Travelling through 11 countries to successfully complete the 36 day, 13,000km Peking to Paris Rally, Lewis couple Claudine Bloom and Andrew Twort were delighted to cross the finish line in 14th place from 115 competitors.
The rally, known as ‘Driving The Impossible’, took Claudine and Andrew from East to West as they left the Great Wall of China on June 12 to drive their 1965 Volvo Amazon,‘Amy Amazon’, through Mongolia, Russia, and over the Alps through Europe to finish in Paris on July 17.
The 2016 Rally was organised by the Endurance Rally Association (ERA), and Claudine and Andrew updated the Amy Amazon Facebook page throughout their adventure of a lifetime.
First passage after departing from China saw the island trio in the far reaches of Mongolia, with rough roads, desert roads, and no roads at all to contend with.
Camping was the order of the night on several occasions and although watching sunrise over the Gobi Desert “was quite divine”.
Regular traffic on the rally roads included camels, goat herds and wild horses, and villagers and horseback-riding locals were as intrigued by the visiting motorists as rally competitors were with them.
By Day 5, and despite the road hardships, Andrew and Claudine’s attention to detail and preparation ensured that Amy was faring well, with Andrew reporting that the 1965 Volvo had “needed no attention thus far” and had “behaved beautifully” on the rugged roads.
Amy did require some TLC from Claudine, who struggled to “brush away some of the sand which had found its way into every crevice” of the car!
After ten days absorbed in Mongolia, Day 11 saw the adventurers cross the Russian border, spending two hours at the first check point before driving five kilometres through “no-man’s land” to arrive at a military checkpoint, and a further 15km before they crossed into Russia proper.
It all got a bit surreal for Andrew, who wrote: “The border up at about 7,000 feet in the mountains, combined with military installations of aerials and dishes was very reminiscent from a scene in a Bond film!”
The Amy Amazon team were delayed by flooding and car crashes on the road to Novosibirsk on Day 13; and then on the 700km “long slog up the road to Omsk” on Day 15, a massive thunderstorm struck, the force of which saw Andrew pull Amy off the road for a period due to reduced visibility.
Day 18 proved a long day’s driving for Andrew with a 480km stint to Perm – but it was also the day he celebrated his 50th birthday, with four local Russian ladies treating him to a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in perfect English on arrival.
The following days provided both “fun” and “serious endurance rallying” for driver Andrew with timed-laps taking place at Kazan Ring Racetrack on Day 19 and the Nizhny Ring Racetrack on Day 22.
By Day 27 – after the couple had crossed the border into Belarus and continuing onto the Alps and through Europe – Andrew and Claudine awoke to some serious trouble with the Volvo.
“Today was not the finest of days. The smug statements that I’ve been making about Amy’s preparation and strength have come back to bite!” admitted Andrew via the Facebook updates.
“I got to the carpark and noticed something hanging from the bottom of the car. A very hurried inspection revealed that a front shock absorber had pushed through the lower wishbone.”
A noisy ride to Kosice ensued therefore, but on arrival the couple were very pleased to take up the invitation from a Slovakian rally team to weld Amy’s wishbone.
With no other major mechanical troubles – apart from a leaking fuel tank in need of a patch repair on Day 31 – before long the Lewis couple were getting closer to the finish line at the Place Vendome in Paris.
Day 34 saw the last day of competition as the rally continued from St Moritz to Lausanne. “Can’t believe in a couple of days it will be over,” wrote Claudine. With success under their belts by the time Amy Amazon and crew hit Paris, Andrew’s last Facebook update was delightfully brief: “We finished! Now it’s time for the gala dinner!”
You can find out all about Amy, Andrew and Claudine’s Peking to Paris adventures on the ‘Amy Amazon’ Facebook page, and to make a donation, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/AndyTwort