One of the obstacles that is impossible to avoid during the Mongol Rally is the fact that we are driving a car purchased in the United Kingdom and it is set up to drive on the left hand side of the road through 14 countries that are set up for driving on the right hand side of the road.
If we could have we would have bought our car in France and brought it back to England for our one and only day of driving in Britain during the Festival of Slow.
But that was not possible.
For one thing, the rally starts in England and we were arranging all our insurance and pick ups to be in England. Our Car sponsor, AllWays Rentals had their contact in England to purchase and store the car for us and we were flying to England to get everything in order for the start of the adventure. If we purchased it in another country and drove it back to England for the kick off, things would have been far too complicated.
So an English car it is.
The challenge is having the sterring wheel on the right hand side of the car while driving on the right hand side of the road. There is no way to see oncoming traffic. On the highway it really isn’t much of a problem but when we are on back roads or smaller one lane highways, things can get very tricky.
The person driving is completely blind to oncoming traffic when sitting on the right hand side of the car behind a big old transport truck. It is up to the passenger on the left to look out for cars. The driver has to inch out a bit for his right hand man (or in this case, left hand) to check and see if the coast is clear.
There is no rest for the person sitting in the suicide seat as I like to call it. They have to watch for a clear highway and react quickly to tell the driver to go. There isn’t much room for error or second guessing. The driver is relying on your expertise and advice and has to trust that you know the amount of time it will take to pass and move safely back into the line of traffic.
Phrases like “Pass Now, but go fast” or “You can pass, but make sure to duck in Quickly between these two trucks ahead” or “I think it is clear, but there’s a hill ahead. If you think it’s got the guts go for it” are heard from the back seat as I try calm the tension growing in my brain.
It doesn’t help that our small inappropriate car known as the Hot Box already doesn’t have a lot of power. Add four people, luggage and electronics and this old Nissan Almera that is perfect for the Mongol Rally, but totally unacceptable for long distance travel to countries like Kazakhstan and Mongolia has zero pick up.
When we pass, we had to shift quickly down to 4th or sometimes 3rd gear to try to get her moving. It makes for a very exciting ride and time passes quickly when all four of us are holding our breath with each pass of the car.
Between avoiding potholes due to our minimal clearance, trying to find our next turn and having the sterring wheel located on the wrong side of the car, it certainly makes for one interesting road trip through Europe and Asia.
Let’s just pray we make it in one piece!