Day 41 – They’ve Made it at Last!!
The three CCBB boys, along with Team Aston Micra (AM) and Team Superheroes in Training (SHIT), had arrived at the Altanbulag border in the early hours of Day 41, one gate house at the end of the road with a single guard was all they could see. There was only 4 cars in front of them and so they got their passports out ready for their final set of inspections. Their excited actions though were wasted as the guard seemed very laid back about the role he and his hut played in the border “crossing”, he would let a car through and then would just sit back in his hut for a bit before asking for the next set of passports. In reality he was probably doing something in there but the boys couldn’t think what on earth that could be!
Eventually all three teams got through and were officially off Mongolian soil, Dunc drove a few hundred metres and then parked Vera up in another queue. The boys then had to go through a passport control building, here they had all the mod cons including metal detectors and luggage scanners, very official!
After being given the all clear by the Mongolians they boys went back outside and waited to move forward towards the Russian side of the border. There wasn’t much to see or do and everything was moving very slowly, probably because it was about 4am, so the boys all had a much required sleep so that they were fresh for the push to the finish line whenever they finally managed to get through the border.
By 7am the boys were called forward for a brief search of Vera and then told to move onto the Russian officials who were about another 200 metres up the road. Unfortunately this only meant more queuing, they joined a line of about 10 cars; in that queue were The Yorkshire Special Branch (YSB) and apparently The Haggis Hunters had just made it through. The boys wished YSB good luck and hoped to see them at the finish line. The boys then went through all of the formalities of getting their visas checked, Duncan again had to do some more paperwork than the other two. They were all cleared to go onward into Russia but their car wasn’t and they were still at the back of the queue, which was moving frustratingly slowly. Every time they moved Vera forward there was a worry that she wouldn’t start (or blow up or the wheels would fall off etc.) so on the flat section towards the front of the queue the boys just pushed her forward. Whilst waiting the boys decided to blow up the giant inflatable ball that The Haggis Hunters had given to them back in Tblisi, they still had the toilet rolls on their roof so it was only fair!
By about 10 o’clock the boys had hit the front of the queue and were ordered to empty absolutely everything out of Vera, thankfully they didn’t make the boys unstrap all of the roof cargo, but this was a much more vigorous inspection than that carried out by the Mongolian officials! A few minutes later they were free to go, they arranged to meet up with AM and SHIT at the first petrol station they saw. This happened to be just up the road and they soon reconvened, after a petrol station breakfast and coffee they were on their way, this was it, the finish line was in sight!
Henry was driving to the finish line, or that was what the boys hoped at least! The smooth Russian roads allowed for good progress through the hilly forests, everything was going swimmingly until the boys looked behind and there was no AM or SHIT following. The boys thought it very improbable that either of those cars had broken down, despite the Hyundai’s exhaust problems, after a few minutes wait the reason for them falling behind became clear. Tim and Ida pulled alongside, with Ida pushed up against the window by the boys inflatable ball!! The ball obviously couldn’t handle the plucky little Fiesta’s speed and decided to take flight, after securing the ball more tightly the boys were back on their way.
From there everything went to plan and they approached Ulan-Ude with Vera actually working reasonably well, this partly made up for the racket coming from the resonating tyres! Somehow the boys managed to lead Rolling Thunder to the finish line in the main square in Ulan-Ude with relative ease. Duncan had always had great faith in Vera making it but Henry and Matt were rather nervous for the last few miles and counted down the last 10 with increasing excitement. The boys had found the square but not how to enter it and so had to cut through a set of parked cars, which included driving past many people gathering for a wedding including the bride!
The did eventually find the way in and erupted with cheers and horns, the boys even used the external speakers, playing the Rocky theme tune. The fact that the boys had made it to the finish line in the excuse of an automobile that Vera was is surely worthy of a Hollywood movie, Leicester City eat your heart out! In all seriousness, when you look at the list of much more suitable cars that didn’t make it you realise how well the boy’s purple Ford Fiesta Friscati from 1994 had done. She may have struggled and needed a lot of help along the way but she, and the boys, had made it and that was all that counted!
They then drove up onto the finish podium and had lots of pictures including a funny one that showed AM towing Vera up the ramp, very appropriate! Tim got the Hyundai up on the podium and hit the rev limiter, which made a deafening sound! After parking their cars up Rolling Thunder retired to the rally HQ, Churchill’s pub, where they made use of their free beer tokens they had received at the finish line, that beer tasted sweet. They were met in Curchill’s by The Bourne Dubbers, who had arrived a day earlier.
After some food, Matt and Dunc shared the meat platter, they made their way to the hostel that had been recommended by the rally staff and had a well earned rest in preparation for that night’s finish line party. On the way back they saw that Jen had finished in the Mini and had actually beat John (who left her in the desert) to the finish line, also there were The Spare Parts!
The finish line party was absolutely buzzing, so many teams had finished in the past few days and there was lots of free food and drink going around, some people went a bit over the top!! After a while in Churchill’s Rolling Thunder moved onto a local club and were treated like celebrities, probably due to their ridiculous dress. Dan was even invited up onto the stage to conduct a prize draw! Not knowing any Russian he rigged the draw and Ozzy from The Spare parts ended up winning a drinks voucher, the convoy was looking out for each other. It was a memorable night for everyone and they deservedly enjoyed it!
Hours at Mongolian/Russian Border – 8
Unnecessary Worries about Vera – 38
Finishing the Mongol Rally – Priceless………
Total Countries Visited – 18 (Russia twice)
Total Distance Covered – 9281 Miles