Intrepid duo from Saffron Walden return from epic rally to Mongolia
- Credit: Archant
An intrepid two-man team from Saffron Walden took part in the Mongol Rally in a 1999 blue Nissan Micra over the summer.
The Mongol Rally is an intercontinental car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Russia and James Fawcett and Ben Fitch, both 24, completed the route in 41 days.
James and Ben, whose team name was ‘Fawcett and Fitch’, went on a road trip together across eastern Europe last year and wanted to continue their adventures - although they said they had never done anything quite like this.
The pair drove the Micra, which cost them £300, through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, got the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, dropped down through Uzbekistan to Tajikistan, before going back through Kyrgyzstan and heading up to Mongolia. James and Ben spent the entire trip dressed in suits they bought on their road trip in Europe - when they washed the suits, just twice in six weeks, they continued driving in their underwear. Thankfully, they didn’t get stopped.
Ben’s grandmother made them a fruit cake which lasted until the end and the pair said they wished they had more of it. They certainly packed enough teabags to go with the fruit cake - 750 of them in total.
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James said: “The boxes exploded and there were teabags everywhere. The guys at the border were joking and calling us Lionel Messi. Ben would get the flack for having a messy car and get told off by the security guys.”
At one point, James had to haggle with a police officer about how much of a bribe to pay – they only paid about £20 in the end.
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“We sometimes got waved down by the police just so they could laugh at us,” said James.
As part of the route, the pair took the Pamir Highway, which runs through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The pair had to sleep in their suits on the Tarmac while waiting for the ferry to cross the Caspian Sea - they said they didn’t prepare for the cold and had to fully suit up to keep warm when they were up 4,000 ft and buy a blanket for Mongolia.
To keep warm, the pair drank vodka, which James called a ‘Russian cuddle’.
The pair spent 41 days in each other’s company and said they only thing they disagreed on was when they should stop to see the sights or push on with the driving.
One challenge they faced together was food poisoning.
Ben thinks he got food poisoning from some apples which had been washed in a puddle.
“I saw them all crouched down and I think they were washing the apples in a puddle – the dots didn’t connect,” he said.
It was James’ turn later on when he tried some fermented horse milk. It gave him bad heartburn so he tried to wash it down with the medicine Gaviscon, which had been kept in a warm car for weeks.
He said: “I was glugging that and the vicious combination of the two gave me this horrendous fever. I was insisting on trying to carry on.
“It never really crossed either of our minds that it might be something serious.”
The pair raised money for Cool Earth, the charity set by the organisers which fights deforestation and global warming, and the charities chosen by James and Ben are UNICEF and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The rally originally ended in Mongolia, but to avoid costs and taxes associated with vehicle imports and disposal, the rally now passes through Mongolia and ends in Russia.
The Micra is on its way back to the UK and the pair hope to fix it up once it returns.
Talking about living on the road, James said: “That way of living, it’s not so alien to us anymore - we can relate to that a little bit, whereas before it would be like ‘who are these people’. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with going doing the same thing now.”
“The world seems much less daunting when you can just drive it in a Nissan Micra,” Ben added.
Donations can still be made here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/FawcettandFitch.