Sheepish Kiwis tackle 14,000km rally

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What would persuade a young Paerau farmer to travel 14,000km across mountains and desert in a race with no prizes?

Maybe a few too many beers and a conversation during Oktoberfest in Germany a few years back.

Lochie Elliot (22), of Paerau, said that was what started the Mongol Rally journey for him and five friends in two 2001 Fiat Puntos, travelling from England to Mongolia and Russia.

He returned home last week after completing the race with friends Stephen and Grant Restieaux, of Clinton, Brendon Thomas, of Middlemarch, James Lyall, of Wanaka, and Fraser Leslie, of Clinton.

Summing up the trip, Mr Elliot said it was a ‘‘really good'' experience and gave them an insight into what life was like in that part of the world.

‘‘It was great to have a look at some of those countries you probably wouldn't go to unless you were on an adventure like the rally.''

The Mongol Rally is a charity race across Europe and Central Asia, to Mongolia and Russia with no prize for first place.

Vehicles must be under 1000cc, no support vehicles are allowed and teams must raise at least $NZ2300 for charity.

His team, ‘‘Sheepish Kiwis'', raised about £1670 ($NZ4000) for Cool Earth, a United Kingdom-based charity chosen by race organisers, which works to save the world's remaining rainforests.

The team took 32 days to travel the 14,000km across Europe, Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia in two vehicles.

The roads throughout the race were ‘‘tough going'', especially in Kazakhstan, where the team avoided driving on the main roads, and instead drove through paddocks.

The poverty along the way in the former Soviet countries as well as ‘‘supposedly Western'' countries, like Hungary and Romania, was an ‘‘eye-opener'', Mr Elliot said.

Highlights included a trip to Gallipoli in Turkey, and seeing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Travelling with friends in cramped conditions was challenging at times too, and the hot weather, with temperatures some days reaching 52degC.

Along the way there was only one small ‘‘break down'' incident, a flat tyre, but otherwise they got through without a hitch, he said.

However, the vehicles, named Poppy and Fanny, were ‘‘pretty buggered'' by the end of the race, with broken shock absorbers, snapped rear springs, and a ‘‘pretty rusted out'' floor.

Mr Elliot was now working on his family's farm in the Paerau Valley, while team mates were back home in Otago and Australia, while one started his overseas experience in England.

Mr Elliot said he would highly recommend the race to anyone who wanted to do something outside the ‘‘normal'' on their OE.

liam.cavanagh@odt.co.nz 

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