This Friday, Charlie Barder came to talk to the Shackleton society about his experience of the 2017 Mongol Rally – a gruelling 4 week experience in which competitors drove from Goodwood race track in England to Western Siberia, over 8000 miles away.
Mr Barder gave the audience a chronological account of his journey, starting with a vague suggestion at a dinner party one night, ending half way around the world. He completed the trip in what is known at the Kazakhstani taxi driver’s car of choice – a Fiat Doblo, and alongside him was his travel companion, Jonathan Tucker. After travelling through the relatively easy and familiar parts of Western Europe, things started to change in terms of culture as he entered parts of Eastern Europe. The art forms particularly caught his eye, featuring both giant tributes to soviet era leaders and ideals, and smaller scale tributes to the working people of the USSR.
It would not be a Shackleton society talk of course without some aspect of soul-crushing hardship. And this hardship came in the form of the difficult driving conditions. After rising at 5am every morning, Mr Barder and his partner would average only 14mph every day in countries like Kazakhstan due to the dire road conditions. This issue was compounded by insufferable temperatures, a lack of air conditioning and an equally insufferable driving companion at times (such as when crossing a border it was revealed that their insurance did not cover them for any rally, and thus they were driving illegally).
After driving through this part of the world, the transition was made into Russia and Mongolia. While Russia was certainly more picturesque than anticipated, the scenes of Mongolia were other worldly. Slides were shown of herds of yaks and wild horses superimposed upon a sprawling background of mountains, deserts and grasslands. The journey however, had to come to an end as he left Mongolia to reach the finish line in Siberia, where he received a wooden spoon as the prize for his first place finish of the race.
Throughout the talk there was an ever-looming presence of the Chernobyl power plant. Mr Barder shared his experience of walking through the ghost town of the plant, and shared some of the lesser known secrets of it, such as its missile response system that was active until 2010 in fear of US missile talks.
All this made for a fantastic talk to a packed 6 Cannon Yard, and hopefully it evoked the adventurer inside some of the audience who may wish to try this themselves.