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My Best Road Trip: A 16,000km trans-continental journey in a battered Suzuki Swift

My best road trip was a 10,000km adventure drive for charity from Ireland to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Source: Team Mad Macs

  • Each week, TheJournal.ie/DoneDeal motoring mag will feature a reader’s best road trip. If you’d love to see your top trip featured, email us on melanie@thejournal.ie

MY BEST ROAD trip was a 16,000km charity spin in a battered Suzuki Swift.

Who: Ed Forristal and Robert Poole, AKA Team Mad Macs
Route: Kilkenny to Mongolia
Distance: 16,000km
Time: Four weeks
When: July and August 2016
Vehicle: Suzuki Swift

Source: Team Mad Macs

THIS YEAR, A bunch of plucky wannabe explorers asked MicksGarage.com for sponsorship for the Mongol Rally.

As Rob King of MicksGarage explains:

Ed Forristal and Robert Poole, otherwise known as team Mad Macs, didn’t appear to have much of a plan and their car was shite, but what they did have was the right attitude. They had the practical, agricultural hands-on ingenuity that lads growing up with a farming background tend to have. In addition to this, and arguably most importantly, they had sponsorship from the Metalman and O’Hara’s brewing companies!

So on July 16, the lads headed off on the journey of a lifetime, armed with little more than a can-do attitude, a bunch of spares from MicksGarage, and some very tasty beer.

Source: Team Mad Macs

Ed Forristal takes up the story:

Ever longed to travel to Mongolia? Me neither. The Mongol Rally is a very loosely organised rally, with no set route and no winner, so basically just a bit of a spin. The only real rules are that you must travel in a 1.0-litre (or less) car – as cheaply acquired as possible – and you must raise a minimum sum of money for charity.

Cue our miserable-looking Suzuki Swift.

Our solid, small, all-terrain Swift… Glorious. Its sleek exterior promises adventure.

While the temptation was to drive it to Mongolia as is, MicksGarage kindly stepped up to the mark and offered us parts to rebuild the old girl.

Take it away, Gary Shaw:

We left Fishguard for the UK and then headed to Europe. On day two of our trip we reached Germany and over the next few days, we drove through Austria, Bratislava and Romania.

Source: Team Mad Macs

In Romania we had some fun on the Transfagarasan Highway, 90km of road winding up and down the Carpathian Mountains. Gunning the car around in the early morning felt great, our Suzuki seemed to be bombing it around corners.

Then we tried taking a video and reality hit – from outside the car, it seemed painfully slow… Still, we enjoyed the cruise around.

From there we wandered on to Bulgaria, then Turkey before heading towards Iran. Drivers and passengers in Iran are the craziest and friendliest people you’re likely to ever meet. It seems Iran’s national pastime is overtaking. One guy decided to turn into us at 50mph in order to leave the motorway. The front wing of the Swift was delicately crumpled. As we helped this crazy driver to change his punctured tyre, though, we realised that this place must really be the nicest nation.

“Tourist? Sorry!” Our new friend smiled and waved as he drove off.

Source: Team Mad Macs

Those who didn’t crash into us passed freshly baked bread through our window as they drove alongside us. One car full of lads pulled us in to give us a melon!

From Iran, we moved quickly into one of the weirdest places in the world – Turkmenistan. Gold and marble buildings line the wide, empty roads of Ashgabat. Then the six lanes of perfect tarmac quickly deteriorate heading north towards the Door to Hell, but the bumpy ride is well worth it. The crater – a natural gas pit, set alight in the 70s – is breathtaking. Literally, as gusts of wind whip hot, the noxious air in circles around the site.

From Turkmenistan, we went to Uzbekistan and then on to Kazakhstan, where we rode a cable car to a Beatles statue at the top of a mountain.

Source: Team Mad Macs

By the time we reached Semey in northern Kazakhstan, we were push-starting our car the whole time as the battery had crapped out. One quick stop to buy a new one in town though and we were back in business. That is until, right before we crossed the Russian border – when we got news that the Mongolians were turning away teams from the rally.

They were looking for a cash deposit of $4,000+ or refusing entry. No need to check our wallets – we didn’t have that kind of money! But we decided to speed on to the finish line in Ulan Ude as quickly as possible and from there we could see what our options were.

The spin through Siberia was beautiful but largely uneventful. The highlight of the four days driving through Russia though was definitely Lake Baikal.

Source: Team Mad Macs

Once we reached Ulan Ude we saw all the sights. We looked at the world’s largest statue of Lenin’s head. We saw it from the front, then again from behind. We walked a few more steps and saw it from the side and concluded that we had thoroughly seen the city at this point so left for the finish line.

There we met about five other teams whose plans to drive through Mongolia were all scuppered. By the end of the night, however, it was widely agreed that a destruction derby could console us, and would be a good compromise after missing out on the rugged Mongolian terrain.

Source: Team Mad Macs

Sure, she may have looked rough, but the Swift was in surprisingly good nick the next day. That said, we reckoned we wouldn’t be driving any sort of distance in her, as we got enough attention from police before the derby and thought we might be pushing our luck to go much further.

We covered up the missing back window, pried open the doors and finally put the spare rad we had dragged along with us to good use before driving the 10km or so to our final destination, from where our faithful steed would be scrapped.

Source: Team Mad Macs

It was a nice aul’ spin, roughly 16,000km in just over four weeks.

Kindly, some people believed in us. Not only did MicksGarage kit out our little Tugboat, but we received donations of camping gear from Pamper the Camper and – importantly – Metalman Brewing in Waterford and O’Hara’s in Carlow supplied us with ‘liquid refreshment’.

Source: Team Mad Macs

So far we’ve raised more than €2,000 for the Susie Long Hospice Fund and we’re still hoping to push that to over €3,000 and we will be keeping our GoFundMe page open for another few weeks.

So, if our road trip has inspired you or if you have any sympathy for two guys who travelled part way across the world in a rusty tin can for charity, please feel free to donate by clicking the following link: GoFundMe.

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