After two long years of talk, tears, torque wrenches and tenacity, finally the tire meets tarmac. We are extremely proud to show off our maiden voyage.
However, it’s been interesting times here in the depths of Mongolia, highs and lows, lows and highs.
Some thought it was a staph infection from being tattooed in a warehouse by a small Russian … that’s right we know a little Russian, she’s called Anya. Some thought the famous Mongolian Death Worm had claimed its latest victims, it spits acid don’t you know?
The reality is that we have been coming to terms with the sledge hammer known as reality. It came crashing down on us in cruel blows in the last few weeks. A myriad of things have happened, but basically we are only a few short months away from winter with -30 temperatures, and a truck that is almost awesome, like a steak and cheese pie, that gives you three days of bowel issues -- thanks luke-warm pie warmer.
I could go into great detail, but so often happens, Alex has eloquently beaten me to the literary punch, in our weekly TV3 blog, below is the chronological blow by blow.
Anyways, enjoy the video, updates will continue to come, but come March 2010 the journey begins.
The beginning is the end is the beginning -- Alex Behan
About a week ago, just after we completed our first successful trip in the truck, Rikki sat me down for a chat. It’s not often Rikki takes dramatic steps like this, he had his serious face on, and so I knew what was coming was going to be difficult to swallow. I braced myself.
“I don’t think the truck is going to be ready in a month”
I let the words echo a little bit, I had expected something like this.
“You mean, you don’t think the truck will be ready, for a month” I said. Surely it would be ready after a month, what could take more than a month?
“No. Even in a month, I’m not completely confident that this truck will be ready, it needs more tests. And that means September, October … and that means winter, and I don’t really want to begin this journey in -40 centigrade … I think we should wait ’til next March.
Shit. I hadn’t expected that. I argued a little. I said that winter was as good a time as any to begin, that we would be hitting winter in some country at some point, it may as well be at the start. He countered that you don’t really want to be breaking down in the middle of Mongolia, Russia or Siberia and fixing issues at -40, the truck was untested in many ways. I felt like my dreams were unravelling. I took it as best as I could. I went to a bar, and asked the advice of a pint of beer.
I wasn’t convinced he was right. But he’s lived through three of these winters before, and he knows that truck bolt for bolt. I didn’t doubt his truthfulness, I didn’t doubt his passion to get on the road, but I thought he was being overly cautious. It’s part of the dynamic of our relationship, he’s sensible, wise, intelligent, and does things the right way, I, on the other hand am the enthusiasm, I’m the little ball of energy. Maybe he just needed a boost of confidence about how awesome the truck was.
We had another difficult conversation. I told him I thought the truck was closer than he thought, that our test run had been magnificent. He showed me his list of things yet to do, it was long, I couldn’t argue with that. I started thinking about options, I didn’t want to spend winter in Ulaan Bataar, I’d just be eating away at my savings, better to take a teaching job in Beijing or Seoul, do five months and come back in March.
I was thinking about these things, this time at an outdoor cafe, when my bag was stolen. Inside, my cameras, and my $4000 laptop. Gone. In five years of travelling it’s only the second thing I’ve had stolen. I felt like a fool, but surprisingly, I didn’t get angry, now I knew, I knew for sure, that I had to go work, to earn back the laptop etc. Setbacks were coming thick and fast.
Rikki and I had a heart to heart. We’ve been planning this trip for two years already, was it time to give up, or could we manage a five month delay? It was so hard to face, it’s not something either of us would ever have wanted, but it now seemed to be the only logical choice. There’s a lot of respect between Rikki and I, we’ve been friends a long time. It was time to seriously assess what we wanted, what we had already learned and what we wanted to change. There’s a lot of trust involved in saving and planning a journey like this when you live on the other side of the world.
Five months would give Rikki enough time to make the truck perfect, not just adequate, but everything we’ve ever dreamed it can be. It would give him time to do things better, not rush, or cut corners, but to make a truck he felt confident about in every way. And it would give me the time to head out country, (probably to Australia) and make back some money. Also, to design the trip more thoroughly, routes, places to visit, research. Hopefully seek out some sponsorship, some causes we would like to be involved with along the way, basically to improve the quality and reason for the journey. We’ve got the ball rolling now, we’re more confident about what we are capable of doing, so, as with any venture, it’s time to expand our ideas and goals.
We found the positive. You’re got to learn to roll with the punches in life, and life had just punched us in the guts. But we found the positive. We are going to leave next March. We have promised that to each other. Between now and then, we’ll be isolated, saving for a dream that has grown and changed over two years already, another five months of preparation, will mean the difference between the journey of a lifetime, and a journey on a timeline. We’re only going to do this once, best make it worth it.
For the next five months, I’m going to be living in tropical Queensland, making money the hardest way I know how -- picking watermelons. It’s tough, but I love it, sunshine, hard yakka, and you get paid by the tonne, which means every day I spend on the truck, is one I have earned, kilo for kilo. I could live without the flies though.
I’ll be happy to blog about that, as well as the progress on the research side of things, and Rikki can send us some updates from the warehouse in Mongolia. For now, we know the journey is delayed, this is the end of our practice run, the beginning of the real thing will be March 2010 -- weather permitting.