On 15th July, three Plymouth locals took part in the 2017 Mongol Rally challenge – a 10,000 mile car rally where participants travel from London, through Mongolia, to Ulan Ude in Russia, in a scrapyard car with no backup or support, to raise money for charity.
George Monk, Toby Hall and Tom Oates decided to take part in the rally and raise money for Smile Train after Tom’s grandmother, who was born with a cleft, passed away last year.
He says: “My gran passed away during last summer. She was born with a cleft palate and I think she had a untreated cleft until she was a teenager. I know this is a common problem in other nations where they struggle to pay for the surgery costs, especially in Mongolia, so it made sense to raise money for Smile Train.
"The rally thunders 10,000 miles across the mountains, desert and steppe of Europe and Asia during summer. There’s no backup, no support and no particular set route, although we are planning on driving south of the Black and Caspian Sea, (through 19 countries in total).
"Our Team name is DihatsWho (after our trusty Daihatsu vehicle), which Toby has rebuilt after being hit by a bus.”
The team said of the trip: “What a journey it’s been - 7 weeks, 18 countries and 16289 kilometres. Mongolia took 8 days to cover and included the toughest, most relentless, yet beautiful landscape we have ever driven across. With the highs came the lows, one of which was a collision with a rock, needless to say the rock one. Our offering to the gods of mongol included pretty much every item of suspension on the near side front corner.
"But there were also countless highs. Driving the Transfagaresen in Romania, enjoying the sights, sounds and food in Istanbul, jumping in hot springs in Azerbaijan, entering mosques on the silk road in Uzbekistan, seeing the mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan and the Altai region in Russia, and being welcomed into a Mongolian Yurt for a cuppa warm milk!
"We crossed the finish line at 8pm, on Saturday the 2nd of September. Afraid to call it a day, we made the decision to drive back, rather than send it on the train with the others. So the return leg has begun as we meander back west across Siberia!”
As a result of the challenge, the team have managed to exceed their original £1,500 target and raise £2,423 for the charity - enough money to change the lives of 16 children by funding their cleft repair surgeries and giving them the power of a brand new smile.
For more information or to donate, you can visit the trio's fundraising page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MongolRallyDihatsWho