The Mission

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.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Rally Day 24

I know this is the wrong thing to say, but what a huge relief it is not to have to march to the beat of clocking in and out of rally checkpoints and having a rally time card run your life. There's a part of me that says hang the sodding rally and let's just get the car going and have an old fashioned saunter through Russia and into Europe, enjoying whatever and whoever we find on our way.

But, over breakfast, that option quickly disappears. We've got two problems. First the car is only 80% fit for purpose and we are facing over 2,000 kilometres before we can get out of Russia. So far Rhubarb and Custard hasn't gone more than 250km without breaking down. There's a strong chance of being stranded in a Russian forest and then what happens?

Second problem, our visas expire in 3 days so we have to be out of Russia by then. What's more our Belarusian visa is only valid for a three day window of time. I don't think Belarus is place to be with the wrong paperwork.

We've got three options. We can take the car as it is and see how we get on. Richard feels this is the default but I'm dead nervous about it. I'm afraid I've turned on Rhubarb and Custard in the way that zoo keepers look at an animal that's become a man killer. I think there's a fundamental problem with this car which can't be solved just with Russian goodwill and hard work.

Second option is to leave the car here and fly home - let the transport company in the U.K. sort this mess out. If we flew back now we could drive my BMW roadster out to Hungary and meet the rally for the leg through Western Europe. This is definitely the sane option but it feels like giving up. The burnt out Rolls Royce was refurbished in Ulaan Bataar and driven night and day across Mongolia and Russia to meet the rally in Kazan so where's my spirit of derring do?

Last idea is to have the car put on a truck and sent to, well somewhere, to meet the rally whilst we fly. This will cut at least 2,000 km of unsupported driving off our route. But if Rhubarb and Custard is broken this just all puts off the inevitable engine collapse for a few more days.

The only thing to be done is to go back to the garage, turn the key and see how we feel. It's going to be sentiment not logic that rules the day.

But all bets are off when we arrive at the workshop. One of our mechanics has driven over a carburettor specialist to look at the car and it's all in bits again. There's nothing for us to do but sit on the pavement outside and drink tea. I'm feeling more Russian every day.


  1. I hope they manage to get R & C running well enough for you to catch up, although the BMW option does sound tempting! How about buying a vintage Lada? Good luck.

  2. Hoping the Russian Fairy Godmother waves her wand and stops the custard curdling. No-one can say that your hearts aren't in this 100% no matter which option you end up choosing or pulling out of a hat. Rhubarb & Custard has won my heart.