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.
Friday, 24 June 2016
Rally Day 12
Tomorrow is a rest day.
We spent the night in what seemed to be a lakeside holiday resort dedicated to keep fit. There was weightlifting equipment in the car park and unfeasibly athletic teenagers running hard down the main road. At the hotel there was a car mobbing as we arrived with autograph books being shoved through car windows and crowds of holidaymakers taking pictures around the car park.
This had been our first night in a hotel since Ulaan Bataar, we hand washed all our clothes and the shower ran black with grit. I proudly offered to deploy my travel wash line but we had no time and the clothes didn't dry.
At last we didn't have to use the campsite drop toilets - Richard and I had discussed which of our possessions we would be willing to recover had they fallen into the desert pits and very little was on the list.
Once again today the rally went though villages located miles down remote dirt tracks. No shops, no pub, no doctor no school. There are a lot of WW2 memorials and typically with 30 or 40 names on in a village with maybe 100 houses. Everyone in the villages was excited to see us, one boy did cartwheels in the road in front of the car and another ran the best part of half a kilometre in the heat so that he could have a selfie with us.
But most of the day was taken up with long stretches on Tarmac into Novosibirsk and the appalling traffic around the city. As the Buick weighs two tons overtaking is difficult so we ground behind slow lorries for miles. I did manage to get into the fast lane of the M way into the city only to discover that cars often turn left into the opposing carriageway unaware that two tons of metal on 80 year old drum brakes was about to make contact with them unless they got out of the way right this second.
Worst of all we broke down twice once with the rotor arm problem I've already described and then in the fast lane a mile from to the hotel. Fortunately Gary the Sweep was just behind us and got us going - one of the carburettor floats is sticking.
So the rumour in the hotel is that the waitresses are all part time ballerinas - the opera house is opposite. They all wear pumps, are petite and move elegantly. Richard has a plan to find out.
We've been given a suite in the Marriott which is now festooned with the wet clothes from the last hotel. I finally got to put up my travel wash line and draped it with my underpants. When we came back from dinner it had collapsed and in an ironic gesture all the underpants had dropped into the toilet basin.
Some photos of typical locals for amusement. Next time we are doing the rally in a Polski Fiat.