Day 37 - SoD - Rescue Me by Fontella Bass
We woke up next to the river which had thankfully not risen during the night and set off on the daunting journey of a 10 hour drive in order to keep to our schedule.
On the way we bumped into two other rally teams, one of whom had been abandoned by his two team members and was now tagging along with the other team.
Other than a brief chat with these ralliers this was a very long day with big shifts of driving put in by each of the Vagilas.
We pulled off the road in Kazakhstan into a beautiful little gorge and had a classic pasta meal which didn’t seem to sit right with 2/3 of the Vagilas. We had good beers, some wild poos, and a lot of political chat about the House of Lords.
Day 38 - SoD - Broken Bones by Kaleo
James and Chris woke up feeling very sick, probably the result of the sweaty 2 day old sausage from the night before. The mood was poor as the tent was packed and the long day started.
The day largely passed without any significant moments, with all team members putting in the shifts behind the wheel as we headed for the Russian border. We passed the two teams of ralliers who had unfortunately had an incident of friendly fire the previous night, with one car a suspected write off.
The Russian border thankfully was quick and easy this time around. After a short drive in Russia, we found a quite lakeside camp spot that would have been incredible if it weren’t for the hordes of mosquitoes and smell of faeces.
Day 39 - SoD - Drop the Game by Flume, Nick Murphy
We woke up by a lake in Russia which it seemed, had more mosquitoes than water. After comparing bites and having a quick breakfast we set off for Barnaul to try to replenish our contingency dollars after spending most of them on replacing Aggie suspension at the last big town before the Mongolian border.
The town itself proved to be very lovely and after a bit of general getting in the way at some banks and a bit more mooching about in the town we set off to get as close to the border as possible that eve and ended up camping in a lovely little river side campsite in the mountains.
The site itself seemed to have some Russian scouts camping nearby, so James’ noncey shoes were quickly locked away out of sight. After a classically terrible pasta meal we settled down to bed, glad to have finished a long day of driving.
Day 40 - SoD - Since you’ve been gone by Rainbow
This morning we woke up at the crack of dawn (6am) and drove speedily to get into the queue to cross the Mongolian border. On arrival we were told by some ralliers that they had been waiting there for 2 hours. After a while of being sat stationary in the car tensions were high and the final straw came when Chris released his fourth fart of the day (last night’s meal was having its effect) and James locked him out of the car for 5 minutes.
The border was slow and painful; we had to compete with a bus load of people who seemed to have endless bags and endless problems with the border guards. Once through, our insurance was bought for us by a border guard and we stopped and had some dumplings and Mongolian milk (like sweet yoghurt) at a cafe and Chris could finally relieve his bowels. We bought some SIM cards and were on our way, amazed at the scale and tranquility of Mongolia.
At the first town we stopped at to get petrol we were hounded by local children wearing mongol rally stash, whose parents told us “everyone gives gifts to the children”. With nothing to give we threw most of our sweets at the children which seemed to suffice and scampered on to find our first campsite.
We drove off the road towards a lake but we were caught out by the perspective and realised the lake was about 3km off-road rather than the 500m we had previously thought. We camped up and enjoyed the beautiful stars. The eery silence made it surprisingly difficult to fall asleep but James saved the day as he snored like Yak which meant the silence was gone and the other Vagilas were able to fall asleep quickly (not).
Day 41 - SoD - On top of the world by Imagine Dragons
We awoke from our first night in Mongolia, having found that the nights here are blisteringly cold.
The day started with a few quick attempt at purchasing some lunch but soon found that bread, cheese etc are not part of the Mongolian staple. Choco pies would have to suffice.
The roads were, for the most part, very well kept, which was a pleasant surprise compared to the shit in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
As the sun set we pulled off the road and set about exploring the wild. The first camping spot was vetoed by Tat for being the apparent site of satanic rituals, but the second spot proved to be perfect. With some emergency rations and alpha spirit on the go, the vagilas settled in for another chilled evening.
Day 42 -SoD - Unsteady by X Ambassadors
We work up pleasantly surprised to find ourselves still in full human form after our campsite on the suspected satanic ritual venue.
We then drove back to the road and contained along good roads to the fork where the “Southern Route” left the main road.
Initially the track was well defined and easy to follow, as the day continued the track because more of a series of confusing paths so we eventually decided to choose the path nearest to the map position and hope for the best.
In the afternoon we came across an unmarked ford (a massive river, with 4 distinct large channels to be crossed) and a petrol station. Both of which clearly hadn’t been used for decades. This left us with a conundrum, either: attempt the ford and risk drowning Aggie; turn back and drive 4 hours of known tracks or cut across country and find the bridge approximately 50k away.
We opted for the cross country plan so set off due north parallel to the river in search of the bridge.
Along the way night fell so we put the tent up, tucked into some surprisingly tasty dried noodles and enjoyed the clearest stars and rockiest ground so far.
Day 43 - SoD - Car wash by Rose Royce
We woke up and continued the cross country drive to the bridge. Thankfully the bridge existed, as did a second bridge over a later river.
We took the opportunity to dive into what seemed like a beautiful river, and all Vagilas took to getting in in their pants and having a well deserved wash after 9 days of smelling pretty bad. Clothes and bodies were washed, with James even opting to wash just one of his shoes. Chris created a makeshift shower out of a pile of stones and filled some water bottles with river water. The Vagilas took turns “slooshing” each other with the bottles and then settled down for some spicy pot noodles. When eating we witnessed the cows on the other side of the river urinating in it and we all suddenly felt a bit less clean.
We drove on an camped by a lake that had quite a few noisy ducks which James assured would “shut up in a bit”. The Vagilas had tinned horse and cow for dinner which turned out to be the beginning of the end for Tat.
Day 44 - SoD - Rain on your parade by Duffy
The lakeside was alive with the sound of geese at 9am as the vagilas woke from a peaceful night. At least 2 of us did, as Tat’s insides were running so much as to put Mo Farah to shame.
The plan for the day was to have a relaxed afternoon driving and do the now infamous camp by river routine, but as Tat began to feel worse, we decided to push to Ulaanbaatar that night.
After additional shifts from Chris and some Georgian style road rage from James, we thankfully arrived at a guest house in the capital. Tat immediately hit the pillows and was out so fast, even her stomach had no chance to respond.
The boys, a mix of hungry and suitably concerned for their teammate, decided to head out for pizza. With the meal finished, the search for beer began, but we were informed by a local that the 1st day of each month was national alcohol free. He kindly offered to host us for a few beers with the boys back at his house but, with James and Chris too tired to party, this was politely declined.
Day 23 - SoD - Old Town Road by Lil Nas X
We awoke once again to a shocking revelation. The field we had selected under cover of darkness was the breeding ground for a swarm of locusts, which pestered the team throughout breakfast. Many were killed by Aggie’s windscreen as we made a speedy exit.
The border city of Astrakhan was next in line and we pushed forward through the day but Russia had now turned into a wasteland with not much to see.
Astrakhan itself was a busy city that promised the chance for a big camping fuel shop and a comfy bed. Unfortunately the former proved challenging to find, and only by a mixture of poor Russian attempts and begging did we get one of the staff to use her membership card so we could buy the items required.
The night stop cost a grand total of £7.80 for the 3 of us, and it was easy to see why when looking at the beds and showers. After swallowing our pride and having a much needed wash we headed for a restaurant to try the local food with all vagilas trying something a little different, and James boldly selecting a horse dish, a choice he soon regretted.
Day 24 - SoD - New Shoes Paolo Nutini
We awoke in Astrakhan in our supreme hotel chosen by Chris and quickly made our way to the Kazakhstan border.
The border was a fairly informal affair with a large confusing drive between the two countries and a very rickety pontoon bridge but after not too long we were through and onto the worst roads in the world.
The roads took their toll on us and more importantly Aggie with one of her hub caps getting shaken off and then the replacement one we found (on the side of the “road” - presumably from another victim of pothole hell)
As darkness fell we put the tent up in another wild camp with a non rattling sleeping bag being a welcome relief.
Day 25 - SoD - Tribute by Tenacious D
Leaving our initial Kazakhstan camping spot, we headed to Atyrau. Here we stumbled across a shopping centre and did a huge food shop. Unfortunately, the cashier would not sell us the tins of unlabelled mystery meat, nor would she sell us James’ choice of “flip-flops” which can only have been a good thing.
We continued deeper into Kazakhstan on the pot-hole riddled roads. Having pulled off to our usual off the motorway camping spot we set up the tent for another night of pasta and light sleep. However this time, as James found out, we were accompanied by a plague of scorpions who had decided that under our tent was the best place for them to hide. Following this shock, the nights sleep was not a good one. It’s safe to say that the Vagilas definitely prefer locusts to scorpions.
Day 26 - SoD - Long road to ruin by Foo Fighters
We woke from our night with the scorpions to another beautiful morning on the plains of the Stans. Our morning routine was smashed out in record time so we could get on towards the border.
We arrived at the border and the boys began to have a slight wobble about visa requirements, but some frantic map and passport waving at the guards soon confirmed that they had no idea what we were on about. Taking this as a good sign, we waited in line for customs.
The queue looked incredibly long but as we were Mongol Rally (or maybe just foreigners) we were fast tracked through the whole process with smiles and handshakes being exchanged as we moved through.
On the Uzbek side, the usual sight awaited with several “legitimate” money exchanging ladies waving and following the car. Once we pulled over for insurance we were swarmed and if it weren’t for James having pre-downloaded the exchange rate as a bargaining tool, the team would have been rinsed for all we had.
The roads were slow and tough on Aggie so we once again had to pull off and camp long before we glimpsed any civilisation.
Day 27 - SoD - Yellow Submarine Beatles
The day began as normal waking from our this time scorpion free campsite.
We meet on the road our first ralliers in 5/6 days Dan and Adrian of team Grandad who after shouting at each other through open windows we established were going a similar direction and we set off guided by then on a slight detour to the ship grave yard in the Aral Sea which had been on chris’ (admittedly fairly short) list of things to do in Uzbekistan for months.
The ships in the now dried up sea were amazing and after getting Aggie unstuck from the sand with the help of some very kind local people we set of in search of cash.
This journey took us to Nukus and after some ATM dramas and a very helpful local man giving us a lift to the national bank of Uzbekistan (we think, his English was only slightly better than our Uzbek) we established that our foreign cards would not work in Uzbekistan so resigned ourself to a hungry thirsty evening and all pretended we weren’t thirsty whilst all eyeing up the last litre of water we had in the car.
However, Tat saved the day after finding a corner shop who would accept USD and we set off to wild camp somewhere on the way to Khiva, after a big drink (once new water was found suddenly we were all very thirsty again).
The wild poo spade was officially christen that evening.
Day 28 - SoD - Lost by Frank Ocean
Today the Vagilas headed to Khiva, an authentic walled city in the south of Uzbekistan. We were greeted by lots of colours and amazing mosaics that covered the minarets and surrounding buildings. Adventurers that we are we decided to walk up the highest minaret in all the land (Uzbekistan). We soon realised that the walk was more of a vertical climb, with only the “stairs” to cling to when ascending.
Surviving both the ascent and descent, we drove to find a campsite and pulled off the motorway in the usual fashion. Somehow we managed to forget the small factor that Aggie is not a 4x4 off road beast and got her well and truly lodged in the sand. Trying multiple methods to get her out, including stuffing our roll mats under her wheels for grip, we soon realised we needed external help. Tat flagged down a vehicle which turned out to be a lorry and then began the long miming episode of explaining that we needed a tow. Low and behold, the AA failed us again and the “universal” tow rope didn’t fit Aggie. Luckily the lorry driver had his own equipment and Aggie was quickly out of harms way. We slipped our kind saviour some dollars and went on our way to find another campsite, which resulted in camping behind a truck stop which we later discovered to be the general bin area. Another successful day.
Day 29 - SoD - Brandy by Looking Glass
Waking from our truck stop camp, we packed the car quickly ready for what we expected to be a 5 hour journey to Samarkand.
However, due to the poor road quality and Aggie’s proven lack of off road capability, the trip took closer to 8 hours, leaving the team tired and frustrated.
But the promise of a much needed shower spurred us on to find the accommodation and settle in for a nice cultured evening in the beautiful city.
After a 40 minute walk to a genuine Uzbek restaurant (that was also hosting a wedding) we sat down for one of our now infamous feasts of gluttony. Unfortunately Uzbekistan proved to be more than worth of the challenge, with all 3 Vagilas left feeling full after the gargantuan “appetisers”.
After failing to find beer on the walk home, we all decided to call it a night ready for the long few days to follow.
Day 30 Goodbye Earl Dixie Chicks
We awoke in our lovely hotel and had a last thorough shower (knowing that the next could be a fair old while away).
We then set of to explore Samarqand’s Mosques and hit the Bazaar.
It turns out that James and Tat could both be Alan Sugar’s protégés but Chris lacked the required killer instinct for Bazaar haggling and couldn’t be bother to argue with an old lady over £2.40.
We were all blown away by the city and the kindness of our hosts at the guest house who feed us watermelon as we were preparing Aggie for the road.
After visiting the most under stocked supermarket east of Hull we set off to get as close to the Kyrgyzstan border as possible looking forward to a tomato passata based pasta and some crisps for the journey.
The Crisps were basically sweeten packing peanuts and the passata was tomato ketchup - a storming success for head chef Chris.
Our campsite proved to be impossible to find and locating it required much torch lit wandering and “it’s probably just round this corner”-ing from all the team.
However, after not too long we decided we had probably driven past it and after Aggie first ford of the trip we arrived at the campsite/rubbish dump and tucked into the worst dinner of the trip. However, with classic Vagila grit and determination we forced it down and Chris didn’t receive too much abuse.
Day 31 - SoD - Right as Rain Adele
Awakening to the sound of the river we quickly realised we had run out of precious breakfast materials and made our way to the border, stopping at a small shop to buy some sugared buns. On arrival at the border our car was checked in a very lack lustre fashion where they asked us if we had any guns or narcotics and then sent us to the Kyrgyzstan border. Here we were herded through with “foreigner privilege” although this didn’t stop every man, woman, the contents of their house and their dog trying to push in front. After they decided we were legitimate tourists we drove to a “riverside campsite” which turned out to be a hideout under a flyover that was so horrible even the tramps had abandoned it. We pushed on in the dark to a more remote area where we found a grassy meadow next to a lake and hoped we weren’t trespassing. Little did we know, it was the local watering hole for every herd of cows, horses, sheep and goats in the surrounding 10 kilometres which we soon discovered as we were woken up late at night by what was possibly a stampede that sounded very close to our heads.
Day 32 - SoD - Smoko by The Chats
Despite the team being prematurely woken by some disgruntled cows at 6:30, the team got up in fairly good spirits and admired the beautiful scenery. We saw several examples of traditional herding on horseback while we did a massive rearrange of Aggie.
With Tat ensuring the boys could not mess up her new packing regime and the team picking up some extra coolant and oil, we set off for the wonders of Kyrgyzstan, a country that we had seriously underestimated.
The drive took us through some incredible mountain scenery and all the vagilas all got lost in the awesome landscape. James lost his head slightly more than he should have, getting clocked by some police and their speed cameras. Luckily he once again used his haggling, honed in Samarkand, to reduce the fine from 3000 to 1200 (£15).
Stumbling across a picturesque reservoir, the team decided unanimously to stop and camp on the banks. Before we found our final place, James had yet more arguing to be done, this time with a petrol attendant who tried to fleece the team for fuel he didn’t even have.
The chosen campsite was a beautiful beach in the mountains and the team finally pitched the tent in the light, beers in hand.
Day 33 - SoD - Welcome Home, Son Radical Face
We woke up from our lake side “little corner of England” and quickly took the tent down looking forward to our 4 hour drive through the mountains pass.
Initially the scenery was absolutely amazing and the roads remained terrible by UK standards but no match for Aggies off road ability.
After passing through several villages and being awed by the natural beauty of the area we ran into a Swiss motor cyclist who was stopped at the road side. After pulling over for a chat we discovered that he had a flat and his air compressor had packed up, luckily the Vagilas were able to assist him with our 2 air compressor (a very kind gift from Chris’ mum). The seal on his inner tube wasn’t working but with our compressor he stood a better chance of making the lengthy repair and since we were in the middle of nowhere and he had already been stuck overnight we figured that Helen would be happy for us the donate our spare compressor to his increasingly desperate cause.
We set off again, cautious of running out of daylight to complete the pass and with the warning from the biker of the terrible roads still fresh in our mind we stopped quickly to fill our water bottles from a mountain spring to prepare for the upcoming endeavours.
The tracks suddenly became a cart track and the steepness and loose surface required much pushing from the team and all of Aggies 75 horses didn’t appear to be enough.
The following 80k involved roads which Aggie was not suitable for. Pushing an Agila up a hill as her front wheels spit gravel at you at 3000m altitude and then chasing her uphill because the driver can’t stop for fear of not getting her started again is actually quite a bad way to spend a holiday.
Nonetheless, eventually the Vagilas exploded out the mountain pass with some cracking photos and a real sense of achievement fairly confident in the knowledge that they were one of very few (potentially the only) ralliers stupid enough to do that route.
However, the journey had taken its toll on Aggie, after leaving the Red Valley, the roofbox fell off in rather dramatic style and only chris grabbing it through the front window made the whole thing quite funny and not a disaster.
We then pulled of the road and set about removing the sump guard to investigate the squeezing noise caused by 10 hours of terrible roads. A rather intimidating looking Uzbek man then emerged from the house that Chris had asserted “couldn’t possible be lived in, its clearly not finished being built yet, of course we can camp here”.
However, he introduced himself in Russian and charades as Sergei and said he had lived here for 5 years. He very kindly said that we could camp on his land and after giving us the tour of the whole area he showed us a lovely river side spot, where the Vagilas had a much needed campfire and a rest and the roofbox was bodged back into life with a tin lid and some super glue.
Day 34 - SoD - Broken Strings by James Morrison
This morning the Vagilas woke to the pleasant sound of the river and the feeling of warm sand. The views were possibly more impressive the previous night. Sergei had left us four fresh fish in a bowl for breakfast. Whilst James and Chris were reshaping the sump guard, Tat learnt how to gut, batter and fry the fish Sergei had caught in his river, all whilst making conversation using a mismatch of English and Russian.
We said our goodbyes and headed to Issyk Kul - a giant lake. After we’d been on the road for the while, we realised there was an increasing number of squeals coming from whoever was sat in the back seat. More so than usual. We got out of the car to inspect the suspension and found that our back right spring had snapped. Having lengthy discussions about whether to continue and find a mechanic or to go back on ourselves and head to Bishkek, we decided to push on slowly, scared that every bump would break the back left spring.
We needn’t have worried though, because after Chris spotted an open garage at 10pm, we discovered both springs were well and truly broken and both shocks were useless. The garage told us one hour and the car would be fixed, but midnight came and it was apparent that Vauxhall parts were not particularly common in Kyrgyzstan. We then found out the parts would have to be shipped from Bishkek and would be there around 3pm the next day. The translator, Nurlan, who had been called by the mechanic offered us a place to stay at his house so we traipsed off and arrived to some lovely home cooked dinner and tea. We went to bed tired but glad to be in an actual house for the first time in a long time.
Day 35 - SoD - South of the River by Tom Misch
Despite Aggie spending the night in the garage, we woke at our host’s house feeling refreshed and relaxed. Nurlan has kindly taken a day off work to show us the area.
After breakfast our first stop was the rock formations at Jeti Oguz. The views were impressive, unfortunately they were overshadowed by Chris and his temperamental stomach.
After the team headed back to the garage to see how the car was getting on but we were informed that the parts had been harder to find than expected and wouldn’t be here until late in the evening.
To pass the time we headed out and bought some “presents” for each other in the shape of comedy t-shirts. We also sampled the delicacies of Aslanfu and Kumas (alcoholic sour horse milk). Only James and Chris could finish, although both gagged throughout the process.
Final time-killer of the day was to visit Issyk-Kul lake itself. Golden beaches, cooling water with a backdrop of snow capped mountains left the team in agreement that it was the best bloody place to swim in the world.
Day 36 - SoD - Katy on a Mission Katy B
We expected the parts for Aggie to arrive the previous afternoon (day 35)and then be on our way later that evening.
However, the 3 o’clock parts delivery became “11” the previous evening so remained feasible to leave that eve and drive a little way and camp then cross the border first thing (day 36).
However the parts did not arrive until 1 o clock in the morning, meaning that by the time the repairs were complete it was close to 2.30 in the morning. Thankfully, Nurlan very kindly invited us to stay a second evening and leave early the next morning.
So after negotiating the price of the repairs in the freezing cold early morning we went back to bed for a few hours with a 6 o’clock alarm a disgusting prospect.
We left Nurlans house at 6.15 am and set off for the Kazak border.
The crossing was speedy and quiet and the roads were once again terrible, but the views more than made up for the roads and the team was overall pretty cheerful, and Aggie was enjoying her new shin bones.
That evening we camped by a river a little way from a small town which was considerably less idilic than it sounds. We quickly lit a large fire to ward off the many stray dogs after we established that we had only 1 in date rabies jab between us.
Day 16: SoD - 9-5 by Dolly Parton
After a long lie in we decided it was time to give Aggie a bit of a revamp in preparation for the wilderness ahead. After James had lengthy conversations with some mechanics, including borderline arguments that led to severe infighting in the garage, we were able to walk away with 2 discounted tyres and 1 wheel all for the price of £42.
Furthering exploring took us to a car market where we haggled for a Jerry can and funnel and further spray paint for Aggie. Yellow for her wheels and orange for her sides. Also included was some tubing which will he needed for siphoning petrol.
We then proceeded in our usual fashion to overeat during our one meal a day, and James got an annoyingly good haircut (including a shaved line, which bars him from any formal employment for a least the next 6 weeks) whilst Chris and Tat picked up our washing. We then had a few beers and met some other ralliers at the hostel, however due to the length of the day, socialising was minimal. Returning to the apartment at 2am, we thought it was a good idea to spray Aggie’s wheels whilst drunk and in the dark. Despite a few suspicious policemen everything was okay. Pictures on @the_vagilas
Day 17 - SoD - Crazy by Gnarles Barkley
We awoke from another peaceful sleep in Tbilisi and packed Aggie ready for the push into Azerbaijan.
After a short stop in the ever faithful carrefour to stock up on breakfast and dinner supplies, we headed for the border. James, almost an engineering graduate, was baffled by the bureaucracy behind buying a cucumber, much to the embarrassment of Chris who was holding up the entire shop.
Once again Tati and Chris were told they had to complete the crossing on foot leaving James to navigate the complicated border control system. After getting several pieces of advice from other confused ralliers and tourists, James emerged over 3 hours later in what is safe to say was not the best of moods.
We selected to travel only a short distance and find a wild camp spot by one of the Azerbaijan lakes. The route took us through a remote village, followed by 5km of complete off roading. With Chris, aka Colin McRae, at the wheel we made good progress to the camp spot and awarded Aggie with her off road proficiency stripes.
Day 18 - SoD - Allstar by Smash Mouth
The lakeside camping spot proved to be a noise spot with constant waves and wind, but all vagilas agreed it was worth the drive.
After discovering that we had seriously overestimated our water supply, we packed up quickly and once again took Aggie across the wilderness.
After about an hour we rejoined the main road to Baku, with the intention of visiting the mud volcanos on the way. The drive to one of these sites took a few hours through some extremely strong cross winds that made it feel as if Aggie’s tracking was once again broken.
Arriving at the museum, it became apparent that the only way to get up the volcanos themselves was via the chancer taxi men who lingered around the museum. Their excuse was that Aggie’s ground clearance was not good enough and only their 40 year old Lada could make the journey.
We politely declined their incessant nagging and visited the museum and the physical site of some Stone Age carvings.
When we were finished it was only a short hop to Baku for our night stop. Upon arriving at the hostel, we were informed of a mix-up where there was only room for one guest instead of 3. A similar fate awaited us at the second hostel. Hostel 3 looked more promising, if only we could find the bloody thing, and none of the locals knew where to find it. Hostel 4 again didn’t have any space but did give us an option for hostel 5 which finally provided us shelter.
Sod - summertime in the city
We woke up in the horrendous hostel and quickly exited the hell hole, with only 2/3 of the vagilas braving the shower. We then set off to the Aleyev centre which was effectively an art gallery crossed with an Armenian bashing party.
We then went for dinner and afterwards met some other rally-ers for what we were expecting to be gentle drinks at a sub par hostel, but turned out to be a ridiculous piss up in a 4 star hotel with a pre paid bar. However, the Vagilas felt guilty taken advantage too much of the generosity of a stranger so retreated back to the lands of £1 pints and took to the streets of Baku.
Day 20 - SoD - Loosing my religion, by R.E.M.
We decided to ditch the Capsian Sea crossing after hearing rumours people had been stuck on it for days due to wind, so we retreated back through Azerbaijan and up through Georgia. Turns out Azer police are pricks and we got stopped twice. At the first “random stop” the policeman asked us where we were from, and then took one look at Tat driving and told us to carry on. The second stop did not quite end in the same result. Coming up to a roundabout we were pulled over by the police because Chris had not indicated going into the roundabout (didn’t realise if you were going straight over a roundabout you had to indicate left?!). This resulted in the most tense moment yet when the policeman mimed throwing Chris’ license away and Chris proceeded to throw his toys out the pram showing no composure towards other members of the team. It ended in a cash-in-hand “fine” of $60 for being such a reckless driver. We pushed on into Georgia, past Tbilisi and after a failed off-road attempt parked up on the side of the track and set up camp there. The cold mountains were a blessing for the Vagilas, with all three sleeping inside their sleeping bags.
Day 21 - SoD - Sound of the Police by Flash Cats
The alarm went off at 6am sharp to get us ready for the Russian border as early as possible. Upon emerging from the tent, it was quickly apparent that the site we had selected was ruled by roaming hounds that now patrolled Aggie. However, with Chris brandishing the bonking torch, these pests were soon shooed away.
A quick breakfast and pack up meant we were at the Russian border for 10:30. All appeared to be going surprisingly smoothly, driving up to have the car searched as normal and handing over documents.
Things took a slight turn when we were told to wait for “maybe 15-20 minutes” for some unknown reason while the guards did some checking. Shortly after we were escorted to what could be described as a waiting room if it weren’t for the armed guards and self locking doors.
Once we had all given short interviews about how we “just wanted to see Russia”, we were sent on our way. We knew now that we had to push 4 hours into Russia to clear the orange warning zone according to the foreign office.
The scenery in this area shocked the team, with Tati surprised that the country was not in black and white. We were stopped at two separate checkpoints with one including such fun games as “who’s got the warning triangle” and fire extinguishers charades.
Once clear of the orange zone, we checked into a lovely little guest house and rewarded our long day with a visit to an English pub.
Day 22 - SoD - Skibidi by Little Big
Russia has defied the majority of our preconceptions with Russian people turning out to be lovely, friendly and having a real sense of humour (or potentially just being amused by our terrible miming). However, one preconception that has been proven painfully true is that Russia is feckin massive after we spent around 7 hours transiting between these two cities.
We were careful to avoid re-entering the “orange zone” and kept to main roads and were rewarded with just the one police stop, and they were very friendly and actually held us for an almost insultingly short amount of time.
As the night began to draw in we pulled off the main road and found ourselves a lovely secluded wild campsite were we enjoyed a bottle of Russian “Champagne” and had our best view of the stars so far. due to initial nervousness that the entire red army or even worse, an angry farmer might suddenly arrive by the tent we were careful to have the bonking torch and 1000 roubles close to hand.
Day 10 - SoD - Ain’t no sunshine by Bill Withers
Having recovered from the previous stress, we awoke to find Aggie had come off worse in a collision with a taxi man with her right wing mirror smashed. The taxi man had been kind enough to leave some details promising money and, after getting the poor receptionist to translate on the phone, the new part looked like it would ready before we left Bucharest.
As it was a Sunday, there was not a lot to do other than explore the city. The national museum was paid a quick visit with exhibits such as a plaster cast of Trajans Column and the First World War heroics. There did seem to be a suspicious gap in their history post 1939 but it was 50p well spent nonetheless.
Day 11 - SoD - On the road again by Canned heat
The taxi man had not delivered. James and Chris took it upon themselves to walk through the rain to find a local mechanic to source the new mirror and after only 20 mins had found someone who could get it on a reasonable timescale.
With this crisis averted, it was time to pick up Tati from the airport, after her horrific 10 hour stopover journey, and complete the Vagilas team.
Now fully assembled, we headed straight to the Bulgarian border where we discovered that the document we had been waiting for was now no longer required by the border guards.
The night was spent in a strange office block apartment in Burgas booked by Chris. He spent the remainder of the evening trying to convince the team that the decision had been a good one but was unfortunately outnumbered.
Day 12 - SoD - Maneater by Nelly Furtado
The drive to Turkish border was uneventful and the crossing itself was almost insultingly easy (who knew that the correct documents would make things easier?) we then continued to drive through turkey and we were through the gateway to the east in no time.
As we were playing catch up we continued to drive for the whole day and as the 10 hour mark approached we decided to call ahead and confirm with our hotel which James has booked that arriving late would not be a problem.
However it turned out that James had booked the hotel for the previous day which meant that has night fell we were in the middle of Turkey with no where to sleep. Nevertheless, we continued driving and chose a seaside campsite, and after the sketchiest driving so far, a run in with some cows and a dog and a very kind Turkish family lending us their English speaking son to guide us the final bit of our journey we arrived at the beach campsite after 14 hours in Aggie.
Day 13 - SoD - Timber by Pitbull and Ke$ha
After some boiled eggs in bread, we left our beach spot and headed to Sinop to see the hustle and bustle and look for some food. We over ordered massively, ending up with 16 portions of chips and very full bellies. The plan was to wild camp at a spot just past Samsun, with Tati suggesting what was seemingly a lovely camp spot. On arrival at 10pm to said campsite, there was in fact, no campsite. Having got Aggie stuck in the sand whisky executing a 3-point turn, we turned into a driveway to ask some locals for directions. Instead, they took us in for copious amount of Turkish tea and fruit and we had an extensive conversation using only Google Translate, culminating with the Vagilas bagging an invite to their eldest son’s wedding. Having politely declined due to our rally commitments, they suggested we stay the night in their house with the promise of a beach swim and breakfast in the morning. The best nights sleep the Vagilas have had to date.
Day 14 - SoD - Thank You by Dido
The traditional Turkish breakfast consisted of fruit, homemade cheese and french fries. Once again this was the best breakfast have had on the trip.
The remainder of the morning was spent playing in the Black Sea where we were lucky enough to see a dolphin and several jellyfish, which we seemed to be more scared of than the 4 year olds.
Bidding the family farewell around lunch we set off for the Georgian border. Our hosts had warned of an 8 hour journey but we reckoned Aggie could have it covered in 6.
9.5 hours later we arrived at a campsite on a beach just outside the Georgian border. Our spirited were lifted when we spotted not 1 by 2 other rally teams also camping there. That night we enjoyed a few drinks including some Israeli lemon cello and making new friends.
Day 15 - SoD - Mammoth by Demitri Vegas
Our day once again started with a swim, out last in the Black Sea. At midday we set off for Georgia and were at the bored by 12:30. Tati and Chris were instructed to leave Aggie and complete the crossing on foot, while James became aquatinted with dark rooms and rubber gloves (process was actually very smooth but time consuming).
After the crossing we began the mad dash for Tbilisi and soon realised that Georgian drivers drive as if death is the next big adventure. After a few hairy hours on some beautiful roads, we arrived in the equally beautiful city of Tbilisi.
The day travelling had made us very hungry so we immediately headed out for some traditional Georgian food conditions mainly of dumplings and cheesy bread. Once again our eating capacity had been overestimated.
After a short stop in an Irish bar the vagilas were split down the middle on whether to attend the “darkest club in the world”, with only James being brave enough to take up the challenge with some other fellow ralliers.
A few hours later he arrived back at the apartment, a little shaken and cradling a Wendy’s burger and chips.
Day 5 - SoD - Bamboleo by Gypsy Kings
We woke up and decided to drive into the centre of Budapest for relaxing breakfast and hopefully see the sights. However, apparently the Hungarians had other ideas.
After rather painfully finding out that Aggie is in fact slightly taller than 3.2 M and that car horns can be very noisy indeed we opted for street parking instead of a multi story.
Unfortunately the 4,000 Forint were all in note form and asking for change in Hungary gets the same response to climbing on the counter and taking a poo. Unfortunately this meant we only saw Budapest for an hour and after a disappointing toasty we left.
We then arrived in a lovely campsite in the centre of the Romanian Hills.
Day 6 - SoD one night in Bangkok by Murray Head
Leaving the campsite after throughly enjoying the hospitality we set off to the transfagarsan pass, Top Gears favourite driving road in the world. Luckily all 76 of Aggies horses were primed and ready for the challenge.
The pass took several hours of breathtaking scenery and we met a lot of teams on the way, all heading for a night in Bucharest. At the bottom of the road we saw a bear at the side of the road. The only thing louder than the roar of a bear was James congratulating himself on the being right about the fact that were bears in Romania.
The night in Bucharest started with meeting some other teams for some food and a few drinks. Once everyone had gone to bed, nothing more needed to be said other than James and Chris had very sore heads the next morning.
Day 7 - SoD - Big Man Skank by chase and status
Spent the morning admiring the people’s palace, the worlds heaviest building before leaving for the planned beach party meet up on the Bulgarian border.
The drive was a struggle as both members were feeling slightly irritable, but after a few beers on the beach everything once again seemed more achievable.
The party was some good clean fun with more friends being made as we attempted to adjust our route to allow convoys to be formed for the sketchier bits of the trip.
Day 8 - SoD - Just by Radiohead
Disaster day! The vagilas set off promising a stranded rallier a lift to istanbul. We arrived at the Bulgarian border ready with all necessary paperwork. However the Bulgarian border guard had other ideas. Even after some begging, it became apparent that we did not in fact have the original V5C and had to turn back.
After attempting this process at a second crossing, this time with more begging, we realised the scale of the issue and promptly became incredibly stressed.
A day of phone calls followed asking some heroes back at home to get the document over. Tati, the 3rd Vagila, agreed to take a horrendous 10 hour stop over in Istanbul (our planned meeting point) before flying to Bucharest. Thanks to all involved in this process as this could have been the end of the rally!
That evening we decided to splash out and spend £14 on a hotel room complete with Netflix, which was a necessary was to wind down from the worst day of the rally so far.
Day 9 - SoD - Rocket Man by Elton John
We woke from our hotel stopover and headed straight for Bucharest to await the arrival of the team saviour. The afternoon was spent planning and booking accommodation for the next few days, doing our first load laundry, having DEFINITELY run out of pants, and giving some Aggie some TLC.
The evening was spent running further errands and continuing to unwind from the stress.
Back in England, the heroes had coordinated the first steps of the V5’s journey to Aggie, due Monday.
Hello All, apologies for the long wait between posts!
The following is a brief summary of our exploits over the last week. We have also selected a Song Of the Day (SoD) for each day that best fitted the team mood.
Day 1 - SoD - Kaldak-khamar by Yat-Kha
The journey to the channel tunnel almost ended abruptly when we noticed we had no fuel left, as James had burnt all of it on the way to the meet point and not filled the tank. The crossing itself was very smooth and we were invited to a party in Ghent. The remainder of the day was spent exploring Brugge and trying the Belgian beers before heading over to the party (pictures on @the_vagilas)
Day 2 - SoD - Renaissance by Maxim Lany
At the party on the previous night we had been invited to a meet up in Leipzig which promised free accommodation and more importantly good German sausage. After driving through the worst weather the world had ever seen, ranging from scorching hot to torrential rain. The house and company were lovely and the sausage was even better.
Day 3 - SoD - Iron Lion in Zion by Bob Marley
Launch Day! We woke up and promptly set off to just outside Prague, a place called Junktown. This was an old soviet missile site that had become a dystopian paradise. Loads of really cool scenery and things to do, with the Vagilas showing their prowess in the art of shooting. The party itself got very messy with all vagilas parting ways to explore but thankfully all ended up back at the tent.
Day 4 - SoD - Wisemen by James Blunt
The debt of happiness that we borrowed the previous night had to be paid. After being the last car out of the launch after being woken by the start siren, we all got up and scampered into the car. This trip took us a grand total of 1km before we decided to pull over for a well earned cup of tea. We headed into Prague to drop off the honorary Vagila, Brim, and spent the rest of the day doing the most horrible drive ever as we motored onto a campsite in the centre of Budapest. We arrived at 10:30 and had to put up our large tent with maximum stealth and angry whispering at each other, before collapsing gratefully into bed.
On the eve of departure, Aggie finally has her roof box on to complete the look. As this is our first post, please enjoy a quick overview of this girls stats:
Age: 17 - old enough to drive herself.
Milage: 86,270 - surely vauxhall built her to go 100,000?
Reliabilty (exluding faults): 10/10
Fighting spirit/get up and go/gusto/razzle dazzle: Assumed 11.5/10
Occupants: 2 out of the 3 Vagilas also feat. close friend of the team, Brim, who wants a "quick, comfordable and cost effective" lift to prague.