Devon scones, Mongolia and a 14 year old Citroen Saxon are an unusual combination of items but they are the essential ingredients for two guys, Ben and Jon, as they embark on an epic journey on the 20 July to Mongolia and back (hopefully!) in order to raise money for Cool Earth and ShelterBox.
The Exeter Daily had a quick chat with them to find out more about this exciting challenge.
For the benefit of the Exeter Daily readers, could you outline briefly what the Scone to Mongolia challenge is all about?
The basic idea of the Mongol rally is to choose a suitably naff 1 litre engine car that is over 10 years old and drive it 10,000 miles all the way to Mongolia with your mates. Our team 'Scone to Mongolia' love scones and are driving to Mongolia in Ben's 14 year old Citroen Saxo. We chose the 'Scone' in our name to represent Devon in some way as it is famous for cream teas.
Both of the charities we are raising money for both operate in the South West. Cool Earth is the de facto charity of the Mongol Rally, protecting rainforests through conservation. Supporting this charity makes us feel slightly less guilty about the car emissions on the journey. They do great work and we are very proud to be supporting them.
We chose ShelterBox as our other charity as we recently went to their headquarters in Helston, Cornwall and was impressed with their set up and their commitment to sending temporary shelter and life saving supplies to displaced families in disaster areas. A truly great cause.
What made you specifically choose Mongolia as a destination to head to?
Well it is apparently one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit with green lakes, pristine mountains and desert. It's also very difficult to drive across the country as well as get to! The roads are incredibly bad and long between towns. It would also be awesome if we are lucky enough to see some nomadic herders whilst we are there.
The official finish line of the Mongol Rally is the capital city of Ulan Bator. There is no acknowledgement of a winner however, it’s just the taking part that counts!
In the lead up to the event you have taken on mini challenges such as Ben eating a habanero pepper, were there any mini challenges that you would never do again and any that you actually enjoyed?
Well Ben certainly didn't enjoy the habanero challenge and will definitely not be attempting that ever again. They were only dried habanero peppers so we thought they might somehow be less potent, but they were extremely hot. Ben had two out of the bag, and the rest were one of the prizes at a pub quiz we had for our charities ShelterBox and Cool Earth.
Jumping in the sea on Boxing day was good fun, dressed as Where's Wally and Robin. It was freezing though and we parked the car too far away. Also we painted the car ourselves as well (quite obviously from the final result), which was a laugh to do. We definitely feel committed now, with the car looking this silly. It gets lots of funny looks from pedestrians and other road users.
Can we expect to see any future challenges before you head to Mongolia?
Yes of course, Ben has decided on a challenge for Jon next, which will be eating his own height in sausages. Jon is 6 foot 5 so its quite a mission that one. We are also doing challenges on our journey. One is eating a traditional Mongolian dish that we are not looking forward to trying. Think I'm a Celebrity, Bushtucker trial related food. Hmmm...
What are you most looking forward to seeing or doing whilst heading to Mongolia?
We are really stoked to hopefully see the 'Door To Hell' in Turkmenistan. Its is a natural gas fire that has been burning continuously since it was set alight in 1971 by Soviet scientists, from the pictures we have seen it literally looks like the Gates of Hell and will be amazing to see.
Also we’d like to see The Pamir Highway that goes through Tajikistan is renowned for its awe-inspiring and dramatic scenery and was featured on Top Gear a few years ago. It has snow topped mountains and dangerous one lane roads with deep valleys next to them with no barrier between the road and the cliff edge.
What concerns, if any do you have about this charity challenge?
The car itself is one of the biggest concerns and whether it will make it, but as long as we bring all the spares, that we can comfortably carry and don't have too much weight on rough roads we should be fine. Lots of teams don't make the journey each year, but we sure will!
Border crossings after Europe are notoriously difficult at times, and we have lots of countries to travel after we get past Europe including Azbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and then Mongolia. We'll be happy if the car just lasts the trip to Mongolia, but we also plan to drive back through Russia. This also depends on the political climate between Russia and the Ukraine that has recently been in the news. We are hoping the borders should be unaffected when we set off on our travels though.
And finally once you have reached your destination of Mongolia can we expect to see some celebratory Devon scones being eaten?
Yes. We might be sconeless when we reach Mongolia though, but maybe we could make some for the locals and introduce fine Devon Cuisine to Asia. Ha, it also fits our team name, bringing scone to Mongolia.
To find out more about the project visit: www.sconetomongolia.com
If you would like to make a donation then head to: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/sconetomongolia