We stayed in a comfortable motel on the edge of Astana, where the staff were very pleasant and food was delicious, but a mechanic was to appear at 8 then 10am on Monday morning to look at a bit of a shudder we had in the van. No show, so we gave up and found a wee garage where a track rod end was changed and tyres balanced and on we went to the Russian Embassy.
A charming official, with the first English we had heard for a few days, advised us that he could give us a visa for the 11th, but, as it would take the 3 days to get it, we wouldn't get back to Semey until after the 12th, so it would be a waste of our money. It has fairly taken the wind out of our sails as we had made it to the border in under 3 weeks, It also means that we may not even get into Mongolia as we have just heard that the Mongolian government has decided to charge the ralliers, who have not already got into Mongolia, about $4,000 to be paid in local currency, to get into Mongolia and we can not and will not pay that.
Also if you were to be repaid when you leave the country, the Mongolian currency is of no use. i have a problem with a bad heel, and am not as heatproof as Kay, so I am taking advantage of staying in another nice hotel, not too expensive though a wee bit more than others we have been in, to catch up on the Olympics and Kay is away to see if she can find postcards or souvenirs to take back for me. We cannot travel over into Russia until Friday morning and will then probably have to stay there until we get to Ulan Ude
Kay much prefers using pen and paper to the modern gadgets (she's an older lady but that is no excuse) and I have persuaded her to contribute something to the blog apart from some of the photos, which I have at long last managed now and then to get on. So this was written yesterday,9th August.
We are used to big Hondas, BMWs, Audis overtaking us but today Anne's pride was dented when an old, bashed-up Lada overtook us. This would never have happened years ago when Anne was in her 20's. She was (and is) a very good driver (thank you kindly!!!) but was very fast. We would probably have done the Rally in a week! The van has been going great. Two days ago we developed a vibration! I thought it might be track rods or track rod end. I phoned my brother and he said, "Have you hit any bumps?" I said,"Probably about 3,000!!!" I consulted my Haynes manual and didn't think I was capable of replacing a track rod end (mind you, she has already sorted an exhaust clamp and fitted a new fan belt) as it involved using a special tool". We went to a garage - and, as I had a spare, the mechanic replaced it using a tyre lever and a hammer and balanced the wheels and dropped the tyre pressure and charge $10.
Unfortunately the Russian Embassy could not help us as new visas take 3 days, so we will just need to wait it out in Semey and go through first thing Friday morning.