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.
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Rally Day 17
As far as I know this is a 35 day event that we are half way through, but like everything else here it's not so simple. Apparently if you take rest days into account the half way point is in two days time. Whatever the truth I can say that I'm now pretty exhausted and to be honest I had a low point this morning when yet again the car had the same old problems and we spent an hour by the roadside.
The sweeps were fantastic as ever and this time we changed the points and the plugs and stopped the persistent oil leak. We now have a new theory as to why we keep breaking down, which is that the oil spewing from the filter is getting into the distributor and causing ignition problems. Might be right.
Anyway we abandoned one of the competing theories which was that a vacuum was being created in the fuel tank, and put back the rubber seal on the petrol cap.
I'm sure I'm not spoiling the suspense by saying that the car behaved perfectly until the old problems returned just as we arrived at the hotel. Bugger bugger bugger bugger and bugger.
We are finally out of Siberia - God what a place. 500 years of fighting over who owns it and for what? Silver Birch trees, insects the size of your hands and wet fields - oh and somewhere to exile people. It's minus thirty in winter and plus thirty in summer unless it's torrentially raining which it often does.
Siberia breaks people. We've been delighted by the children we've met in the villages so full of country life and healthy outdoor living. But we've also seen how worked out and exhausted the adults are. Beaten by a hard life on this unrelenting land.
So what was the point of fighting over Siberia? Well, this is not a land to be enjoyed for it's beauty or majesty or wildlife (although mammoth and bears and wolves lived here once). This is land for exploiting. It's a place to grow wheat for Moscow and to dig for iron, copper, coal and to cut timber - all for factories far away. It's a place to hide things, political prisoners, religious non conformists, secret factories and even Lenin's body during WW2.
In another world Siberia could have been one of the world's great ecosystems. But it has been made almost sterile by its terrible 500 year Russian colonisation.
Tomorrow we are back in Europe.