Simon and AlexThe London to Tashkent Challenge 2009

Though neither starting in London nor ending in Tashkent (actually Bishkek), the London-Tashkent Challenge has had two previous outings in 2005 and 2006 and is back for a third instalment.

The fun, although somewhat daunting challenge is to buy a motor for around £100 and drive through France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and into Kyrgyzstan.

At the end of the journey, what’s left is auctioned for local orphanages in Kyrgyzstan and then we fly home, our good deed done. Its called the redistribution of wealth and Marx would have been proud...

To follow our London - Tashkent progress from May - June 2009, see below:

Pre-rally preparations and fundraising

Mungo - our ex London cabAugust 2008 - The team are in the process of entering their application for the rally and are searching for a suitable vehicle.

26 August 2008 - We are now confirmed for the rally leaving on 20th May 2009, team number 13, hopefully not unlucky for us.

24 September 2008 - After much discussion we have decided to take our beloved Mungo on the trip. Mungo is a very old (F reg) Ex London Black Cab that we purchased on Ebay a while back for not much money.

4th October 2008 - What a great night at The Swan in Little Totham. The quiz was well received and well done to Olive's Mum for winning with 76 points. We raised over £250 for our charities. A big thank you to all involved. We also launched the 5p challenge, to raise as much money as possible by collecting 5p pieces. Just how many can we collect? So far after one night... 100 (£5)

16th October 2008 - Team NoMud Rush have been accepted in the world famous Maldon Mud Race on the 4th January 2009. I guess our new years resolution will have to be bath more!

28 December 2008 - Team The Crumblies (Alex's dad and friend Barry) who are also doing the rally now have a page joined to our web site at:

During the Maldon Mud Race January 2009Maldon Mud Race - 4 January 2009

Mud Mud Glorious Mud. Team NoMud Rush managed to complete the world famous Maldon Mud Race this morning. It was tough and rather messy, however Alex, Si, Katy, Tom and Elliot crawled round the 500m course. Poor old Mark got well and truly stuck and had to be pulled out. I think he has unfinished business! Click here to view very muddy photos from the day.

More fundraising

17 January 2009 - Another successful quiz night was held at The Swan in Little Totham on Saturday 17th January. We raised £230 on the night, great fun was had by all, especially well done to the team 'Break mmm'. Thanks to the Swan for hosting this event yet again! Keep an eye out for the next to be held sometime in March.

19 January 2009 - Another fundraising venture that Simon will be taking part in will be the Trailwalker 2009. This is a 62 mile walk in 30 hours accross the South Downs starting at Petersfield and ending at Brighton race course. This will be held on Saturday 11 July and money raised will go towards Oxfam and the Gurkha wellfare trust.

1 February 2009 - A big thanks to Liz and Sean and everyone from Hayes Close who donated a whole pile of 5ps from their games night. Much appreciated. Nearly £33 in all. Lets keep going, just how many can we collect?

Countdown to the challenge

Alex getting waxed12 March 2009 - The countdown is now only 68 days! We have so much to do. We have added on the sponsors page a wishlist that you can sponsor us for. Please email if you would like your name up in lights.

13 March 2009 - More NoMad Rush sillyness...Alex allowed his fluffy bits to be waxed, along with his buddy Vinny, raising £160 for Comic Relief. It can't hurt that much!

21 March 2009 - Another great fun night at The Swan and another £110 raised, well done to the winning team.

Leaving party and more raised by team Nomadrush for their chosen charities

16 May 2009 - The great NoMad Rush leaving party at the Swan in Little Totham. Everyone welcome, come and join us for a good send off.

17 May 2009 - What a cracking party! We raised over £500 on the night, so a big thank-you to all who attended and to the Swan for hosting the evening. We also have collected 5600 5ps (£280) in total, a superb effort.

18 May 2009 - We leave at 3am tomorrow morning...Oh my god...

London to Bishkek - the TRIP
Atomia - Brussels

20 May 2009 - They're on their way! Escorted out of Hatfield Peverel by the Police at 3.00am (a friendly police escort to start their trip!), they left in the early hours to get down to Dover for the 6.00am ferry over to France.

Once in Belgium they found time to visit the Atomium (a space-age leftover from the 1958 World Fair - built to look like an iron molecule, but 165 billion time larger! This is a 102m high steel structure consisting of nine balls linked by columns that looms over the houses of Brussels.

Little bit of car trouble today for Steve and Kim (Thunderpig4) - due to a faulty fuel gauge they ran out of petrol! They had to be towed by Mungo till they got them to the next petrol station.

All now settled and enjoying their first eveing at the campsite in Koblenz, Germany, ready for the long journey ahead.

21 May 2009 - Today was a very long drive of over 500 miles all the way from Koblenz to Wroclaw in Poland.

Map showing route from Koblenz to WroclawThey did find time to stop for lunch though at classical Weimar (Germany). Once home to intellectual and cultural greats such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Wieland, Schiller, Herder, Goethe, Liszt, Nietzsche, Gropius, Feininger,Kandinsky, Klee .... Probably didn't have time to soak up any cultural greatness though over their Frankfurters!!

They have had a great response to the taxi whilst travelling through Germany, with everyone smiling and waving at them. Now exhausted they have reached their hostel in Wroclaw and heading out for a meal and back for a bit of rest.

Auschwitz entrance22 May 2009 - a shorter drive today to Krakow. This left them time to go and see Auschwitz-Birkenau (the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration and extermination camps). It was somewhere they had particularly wanted to visit but of course a very sombre experience once there. They commented on the number of school party's that were there also.

Back to camping now they're in Krakow. So far they have 4 cars in their convoy. Nomadrush (Si and Alex), The Crumblies (Keith and Barry), Thunderpig4 (Steve and Kim) and Snow Merchants (Gavin and Barry Lynch) who have joined them. See the Tashkent website for the team lists - click here.

But they did meet loads of the other teams in Wroclaw the evening before - where they had a great time. Everyone was out in the town square for foods and drinks at the same time so managed to meet lots of the others.

Kiev23 May 2009 - Krakow to Kiev (pictured right).

'Sounds easy, but take a look in your atlas!' 

After 17 long hours they reached Kiev. The roads were bad, they got stopped by police and had to pay a bribe to be allowed to continue - but finally made it to Kiev.

Chernobyl - radioactivity testing24 May 2009 - Chernobyl. The catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 occurred only 100km north of the city of Kiev. So today there was a organised trip for all on the rally to view the results of that day on life now in the Chernobyl area. Radioactivity testing takesplace on entering and leaving the 30 kilometer zone (see the picture of Kim, from team Thunderpig4 being tested).

Pripyat - the dead townAlthough Chernobyl is the name most associated with the reactor, the worst affected was the town nearest the reactor, Pripyat (pictured right). Now named 'the dead town' Pripyat just 3km away from the power plant, was doomed to receive the largest dose of radiation. Residents had to be evacuated within hours and left most of what they owned behind. Once a city with a population of 50 thousand - now no one lives there and an eerie city frozen in time remains.

25 May 2009 - The drive from Kiev to Dnepropetrovsk. Now there are 6 cars in the convoy. Some problems with leaking brake fluid for Mungo, but it seems Alex has fixed this - we hope!

26 May 2009 - Today the group left Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine and drove into Russian. About a 330 mile drive, deteriorating roads and a border crossing that took 5 hours. Apparently there was some kind of confusion over the Taxi and the Russian authorities did not have a corresponding vehicle type in their paperwork - so five hours later.....

They have now made it to the Russian town of Rostov and a hotel for the night.

Alex was interviewed on Essex Radio at 9.35 this morning (11.40am in Ukraine) before the fated border crossing. You can use their listen again facility (this will stay on their website for 1 week only).  Click here to go straight to the BBC Essex Mid morning programme for Tue 26 May and listen again.  If you push the slider straight to 34 mins into the programme you can hear Alex's interview without heading the whole morning radio show!

Ukraine into Russia and beyond!

Rodina 'Motherland' statue at Volvograd27 May 2009 - After a drive of about 470 miles today they arrived at Volgograd (or rather what was formerly Stalingrad). The City's name was changed to Volgograd in 1961 as part of Nikita Khrushchev's programme of de-Stalinization.

Stopped by the police a couple of times, but just to have a closer look (and laugh) at Mungo! They are now staying in a grand hotel in Volgograd, who are rather disgruntled that a collection of comedy and tatty vehicles now line the front of the hotel. They'll get over it!

Simon's photo of the Rodina 'Motherland' statue at Volvograd. Yes the dots at the bottom are people!

Kazakhstan location28 May 2009 - Into Kazakhstan! Another border crossing. This time the border crossing was a mere 3 hours. However this didn't leave them with enough time to reach their intended destination of Atyrau in Kazakhstan so they ended up camping by the roadside with 5 of the other teams. and typical camping weather, it was raining....

Atyrau is Kazakhstans main harbour city on the Caspian Sea. Considered by many to be located in both Asian and Europe, divided by the Ural River which is often considered the boundary between Europe & Asia.


Snow Merchants down a pot hole29 May 2009 - 9 days into the trip, and now in Kazakhstan and now 4 hours ahead of us. Today was supposed to be a rest day but because they didn't reach Atyrau yesterday they carried on today. They managed to get to Atyrau this morning but after that the roads more or less ran out!

On first attempt to continue on from Atyrau (also called Gurjev) towards Aqtobe (Aktjubinsk) the track got so bad they had to turn back and are now attempting to follow another route. So, only 10K outside of Atyrau they have stopped for the night. We'll see where tomorrow will take them and if the roads are passable.

30 May 2009 - Better day for the guys today. After 13 hours on terrible roads and mainly driving on the sand parallel to the road, they have made it half the way to Aqtobe but are a lot happier because they are making progress!

Alex says 'we found a way to get through to Aqtobe on the original route its just someone keeps nicking big chunks of the road!'. They are camped by a railway line out of sight for the night.

Finally a rest at Aqtobe31 May 2009 - They have reached Aqtobe, a hotel for the night and first shower in 5 days! They now need to work out their route to get to Almaty and then on to Kyrgyzstan and are weighing up which roads might have less parts missing than others - tough one!

Aqtöbe (formerly Aktjubinsk), on the main railway to Moscow about 100km from the Russian border, is a developing commercial hub that has experienced an influx of multinational oil and gas companies and an accompanying facelift. (From Wiki).

1 June 2009 - Today they are driving on route to Rudniy. They've changed their route to get on better roads and are going to go via Rudniy then on to the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and down to Almaty and Kyrgyzstan from there. Hoping for better roads!

Barry with the Mankini2 June 2009 - On the road to Astana - the road is a bit bumpy and still big lumps are missing but drivable. So it seems it was a good idea to change routes and as long as it doesn't severely deterioate, I think they will be alright.

I think they have moved on another hour ahead of us - so 5 hours ahead now. They are trying to reach Astana tonight so are going to carry on driving as long as they have light and can see the holes in the road and see if they can make it to Astana before nightfall.

They made it to Astana for the night, stayed in a hotel and had a lay in!  Pictured right, Barry with the Mankini!

3 June 2009 - Made it to Lake Balkhash and camped by the lake which they said was really beautiful.

Lake Balkhash, KazakhstanLake Balkhash is the second largest lake in Central Asia (after the Aral Sea).

The lake currently covers 16,996 km² (6,562 sq mi), but, like the Aral Sea, it is shrinking because of the diversion of water from the rivers that feed it.

It has a length of 376 miles and at its widest point is 46 miles wide, and with a depth of up to 26m.


4 June 2009 - So the convoy, Nomadrush, The Crublies, Thunderpig4 and Snow Merchants are now on the road to Almaty. Once there, they will finanlly get 2 rest days. The football match is in Almaty on Saturday, so every one of the teams still going (and some joining by train, because their cars gave up whilst in Kazakhstan) will hopefully make it there for Saturday.

They reached Almaty in good time and booked into a hotel for the next 3 nights.

Journey progress accross Kazakhstan

Garreth Barry signing autographs at Almaty stadiumFriday 5 June 2009 - in Almaty now until Sunday morning. England vs Kazakhstan kicks off at 9.00pm local time (4pm here) tomorrow. The England team were signing autographs for fans at a practice session at Almaty staduim yesterday.

Alex was interviewed on BBC Essex radio at 10.04 this morning. You can use their listen again facility (this will stay on their website for 1 week only).  Click here to go straight to the BBC Essex Mid morning programme for Friday 5 June and listen again.  If you push the slider straight to 1 hour 4 mins into the programme you can hear Alex's interview without heading the whole morning radio show,

Almaty StadiumSaturday 6 June 2009 - and its all about England vs Kazakhstan!

Kick off at 9pm, an evening kick off, due to the heat in Almaty (4pm for us).

Six of them (Si, Alex, Keith,Barry, Steve and Kim) had been invited to the Ambassadors reception before the match and the only condition was they turn up in the taxi.

England won comfortably 4 - 0.

Kyrgyzstan flagSunday 7 June 2009 - The final border crossing and few hundred miles to reach Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan ready to hand over the cars tomorrow. They border took a relatively short 2hrs!! They were celebrating with food and beer when I spoke to Si.

They tried to interview Simon on Radio 5 live this morning but it seems like he couldn't get reception. Click here to check out the programme - although they don't get to interview the lads they do mention them. Push the dialer to 20 mins into the programme.

Kids at the orphanage in KyrgyzstanMonday 8 June 2009 - Today they went to see the Orphanage and in the same style as their journey began (3 weeks ago in Hatfield Peverel) they were given a police escort all the way to the orphanage. Although this time it was all the 18 cars that made it to Kyrgyzstan and they were allowed to jump red lights and ignore speed limits! Once there, they were able to hand over the gifts of clothing, toys and lots of useful stuff - some donated by other teams who's cars unfortunately didn't make it all the way to Kyrgyzstan. They said it really was touching and the childrens faces lit up when they were distributing the gifts.

Alex hugging Mungo goodbye

They also handed over the cars today. Although the auction wasn't today but will be held later. We will update the website when we know how much money Mungo the taxi has raised to go towards the orphanage.

I'm sure that Si and Alex were blinking back the tears as they handed over their beloved Mungo!

Keith, Simon, Alex and Barry at the airport, ready to come homeTuesday 9 June 2009 - This morning will see them fly out very early from Kyrgyzstan to Stansted. We're all looking forward to seeing them come back safe and well having achieved what they set out to do.

Out of the 29 cars that set out on the 2009 London to Tashkent rally only 18 made it to Bishkek. Its a great achievement that our guys made it, and the cars in their convoy managed to get there.

Well done Nomadrush, The Crublies, Thunderpig4 and Snow Merchants.

Saturday 5th September 2009 - At last we have had news about our beloved Mungo and the other cars. All the other cars sold making a fantastic £10,000 for the orphanage, the only one that didn't sell was our Mungo.

This turned out to be a blessing as Elvira visited another orphanage to find it a worse state than the one we visited. This orphange has around 280 disabled kids with only 2 wheelchairs. Clemo is now organizing a container loaded with wheelchairs and mattresses to go out there.

They needed a vehicle that can fit wheelchairs in to ferry the kids around. Yep, you guessed it Mungo has a new home. We can't think of a better way for him to spend his life. We hope the kids get as much pleasure from him as we did!

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