Friday, August 15, 2008

Arrival and a Week in UB

Sorry for no updates.

With our car on it's way to Ulan Bator, we have managed to spend almost a week in the capital, waiting for our flights. Every day new ralliers came into town, both with and without their cars.

It's interesting to see the same level of attachment towards their vehicles, in other teams. We felt like we had a third teammember the last week of the trip, that of our car, and he never let us down once. Even when the belt slipped, the car was impeccable, and if we could have had our engine lifted, or the radiator removed, we could have gone on with no troubles.

The good news, in that regard, is that the car will net quite a great bit of charity money in sales. It's without question the best car that isn't a commercial vehicle, in the rally (i.e. non-bus, ambulance, truck). That's not my love for Teeg, that's just fact. I will fight you if you disagree.

As far as getting to UB, I'll write about that in length once we get photos, but I can safely say that it was the worst two days of my life. I wouldn't wish that travel experience on anyone, ever. Never. We hitched on a bus and paid a pretty penny to get us to the finish line somehow, in a car, along the route we'd have done in the Micra, and ended up getting more and more Mongolians packed on top of us as the trip went on. We had a driver, who we called Coach...a mom and her two year old, two other ralliers who gave up, with a perfectly working car, a second driver, a kazahk geo-engineer, and a wholesaler guy who wore a towel around his neck, who we called "The Champ."

It was awful. The roads, for lack of a better term, were navigable in the Russian van, but still less than comfortable. We drove basically non-stop for 45 hours in the car to get to the capital as quickly as possible. There are stories that will come from those two days, but I'd rather put some distance between then and now, before writing about it. Unpleasant.

The night before flying, we had the best night possible. Nick, Edward and Mark from Team Do you Do Airports? showed up and we proceeded to share many beers and stories, and in the middle of Dave's Bar we regaled our cars and toasted their maginficence.

Then the entire country exploded with joy as the Mongolian Olympiad, their Judo champ won the gold medal. There were fireworks, ecstatic and joyful celebration in the squares, and thousands of people screaming, cheering, high-fiving and waving flags.

It was a great end-cap to the trip and a wonderful exclamation mark on the rally.

I am sure there will be tons of stories to sort out....but I'll be waiting until I can integrate the photos Steven and I took, and hopefully some of the video taken before Bryan headed home.


(i'm flying now, to Orlando)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

off to UB

We're hitching a ride to the capital, the finish line, determined to finish in some capacity...if not with the car!

We will be dropping our car off with the help of some Mongolians we met near our lake-break-down spot, at Mercy Corps in Khovd....where I'm msging from now.

The ride will take 2-3 days, unfortunately, but it is what it is, and we'll be where we set out to get to. Thanks for the words of encouragement, I can't wait to chronolog this trip.


so.....we're 150 miles into Mongolia, and riding TG up a mountain of rocks, which is not a road, just so we're all on the same page here, but a mountain of rocks, at a huge 50 degree angle, we pushed hard enough to bust our belt.

Steven and I being non-mechanical cracked open the book, and set up camp. we had it all sorted out, when the realization that the crushed radiator would make the replacement impossible, hit us. The belt can't be put on without adjusting the alternator to give it slack, which we can't do since it was wedged against the radiator.

No problem, we'll just get a tow to town, 70 miles southeast and get them to work on it....except we find out he's gone for 5 days. without five days slack in our trip schedule, we're pretty much done.

we're trying to fly into ulan bator, to see the capital, shake some hands, have a beer or two, and make our way back to the states.

I think we did about 7600 and busted through Mongolian ranges.

I'll try to write more if i'm stuck in the capital for any length of time....tons to tell and share, hundreds of stories really.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mongolia - Today

We're heading to the Russian border, with a half day's drive to the Mongolian border once we're in... so we should be in country before the night is done. That's pretty cool.

Wish us luck.

P.S. Mrs Cloud, your son did not do Karate on any border guards. He uses beard intimidation tactics, instead.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kazakhstan vs Russia : A Comparative Analysis of Bribe Tactics

During the course of our trip we've been exposed to multiple examples of bribe and police corruption, in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazahkstan, to date.

I feel that Kazahkstan has a long way to go, in terms of tactics and methodology to reach the level of success that Russian police have attained. It's important to note that the Russians have had a stronger infrastructure for much longer and it's really a testament to their engineering efforts to allow their police force to fleece motorists much more efficiently and effectively.

In Russia we were passing a huge monument to Soviet dominance (?) when I drifted into the passing lane to allow for a better shot for Cloud to snap. In their usual manner, the cops had lined both lanes of traffic with wand-wielding officers pulling over potential marks one after another. We almost always got pulled over in Russia when we were spotted, mainly because we look foreign. This time was no different.

The officer quickly pulled me over, waved me out of the car, asked for my papers, my passport, my license, the car insurance, the car this and that, and each request, I would shrug my shoulders as if I didn't understand what he was saying. This is pretty normal. The less you understand, the more frustrated they get, the more time they waste on you the less time they can spend on people who will simply hand over cash.

He took me into the roadside office, and sat me down at his terminal. He asked me if I wanted jail jail jail? I responded with smiles and shoulder pats and showed them my empty wallet. He didn't like that and got a few other guys in the room and they found some wormy little tech to get on the computer.

He smiled smugly and brought up Babelfish, and nodded at me knowingly, pointing at the screen. He typed in 500 euro fine ride center lane no seatbelt bad license.

He pointed and asked me if I understood. I convinced him that I got into the center lane because his partner waved me to the lane. He got instantly frustrated and called that cop in, who from what I could tell, said that it was probably true.

I laughed and said Ok bye? He got pretty upset and sat me back down and took my license and did scissors motion with his hands and put it into a cabinent and locked it. Then he pointed to the screen, as if the 500 euro would make all this go away.

I just shrugged and smiled.

He then got out a pad of tickets and said

"Protocol understand? Protocol!!!"

I said, "Ticket? Ok ticket! protocol! and got my pen out."

He then kept on and got his boss who came in stammering and yelling, I said that I had no money that the 'Soldats at the border took every penny'.

They laughed about that...and showed no sympathy. I then offered cigarettes and american whiskey. They quickly nodded and waved me back to the car, 45 minutes having elapsed.

I grabbed 4 of our bribe packs, Marlboro, American, and a bottle of Hungarian dessert wine, Tokaj. Hardly whiskey and worth 3-4 dollars.

I went back to the station and the chief there invited me for a drink, and I said NO NO expensive, Russian Vodka? They all liked this, and we had a shot each. It was pretty surreal, doing vodka shots with Russian cops in their office mid-day.

I wanted to get out quickly, before they opened teh bottle and realized it wasn't American, wasn't expensive, and certainly wasn't whiskey.

We drove on.

In Kazahstan, police bribery isn't all that common, to be honest...but there are pockets where money has rushed into areas and made corruption a bit more common. The worst area we've found, really the only bad one so far, was in Quislorda (sp?) an oil-rich city in the south central of the country. We got pulled over 5 times total in less than 2 hours on the road.

On our way out, we got pulled over by the two biggest hillbilly cops imaginable. One tall and lanky, with a mouth of gold teeth, the other fat and stout with a toothpick dangling from his mouth and a holster on his side. A careful glance showed it was empty.

Steven and I quickly popped out of the car and shook hands fast, and said hello, and were as friendly as possible. It's the best tactic, and getting into their faces fast usually confuses them and takes away their intimidation edge.

These two were really struggling to find something wrong. They spent a lot of time looking at the class of our licenses and Goldie tried to tell us that Cloud's E license was invalid since in Kazahkstan a B license is required to drive a car. His screwup was that the E class was actually a class that allowed you to drive anything! So even if it didn't match, it still allowed him to drive whatever he wanted on the roads. Nice try Goldie. I showed him mine, and said that my C class was the same as a B and that it was just different. He tried to push on his fat parner to keep that train of thought going but Stout Kazahk was smart enough to know it was a dead end.

They went around and tried to say that our Mongol Rally stickers were peeling and that was a violation. I shrugged and acted ignorant of his pleas, and he got bored.

Stout Kazahk then went into our car and looked around, while Goldie pantomimed me performing sexual acts with Kazahk women in the middle of the road. It was surreal. He wanted to know how many of the local girls I'd had my way with. I kept saying I was married and pointed to my ring. He pointed to his teeth and said "NO marry too baby".

Yeah that's probably why you aren't married, Goldie.

Eventually they had both poked into the car and in our carelessness we'd left in plain sight a pile of money from the last shakedown (we pulled cash to hide it so we could turn our pockets inside out for cops), a bottle of Johnny Walker (bribe whiskey) and a carton of cigarettes...all laying there for the taking.

They talked it over and then Stout Kazahk's cell phone rang and they jabbered a bit and he ran back to the car to answer it. He pointed to us and said GO America! Go bye. We waved and saluted and got ready to get back on the road.

Goldie took one step back, one last ditch effort to get some of our loot, and Cloud stepped between him. He was on a ridge so with his scary beard and a newfound height advantage, it took the wind out of the poor cop's sail.

We honked and said Love Kazahkstan!! and waved to our new friends. They said Love USA!! and waved back and gave us a hearty police siren counter-salute, and drove up the road to set up their next location to stage out of.

We drove on, with mixed emotions. It was nice to walk away unmolested, but we couldn't help but feel a bit bad for the two of them, and their inexperience and ineptitude with fleecing foreign motorists. I think with time they'll get better, if they are given the chance to grow and excel.

Steven and I are off to the Russian border now. Updates will be sparse.

The Road to Almatay is paved with Salutes, Mutton, and Cigarettes

I can't begin to explain what an amazing and complex week this has been.

The Mongol Rally lived up to all my expectations this past week, delivering stress, adventure, challenges, comraderie, and hurdles to overcome.

We left Kiev with a sense of purpose, a vision that we'd be crossing kazahkstan in 2 days, and we accomplished just that. We woke up in a sunflower field three hours from the Russian border, and it was simply amazing. The Ukraine has miles and miles of nothing but sunflower fields. In the morning when the sun rises, and the evening when it sets, it's one of the most beautiful things imaginable.

We hit the Russian border and got shook down for about 500 bucks of Bryan's money, and Cloud stepped up and fought for most of it back with a Russian cop who had the idea he'd ran into a couple of rubes. We did our russian stint in 24 hours, sleeping in our car when we'd ran out of energy after meeting two English chaps, who had (like us) no contact with any ralliers in a day or so.

We encountered corrupt cop after corrupt cop, trying to get to Kazahkstan as quickly as possible, and met a few of the Spanish starting teams along the way. It was brilliant.

Eventually, Kazahkstan....(i'm running out of time and the internet lady is waving a pair of scissors at me, so I must flee).

Tomorrow the Kazahk border and beyond.

- Justin

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Due to time constraints, we had to skip Uzbek and Kyg. We underestimated the distance and road quality. Surprised? We spent two full days driving 15mph on severly rutted dirt roads the locals in Maquat said were "unpassible". Ha! Team Best Intentions and the Micra proved them wrong, but we are very road weary. I've never driven on roads this challenging for so long. Guess that's why I have a few dozen grey hairs in my beard.

Yesterday we drove over 700 miles to make up time and stay on schedule. This doesn't even include all the corrupt police stops in the Ukraine and Russia. I'll have to elaborate on that later, but it's safe to say we've been able to hold our own and give a minimum amount of "presents" to the local police. They do things differenly over this way.

On a sad note, Bryan is leaving the Rally in the morning to fly home. Work duties call him back and we wish him well.

Justin and I press on toward Mongolia in the morning. He'll try to update again in the morning time permitting.

Sorry to keep you all in the dark for the past week, but there's zero internet in the desert. I wish I could write more now, but I need to sleep this afternoon and get ready for tomorrow's drive.

One last note: The Kazakh people are amazing. Friendly, helpful and curious. I've taken lots of pictures, but probably won't upload them until I get back.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

in Kiev

We drove straight through Budapest to Kiev, after picking up the paperwork that Nick left us at a hotel about 45 mins from the Ukraine border.

We sat down, had some espresso, and forged documents.

Over the past 24 hours we've been cooped up in the car and are literally destroyed, and need to sleep, eat, and then sleep again.

The confidence is high, but so is the tension, after driving around the capital for hours upon hours in search of tires, Nissan dealer, internet cafes, and a place to crash.

Tonight we recharge and head out again...towards Russia and Kazahkstan directly, as we planned from the beginning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A new direction.

I suppose things aren't supposed to go as planned when you're having an adventure. Yesterday, Nick called from the Ukraine border. They were turned away due to a problem with their car title. The kicker is that they have our car title.

So, the new plan is to leave Budapest and catch up with them today near Poland and travel together to the Russian border through Latvia.

Since the Micra title is in Nick's name, we will need to cross the Russian border with them and hopefully not have anymore problems.

This could mean that we can't get to the other countries we planned to visit, but at least we'd be in Russia and have path to Mongolia.

We'll be leaving here within the hour and will update if we can when we stop for the night.


Just posted some pictures on Flickr...

Budapest, Hungary

We made it to Budapest last night at 9pm local time. Bryan and I met Justin's friend Craig who hooked us up with an amazing apartment for two nights. It's in the center of Budapest near the markets and close to the Danube river bridge.

After unloading our bags, we had dinner at a medieval "style" restaurant with Craig and his girlfriend Kati. We drank a cup of mead and ate large portions of meat and potatoes. Afterwards, we came back to the apartment and met team "Do You Do Airports". Nick, Mark and Edward stayed with us at the apartment. Nick was the chap who picked up and stored our Micra for 4 months leading up to the rally. They are a great group of guys and we stayed up too late trying to top each other's stories. They left for Kiev this morning and we hope to meet them in Alamaty, Kazakhstan later in the rally.

Today we walked around Budapest a bit and had a terrific lunch at "Kek Rozsa" or Blue Rose. It's a Jewish-Hungarian restaurant and I had the best Goulash, ever. We're taking pictures of every meal and will be posting stuff on flickr later today if we can use Craig's SD card reader.

We're back at the apartment now resting up for the drive to Kiev tomorrow.

Justin promises to post again later tonight and provide more amusing stories and anecdotes. Hopefully my factual entries aren't too boring. It's all I can manage on no sleep.

We are having a great time and will enjoy our beds tonight. They may be the last we'll see for awhile.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Greeting from Vienna

Here's a quick recap of our journey so far. This will be fast because it's internet cafes are expensive.

- Left London late due to problems installing our roof rack.
- We fixed it at Halfords in Wimbledon and still made a 730 ferry in Dover.
- Drove all night through Belgium, Germany and made it CZ before noon the next day and partied at the castle. Then camped for the night.
- Left CZ this morning and are now in Vienna in route to our luxurious Budapest apartment.

Things are going well and the car is holding up. We'll try to post a picture if we can arrage for an SD card reader here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

crunch time

Tomorrow Justin & I (Cloud) will drive to Shepparton to pick up the over nighted roof rack & install it. Then we drive back to London & meet Bryan at Hyde park for the start at 10:30-12:30. We have to make it to the Dover ferry by 4:20 and drive on to Prauge for the rally castle party. More later. Updated via Bryan's iPhone.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Best Intentions Team Update

It's hard to believe the Mongol Rally is only a week away! We only have a couple more things to do and we'll be ready.

We may have to make some adjustments on the road, but if things go as planned this is our finalized route.

Bryan leaves for London on Tuesday to get the car ready for the start on Saturday. Cloud leaves on Wednesday night and Justin will mosey on over on Thursday evening.

Please check back after the rally starts on the 19th. We plan to update this blog as often as possible while we're on the road.

Also, if you use Twitter, you can follow our updates here.

If you've been meaning to donate, but keep forgetting- There's still time! Please use the donate buttons on our site.

Lastly, check out this article on Bryan and our team in the Austin Statesman!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Video Tour of Our MIcra

Our car as filmed by the esteemed Nick Thorpe, another Rally particpant who has been instrumental in helping us procure, and register our vehicle.

We simply would have no way to participate in the Rally and handle the logistics without Nick. Here is a link to his site

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our Article in the Lodi News-Sentinel

Our own Justin Farren, former resident of the Lodi, CA area was featured (along with team-mates Steven and Bryan) in the following newspaper article detailing our upcoming adventure!

Born for Adventure

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Mechanic's Dream

So here's what we know:

Roughly 10,000 miles total.
Couple thousand miles of very poor roads.
At least a thousand miles of NO roads.
Crossing rivers.
Crossing deserts.
Traversing mountains with 3 passengers and a roof full of supplies.

.. and what you see here is the machine that will carry us to our eventual destination at the capitol of Mongolia.

We've purchased our chariot for this year's Mongol Rally, a 1998 Nissan Micra. As the mechanic for this journey, I can hardly contain my excitement.

Over the next four and a half months I'll be spending late nights researching repair manuals, mechanical schematics, ordering spare parts, new parts, upgraded parts, and planning for every conceivable obstacle standing between us and our final goal.

The purchase of our vehicle is an exciting step not only for our team, but also for our sponsors, as we will be adorning our transport with the names and logos of some of the most generous and giving people we've ever known.

This really marks the beginning of the journey for me personally, and I'll be posting my thoughts and ideas on how to get this car to Mongolia frequently as out departure is just around the corner.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Welcome Sponsors!!! Things are shaping up!

We're off and running now, people.

We've got a core group of sponsors that have gone above and beyond the call of duty! I'd like to highlight Josh Anderson of California who gave us a myriad of ridiculous clauses and requirements in order to honor his donation as our inagural sponsor. While the three of us are not looking forward to doing such ridiculous things as singing children songs in pirate eye patches, we will do so with a grin, and a sense of amazement at the generousity that Josh (and subsequent others) have expressed. It's really amazing what people have done.

On that note, we'd like to highlight some of our amazing corporate sponsors, without whom we'd never have a shot in making the Rally and keeping our worldly possessions in tact.

They have provided us with support, visibility, financial help, product and services that we'll need before and during the Rally....and we could not be happier at who we have on Board!

bd's mongolian barbeque has graciously taken the reins as our main sponsor for the Mongol Rally 2008. We're happy to work with the Altamonte Springs branch, as well as align with bd corporate and their personal charity efforts for the Mongolian Youth Development Foundation (MYDF). We will be doing several events with bd's in the upcoming months to raise even more money for our charities!

Batter Blaster has been one of the biggest supporters of our rally effort, and it's with great pride and anticipation that we announce that we'll be cooking and traveling with Batter Blaster on our trip. Bryan is a big fan of the stuff, and Steven and I are very careful what we put into our body, so we were curious about what exactly made up the Batter Blaster product.

When we found out that it was completely organic, we were on board immediately, and contacted Batter Blaster with the hopes of getting them involved. It's going to be so awesome the first time we spray out our breakfast like it's no big deal. It's going to be more awesome when I eat all the pancakes and Steven and Bryan just stare miserably at my swollen stomach. Ahh, the good life.

Ralliers have to eat. This is fact. In addition, ralliers have to be efficient and aware of the costs associated with resturants, consumables, environmental impact, and financial impact on the charities by taking on additional expenses on the Mongol Rally.
One of our main objectives, sponsorship-wise, was to align with companies we believed in. Fozzils matches with our philosophy, perfectly. Thanks to Bart Fite of Fozzils, we'll be using their Solo product every step of the way.

Delta Bail is the only sponsor on our list, whose services and product we hope to never ever need during the Mongol Rally 2008. We anticipate all sorts of challenges, but if any of them involve prison or jail, we are going to lean heavily on Mark Monroe and Dallas' Delta Bail. Mark has been a personal friend to me since we were 17, and I've never met a more loyal and honest guy in my life. It shows in how he runs his business, and the level of trust his customers have in what he provides.
Again, visit for information about Texas' most respected and established Bail Bonds company.

Coleman specializes in camping and outdoor recreation products, including stoves and lanterns, propane-powered cooking appliances, high-performance coolers; catalytic heaters; weather-resistant tents, heavy duty airbeds, water recreation products, flashlights and much more. They are also one of the most prolific and respected brands in the outdoor market. We're honored to have their participation in our Mongol Rally experience. Again, visit for information about Coleman Outdoor gear and camping products.

Without the above sponsors we'd be nowhere. Thank you so much for your involvement, and please know that we're looking forward to representing each of the companies involved with Best Intentions Tea and Travel, during the Mongol Rally 2008.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Charity Site Set Up! We need your help...

Our account is verified and you can now make tax-deductable charitable donations directly to our site. We're shooting for our minimum now, and hope that we can adjust it to 25k pending approval.

Please help, we need anything you can spare, even a few dollars helps.

Thanks in advance,

Team BIT&T

Friday, January 25, 2008

Charity Collections - Patience!

Just a note to those of you who have contacted us regarding direct-to-charity donations for our event. We're currently awaiting approval from to facilitate our charitable donations.

We've not heard back from them in a few days, but expect to have it set up by Monday. Thanks for your patience.

- Justin

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We're In and Off and Running

Hey there.

Welcome to our blogger site. I'm Justin and I'll be adding my entries, along side Steven and Bryan for the next 7 months. Six months of prep and one month of cross-global adventure all in the name of charity and personal trial.

I hope you enjoy what we document here. I'm sure it will be filled with triumph, adversity, adventure, tears (from me probably) and laughs (from all of us).