Last summer, four University of Southampton engineering graduates (George Tuckey, Callum Livingstone, Oli Hampton-Martin and Will Sexton) drove a Landrover, that they had converted into an ambulance, from Southampton to Mongolia. Mongolia is a very sparsely populated country; therefore, access to healthcare is limited and, thus, ambulances are in high demand. Over the 57 days, the team travelled through 19 countries, covering 10,000 miles, to deliver the ambulance to Mongolia.
I could tell you a tale of adventure. I could tell you a tale of the struggles. I could tell you a tale of travelling. But, after chatting with George the thing that struck me the most was the consistent kindness of humanity that they encountered along the journey.
In the world that we live in, there seems to be hatred left, right and centre. However, the journey of the Southampton2Mongolia team proved how different cultures and ethnicities can come together for the common goal of delivering an ambulance to people who have little access to healthcare. There were countless tales of people who choose to go out of their way to help these four graduates on their overland journey. Without this help, the ambulance would have never made it to Mongolia. The whole project was reliant on the kindred spirits of people – from donations of money, time or expertise, to simply places to camp.
As one can imagine, with a journey this ambitious there were many tales to tell upon their return. There was one tale, however, that stuck with me, as it showed how easily the kind-heartedness of someone can change the outcome of a pretty dire situation.
It was late on a Friday evening and the team were driving round the ring road of Ashgbat (the capital of Turkmenistan). This is an Islamic, autocratic country, which blocks all forms of social media and the government has complete control of the media. As they were driving along the engine temperature, suddenly, rose very high – something was very wrong with the engine of the ambulance. In a haze of confusion they pulled over to investigate, only to discover that not only had the fan belt disintegrated (which could be easily replaced); but, also, the bearing on the fan belt had broken. They were stuck on a ring road, in Turkmenistan, with no access to a garage as everything was shut for the weekend. Having never seen a Landover in this country, they knew that if they needed a spare part the chances were very slim of acquiring one. It was not a good situation to be in.
Randomly, a guy in a white Lexus pulled up and opened his passenger door. He shouted, in broken English, something to Will. Will hopped into his car, with the door barely shutting before the car was doing a hundred miles per hour down the ring road.
Miraculously, about 20 minutes later Will returned, in the white Lexus, with a tow truck. There was hope. The ambulance was towed away to a garage. Well, I’m not sure you could call it a garage from how George described it. There was an extended family sitting around the workshop on sofas, children in baths and a pit in the middle. The team were unsure that the ambulance would be able to be fixed here – maybe there wasn’t hope. However, the mechanic tinkered away on the Landrover, beer in hand, and sure enough there was the sound of the engine running in a matter of no time – there was hope!
A vehicle is not that reliable and even less so when it is being forced to travel over 10,000 miles in a mere 57 days. It is a recipe for a disaster and a lot of garage pit stops – something that can’t be planned for! The situation was rendered – from being stuck immobile in a three ton ambulance, on the edge of the city, on a Friday night with the added pressure of having a set amount of time allowed in the country to having a working ambulance and new friends. It just shows how one act of kindness can go a long way.
These four graduates managed to plan and execute a journey of a lifetime, that to many people would seem impossible, with the simple vision of delivering an ambulance to Mongolia. They had to overcome many obstacles which they wouldn’t have been able to without the help of multiple characters that they met along way. But helping one another is part of humanity, isn’t it?
The pre-adventure article ….