Unsuitable Rally Car - Nissan Micra - Mongolia

Unsuitable Rally Car - Nissan Micra - Mongolia

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91Cooper

Original Poster:

30 posts

44 months

Monday 11th September 2017
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carreauchompeur said:
Brilliant. I've read a few books about the mongol Rally and it's one of my dreams. Have visited a few places over that side and it's incredible. Scenery, stoic, decent people and crazy roads!

Enjoy. Ulan Bator is an absolute smorgasbord of eating!
Enjoyed many of the food offerings in Ulaan Baatar. So many to choose from and it was just what we needed after many days crossing mongolia.

91Cooper

Original Poster:

30 posts

44 months

Monday 11th September 2017
quotequote all
Kazakhstan was empty but also beautiful many snow capped mountains and views over endless plains. Luckily we had no issues here as if we broke down there is nobody around! So after 3 days of driving across we eventually reached the Russian border and then the city of Barnaul. Nearly the same view for three days with many golden eagles soaring above or lifting up from the road as we drive along. Camping spots were quite boring and were normally where we just pulled off of the side of the road once it was getting dark. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world and it was quite a drive to cross it.
The only place of note that we passed through on our journey was a town called Semey, which had a sad story. In 1949 the Soviet atomic bomb programme selected a site on the steppe 150km west of the city as the location for its weapons testing. The Soviet Union carried out hundreds of nuclear tests for many years, and the results have not been good. The people of Semey suffer from high rates of cancer and birth defects. You can even visit the anatomical museum in Semey, which apparently has a gruesome collection of babies and embryos with horrible deformities caused by the nuclear radiation. We didn’t pay the weird babies a visit – the museum was closed by the time we arrived and a place I wasn’t 100% sure about visiting. Had a nice Pizza in the town before driving out to find somewhere to camp. There have been no visible after effects of eating the pizza.


After another night camping in the middle of nowhere, we crossed the border into Russia and drove up to Barnaul in South Western Siberia. This was a proper hectic city but it had obvious signs of westernization including McDonalds and many other fast food outlets and malls. We met up with a Kiwi team here and planned to drive in convoy with them across mongolia, a few more people to push or dig might come in useful. We had our dashcam on in Russia, after seeing many 100s of youtube videos I was expecting the worst but they were not that badly behaved and I have no footage of note to share.
We had spoken to some French guys in Barnaul who were working near by and they said we were in for a surprise when we leave the city and drive out into the Altai mountains. Our drive out was delayed as the other team were stocking up on warmer sleeping bags etc. and also we stocked up on crisps and a few other bits. Our food supplies from the uk had been lasting well but we were getting a little bored of pasta and stir in sauces.


They were not wrong, the scenery was beautiful. Everything from the mountains, to the lakes to the clouds were all spectacular. There were many signs for outdoor adventure sports, white water rafting, mountain biking etc and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have time to stop and partake in something. This really was a place you could picture Putin with his shirt off riding a horse or shooting a deer.
We used an app called overlander to locate a campsite which people had stayed at before. Most people who use the overlander app travel in large 4x4s kitted out with everything including the kitchen sink. The road to the campsite was steep, uphill and gravel so it was a challenge for our 1 litre cars and after a couple of attempts we made it to the top. Sadly though the top was an aerial mast, the trees were overgrown so there was no view and not a lot of space, we went a little further down the hill and pulled off to a small grassy area. It wasn’t long after we got out that we noticed this area had a large amount of used wet wipes and small wrappers lying around.. Hopefully us staying there for the night didn’t ruin some local’s love life.


We headed for the mongolian border next morning and were slightly apprehensive as we heard it can take hours and also we would have to say goodbye to the great Russian roads we had just been driving on. There were horror stories of cars being written off due to accidents and breakdowns. It wasn’t long after crossing the border that we saw the first victim but more about that later.
The border went as badly as most, on the mongolian side they were all due to go home and we were the last group they were letting trough. Due to an issue with our visa which had to be checked by the seniors we found ourselves at the back of the queue. By the time we were ready to have the car processed the computer system had gone down and they wanted us to come back tomorrow. The other team had already gone through at this time so we were left stranded. We said we were willing to wait.. (where else could we go, we had been stamped out of Russia and couldn’t go into mongolia so there wasn’t much more we could do. The other option was to sleep at the border until the morning.) They eventually conceded and stayed back and eventually the computers started working again, unsure how long it took but the official had time to go out, smoke a cigarette and return, try the computer again and then repeat for 4 times.

Eventually 8.500 miles later we were in.. in mongolia. luckily the other team had waited just after the border.
At the border we met another rallier (Trevor) who we had spoken to in Goodwood and also in Prague. He was doing the rally on a 125 motorbike. This time though he was in a BMW and a Russian registered one. I asked Trevor where his bike was and he limped over to the car and opened the rear door. Inside was his bike. Well part of it, there was a frame and a few bits of clothing I then continued to ask him what happened and he stood back and raised his top, he had a bruise from his shoulder blade all down one side in a lovely shade of reds and purples. He had been hit by a horse/he hit a horse. Basically he was going along on the road and there were horses walking on both sides of the road. He moved the centre and drove straight trough. This si something we did 100’s of times in the car without issue, this time for Trevor though one of the horses decided to make a run accros the road, directly infront of him and the last thing he remembers seeing was a brown flash and then down on the road. Luckily it seemed to just be lots of bruising and a bike in many pieces. In the true spirit of the rally though he wanted to finish and also wanted to get his bike there too so he bought an old 5 series and planned to drive that and his bike to the finish line.



After we crossed the border we drove about 20km and saw a Fiat Panda parked on a track parallel to the road. There was nobody around and we presumed they maybe were walking to the town which we knew was not too far from the border. As we entered the town we were chased down by a local on a motorbike who’s motive was to get us all to stay in his hotel. He said we just passed it and I had the suspicious feeling that he meant the small house on the corner with a ger outside and yes that was it. He promised Yak meat, local beer and vodka and a place to sleep all for $5 dollars each. We thought about it for a second and in the spirit of experiencing local life we all agreed why not.

The house was lovely and toasty and we were offered tea made with horses milk or yak milk, I am not sure if we ever found out.





After sitting in the warmth for ten minutes the guy came back in to get us and wanted us to go with him. With a little bit of broken English and hand gestures we understood that he wanted us to go lift the car that had broken down and put it in the back of a truck. We went to another locals house and found the owner of the Panda in the yard waiting on some locals to finish unloading an old soviet era truck. When it was unloaded we jumped in only to drive to the petrol station, firstly yes there was a petrol station, very small and only had benzene, which this truck was. V8 petrol. We were then on our way. The driver did not drive slowly on the rough roads and most of the time we were in the back hanging on by our fingers. The sun was also starting to set and the temperature was dropping fast. We hadn’t gone far before we had to stop, the truck had many water leaks and was starting to overheat. We pulled up next to a lake and after sometime the radiator cap was removed and water added. We had another 25 litre drum which was also filled, which we needed again in a short few kilometers when we had to repeat the exercise. At this stage we were wondering if we would make it at all. If it needs this much water empty how will it perform with a car on the back.
The truck was a simple flat bed with the bed about 5feet from the ground. The car although small was not something we would have been able to lift to this height. I think there were 6 of us in total but that would have still been too much. Luckily a bank was spotted beside the road and the truck reversed up to it. It was now just a case of pushing the car over and taking a run at it to get it up and into the truck. On it went without much trouble. After a few stops for water on the return 10km we eventually were back near the hotel. A similar bank was found and the car was unloaded onto some wheels and down to ground level. The issue was the drive shaft so the plan was to fix it in the morning.




We were glad to get back inside that night to the warm fire, the food and also the vodka. It seemed like we were an attraction for he locals and after the vodka had flowed the music started on an old Kazak 2 string guitar. The locals I think were disappointed when we were wanting to go to bed, I think they were hoping for longer night but after a long day we were happy to put our heads down. The hotel was one room, we got out sleeping matts and bags and found some space and got some sleep.

Over the next two days we drove around 700km, sometimes on dirt and gravel tracks, and sometimes on smooth tarmac. We passed through the towns of Olgii, Khovd and Altai, and camped by some yurts and then in the wild mongolian desert, where we were joined by two other teams. The sky at night was beautifully clear and the milky way was easily seen. It was obvious also that mongolia is putting a lot of money into the infrastructure with large well paved raods being constructed. Sadly though they were not all open to traffic yet. This may change the challenge of the mongol rally in a few years.








Burning yak/camel/horse/cattle dung on a fire. Burned pretty well too. No trees to be found in the desert. Our clothes had an interesting smell that night in our tents.

We knew that from Altai to the next big town of Bayankhongor there were no roads. For 270km we would have to drive Martha (the micra) off-road. We had heard rumours from other teams that this was the worst stretch of the entire mongol Rally. It had claimed the lives of many perfectly healthy and happy cars. Martha had been perfect so far, but we knew that she could die at any time. We resolved to stick together as a convoy of four cars, and set off on what we assumed would be the hardest, scariest and most adventurous part of our whole journey. We changed her front tyres for a couple of free Yokohama forestry tyres we had been given before we left and this was the time to try them out.

We had thought the off-road driving would be very slow and rough but actually mongolia is quite a sandy and rather stoney country so the gravel roads and even fields were not that rough. They were bone shakers if driven slowly but if you were willing to increase the speed and bear the rattle until you were over 30 mph then it all seemed to smoothen out. The micra loved it. The only issue were large rocks or stones and when these were spotted and couldn’t be avoided the decision was often to “use the sumpguard” and not risk hitting a tyre off some of them. There were also some gravel tracks which snaked across the countryside. Picking the right one was often a tricky choice but on the whole they normally met back up near the next town, bridge or crossing somewhere. These tracks often moved over and back across other tracks and when one patch got to rough or maybe too wet in winter people just went around it. This created lovely flowing tracks and some with even slight banks on the outside of the corners. The micra loved changing direction on this and sliding from side to side at 50+ mph with very little grip. There was always the risk of hitting something large so it too a lot of concentration to avoid everything. Luckily we escaped without any damage and loved every minute of it. We had to change a front coil spring on one of the other cars, a fiat punto and luckily they had a spare and with the help of some ratchet straps as spring compressors they were back on the road. There were also a number of punctures but with towns about 150km apart it wasn’t too long before a new tube could be fitted or a tyre repaired.




We did however meet another team who had also been having a completely damage free rally and were now looking for a tow truck to get them back to ulaan bataar. It seems they hit a bump/step before a bridge which seemed to be such a jolt that it broke the engine mounts and the engine was now sat with a cracked sump about 4 inches to low and to the right. There was no obvious damage to the sumpgaurd so it was a tricky one to explain. Their rally was over and were just on a recovery mission. It did make us think about how we had been driving and also how we should drive in the future. It was also going to hurt the pocket as the best deal they could get was $600 to get the car the remaining distance to ulaan bataar. It wasn’t long before the flow of the roads or fields took over again and we were back to 60+ miles per hour driving across green plains.

As darkness fell, we pulled off the road with the three other teams and camped in the mongolian desert again. As mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world, we didn’t have to try too hard to find a spare bit of space!



The next morning we had a decision to make: try and get to Ulaanbaatar as quickly as possible, or detour for a bit more off-road fun and some sight seeing. Team Fiat to Believe it had a rapidly expiring visa so had to head straight to Ulaanbaatar, but the rest of us opted for a slower pace and some more exploring. It was felt that we hadn’t really been fully off road and there must be more challenges that we could take on. This you might think is stuipid being so close to finishing and wanting to do more than necessary but for us and the other teams it was more about being in mongolia and would we ever be back there to this ever again.

Next we ventured off-road looking for some hot springs. After taking a few different tracks, stopping to ask for directions at a village where I had a go at miming which didn’t give us any results! Then driving back on ourselves again, we found a strange holiday resort with a small pool of hot water. As this was day six without a shower for all of us, it didn’t take much time or much persuading for us to hop out of our dirty clothes and into the warm water.

One of the guys from the other teams had disappeared and when he returned, it was with an interesting story. Some nearby locals had insisted he visit their house to see their dead Marmot, drink their fermented horse’s milk and watch Titanic (unfortunately, not in English). Thankfully, we didn’t miss out, as the same locals followed him back to the pool and insisted we all drink the horse milk and come to visit the dead Marmot when we were finished in the hot spring. Another random experience.

After a bit more driving, we pulled over near some yurts in search of a place to stay. One woman invited us to stay in her Ger (mongolian yurt) with her and her two daughters for a small fee, and made us a very large meal of goat, noodles and potato. As we ate and warmed ourselves by the fire, she then tried to tell us the story (several times) of how her eldest daughter was conceived.

Despite the language barrier, her detailed mimes gave us a good idea of what had happened. Approximately nine years and nine months ago, a man called Michael had come to visit, stayed with her for two nights, got her pregnant, and then flew back to Germany and left her. He may also have visited Paris. We don’t know whether Michael is aware he has a daughter in the middle of mongolia, but if anyone knows a Michael (probably from Germany), who visited mongolia nine years and nine months ago, there is an angry woman looking for him.






On our sixth day of driving we reached Ulaanbaatar and entered the city. The country is very sparsely populated but nearly half the people live in the city. It was crammed and took half an hour to drive 500m. The government have been trying to reduce congestion by having a car free day and also trying to stop cars with certain regs enetering the city on a rotation system. The driving standard was not good either. The cars were 90+% hybrids. More Prius’ than you will ever see anywhere. I believe it’s due to the cold weather and it allows them to always be able to start the car in winter. They were everywhere and in forms I have never seen before, hybrid jeeps, vans and even mini buses.

The city was interesting, visited a few sites and museum and of course went to the Genghis Kahn statue 50km outside the city. A man responsible for 40 million deaths but also respected as the founder of a nation. There was only handful of people visiting this great statue even though it was planned and set up to accept 1000s.



The finish line for the rally is now officially in Ulan Ude in Russia but seeing as it’s the mongol rally we really felt like we made it when we were in mongolia. We also knew the road from Ulaan bataar to ulaan ude wa not too bad and the worst was over.




acer12

716 posts

109 months

Monday 11th September 2017
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great trip & write up, muncho jealous. Fair play for undertaking this epic trip, itll make lifelong memories.

RC1807

7,593 posts

103 months

Monday 11th September 2017
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91Cooper said:
Despite the language barrier, her detailed mimes gave us a good idea of what had happened. Approximately nine years and nine months ago, a man called Michael had come to visit, stayed with her for two nights, got her pregnant, and then flew back to Germany and left her. He may also have visited Paris. We don’t know whether Michael is aware he has a daughter in the middle of mongolia, but if anyone knows a Michael (probably from Germany), who visited mongolia nine years and nine months ago, there is an angry woman looking for him.
laugh

Great write up, OP!

DamnKraut

285 posts

34 months

Monday 11th September 2017
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Great thread, thanks a lot for sharing. Sounds like an adventure you will tell your kids and grand kids in years to come. Wish you safe travels for the final leg. Any ideas already what you will do with the brave little Micra? Will it come back with you to the UK?
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carreauchompeur

15,483 posts

139 months

Monday 11th September 2017
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This isn't the Micra that was parked at Wootton Courtenay for ages was it? Saw it all stickered up outside a house and always wanted to have a chat when passing,

Kev_Mk3

732 posts

30 months

Wednesday 13th September 2017
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Read half the thread so far and its bloody fantastic

91Cooper

Original Poster:

30 posts

44 months

Sunday 10th December 2017
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Apologies to those wondering what has happened the car. I will follow on from our time in mongolia.

In the last update we were in Ulaanbaatar and left to drive North into Siberia to the finish line in Ulan Ude. The rally now finishes here for a number of reasons, mainly mongolia now has better cars than those which partake in the mongol rally and don’t want any more reject cars and also Ulan Ude is a major stop on the Trans Siberian railway so shipping a car back to Europe is easy from here.




mongolia is the largest importer of hybrids (no cold weather starts). Photo was just of an office car park.




If you want to have your car scrapped it has to be shipped to Europe and scrapped in Estonia, likewise if you want your car again then you have the option of driving it out of Russia, back to Europe or to have it shipped back and collect it from the depot.

All along our original plan was to have the car shipped back and scrapped but after the workmanship that went into making the roof rack and sump guard and also the fact we have not had any issues with the car at all it seemed to good to scrap. We weighed up all the options and discussed who would actually use the car if we shipped it back to the UK? It is a 21 year old Nissan Micra, no power steering, 120+ thousand miles and may in the future become a classic (people wanting the car they learned to drive in or their first car?) This may be the case but as we are continuing on travelling we would have to pay somewhere to store the car in a gamble that it would be worthwhile. So in a last attempt to find a solution we advertised Martha online and in the mongol Rally forums and found a team who were driving to Ulan Ude also but they had damaged the sump of their fiesta near the finish line. It was a zetec fiesta with a alloy sump and basically there was a mounting plate left, very useful if you wanted to inspect the big ends.

They hadn’t booked flights and needed a form of transport so that they could all get back to the UK. After some messaging we arranged to meet them in Siberia and give them the car. As to what would happen the car when they got to Europe was to be discussed later but for the moment Martha would get to live on and drive another 6,500 km.

We headed after filling in the Tax book, making the change online with the DVLA and giving them a receipt we said goodbye to the car and wished them on their way. We thought this might be the last of them but we did hear from them again and not because the car had broken down. More on that to come.

There was a benefit on having the car driven out of the country, this saved us the cost of shipping. I will try to explain: When doing the mongol rally you have to pay a deposit of £1000 which is to ensure you don’t abandon the car somewhere and is then used to cover the shipping cost if you and your car arrive safe and sound at the finish line. Even if you do abandon the car the owner is normally tracked down by the country as all details are recorded when entering a country and if you try leave without the car there can be trouble. This was our biggest fear when we handed over the car as we would now have to leave Russia without a car. Fingers and toes crossed.

So by allowing them to drive the car back to Europe meant that we would be able to have our deposit returned to us after they take a photo of the car beside a European road sign with a newspaper. This should mean the car is in Europe on certain date and place. This was fine and the guys were happy to do this when they left Russia.


Trail left after an unlucky car in Russia.. Not us so dont worry.

We headed East on the Trans Siberian Railway to Vladivostok where we were due to get a flight over/close to North Korea to South Korea. If you want to read our review on the Trans Siberian railway check out the blog post on our website. It does involve drunk gold miners with pen knives.

We left Russia without an issue, customs stamped our passports with no mention of the car. We thought this would be the end of the car paperwork but not just yet…

The other team was not so lucky, they arrived at the border just after we had left Russia and the officials were not allowing them to leave as the owner was not with the car. They had a tough time and after a number of hours contacted us for our help, sadly we were not in Russia (and about 15,000km from them but we did write stating why we were not with the car and also that we could not collect it. Photos of our exit stamps etc. Also included a note of medical nature stating that we couldn’t return again, luckily Seoul had printers and internet cafes. ) This seamed to do the trick and they were allowed to leave.

What happened the car? Well actually we are not sure. We presume was scrapped, it was left in Estonia in a yard for scrapping so we can only presume…

It was a great experience and the car, Martha, performed perfectly with no issues for us or for the guys who drove her back to Europe. Without doubt a perfect car for doing the trip in.




Or is it? Micra estate, same reliability with a little more space, would be better if traveling with 4 people!.

We have written a number of blog posts on shaneandgeorgia.com which include our tips, What the Rally really cost? And Is the adventure dead? Please head over and take a look. Especially will be usefull if you are planning on taking on the rally.

You can also keep track of our recent travel there too. We are still on the road. Thank you all for reading.


Edited by 91Cooper on Sunday 10th December 11:50


Edited by 91Cooper on Sunday 10th December 14:24

Kev_Mk3

732 posts

30 months

Sunday 10th December 2017
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Thats a March Box

Great little cars

MB140

1,222 posts

38 months

Sunday 10th December 2017
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Epic journey, not sure I would have the bottle with some of these countries.

99PBATR

129 posts

13 months

Sunday 10th December 2017
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The very best to you. I hope you raise a lot of money and awareness. Great to see people doing positive things to help others. biggrin

Edited by 99PBATR on Sunday 10th December 20:08

James2593

264 posts

72 months

Tuesday 12th December 2017
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Excellent write up. Lovely to read over a beer.

I've always wanted to do the mongol rally, sadly friends that are interested don't have the couple of thousand notes spare to do it. I fear when the time comes, life will have changed and I no longer have the time to do something like this.

I can only imagine the happiness that your <£300 car with ratchet straps holding the front suspension in place and tennis balls inside the rear springs coughs into Ullan Battar (sp?) after many nights in a tent by the side of the road and teeth shattered by poor roads. If they can even be considered roads. What an adventure.

Cambs_Stuart

322 posts

19 months

Tuesday 12th December 2017
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Amazing write up. Sounds like a real "once in a lifetime" adventure.

Vaud

29,848 posts

90 months

Tuesday 12th December 2017
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James2593 said:
I've always wanted to do the mongol rally, sadly friends that are interested don't have the couple of thousand notes spare to do it. I fear when the time comes, life will have changed and I no longer have the time to do something like this.
So? Join new groups and clubs and find additional friends who could.

Life is too short!

git-r

942 posts

134 months

Tuesday 12th December 2017
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Thank you for sharing this with us, thoroughly enjoyed reading about it and will now check out your website.

Wow!

That must’ve been the trip of a lifetime!!

smilesmilesmile

91Cooper

Original Poster:

30 posts

44 months

Friday 15th December 2017
quotequote all
James2593 said:
Excellent write up. Lovely to read over a beer.

I've always wanted to do the mongol rally, sadly friends that are interested don't have the couple of thousand notes spare to do it. I fear when the time comes, life will have changed and I no longer have the time to do something like this.

I can only imagine the happiness that your <£300 car with ratchet straps holding the front suspension in place and tennis balls inside the rear springs coughs into Ullan Battar (sp?) after many nights in a tent by the side of the road and teeth shattered by poor roads. If they can even be considered roads. What an adventure.
Hi James,

There are always teams who are looking for people to take part. If you do a search fo mongol Rally 2018 you are bound to find someone who has a car but looking for passengers. The more passengers you have the more some of the costs reduce when split.

91Cooper

Original Poster:

30 posts

44 months

Friday 15th December 2017
quotequote all


It has been a great trip and we would definitly recommend it. We had a great time but were lucky/unlucky we had a great car. Lucky becuase we made it with no issues and had a great trip but also unlucky as we didn't have any breakdowns or got stuck anywhere, all of which would all add to the adventure. (a team did finish in a moris minor and had many more stories!)

Thank you all for the kind words and if you want to read more about our trip or just to read the mongol Rally tips just pop over to our blog.

GEFAFWISP

84 posts

26 months

Friday 15th December 2017
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Really pleased to see your updates on this - I will definitely be bookmarking the blog for a read over the festive period.

I take my hat off to you and your missus, sounds like an amazing honeymoon! Good luck with the rest of your travels if you are still on the road smile