This summer four University of Southampton Engineering Graduates are embarking on a 10,000 mile trip from Southampton to Mongolia in aid of a charity called ‘Go Help’. ‘Go Help’ aims to bring more ambulances to hospitals, clinics and non-governmental organisations working in Mongolia. The team will travel across the continent in an ambulance; which they will then donate to the charity.
This week, I was able to catch-up with George Tuckey (tasked ‘route master’) to find out more about their trip. The other 3 team members are; Callum Livingstone, Oli Hampden-Martin and Will Sexton.
The first thing I really wanted to know was – where had the idea come from? It’s not every day you hear of four people driving from Southampton to Mongolia! It was during a University windsurfing trip that the four boys were inspired by a member of ‘The 6-Degrees of Procrastination’ team, who undertook the challenge a couple of years before. With a keen interest in travel and taste for adventure, they were hooked on the challenge and the brilliant way it was to raise money for a charity that they felt passionate about.
Mongolia is a huge landlocked country between China and Russia. It is very sparsely populated with 45% of the population (1.3 million people) living in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The team are most excited about visiting this country due to the spectacular landscape ranging from mountains, to large plains, to lakes, and it is so different from any other countries that they will have travelled through. For example, George informs me that if you want to go for a dip in a lake you have to perform a certain Mongolian ritual before entering the water.
Once, the seed had been sown the planning started. Although the charity – Go Help – promote the rallies to undertake the trip to Mongolia, it is up to the team to decide on an appropriate route. As you can imagine, Europe and Western Asia is a big place; so it was a complicated task of trying to choose which route to take. Also, other things had to be taken into consideration such as visa allowances and the political state of certain countries at the moment.
Before undertaking the trip, the boys set out to raise £10,000; but with the crowd funding page alone they have reached £7,474. In addition, with donations from the Education Enhancement Fund, the University of Southampton, the ABP Half Marathon Run and the fundraisers that they have organised, in 6 short months they are nearing £15,000. This just shows the dedication of the four boys to this cause. Additionally, each member of the team has contributed their own money to cover their own costs.
The team, also, want to inspire other people to undertake similar adventures to raise money and bring attention to worthwhile causes. As George puts it – “If you put in 2 hours every week, instead of watching a movie one night, you could raise over £15,000 for a charity and inspire more people!”
The Route: Stage 1 – London to Istanbul
The team departs London on the 10th of July, heading through France to Brussels where the Rally officially starts. Next, they will work their way across Eastern Europe stopping off at major cities such as Cologne, Frankfurt, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and finally, Istanbul. The logic being that the larger cities should have better roads connecting them.
A highlight of this stage of the journey for the team, will be the best driving road in the world (according to Top Gear) – The Transfagarasan Highway, Romania. It’s a 150km stretch of road that crosses through breath-taking scenery; including hairpin bends, narrow cliffs, Dracula’s Castel, Vidraru Dam, Lake Balea and great heights of up to 2145m. It, also, has a massive tunnel through the mountains.
Another highlight is Constanta which is supposed to be the Rivera of Black Sea: some even say prettier than Monte Carlo. Afterward the team will drive down to the Bosporus River – which is the divide within Turkey between the continents Europe and Asia.
Once reaching Istanbul the team will have to take a short break to fly back to Southampton to graduate!
The Route: Stage 2 – Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar
After flying back to Istanbul (as official graduates!), the team will continue with their journey. At this point the question is more where they can drive: opposed to where would they like to drive. This leg of the journey will start with driving along the Black Sea, then through Georgia and Azerbaijan. Next they will ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi where the M37 starts. This motorway continues all the way through Uzbekistan so they will be driving along it for more than a week! To finish the journey they will be travelling up into Russia and then down into Mongolia.
What struck me the most in talking to George, was the sheer amount of planning that had to be undertaken in order to pull this charity fundraiser off. The difficulties of obtaining visas, crossing borders, planning routes and back up routes as well as figuring out accommodation. The team plan for the trip to take 5-6 weeks; however it is very difficult to know exactly how long it will take to cross the borders. They expect it to take up to 12 hours in some countries! Additionally, when booking visas they have to give specific dates as to when they will be entering and leaving the country. For instance in Kazakhstan, they are only allowed 5 days (due to the visa type), so if anything goes wrong with the vehicle or the route as it is one of the last countries – there could be a lot of problems!
By the end, I was thoroughly convinced through the enthusiasm and knowledge that George had demonstrated about the trip that the team will complete the challenge. The perseverance of having to sought out visas to travel through at least 16 countries, routes, cars, fundraising and everything else to make the charity trip happen, as well as juggling their final year of university. So, all I can say is Good Luck!