Our Land Rover, Red, arrives back in the UK (Posted: Monday 6 October 2014)

Red has arrived in the UK! We collected Red on the port in Southampton on Wednesday 1st October.

Adam and Alex with Red at Southampton

The collection of Red was somewhat eventful. After spending sometime wandering around the port at Southampton trying to figure out where Red is, we eventually found it. The staff at the collection point spent 10 minutes trying to start-up Red, eventually we got involved, but the batteries were completely flat and the starter motor was doing the usual thing where it starts smoking as we turn it over, a problem that developed in the later stages of our rally.

The staff at the terminal helped us out and pulled Red with their van until it eventually started.

Video of Red being pulled along to get started

Eventually Red started, but we soon realised we didn't have much petrol left, which meant we had some more fun getting it restarted at the petrol station. The petrol and temperature gauges had also failed and needed a roadside repair before setting off.

We're happy to be reunited with Red again and now the post-rally repairs can begin.

Beijing Rally 2014 GPS Tracked Route (Posted: Thursday 25 September 2014)

We've finished processing our Beijing Rally 2014 route. The route depicted is our actual route from London, England to Beijing, China. The route distance is 8,100 miles. The route was extracted from thousands of GPS waypoints that were continuously being captured whilst we were driving.

Beijing Rally 2014 GPS Tracked Interactive Route Map

Beijing Rally 2014, a legendary adventure and success (Posted: Friday 29 August 2014)

We arrived at the Great Wall of China on Thursday 17th July 2014 marking the successful completion of the Beijing Rally 2014. This was our 5th rally and as with every rally, it was incredibly unique. 8,100 miles (~ 13,000 KM) across 10 different countries spanning two continents that required us to cross deserts, rivers and the vast wilderness in Kazakhstan and Mongolia. With your help and support, we've raised over £2,000 for Mercy Corps!

Our adventure showed us once again the incredible kindness of strangers that exists throughout the world across all diverse cultures. There are too many stories to share but from the strangers in Poland who got in touch to share their enthusiasm for our adventure, the Belarusian military officer who showed us the way to Russia, the Russian taxi drivers who went completely out of their way to lead us to Kazakhstan in the middle of the night, the mechanic who refused to charge us for car repairs in Kazakhstan, the Mongolian who donated a car tool to us and the incredibly warm welcome offered to us by so many Chinese people at the Great Wall, all these acts of kindness continue to inspire us and leave us in awe.

These examples are just a few of so many other acts of equal significance to us and are at the heart of what makes it possible for us to drive so far in a 51 year old car in a relatively short space of time.

The rally was certainly an adventure from start to finish. We averaged 300 miles per day but spent over 5 days standing still at borders that were closed. On a number of occasions we got lost but we learnt again that getting lost only adds to the adventure, whether it is the adrenaline rush of having to track back in the dark off road routes of Mongolia after the sun has set or because we are led to an awesome new place or bump into new people, it all provides for a thrilling journey.

On the road in Kazakhstan

Red, our 1963 Land Rover, served us incredibly well once again. We did have our fair share of car issues, we experienced a high speed tyre blow-out in Russia and not so long after, we lost a second tyre. Our suspension suffered, especially in Kazakhstan and parts of Mongolia, we had some fairly stubborn sand and dirt accumulate in some of our filters which affected our car performance and on occasion brought us to a complete halt. We also had a huge crack in a our rear axle. However, even on arrival at the Great Wall of China, Red was still screaming for more action and adventure!

Camping in the wild

Our thank you list is huge, we've had so much support from friends, family and even people in other parts of the world who we have never met. Support has come in many forms, from advice, donations to Mercy Corps and help whilst we are on the road. We have to thank the Desert Bunnies at Rusty Rhinos HQ in the UK for providing continued support with Red and providing advice whilst we are on the road. Thanks also to Chris and Kai at PebbleTrack for providing and supporting our GPS tracking system.

We are also incredibly grateful to all of our friends, family and so many other donors who have made such generous donations to Mercy Corps.

Thanks to all those who have offered us a helping hand in times of need on our way to China as well as those who just wanted to welcome us to their country.

Last and by no means least, we thank Elizabeth (UK), Jennifer (UK), Jumagul (Mongolia), Jennifer (Mongolia) and Doreen (China) from Mercy Corps for making our Beijing Rally so special. The completion of the rally at the Great Wall of China was amazing. Thanks also for making it possible for us to meet the Mercy Corps teams and hear more about the incredible work that Mercy Corps undertake.

Doreen from Mercy Corps with Rusty Rhinos at the Great Wall of China

Photos from our adventure have been uploaded and can be found on our photographs page.

We're ready for the Beijing Rally! (Posted: Saturday 21 June 2014)

It has been a long final evening in the UK before our departure. In less than 5 hours we'll be setting off on the Beijing Rally 2014. We packed up Red and carried out some last minute maintenance as well as some shopping. All our updates from this point on will be via the Twitter feed that is published on our website and Facebook. Thanks to all who have supported us in the preparations and have made donations to Mercy Corps.

Our finish line will be at the Badaling point on the Great Wall of China (Posted: Friday 20 June 2014)

Mercy Corps have been helping us co-ordinate a rather special finish for the Beijing Rally 2014. After some discussions and planning, the final spot where we hope to arrive on Friday 18th July 2014 will be at the Badaling point at the Great Wall of China.

Badaling Great Wall

We are thrilled at the opportunity of finishing our rally at this spot and are very grateful to have Mercy Corps make the finish line so special. Now we've got to figure out how to get from London to Beijing in 28 days!

Our Land Rover, Red, is ready for action! (Posted: Thursday 19 June 2014)

To describe the last few days as colossal in terms of effort that has gone into Red would be an understatement. It would be impossible to go through everything in detail.

One of the big wins for us is the replacement of the front leaf springs. It took two days of effort in the end to replace them for a variety of reasons. We also finally replaced our two front tyres. Replacing front tyres is normally a fairly straightforward affair, but when you end up with a tyre supplier delivering the wrong tyres and then running out of stock the week before a rally, it becomes a bit of an issue, but one that we managed to overcome.

Some electrical rewiring has also been carried out as well as replacing one of our oil hoses. Whilst working on the car we also discovered an oil leak, but this was easily resolved.

The 'Beijing Rally 2014' stickers were also applied to Red. This is a rather time consuming task that Alex had to work through over a few evenings. We also got our inside/outside temperature sensors working again.

Our useful temperature display

So here is Red with new tyres and stickers looking all ready for the rally! :)

Red undergoes further repairs (Posted: Saturday 14 June 2014)

Having inspected the chassis and welded it up previously, the plan this weekend was to replace all of our leaf spring with some new ones we bought sometime ago.

The process of removing the leaf springs can be incredibly time consuming and involves hours on end of bashing. After around 7 hours or so of bashing, the rear springs were successfully replaced.

Another chassis inspection was carried out, and rather unfortunately, a new hole was found measuring around 11 inches. Ouch!

More than just a crack in the chassis!

Moss, of the Desert Bunnies, had been helping with the leaf spring replacement and in no time at all was in action welding up Red, again!

Although more time consuming that we'd have hoped, we've got new leaf springs at the rear and we've welded up a section of Red that really needed it. A number of other repairs were carried out including replacing the alternator, sorting out the electrics with our roof lights and internal gauges.

For those of you following our news, will know that we had a fire in Red not that long ago and had to use our fire extinguisher, so we have also mounted a new, larger, fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location for both driver and passenger.

We still have more to do on Red but the progress made over this weekend is huge and with less than a week till our departure, things are starting to get in shape.

Satellite phone arrives (Posted: Thursday 12 June 2014)

We've taken a satellite phone with us on the last few rallies after some friends and family all thought it would be a good idea. We've decided to stop renting satellite phones and actually purchase our very own Rusty Rhinos satellite phone. So after much searching around, we picked up a used Hughes 7100 satellite phone that uses the Thuraya satellite network.

Coverage on the Thuraya network is perfect for the areas we'll be travelling to or are likely to travel to.

Thuraya Network Coverage Map

This marks another important addition to the equipment toolbox that we take with us on a rally.

Passports and visas are here (Posted: Tuesday 10 June 2014)

The search for precious stamps in our passports (also known as visas) has come to an end today. We started the visa hunt in February this year and since then we've been without passports. The Kazakhstan visa was the first to arrive in early March, followed by the Russia visa a couple of months later. At that point we thought the only remaining required visas were for China and Mongolia but as our route changed to avoid Ukraine, we also had to get a visa for Belarus.

With less than two weeks till our departure we were getting increasingly keen on receiving our passports and they finally arrived today with the remaining visas for China, Mongolia and Belarus.

Mongolia, China and Belarus visas

This is another essential step to our launch on the 21st June, now only 10 days away!

Red on Fire! (Posted: Monday 9 June 2014)

We experienced an interesting event on Red a few days ago, the kind of interesting event you wouldn't want to have happen just 2 weeks before a launch of a rally. Red was on fire! It was an electrical fault that caused the fire. Alex was driving along when suddenly some smoke started to appear inside the car, by the time he pulled over, the entire cabin was engulfed in thick smoke. The fire extinguisher was deployed and it put out the fire, however the fire burnt out a large number of cables and switches.

Burnt cables with fire extinguisher residue

Alex has put in over two days and 20 hours of effort for all the wiring to be put right, it was a mammoth task but almost all electrical components are now in operation which is a huge relief.

The first oil change on Red after the engine rebuild has also been carried out. Outstanding now is the fitting of the new suspension, alternator, two new tyres and various other smaller bits.

The rebuilt engine has made a huge difference with performance and engine temperature at an all time best on Red.

Food and drink (Posted: Monday 9 June 2014)

Our food and drink shop for the Beijing Rally is done and everything is packed and ready to go into Red when we launch.

Alex packing the food

Our shop has included our usual key meal items which are generally either pasta, rice or noodles. We can never have enough carbohydrates on a rally! However, even more essential is our 'snack box'. This has some of the usual suspects in terms of snacks such as nuts, custard, sweets, seasame snaps and the legendary granola bars but we've got some new additions for this rally which include dried seaweed and Belgian waffles.

The rally isn't necessarily renown for its healthy dietary benefits but we do try and pick up some local produce and meals when we're on the road, however when you are lost in the Gobi or just hacking it across Kazakhstan for days on end with not a village in sight, then our food and drink supplies keep us refuelled and energised.

After a few hours of packing, the final result is a set of neatly packed food boxes.

Food and drinks supply for the Beijing Rally

We'll be carrying our usual large supply of water which enables us to survive comfortably for up to a couple of weeks as well as Monster energy drink for the night drives, especially through Europe, and plenty of Lucozade for those times when water alone just isn't quite doing it for us!

Red, our Land Rover, is back on the road! (Posted: Sunday 1 June 2014)

It is with some relief that we can say that Red, our Land Rover, is now back on the road, complete with a fresh MOT issued on Saturday 30th May.

Red had been undergoing an engine rebuild that actually started back in October 2013. The 2.25L engine needed a bit of work before it would have been ready to take on the journey to Beijing. Alex picked up Red late on Friday night. An MOT was booked in for 3pm on Saturday, so there wasn't much time for an inspection and any maintenance on Red, but an early start Saturday morning revealed a number of holes that need to be welded up.

Moss, of Team Desert Bunnies, along with Alex, undertook a number of repairs including the much needed welding.

Moss of the Desert Bunnies welding Red

Red then went in for the MOT on Saturday at 3pm and came out with only one advisory on a tyre that is due to be replaced ahead of our launch on the 21st June.

Red going through the MOT

The work on Red continued after the MOT with some military spec bonnet catches with custom Moss made fitting kit amongst other things being fitted.

There is still more work required before Red will be ready for the rally. Two new tyres, a new alternator, brake repairs, engine service (after it has been driven around a bit) are just a few of things outstanding on Red but this has certainly been a much needed result with less than 3 weeks till the launch!

Route update for Beijing Rally (Posted: Sunday 11 May 2014)

We have been following events in the Ukraine carefully, hoping that a change of route won't be required, but we've now decided that the recent escalation in the Ukraine will make our current planned route somewhat of a risk.

Ukraine is a sizeable place, avoiding it is not really a case of driving 100 miles around it. The two options are either go south of the Ukraine, which also means south of the Black Sea unless we figure out how to make our car amphibious. We would have to drive through Turkey, which we would have loved to do, but the additional mileage means London to Beijing will almost certainly take more than 28 days.

The second option is to go north of the Ukraine and drive through Belarus. The Belarus route won't have a huge impact on our mileage, so we have opted to go via Belarus instead of the Ukraine. This does mean yet another visa for us to obtain. Something we're now working on.

A recap on our visa situation. We have visas for Kazakhstan and Russia. Our Chinese and Mongolian visas are currently being processed, once we get those, Belarus will be the last visa we need.

Below is a map of our newly revised route.

We're now 40 days away from the Beijing Rally 2014 launch! Things are very busy at Rusty Rhinos HQ with visas to sort out, an engine to install into Red and GPS tracking to be set-up.

Russian visa arrival marks half way point for our visa collection (Posted: Saturday 22 March 2014)

Having received our Kazakhstan visas a few weeks ago, we were really pleased to have received our Russia visas on Thursday. We now have the Mongolian and Chinese visas to get next, but as they have a 90 day limit on them from when they are issued we will have to hold off applying for these.

We needed a double entry visa for Russia which we got. We applied for the visas using the services of The Visa Machine. The team at The Visa Machine even gave us a 20% discount in support of our charitable adventure.

This marks another positive step for us. The amount of planning for this rally has been epic and there is still much to do!

Our route back from China (Posted: Tuesday 18 March 2014)

The plan is to get from London to Beijing in 28 days, but what next? Well we've had to rule driving back from China to the UK on the basis that we do have day jobs when we are not on a rally, so we're flying back.

Today we purchased our tickets back from China to the UK which we see as further progress on what seems like an endless list of things to finalise before the 21st June. The only other time we've had to use an aeroplane on a rally is when we returned from the Mongol Rally 2007. We did consider just pitching up at an airport in China and talking our way onto a flight, but our experience of doing that in Mongolia tells us that that might not be the best plan!

Preliminary 28 day route schedule (Posted: Tuesday 11 March 2014)

We've been putting a bit of thought into how one gets from London to Beijing in 28 days in a car that doesn't do much more than 50mph. We're not even sure why we picked 28 days other than it is 4 weeks, perhaps we should have picked 30! So, after a few hours of staring at Google maps and paper maps, we decided to put some realistic targets, if not a bit aggressive, of where we should be in order to make it from London to Beijing in 28 days.

Day 1: We set off from London for an epic drive that doesn't include any sleep time

Day 3: Ukraine - We're expecting to be somewhere around Uman

Day 5: Russia - After some rest on day 3 in the Ukraine, some more night driving should see us get close to Volgograd, a place that has left its mark on us from the Mongol Rally 2007

Day 7: Kazakhstan - We should now have crossed into Kazakhstan to start our long off road stretch. This section is going to take a while. Regular camping in the desert and being completely self sufficient will be our way of life

Day 16: Kazakhstan/Russia - After just over a week of awesome off road, we expect we'll be leaving Kazakhstan and entering Russia

Day 18: Mongolia - A couple of days of driving in Russia with limited sleep should mean we'll reach Mongolia. The Mongolia routine will be similar to Kazakhstan, camping and off-roading on a daily basis

Day 24: Mongolia - Ulanbataar - We might choose to have a rest night in Ulanbataar and take in the Mongolian capital, it will have been 7 years since we were here last

Day 25: Mongolia - China border - We start our border crossing into China

Day 26 - Day 27: Reserved for China border crossing process

Day 28: Beijing!

Kazakhstan visa has arrived (Posted: Tuesday 4 March 2014)

We've been quiet over the last month but things have been far from quiet for us. We have a minimum of four visas that must be obtained before we depart on the 21st June: Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and China.
We'll be applying for them in that order. We sent off for the Kazakhstan visa about 12 days ago and despite the challenges associated with a Kazakhstan visa when entering overland, we received our visa today!

The process wasn't too bad, although we did have to produce a fair amount of documentation.

This Kazakhstan visa is our first Beijing Rally related document, it finally feels like progress is being made! More news to follow soon on how we'll be handling the situation in the Ukraine.

Behind the scenes (Posted: Monday 3 February 2014)

The last few weeks have been busy for the us. A number of plans and preparations have started behind the scenes, although nothing is quite ready or complete yet. Less than 5 months to departure sounds like a long time, but with no car, no visas, no Chinese permits and the tracking system not yet refitted in Red, we certainly have to accelerate things a bit.

On the car front, we mentioned in September 2013 that Red had gone to Usher Engineering (Motorsport) for inspection and maintenance. Since the head was refurbished, a further engine inspection revealed that Red's engine was in no state to take on a 10,000 mile rally, so as of January 2014, an engine rebuild has begun. That is still very much in progress at the moment. We still have the suspension to work on after the engine is rebuilt as well as putting in a refurbished steering box.

On the permits and visas, we have an extensive amount of work. We need visas for 4 countries, China, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Entry to China will also require a number of vehicle and driving license permits. We've finally selected an agency to work with in China to support us obtain the permits. We're hoping to get further progress on the documentation and permits towards the end of February. We're also anticipating Kazakhstan to be the first visa we apply for, probably sometime in February.

We have been working with Mercy Corps on selecting an appropriate way to finish our 10,000 mile and 28 day rally. There are some ideas currently being worked on, as soon as we have more details, we'll share these with you.

Alex on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (Posted: Friday 20 December 2013)

It has been an exciting day for the Rusty Rhinos! Alex got the opportunity to be interviewed live on The Jeremy Sallis Show on BBC Radio Cambrideshire.

Alex got 12 minutes of airtime to talk about the Rusty Rhinos team and our rally events. The show was themed on xerophobia, the fear of dryness, drawing parallels on some of our thirst quenching adventures. Alex talks about some of our destinations and more challenging interesting moments on the trips.

You can download and listen to interview here. There is also a link on our downloads page on the Beijing Rally 2014 site.

Alex with Jeremy Sallis at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Jeremy Sallis broadcasting live on Friday 20th December 2013

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire studios

Rusty Rhinos live on BBC Radio Cambridge (Posted: Thursday 19 December 2013)

Alex will be live on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire between 3pm and 4pm on Friday 20th December 2013.

The Jeremy Sallis Show will be hosting Alex for a short interview. The show will certainly have an interesting theme to it and will give us the opportunity to promote the Beijing Rally 2014 and our fund raising for Mercy Corps.

You can listen to the show live tomorrow either on the BBC iPlayer or via the BBC Radio Cambridge website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001p96t. Remember to tune in at 3pm GMT.

We're taking the ferry to France (Posted: Tuesday 19 November 2013)

With every rally comes the question, 'How do we leave this island we are on?'. Unless you get very creative, the two typical options, if you have a car, are the ferry and the Eurotunnel. As we debated the pros and cons of each mode of transport, we quickly realised that despite the Eurotunnel being a faster way of getting across the Channel, we actually prefer going over the Channel rather than under it.

Getting out of the car to stretch your legs whilst enjoying a (non-alcoholic) drink and taking in the view of the White Cliffs of Dover at you sail away beats being in a dark tunnel every time.

So we're all booked and we're taking a P&O ferry on our launch date of Saturday 21st June 2014!

Beijing Rally 2014 launch date set (Posted: Sunday 17 November 2013)

The time has come for us to fix our launch date for the Beijing Rally 2014. The big day will be Saturday 21st June 2014. It is on this day that we'll embark on our most ambitious adventure to date, aiming to reach Beijing in China in 28 days in Red, our half a century old Land Rover.

Mercy Corps are our charity of choice for this rally and we're hoping to raise funds for them to support all of their activities, including their emergency response and relief activities in the Philippines following the disastrous impact of Typhoon Haiyan. Please support the Mercy Corps and our charity drive to Beijing by making a donation of any amount on our fund raising site www.justgiving.com/beijingrally.

Our rally planning has been underway for sometime now, with two key activities. Car maintenance and entry into China. Red will be getting some new leaf spring suspension, our previous driving experience in Kazakhstan in our Suzuki SJ410 in the Mongol Rally 2007 tells us that having solid suspension is a good idea. In 2007, we snapped our leaf springs 6 times and if we're going to get to Beijing in 28 days, we need to reduce that 6 to a 0! We're also working on our entry into China as we can't just pitch up at the border between Mongolia and China and get our passports stamped. We will need various permits and licenses to be able to enter China.

Soon, we'll also start to look at how we can ship our car from China back to the UK, but we've got enough planning to get through at the moment. With just 215 days to go till the launch date, excitement is really starting to set in. The final 6 months leading up to a rally launch always seem to fly by!

The Beijing Rally 2014 website has launched! (Posted: Saturday 21 September 2013)

In August 2013 we announced the Beijing Rally 2014 and we have finally launched the website. We've posted the details of the charity we'll be fund raising for in the near future (if you guessed Mercy Corps you'd be right) on our charity page. We've also put some information up on our route from London to Beijing as well as some photos of Red, our now 50 year old Land Rover.

The Beijing Rally 2014 is the 5th Rusty Rhinos rally. We decided that as this is our 5th rally and Red is now half a century old, we'd need to push the limit a bit more compared to any previous rallies. As a result, we've now got to drive all the way to China!

We're very excited about the upcoming rally, although it is certainly going to be a challenge. We're aiming to drive from London, England to Beijing, China in 28 days. We're expecting this to require us to drive a minimum of 10,000 miles (16,000 km). Although Red has a maximum speed of around 65 mph, the reality is we need a tail wind and downhill to achieve those speeds as well as tarmac to drive on.

Our route to Beijing will include taking on both Kazakhstan and Mongolia in their entirety, that means no tarmac roads and speeds of 20 to 30 mph will be an achievement.

The launch date has not yet been set but we're expecting a launch around June or July 2014. The fund raising activities also haven't started just yet but our fund raising website is up and running.

The actual event planning is still in the very early stages, although we have 9 months to go and quite a bit of planning ahead of us. Unlike the last 2 rallies, we have a number of visas that need to be obtained as well as arranging Red's return back to the UK from China. We're at the beginning of the road for an awesome adventure to come.

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