Mongol Rally – Week 3: Russia & Beyond

IMG_5093I’m Chase, and I have spent the past three winters working at the Hotel Alyeska and snowboarding all over the mountain.  This summer I’m reporting from the road as my girlfriend and I participate in the Mongol Rally, driving a 1.1-liter Fiat Panda from England to Mongolia to raise money for the Lotus Children’s Centre in Ulaanbaatar. Alyeska Resort has generously supported us on our venture to help the children of the Lotus Children’s Centre.  During our second week of the Rally we left Romania and passed through Moldova and Ukraine into Russia.

Our third week found us in Volgograd, Russia, a town we ended up really enjoying!  We arrived on Navy Day, a Russian national holiday that features sailors celebrating heavily throughout the country.  After an evening with the Russian Navy, we met up with some other Mongol Ralliers to check out The Motherland Calls, the largest non-religious statue in the world and a representation of Mother Russia commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad; she is a truly impressive statue.  After seeing Mother Russia we went for dinner at a local café, where we met the owner of the café who invited us to dine with himself and his wife as he regaled us with stories of his life in Volograd as one of Russia’s premier Greco-Roman wrestlers.

After Volgograd we moved on to Astrakhan, Russia, where we met up with a lot of Mongol Rally teams.  Some new local friends helped show us around the city and even cooked us a massive traditional southern Russian meal for about twenty of us!  It was the perfect local way to leave Russia.

The next morning we crossed the border into Kazakhstan, which is the first of our ‘Stans!  We left Atyrau heading through the Kazakh desert towards Aktobe, on a road that our map showed was a major highway.  Unfortunately, it looks like our mapmakers didn’t actually see what the road is like.  As we approached the intersection, a local man walked up to us and communicated that we shouldn’t take that road, and we should instead turn around; we foolishly told him we were fine.  However, the sand road that’s allegedly a “major highway” had potholes larger than our tiny vehicles.  We asked a passing truck about the quality of the road, and he let us know that it would be a six-day drive averaging 20-30 kilometers per hour.  Though we really wanted the adventure, our smarter option was to turn back, especially since we had a five-day legal limit on our visa registration.  We spent the last night of week three camping on the side of a dry lakebed in the Kazakh desert stargazing in a completely dark environment and enjoying time with our other Ralliers.

Will we ever find a way across the Kazakh desert?  I hope so, but you’ll have to read our next post to find out if we make it!  Until then, check us out at <www.TeamTurnagain.weebly.com> or at <www.facebook.com/TeamTurnagain>!

Celebrating Russian Navy Day with a bunch of sailors in Volgograd.

Celebrating Russian Navy Day with a bunch of sailors in Volgograd.

The Mother Russia statue in the background, behind a statue of a Russian soldier, also in Volgograd.

The Mother Russia statue in the background, behind a statue of a Russian soldier, also in Volgograd.

Charla with our car in a tiny Russian gas station in between Astrakhan and the Kazakh border, with other Rally teams Thunderyaks and Elephants in the background.

Charla with our car in a tiny Russian gas station in between Astrakhan and the Kazakh border, with other Rally teams Thunderyaks and Elephants in the background.

Charla playing with our Alaskan flag in the wind in the middle of the Kazakh desert.

Charla playing with our Alaskan flag in the wind in the middle of the Kazakh desert.

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