The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Rally Day 11
Crossing the border was hilarious. The rally was the only traffic allowed to cross today so dozens of truck drivers had to pull over to let us pass - they didn't seem to mind. The crossing took hours, with paperwork like a game where various stamps had to be collected from different windows. We were all asked the weight and mileage of our cars, which none of us knew, and bizarrely everyone said 60,000 miles and 2 tons until it started to become obviously made up. Not to be outdone by the officials, Richard stamped our papers with his special 'I am a Doctor' stamp. It made no difference and we had to wait just as long as everyone else.
More horror stories came out whilst we were queuing. One fragile car decided not to take the rally route yesterday but instead to go round on the A road. This turned out to be even tougher than the official course. The crew had to be rescued by a village English teacher who organised a tractor to get them across the river. Exhausted, they camped by the roadside that night.
We are now in camp where the locals have turned out to admire the cars and I met some of my Russian blog fans.
I ventured to Owen Turner that we had reached peak carnage on the rally but he disagreed saying that tomorrow is another very tough day. Gulp.
I've now lost all sense of time as we cross more time zones. There seems to have been a two hour jump today from Mongolia into Russia. It's the same Altai mountains, the same landscape the same people but now time is different. Other things have changed too. The characters on the signs are still Cyrillic but now they spell out Russian and not Mongolian, and the Islamic influence is much more obvious with little mosques instead of the shamanistic roadside Ovoos in Mongolia. The houses here are smarter the cars are better and the roads, thank god, are much, much better. We are still in a frontier environment but it feels like, say, Alaska rather than Mars.