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Team Freedom 2 Peking

Peking Challenge 2007 vertrekt/departs 26/09/2007

Volg Team Freedom met hun voorbereidingen en natuurlijk tijdens de reis van Amsterdam naar Peking, "The Extreme Route". Zij zullen zo vaak mogelijk verslag doen met foto's vanaf Amsterdam tot in Peking zodat u ze op de voet mee kunt volgen. Veel Plezier!
Link naar Team Freedom fotoalbum
Link naar Team Freedom YouTube filmpjes

Follow Team Freedom with their preparations en during their trip from Amsterdam to Beijing "The Extreme Route". They wil try to tell their story with pictures during the trip as often as possible so you can follow them along the way. Have fun!
Link to Team Freedom Photo Album
Link to Team Freedom YouTube Movies


The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 24, 2007 12:47:22

Hello All,

It’s Monday September 24th at 00:25 am. 15 minutes ago we flew away from Beijing Airport and are now high up in the air. The trip is done!!! We made the Finish. YES! We have now left Beijing behind us…… I wrote a whole story this morning to keep you informed of the latest news on the web log but something went wrong with placing the story on the web log site. So now we are in the plane and I am giving it another try and will try to send the story through when we get to Dubai.

First we go back to a couple of days ago……..

We did finally (as you already know by now) cross the border after lot’s of bureaucracy. Once through on the Chinese side we were awaited by an organization which would escort us to the Great China Wall and Beijing. This also because we are not allowed to travel through the country by ourselves but have to drive in convoy. They had everything organized in good order and after 3 hours waiting for the paperwork to be settled we could finally resume our journey. We all received our Chinese drivers licenses (with our foto and just Chinese signs on it) and Chinese license plates to put on our car. At about 17:30 we actually started our first Chinese journey of 500 kilometers. There is an immediate change with Mongolia. The trees are planted in a row along side the roads, the grass is much greener, everything is planted, the roads are tarred and I can keep going on like that for ages. When we drove trough cities and towns, the inhabitants would watch our convoy drive by and here you could immediately see the big contrast between rich and poor. The first few kilometers we were still driving through the last part of the Gobi dessert and on either side of the freeway you could see dinosaurs ( I have been told that many dinosaur bones and skeletons have been found in the Gobi dessert, so that’s why…)Blog Image

It was a long drive and we finally all arrived at the hotel at 03:00 am and were exhausted. It was a beautiful hotel and it is a pitty we could not really enjoy the amenities and even our soft bed because we had to get up again at 07:00 am to resume our trip to the Great Wall of China. We crossed amazingly beautiful landscape and drove across mountains, through mountain passes, villages, and finally there it was right in front of us. The great Wall! It’s very impressive. Too bad that we could not go all the way to the top because of the short time we had but we made pictures with the other Challengers and toasted on the finish with Champagne. It was a very emotional moment. All kinds of things flashed trough my mind. Al the stress of the past few weeks, all the good and bad times, the intense preparations of the past few months. We have been so busy with everything to just be able to start the journey and suddenly we are standing here, at the finish The journey comes at an end. We still are in some kind of “high” resuming our trip to Beijing. Again we pass trough breathtaking landscapes. Slowly we are entering the outer city limits of Beijing and you immediately notice how busy they are working here at getting everything ready for the 2008 Olympic Games. Complete cities are being build and rise out of nothing. Everything has to be perfect and that’s very noticeable. We are already hours too late for our expected arrival at the Dutch Embassy. Driving in convoy is not so easy to keep everyone together in a busy city, so we have to stop several times until all cars have caught up again. Then we get informed that we have to turn on our warning lights and to not stop for a red traffic light anymore and keep driving following each other closely and loudly beeping the horn when crossing through a red light. So said and so it was done. You can imagine how the other traffic reacted to us. But what a kick this gave, to drive like this through a busy city of millions of people with this beautiful sunset in the back drop………. The Dutch ambassador welcomed us with champagne, beer and bitter balls (traditional Dutch treat – they’re small beef filled croquettes) Mmmmmm. All this and we still had to drive to our hotel afterwards. Oooops! I am still hanging in this kind of rush or high, even though the trip is really at an end right now. I must confess that I prepared for this trip with mixed feelings being very unsure but I can tell you that from day one until today I enjoyed every single minute. Yes, sometimes it was very stressful and frightening, it was sensational, real, emotional, letting go, frustrating, enjoyable, good times, bad times, meeting many interesting people from who you also learn something new. Shortly, it was sensational, a try before you die and a……..want to do it again adventure. This last suggestion only in compliance with the home front of course. Blog ImageBlog Image

So, we leave the embassy and drive towards our hotel, here we are awaited by orphan children with flowers for the organization “Plan” and the press. It was so nice and also the children of colleague challengers Piet and Rick handover a big cheque to “Plan”. The children of Piet en Rik spend a lot of time collecting money for this charity organization and flew to Beijing. Delicious Chinese snacks were served (decorated with the heads of chickens) and we toasted and drank a lot. Afterwards we all went for a very late night out in Beijing. The next day I slept in, what a luxury. Pieter was already up early, being busy with the car and he had his hair cut, which was well needed! Later we visited this really large covered market where you could buy heaps of clothing with brand names, and souvenirs. You know how it goes, we had to buy an extra suitcase to take home with us. In our hotel, which is by the way a splendid and place and everything is taken well care for, everybody goes their own way. When you would meet up with each other in the lobby and suggestions of places to go are offered, then you just decide if you want to go along or not. It’s all very easy going. The day before yesterday we had to get up early at 05:30 am as the car had to be brought to shipping company at the harbor. 1 person per car was enough but I really wanted to come along. This way I can sight see on the way there and you don’t see a busy Chinese shipping harbor every day. The way ther was very dangerous. It was very foggy and the Chinese don’t seem to take any notice of the traffic rules. They overtake you left and right, truck suddenly stand still in the middle of the freeway, no hazard lights, working class people are walking everywhere, so very dangerous situations. I was glad when we finally arrived at the harbor after 3 hours of driving. Here every 2 cars were fit into 1 container and we left them behind in the care of the containers owner until they will arrive in the Netherlands in 4 to 6 weeks time. This was the really our actual final stop for the trip. We took a bus back to the hotel and decided to go to a karaoke place with a some of the others later that day. That’s a must when you visit China, it seems. I thought at first we would go to a karaoke bar or something like that, but we went to this hotel were they brought us to this small room and this is where it was happening. So we laughed , cried and just had a wonderful time…….Blog ImageBlog Image

In the evening almost all the Challengers enjoyed our final dinner together. This morning we were busy packing, of course I still brought too many clothes with me because we hardly have had any need for the warm clothing but…. you never know! At 12 noon we wanted to go see the Forbidden City together with Arthur and Niels. Across the street from here lies the biggest square in the world. The famous Heavenly Peace Square. Where in 1989 a student revolt was taking place and where many have found their death. You must remember the tv images where this one person stood alone in front of this big tank. Luckily today we are in a different Beijing. 1000’s of tourists are now standing on this square and a free culture movement is tolerated, even they are all still being watched closely. You see the military and government involvement everywhere. On the walls at the entry of the Forbidden City you find a big picture (painted) of most probably world’s most biggest dictator. Back then this little Red Book existed and everyone had to live and abide by the rules in his book, if you did not then you would just suddenly disappear……… It is a big question mark for us why this person is still honored today. The story goes that his picture has to be painted anew many times because of the smog damage and that with each retouch the dictator seems to smile a little more and more?? One building is more beautiful then the other in the Forbidden City, restorations are taking place everywhere, so that everything looks perfect when millions of people visit the city during the 2008 Olympic Games. The city is surrounded by canals and walls and inside these walls you find temples. Here we were able to take a look. The Emperor’s part of the city was closed and we could not visit inside. We rented some bikes, which was a great way to explore the city. You could see the city Beijing from a different angle. It was only yesterday when I said that you would have to be crazy to drive a bike trough this city because of the chaotic traffic. But it’s all different when partaking in the traffic on bike yourself. You just go with the flow and never hesitate. We keep cycling and we pass lakes, cross canals, different bridges (seems like Amsterdam) and finally end up in this little alley with lot’s of cafe’s and places to eat. Looks cozy and so we chose a little roof terrace to rest a bit. But time flies and we had to return to our hotel again. And here we are sitting flying high above the earth in a plane. Pieter has already fallen asleep and I am starting to get tired as well so I will start to round up my story and we will try our best to send it through from Dubai. And with this I also officially close our Trip stories for the blog. I hope it has helped you all to take a little taste of the experiences we had. We really enjoyed the trip ourselves and also reporting to you and this could not have taken place withour Sonja and Bart who kept the website, photo album, you tube movies and web log up to date. So thank you to Sonja and Bart! I will read it all again myself when I get home as this trip leaves many impressions and ones can process only that much. One day you are walking through St Petersburg and a few days later you are standing on the Red Square in Moscow which is closely followed by standing on the Square of Heavenly Peace in Beijing. You pass so many different landscapes and cultures and it is so much to take in because you want to remember all you see and do for later……..Blog ImageBlog Image

Lot’s of love and greetings en see you back home xxx

P.S. When we get home we are going to add some more You Tube movies on our You Tube site. So keep posted!!!

Day 25 Finally passing the border! (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 22, 2007 22:39:05

Just as we expected we had spend another night in Mongolia at the Ger Camp from the night before. Yesterday the police went with Arthur, the guide, Lex and Linda to the place where the Peking Duck was abandoned. Here they found traces of theft and left behind materials of the car. It seems that the Peking Duck was stolen. All the police could do now was to write up a report of theft and we would hopefully be able to cross the border today.Blog Image

So we returned to the Ger Camp and a group of 30 Germans had arrived just before us who were also driving a rally. That meant that all the Ger tents were occupied. We were able to sleep with the whole group together in one big Ger tent. So as it was said so it was done. We had a blast. Lot’s of snoring though and from all sides these strange noises came and Vital had a subtle explanation for each noise made.

This morning we were all up early again at 7:00 am and after breakfast we headed for the border and all were present at 8:30 am at the Mongolian side. Finally the paperwork was all done and we could pass at 15:30 in the afternoon. Now we are waiting at the Chinese border waiting for them to finish all the needed paperwork. Blog Image

At 17:00 in the afternoon we are finally all driving in convoy with 500 kilometres to go. The Chinese government wants to keep an eye on things and thus to keep all under control we have to keep driving in convoy and we are absolutely are not allowed to get off track. Tonight we spend at a small hotel and tomorrow we have another 200 kilometres to go and we will have reached the Great Chinese Wall. That’s where our trip ends. Finished……. The last week has gone so quickly.

In Beijing some wives and children of some of the challengers will be awaiting their arrival. So that will be a great and welcoming reunion for them. What we still have been so lucky with so far is the weather. Everyday clear blue skies and approximately 30 degrees Celsius, excluding a couple days when it was a little less off course.

Further we have no news.

Greetings from us xxx

Day 24 At the Mongolian-Chinese border (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 22, 2007 21:56:06

We woke up very refreshed from our night at the Ger Camp in Zamyn-Uud along the Mongolian-Chinese border. It is 14:25 hours and we have been waiting since 10:00 am this morning. There is namely a problem, you see, the Peking Duck, the Citroën 2CV broke down yesterday and was abandoned. The steering was broken and the service team tried their best to repair it but alas. So the Peking Duck chauffeurs got into the car with the medical team and they all left the Peking Duck behind. This was just the big problem because now they are being very difficult at the Mongolian side of the border. The car must be picked up or towed. This will become a annoying situation. We must await the outcome.

Now it is almost 17:10 in the afternoon and still there have been no changes. Arthur took a guide and the police to the spot where they left the Peking Duck behind and hopefully they are writing up a police report and we can all pass the border when they return. But maybe I am having high hopes if this will happen today as the border on the Chinese side closes at 17:30. What a bureaucratic bull shit, because that’s what it is all about a little piece of paper. Blog Image

Now quickly about something else. I spoke the Mongolian guide yesterday and he said that we had been “Extremely Lucky”!! That night when we got surprised by soldiers we had already crossed the border to China and so we were trespassing into China. And with the upcoming Olympic games and the attacks on since 9-11 the Chinese military are very alert, cautious and extremely strict. They probably told us in Chinese to halt and luckily that is just what we did, otherwise they would have reacted much differently and most probably would have fired their machine guns at us as soon as we would make a wrong move. It happens often that shepherds get lost in winter storms and end up on the Chinese side and that this becomes a long lasting bureaucratic struggle which can take at least 3 months in which these people spend time in prison. With one person it even took 2 years before he was freed. The guide said that we were very lucky that they did not take us prisoner and that it did not become a political situation and that they allowed us to just turn around and let us go back the way we came from. Well, I just did not know what to think (and I was not alone). So now you can see what happens when you get of the path. But luckily we are here and can tell the story.

I have nothing further to tell right now. It is most probable that we have to return to the same Ger Camp where we spend the night before and have to spend another night under the Mongolian skies.

Greetings Gaby

Day 23-24 Ulaanbaatar

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 21, 2007 15:43:40

So, we have spend some long and exciting days. After we visited the mayor the day before yesterday, we drove on to Ulaanbaatar, here we were able to take a look at this project of Habitat for Humanity. They were building twelve houses together with the help of three family members (if they were there) and with this project is meant to be that the houses are build within 24 days. Especially with the winter coming any day now, the people want to make use of these houses a.s.a.p., so often even the neighbours are lending a helping hand. I think this is a real cause!Blog ImageBlog Image

At 20:00 hours we were invited to have dinner in the largest Ger Tent of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar. A hustling an bustling city with inhabited by 60% percent of inhabitants of all Mongolia. There are lot’s of cars and people off course, a big contrast between rich and poor. We had a lovely meal which was very welcome after spending 4 days surviving on only bread and water!!!Blog Image

Yesterday we left for the Gobi dessert, almost all cars are repaired and brought back to life in some sort of driving condition. So the plan is that today all cars will be united together again. Pieter and I left together with Jaap van den Ende and Robert Jan of Aktueel Sport Magazine, it will be a trip of 340 kilometres. That’s not that far one would think, but that’s far from the truth. We left at 01:30 am and arrived at 09:30 am at the last Ger Camp close to the Chinese border. We actually just drove all the way in one go so that we in principle could spend a day of good rest. The others will arrive tonight. But…………….Blog Image

When we left Ulaanbaatar a little black puppy crossed the busy street, it could not have been more then 3 or 4 weeks old! She stood still in front of our car very much in panick and lost looking. Pieter and I jumped both out of the car at the exact same moment, other cars beeping their horns loudly at us. I picked up the little pup and held her close against me, she shivered and cried but after a half hour she was calming down and already gnawing at my fingers. We stopped several times and tried to give her away to other people, but no one wanted to take her. So that’s how she travelled with us all the way to the Chinese border. We were already making plans to take her (Robert Jan called her Omsk) to the Nethelands with us. I knew that would finally cause problems for me at home but Robert Jan wanted it so very much. So we stopped a few times on our way to let Omsk take a pee and give her some milk. The funny thing abvout this story is that I kept trying to leave the dog with other people (after Robert Jan insisted on it) and that Pieter kept saying, no don’t do it, they’ll turn her into dog stew, we will arrange something for her in back in Holland, call Marjo and have her look into what documents and vaccinations it needs to bring her home with us. (It was way to early to call Hanny vd Horst out of her bed, and it gave me a peaceful feeling knowing there is someone back home who adopts little dogs like these). So said, so done!Blog Image

Suddenly while we were driving through the dessert Jaap announced over the CB that Pieter should stop as he thought that our car was smoking way to much. No way, said Peter, that’s nothing your car smokes too when you’ve just accelerated. The suddenly our whole drivers cabin filled up with smoke. Pieter stopped the car immediately along side of the road and tells me to leave everything in the car and get out straight away. Luckily it was nothing serious, it was the cooling fluid (the lid had come loose). Another good ending!Blog Image

So we are on the way in the Gobi dessert, just left 200 kilometres of asphalt behind us and then the real dessert begins….. During the trip we pass several check points, here the tyres are spread with a disinfectant and then we may get back on our journey. The landscape we are driving through now is inhabited by Guiney Pigs or also know as ground hogs. You’re not allowed to stop here or more importantly leave your car. These animals carry a parasite which is deadly for human beings. Then we got to a second check point were we were halted by people in a disinfectant clothing and they ordered us to take a different route. I had imagined a whole different picture of the Gobi dessert, but when you travel through the middle of the dessert it is a true paradise. We only raced over sand dunes after sand dunes and all kinds of obstacles, muddy roads and rocky hills. Then the darkness sets in and due to all the rocking and shocking our computer gives up completely, we have no GPS no more and there are so many roads to make a choice to take off???? Us was told that if anything should happen stay and follow the Trans Siberia, but this track also wrings itself in many curbs so you get very disorientated!! It is pitch dark outside, we drove through ghost towns, balls of bushes, like you see in western movies fly across the road infront of our car. The atmosphere carries a weird feeling. We were looking for other challengers because they would pitch camp somewhere in the dessert. But there was no phone network available to make calls, so we dicided to keep going for another 200 kilometers and spend a night in a hotel instead of camping out, which would not be ideal with the strong wind that was blowing. The weather has also turned for the worse. Yesterday we walked around in T-shirts and today we need to wear a winter coat. BrrrrrrrrBlog ImageBlog Image

So whilst on our way we see a light burning somewhere far away, so we drove towards it when suddenly a soldier jumps in front of our car. He came towards the car and Pieter told him that we were looking for the Chinese border but he could not understand us and signed to us that we had to stay there. We smiled and told eachother that he probably was going to get his car and would escort us to the border. And we joked towards Jaap that the soldier had gone to get more colleagues to arrest us. He returns with another young collegue soldier and signs to us aggressively that Pieter must turn of the engine and has to get out of the car. So Pieter said, no we are leaving now and starts to drive away and suddenly the soldier signs to his collegue that he should aim his gun at us and get ready to fire at us. So he comes running towards Pieter and he nervously loads his gun with trembling hands and aims at Pieter. I just didn’t know what was going through my mind at that moment. It seemed like we stepped into a movie scène!

Pieter understood straight away the seriousness of the situation and signs “no no” and turns of his engine and gets out of the car. Minutes pass by and a third colleague soldier and they keep looking into the car and start laughing. Then comes (who we think) is their leader, angry because he had to get out of his bed (it was already 03:00 in the morning), looked very angry inside our car where I sat keeping myself busy with Omsk. The soldiers stood in front of the car now aiming their machine guns at it. All kinds of scenario’s crossed my mind. I found my mobile and started to dial all kinds off numbers before I saw “No Network” on the mobile screen. Well, what can you do then? The panic button! A half hour had passed and our passports had been confiscated and three armed soldiers were still keeping us captive. One of them kept spitting on the ground, I had this strange kind of feeling that these people did not even know or had any experience before with situations like this, so my conclusion was that they would react straight away if we would make a strange movement. Pieter kept talking to them even though they could not understand a word. He told them about the Peking Challenge and that tomorrow probably another 13 cars would join us. He showed them Omsk and told them how we found her until he finally walked towards the car and told me to turn the key and make contact with the battery and then press the panic button.

Shit, I said. I have already tried that 4 times but without result if you don’t turn the contact. So I try it again. Now we wait. Suddenly their leader returned with our pasports and gave them to Pieter and tol dus to drive back 35 kilometers where we came from and then keep going to where we wanted to go. For what we could understand out of the rest of his story is that we were already in China and had entered illegally. So who knows who they thought we were, making an illegal pass across the border in the middle of nowhere. Luckily it all ended well, but what would have happened if Pieter did drive away before and we would see angry Chinese soldiers follow us with aiming guns in our rear view mirror. Blog ImageBlog Image

Even though we drove back the way we came for 35 kilometers we still did not have any clue where we were and which way we should go. We did find the tracks of the Trans Siberia again but we did not know which way would go towards the border or go back towards Ulaanbaatar. Finally the twilight set in and the sun would be up soon. We saw some people who live in the dessert and asked them for directions. Thus we were the first to arrive at the border town and we look up the Ger Camp. Here we find the old timer that drove the Paris to Beijing challenge 100 years ago. It has not been two months ago back in the Netherlands, when our Peking Challenge organisation had an introduction day of the teams and this historic car was there as well and now it is here at the Chinese border. Now it was making another attempt to make the same trip from Paris to Beijing again. After a lovely and sociable breakfast we finally find our way to bed. We gave left Omsk with the manager of this camp as according to Italia (the team driving the old timer) it was almost impossible to get her into China and God knows what could happen to her then. Blog Image

Many greetings and maybe until tomorrow.

Love, Pieter & Gaby

Stuck at the border (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 19, 2007 09:32:59

Dear All,

Here follows a last update of Team Freedom and the rest of the whole group.

They can’t get across the border!!! It seems that the Peking Duck (Citroën 2CV) has finally broken down completely two days ago, 200 kilometers before the border of Mongolia and China. So the Peking Duck Team packed up all their stuff and divided it between a few cars and are traveling together with the Crew team. So the group are now traveling with 14 cars instead of 15.

The first few cars arrive at the border on Monday at 3 am and in the following hours the group grew until finally all 14 cars were complete. Now it seems that on their papers it says that the group is traveling with 15 cars and customs is only counting 14. This is a big problem according to customs. After discussing and talking for hours with customs they stubbornly keep insisting that 15 cars the teams have not even gained anything. So Tuesday afternoon they are still at the border. They have even tried to report the Peking Duck stolen but alas.

I called Gaby yesterday afternoon at around 15:00 hours Dutch time, that’s at about 20:00 hours their time. They all returned to the Ger Camp where they had slept the night before. 5 hours before that Arthur, the Peking Duck Team, a guide and customs officer left to drive back to where the Peking Duck was abandoned. Now the Teams are waiting for their return with hopefully some positive news. So the teams are getting ready and prepared for spending another night at the Ger Camp.

When we look at Google Earth today we see that Arthur and the Peking Duck Crew have returned and that the group is waiting at the Chinese border. What is happening now we don’t exactly know but according to the sms messages on the Peking Challenge website (all sms’s are in Dutch language) they could still be hours or weeks away from crossing the border. And all this while they should have arrived in Beijing today.

So, now we just wait for Pieter & Gaby to check in on the web log. They have much more to tell you then just about this situation. I would say, light up a candle and say some prayers so that they may get through customs soon and finally are able to arrive in Beijing and after this can safely return home.

Greeting, Sonja

Mongolia (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 17, 2007 23:23:06

Mongolia is a large country with not many inhabitants. Half of them are nomads who live on the endless steppes ( in ger tents, ger means cover) where they are surrendered to one of the most extreme climates on earth. The scenery and landscape of Mongolia changes constantly, there are enormous deserts to huge mountain regions. Mongolia is a country with many contrasts. For instance there is a big gap between rich and poor, there are salt and sweet water lakes, kilometers long and endless steppes and high, steep mountain roads. They hardly eat any vegetables, by which I mean that they don’t grow it over here.Blog Image

There is more cattle then people. Sometimes 4 seasons take place in one single day. You can walk around in your summer singlet in the morning, then suddenly the clouds stack up above you, the wind sets in and when you least expect it, it suddenly starts to hail badly. It can be really cold but a half hour later you cannot stand the heat of the sun. Sounds strange but it is true. Blog Image

Hello readers, I would like to say, grab a cup of coffee and sit down comfortably because I have some catching up to do and have lot’s to tell…………….

Here we are at this big hotel, the Chingis Khan in Ulaanbaatar, de capital city of Mongolia. Very luxurious, streaming hot water which is wonderful after being 4 days of survival. First we want to freshen up and catch up on shaving! Yes, the days fly by, getting up early in the mornings and late to bed at night. We really don’t drive that many kilometers in a day anymore because the roads here are so terribly bad (you really can’t call it any road over here). So it will take you about 1 hour to drive about 30 kilometers, so count out the hours if we have to drive 630 kilometers a day!!! However it is very beautiful over here, a true paradise, all around you there are mountains, blue skies, deep blue lakes, flowing creeks, winding rivers, endless stretched out landscapes, steep mountain passes, a starry sky as I have never seen it before in my whole life!!Blog Image

Not to forget all the grazing cattle that you see everywhere, camels, horses, cows (yaks), goats and sheep. A group of horses who suddenly gallop across your way in front of the car. Just amazing! I wrote my story today on the computer in the car which was not easy with all the good and bad situations on the road. It was about the last 4 days (almost two full pages) when suddenly the car hit a pot hole and I seemingly pressed the wrong key on the laptop and I lost the whole story. Nowhere to be found. What a bugger! Blog Image

4 days ago, at the border, we split up into two groups. The 4×4’s who would drive the extreme route and the Citroën 2CV (Peking Duck team) and the Volvo (Parket Plus team) which drive the challenge route along the southern region including a guide). They both broke down and had to be towed and will arrive by transport in Ulaanbaatar tomorrow. The drivers themselves flew here by airplane. 60% of the population of Mongolia lives here in Ulaanbaatar. It’s a large busy city with lot’s of air pollution. The people are very friendly, always smiling , laughing and when you drive through a village they wave at you. Here and there we give some toys to the children which we brought with us. The kids are very happy with these and are eager to pose for pictures. Most children understand English but don’t (maybe scared to) speak it back to you, they learn the language early in life at school. All in all you could say that time stood still here for about a 100 years, but the schooling of the kids is a priority and is being taught at a high level. I seems like the American Wild West when you drive through the villages you see rows of wooden houses left and right which look like towns from the old west. Also the people look like American Indians (we think). When we get home we have to investigate if Mongolia and America were once connected. Maybe that’s why we make the link???Blog Image

The nomads (people who live in Ger tents) on the Mongolian steppes live the same as the Indians that we know (from movies). Their ger tent is not coned but much wider. They have horses fro transport and to help guard their cattle as a shepherd. What you first notice when you come close to these people is that they carry all the same odour. That’s because they mostly drink Yak milk and use it to make all kinds of foods. They have Yak cheese, Yak bread, Yak cookies (my stomach is still upset) and for us it all tasted YUCK!Blog Image

More then half of the year it is winter over here, going down to -40 degrees Celsius. We are very lucky and have had great weather every single day we have been here, bright blue skies and up to +35 degrees. It should have already been snowing this time of year!Blog Image

From the day we passed the border all has been a great big spectacle, tarred roads stopped and in return we got sandy roads, big rocks, mud and finally we ended up in the swamp. We had to drive through the rivers to get out of the swamp. Honestly, I was shitting 7 colours in my pants!! The water came over the hood of our car up to our windows. We floated across the water and lost all grip to the under ground. But Pieter knew how to get the situation under control quickly. (mum, don’t worry, you know him, right!) Our cabin luckily did not flow under water but we surely got wet feet and the rest. The ambulance had more trouble and had to be towed out of the water. After we drained the water out of the ambulances cylinders it strangely enough was able to start her engine again and was able to drive on. So that was quite an adventurous first day in Mongolia. I immediately thought; what is more to come? The first couple of hours I have traveled next to Pieter with my toes pulled in and sweaty hands but soon enough you learn what the car can handle in these quite extreme conditions. You just have to find your confidence. We told each other that if the car can get through Mongolia that we can handle the rest of the world in it. Sometimes it has to handle a lot of rough conditions, taking big blows that we think that the axels will drop off, but having experienced these blows more then 100 times now we are finally getting used to it and just fly over holes and bumps. The car has been able to handle it all well till now without breaking down. So far (next to a tear in the fuel gasket and needing to change the petrol filter) the car has not had any major problems. We can speak of being lucky as the other teams have had to deal with many but all different kind of car problems. All those lucky charms and christoffels are helping us well and travelling with us.Blog Image

The sandy roads are very dusty and that annoys Pieter extremely. As especially when you have to drive last then your car eats a lot of dust and that doesn’t also do much good to electronics in the car which slowly start to deteriorate in your car. The teams have automatically formed groups as driving in a convoy is time consuming and not practical. We drive together with the Crew – Arthur and Niels (organisation) and with Jaap van den Ende (European and Dutch champion Toyota starlet in car racing). Jaap has Jan of Aktueel Sport Magazine with him as co driver. We form a great team.Blog Image

In the evenings it is planned that we all meet up together but considering the tight time schedules and kilometres that we need to drive this has not always been possible. The first two nights we all got settled together and spend the night in tents and our cars in the middle of nowhere. Waking up along side of a big lake surrounded by mountains. Just amazing! Taking a piss behind a little sand dune , no water only the lake. What a peaceful place, until the trip begins again! We are lucky that Pieter has gotten his Goops GPS system up and running again because it is difficult trying to find a Ger Camp at night. Luckily he planned and set out the whole route at home before we started the Challenge. Now we can just drive straight to our destination. But what if you reach your destination and the camp is gone. No more camp…………(because the winter is coming and so they have packed up and left) and then there we stand at 2:30 am in the morning, but of course we are not giving up that easily and drive on through rivers and climb mountain passes to finally reach on top of a volcano in another Ger Camp. Here other challengers have found their way and here we can sleep comfortably. Very romantic, a ger tent with a stove inside and a good night sleep can begin (well for 4 hours max) the strange thing is that it is very cold at night over here, almost towards freezing point. So even when we have to sleep in our car we are happy with our warm sleeping bags and thick mattresses. Blog Image

The first evening we camped out all together sitting around a camp fire, telling strong stories, drinking Wodka, you know how that goes. At times like this I sometimes think that it is a shame that the group is split up and we can’t meet up with each other like this every night as it is very enjoyable and nice like this together.Blog Image

Frankly, I am enjoying myself (also because of the baggage I was given to take with me from the hoem front) evry minute of it. Pieter sometimes has to calm down and get used to the fact that he cannot always drive up front and that it is a fact that the car is a big mess when we use it as a major living quarter for over 4 weeks. But finally accepts those facts, although he keeps fighting with the sand. Tomorrow he wants to find another carwash to have al least the bottom of the car cleaned. The group has named Pieter, Willy Wortel (crazy inventor duck in Dutch Donald Duck comics) but he finally is sowing his own seem! ( to say crudely) and in time one by one they come and ask Pieter which way they should go!Blog Image

Today we were envited by Habitat for Humanity, this organisation makes sure that homeless, handicapped people or big families get a home to live in. They will have to help also to build their own homeand in 24 days the house is standing. The organization had organised a whole party for us yesterday with horse racing with Mongolian competitors on to wrestling matches, folk dancing, performances and a visit to a big temple which was build up by Genghis Khan. We were very disappointed that we couldn’t make it yesterday but this morning we joined a project and were allowed to take a look inside the home of the locals in a ger tent. I thought it was a little awkward when I entered their tent. Grand pa was lying in bed, 2 women were laying on another bed, a 4 year old boy ran around, a young couple came inside with a twin in their arms and these people all lived in one tent. It could not have been more the 6 x 6 meters, including kitchen, washing basin, beds, it was their only and complete house. An unimaginable situation for us western people. And these people are so kind and friendly, they always straight away offer one of their Mongolian specialties to us, most probably mad out of Yak milk) brrrrrrr, just the smell of it! But you cannot deny their offering that would be very rude. I thought it was very impressive and surely good work that Habitat for Humanity offers these people!!! We also visited the governor of this toen. Pieter noticed that all important positions were filled by women. To this he was told that the women are the smart and wise ones and that the men choose to do the heavy and tough physical work through which the women have more opportunities to enjoy and make use of better schooling. Gentlemen, this is something for you to remember well!Blog Image

Tonight we visited another project in Ulaanbaatar. Her the press and tv were present and they asked us if we could join the project and pretend we were helping to build a house etc. (see pictures)Blog Image

I am realising just now that I must be forgetting to mention many other things but I have to make choices in what to tell as it is almost 3 am again and we want to enjoy a little of the luxury that we have tonight, which includes INTERNET. Off course it is not as fast as we are used to but we do our best. Tomorrow we leave towards the Gobi desert, first 200 km of asphalt (whatever you could call asphalt) and the begins the washing board effect. Blog Image

Dear all, I have to end my story (please excuse the spelling mistakes, but I don’t feel like reading through this story again before I post it).

Greeting from the two of usxxxxxxxxxx

Pieter & Gaby

Day 16 The border from Russia to Mongolia (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 17, 2007 12:44:02

Now we are waiting at the Mongolian border, it is 1:00 pm in the afternoon (11 september) and after many formalities we just crossed the Russian border.

It is so beautiful here, just unbelievable. I think we are behind about three days of writing our journal but we had such extreme long days and very short nights.

The day before yesterday we stayed in an decaying hotel, no warm water, but for the rest it was OK, we went to bed at about 7 am and had to get up 9:30 am to resume our journey. That was the day before our last day in Russia. We passed beautifull landscapes, very wide and open with lots of corn fields and lakes here and there. Blog Image

Yesterday we were on our way to our next destination when Arthur got called that ‘de Jongens van de Wit’ (De Wit Boys) team were stranded with a broken Wheel bearing. So we turned around again and brought them their passports which they might need if their car could not be fixed. Luckily the service team was able to repare the problem and they could join us again this morning. Late last night we finally arrived at the camp where everyone had pitched their tent. It was lovely, everyone was sitting around a camp fire, drinking some wine, what else can you wish for. This was the first time we spent the night sleeping in our car, the temperature outside was -5 degrees, we slept wel, we have great mattresses and warm sleeping bags. Pieter arranged this all really perfect I must admit. We sometimes thought back home, what is he doing, we don’t need all of that etc……. but everything we brought and have is what we need. The camping appliances have come to good use as a few times we were still on the road until late and so there were times that we stopped to cook our meal for the night. That also counts for the Goops, Google Earth softwareand gps system, on which he spend heaps of time back at home. It is a big problem to get out of the cities or to find our hotel at night in the dark but with the Goop GPS system we found it all easily. A couple of days the system broke down, just bad luck! Luckily yesterday Pieter got the system working again.Blog Image

So, we just passed the border, we are at around 2000 meters high right now, surrounded by mountains. The road that got us here yesterday went trough the Altai Mountains, it’s wonderful. You think you’re in Austria, villages change from appearances as do their inhabitants, Russians become Kazakhstanians, you constantly have to stop for crossing cows, horses, pigs, everything just walks around and about together. What is noticeable is that we don’t see any drunks walking around here any more. We think that they are much better organized here then in the Russian villages we crossed days before.

We just drove 28 kilometers through ‘no man’s land’ (between Russia and Mongolia), we saw guinea pigs (ground hogs), flew with some speed over potholes with as a result our heads hitting the roof of the car. Large eagles soaring above us in the sky. This morning I woke up in the car and got goose bumps when I looked around me. We shall include pictures of this as I cannot explain in words what we all could see. What I also have forgotten to write about is that from a few nights ago we had to put our clock forward one hour for 4 consecutive nights. In total we now are at a 5 hour difference with the Netherlands and in a while another 2 hours further and then that will be all.

Day 15 Omsk – Biysk (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 17, 2007 11:02:01

It started really well this morning, very short after we all left Omsk behind us we saw three teams standing at a service station. So we stopped as well and had a quick coffee. Luckily the problem with the Volvo (their fuel line was broken for the 4th time again, every time in another spot) was solved quickly. The new reporter for Aktueel Sport had arrived yesterday and he brought new fuel lines back from the Netherlands for the Volvo Team.

Greetings, no time today!Blog Image

Day 14 Forgotten to post (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 17, 2007 10:48:38


I had forgotten to tell that we have a great and alert guardian angel, yesterday we drove behind Arthur and Niels and they announced that we should stop along side of the road as one of their warning light for the engine lit up on their dashboard. So we did what was asked. There finally was nothing wrong with their car. In the time we stopped Pieter also checked around our car and was left dumbfounded that he found a big pool of oil underneath our car. What was the problem? Well, it seemed that the oil return circuit to the gear box was torn and there was no drop of oil left in the engine. So if we had driven 5 more kilometers the whole engine would have been ruined and our trip would have ended right then and there. The funny thing was that we never had any warning sign or light go on in our car, but that it came on in our colleagues team car……………….. How is this possible???? All I know is that we were extremely lucky. Pieter fixed the problem in no time, (see day 13 in Photo album). This is where also a lot of problems are beginning to show with all the other cars.

It had become another late night, it helps that we don’t have much physical strain through the day time because our nights have been much too short. Tomorrow will be a long day to Omsk, 1018 kilometers. The last day that Maria will join us on our journey. I will miss her, she is a lovely girl and great company for girl talk. Blog Image

Today was a rest day in Omsk, this is the city here Maria was born and grew up in. There has been a lot of fixing on the cars, replacing V-belts, changing tires, tightening up screws here and there, replacing tubes and I could keep going. It was a busy day, so not exactly a day of rest. Pieter went to search for a car wash, because after plowing through the mud for a few days it was time for a rigorous cleaning. When he arrived at the carwash the manager came running out of her office. Njet Njet Njet (No no no) she said, we are not going to wash this car. Yes Yes Yes Pieter said, I will pay double and finally they agreed to a price and the car was steamcleaned from top to bottom, all around and was washed and polished by three girls for 15 Euros. He must have left about 20 Kg of mud behind at the carwash.Blog Image

Today also the technical and the medical team joint our group again, and everyone was so happy we were all together again. (Remember that the technical team got stranded with car problems just outside St. Petersburg and had to wait for parts to fly in and the medical team returned to them to accompany them to Omsk). They drove 3400 km that’s pretty amazing over those bad roads. Tonight we went to drive Go-Carts at some friends of Maria. Her parents had arranged it all. The Go-Cart Track was opened one day before and they wanted us all to be there. They invited the media to interview us. The owner of the track was Russian champion in the Lada racing class., but he did not race anymore because he had broken his back in an accident. It was a lot of fun and the men raced their hearts out. Omsk is a large industrial city and as I told you before the road to get has been very long, but the landscape makes it all worth it.

Greetings and until tomorrow!

Team Freedom out of reach! (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 12, 2007 14:49:19

Dear friends of Pieter and Gaby,

Team Freedom are traveling high through the mountains between the volcanoes and crater lakes in Mongolia. They are still enjoying their trip and the beautiful scenery. They have not been able to get any internet connection since last Monday and this will stay that way for the next few days. When they reach Ulaanbaatar (capital city of Mongolia) they hope to be able to find an internet café and post us from day 13 till day 21 with pictures and hopefully some more videos. Thus far the photo below can give you an impression of what Pieter and Gaby could be seeing in the next couple of days.Blog Image

Above picture is used through Google Earth and taken from

Last Saturday Pieter and Gaby’s car broke them. They lost all motor oil due to a rip in the oil return circuit of the turbo. Blog Image

We know thus far that they called and spoke with the home front this morning. They are both doing very well. Last night they had to spend asleep in their car together with other teams traveling with them as they could not make it to the Gerwen Camps where they were expected to spend the night in tents. In the next few days they will have to make up the lost kilometers they have made.

Team Peking Eend (Beijing Duck) is not going to be able to endure the extreme route over the mountains with their Citroën 2CV (Duck), so they are going to be traveling a different and more easier route accompanied by a few other teams.

The Team ‘De Jongens van de Wit’ (de Wit boys) have fixed their bearing and are back on route again.

This morning Team ‘Geen Fratsen’ got stuck in a river and water came into their car. After waiting for two hours they were finally saved and pulled out of de river by 20 Mongols on horseback and 3 hay trucks. That must have been a very thrilling experience for team ‘Geen Fratsen’.

Until this far the news from Pieter and Gaby. We’ll keep you posted!

1 Forgotten movie

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 11, 2007 21:17:50

There was one movie which was lost but now is found.

video 6

We haven’t heard from Pieter and Gaby today. Their phones could not be reached either. We have not received any stories since day 13, but as soon as we get contact we let you know the last updates. Well enjoy the video! regards, Sonja

Day 12 Last day of Vodka Trail (ENG)

The Trip (ENG) Posted on Sep 10, 2007 09:35:42

Day 12 Vodka trail 3 Perm – Yekaterinburg

So, that was quite a day we had. It was a only 370 km we drove but we arrived in Perm at 01:30 am. It was the last day of the Vodka Trail and we decided to take the D-tour road. We left the Hotel at 11:00 am trying to get out of the city without any navigation. This is not easy, we have to follow out gut feeling and we got that wrong several times. For instance we took a small road parallel along a railroad track. After several kilometers we reached a dead end, so we had to turn around and head back. This way you do see places and things you normally wouldn’t. Stray dogs lie sleeping in the centre grass parts of round-a bouts over here. If I had a choice our car would be filled with them. “Hanny, maybe an address for you!! Haha, it would break your heart to see this!”. But when you see the poverty of the people themselves around here you can’t expect that the dogs will have it any better, right?? Then I think of our two Viszlas, each lying on their own comfortable sofas. Blog Image

Once we left the city, we entered the country with this beautiful landscape, very peaceful, wide fields and endless hills. I must honestly say I had a much different picture from Russia, but when we were here 20 years ago, we only visited the city Moscow, it was Winter and Communism still ruled. You only find that back in the buildings and apartment buildings around the city outskirts and in the small far away villages where they still follow the old regime what they are used to all their lives as there is nothing or no one to tell them differently. The vehicles they use there are still from the early era and these are never replaced by new ones. One by one these vehicles fall apart or break down and they are left standing outside of the shed. Then at a sudden moment they can’t work the fields any more and the beautifully kept acres turn into grassy fields.

Click underneath to see YouTube movies placed by Pieter & Gaby

Film 1Film 2Film 3Film 4Film 5

We ended up at a River where we had to wait one hour (trying to keep the drunks of our car) for the ferry to come. The ferry was this tiny little raft with a little boat along side. After a lot of trouble fitting we were able to fit 6 cars on the raft. We were on the ferry, how great is that. When we reached the other side every big boys dream came true, mud, mud and more mud.Blog Image

We could only follow the path before us, we had no other choice. We hoped that our four cars of our group would get through without too many problems. We drove deeper and deeper into the country landscape and passed through what seemed to be little ghost villages, building were ruins and almost fell apart. Finally we did not even come across any houses or buildings for that matter and we plowed on and on and when the paths were not drivable any more we took the fields and drove through it’s long grass. We could only go forward until we could not go any further at all. Every 15 minutes one of us got stuck and the winches had to work overtime again to get each other out. Then we reached a swamp. Bertus, Jan, Piet and Rik left to scout the surroundings and find a way through. Also Arthur, Niels, Maria (the Russian guide), Pieter and I got stuck. After a lot of splashing and drudging we decide to turn around and go back to where we came from, giving up on our urges to keep going. Through another road we found our way to Yekaterinburg. The men had their fun and were satisfied because the winches had worked full time, cars were pulled out and so the day was filled with excitement. I think Maria and I will deal with our excitement by going shopping tomorrow.Blog Image

It’s getting late again (seems to become our motto) and tomorrow we have 1019km ahead of us. A long, long way to Omsk………. Greetings, Pieter & Gaby

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