Third year drives to Mongolia in extreme charity rally

Corrupt cops, litres of vodka, goats strapped to motorcycles

birmingham charity Chem Eng mongol rally university of birmingham UoB

A Chemical Engineering student risked life and limb taking part in this year’s Mongol Rally.

The charity event covers over 10,000 miles of mountains and deserts from the South of England to Ulan Ude, Russia.

Thrill-seeking third year, Guy Hart, teamed up with old school pal Alex Green,  to form the team Micra-Waves and tackle the mammoth adventure.

Their team name was derived from their trusty steed – a tiny mint green Nissan Micra which they bought for a measly £400, in keeping with the rally rule that the car must be “farcically small”.

Guy, left, is currently studying Chemical Engineering at UoB

Guy, left, is currently studying Chemical Engineering at Brum

The rally crosses extreme and potentially dangerous terrains and one of this year’s cars – a vintage Porsche – literally exploded.

The remains of another team's car

The remains of another team’s car

The Tab sat down with Guy to talk about the rally, charity corrupt cops, bowls of vodka, saving lives, and why the hell he decided to do it in the first place.

Guy said: “By chance Alex asked me to do the rally, and so far I had nothing else planned for the summer, so after about a week of thought, I decided to just go for it.”

The pair decorated their car with the names of supporters and stickers promoting the rally’s charity Cool Earth, which aims to work alongside indigenous communities to halt the destruction of the world’s rainforests. The pair raised £1090.49 before they even started their journey.

TheMicra-Waves and their Micra, Lassi

The Micra-Waves and their Micra, Lassi

Guy continued: “It’s an interesting charity, they’re taking a new approach in encouraging sustainability. They try to get to the root of the problem rather than just trying to fix the consequences.”

The Micra-Waves travelled across 17 countries, starting at Southampton, crossing through Europe, and hitting Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia along the way.

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A map of their journey

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The Transfăgărășan highway, Romania

“The best part was meeting the people – both ralliers with a variety of reasons as to why they were there and local people we met along the way. Not everyone we met was especially nice, but all were …interesting.

“There was even a couple on their honeymoon, but the most extreme reason I came across was someone giving up their job just to do the rally.

“As for local people, my personal favourite was a group of factory workers we met in Uzbekistan. They were the friendliest people ever – we stayed in their ‘holiday home’, and they gave us local food called Plov and vodka literally by the soup bowl. The weirdest food I came across was probably fermented milk.”

Pictured: Soup bowls of vodka

Pictured: Soup bowls of vodka

The hardest part of the rally for Guy and Alex was the frustration of border crossings and language barriers. The pair found themselves in hot water a few times, but luckily not speaking the same language as someone who might be trying to arrest you can somehow work in your favour.

“We made 18 border crossings, which led to a lot of frustration when we were so eager to get moving. We could be driving 700 miles one day, then at a total standstill the next because of bureaucracy.

“Language barriers also made ‘situations’. We were questioned by the local army as to what we were doing at one point. They seemed really confused as to why we were in Uzbekistan. Without a word of English, they motioned for us to follow in an armed escort to the nearest army base for questioning before we were let on our way.

“I’m also pretty sure the police in Moscow thought I was a terrorist because I was carrying round a box. I just didn’t have a bag to put my stuff in once we’d scrapped the car!”

One of the teams the Micra-waves were travelling with – another group of Birmingham Chemical Engineers – had a dealing with some corrupt cops.

“The team we were travelling with – the Chemical Brummers – got pulled over by the police for overtaking at the wrong speed or some crap. They tried to issue a fine of $300, but after some negotiation and a mention of the British Embassy, the fine magically dropped to $10. The guys offered him $5 and a miniature bottle of whiskey instead. Funnily enough, he refused the $5 and just took off with the whiskey.

“We met a mix of characters out there – some wanted to sign our car and talk about football, some wanted to extort money from us.

“Luckily, although we didn’t speak the languages, there’s always the international language of football. Though we’re not even football fans…”

Guy's favourite photo - a goat strapped to a motorbike in Mongolia

Guy’s favourite photo – a goat strapped to a motorbike in Mongolia

The lads also claim they may have saved someone’s life while out on the road, although Guy reckons he was just being a Good Samaritan.

“In Mongolia, we found this cyclist lying on the road. His name was Reece, he was from Leeds, and he was trying to cycle round the world. Basically, he was very ill and had collapsed off his bike, so we took him to the hospital as fast as we could. Because of the bumpy roads it still took us half a day. We left the next morning while he was getting a blood test.

“I don’t think we saved his life though. He was a god chap, he probably would’ve survived.”

The trip took just over a month, and when the pair finally crossed the Mongolian border into Russia and to the finish line, they discovered that the stereotypes of Russian vodka drinking definitely meet expectations…

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The guys celebrating their mammoth adventure

“We celebrated the end in a Russian nightclub in Ulan Ude. We played charades, miming dancing and drinking with a taxi driver who drove us for 30 minutes to a derelict warehouse. When we got there, it was empty. Apparently nobody starts partying in Russia until 2am. Then 7 Russian guys turned up, and we had an arm wrestling tournament in the club.

“You couldn’t buy single drinks at the bar. The least amount of alcohol you could buy was half a litre of vodka. As a group, we probably drank a good few litres that night.

“We also somehow ended up at a Russian rap concert, with a leading Russian rap artist. We had no idea what was going on, but we were lucky enough that our celebrations coincided with the International Crossbow tournament. Apparently It’s quite big in Russia.”

You can still donate to Guy and Alex’s Cool Earth page here.