Day 19 - Eastern Turkey

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 19 - August 3, 2017
Cappidoccia, Turkey to East Turkey
Countries: 19 KMs/Miles: 8572/5327
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 21h 25m

4am wake up times usually put people in a good mood but today was a little different as six surly Kooks rolled out of their tents and one from the car. But if you want to hot air balloon at sunrise, you have to tough it out. The boys were given a very specific pick up time of 4:10-4:15 the day before. But it was closer to five when the bus came leaving the team a little nervous that they'd given the he wrong meeting point. The shuttle then picked them up, drove 350 meters and dropped them off. WTF. Why didn't the company just tell them it was next door. That 45min extra sleep would have been a dream.

As the arrived, dozens of balloons were being filled in different states of readiness. Still dark, the roaring fire lit up these canvas bulbs up like Christmas lights in sync with their Shinesty jackets they were sporting for this occasion. Coffee and cake was waiting for them and helped brighten the mood...slightly. The baskets were large and took up to twenty passengers. The the loud burn of the fire heating up the air right beside them. As the balloon fill, the boys start to forget how tired they are watching as other ones light up and climb into the air off in the distance. Then they start to rise slowly and are now flying, like God damn superheroes.

Like the previous day, its hard not to pull out your camera every ten seconds. Just enjoy the moment, then oh shit, thats amazing, I need it on film! Climbing higher and higher the amazing landscape is relieved to them. All the unique rock formations are what bring people here in the first place. They used to be the homes of generations carving their dwellings in the stone. Much unliveable due to earthquakes, you can still find hotels made out of them.

So peaceful up there, cept for the clicking of the cameras. Creeping through valleys and up over trees exploring hidden caves. The pilot has optimal control of this air craft as well as radioing his coordinates, working on his computer, taking pictures, and downloading on USB to sell later. The ultimate multitasker. Once way up in the sky, the 360 view of the horizon was stunning and being surrounded by heaps of other fellow fliers was pretty special.

A minor crash landing brought them back to Earth and their wariness returned. Back at the campsite some went straight back to bed before the sweltering sun would turn their tents into ovens. Others decided to take advantage of the refreshing pool right away. They were to meet up with the U.K. team for lunch and then convoy as far as they could get towards the Georgian border. First they would explore some caves. Up the went through the labyrinth of interconnecting rooms slowing making their way to the top via stairs and and wall ladders. Super cool. The drone joining the fun records a spectacularly rare sight, triple full moons over a bunch of cock rocks.

Only a restaurant with cold beer would do so the Kooks searched the main drag to find one. Once found, they ordered an array of Turkish treats. The other team arrived and they all made a plan of attack for the long drive. The six Kooks always has trouble getting out of town, now at ten people, it would prove to be no different. It won't be because of the traffic, hardly a car on the street. Weird for a big tourist town in high season. The restaurant owner said its due to all the political unrest the country has seen in the past few years.

The three cars barrelled down the highways and wide open landscapes. The passed through vast unpopulated sections and large apartment block infested cities they had never heard of. No one in the group had ever been east of Turkey or west of India so this would be foreign territory for all. EXCITING! After a couple of time wasting stops they agreed to drive into the night to get as far as possible and find some wild camping. They haven't exactly been roughing it lately and should probably get budgeting again. The airfield covered in cow pies should do the trick!

Pitch black, they set up their tents tables and got cooking dinner. A nice Spanish omelette. Andy went to bed early, allowing the bugs in his stomach to rest up for tomorrow. The days have now caught up to the countries visited. They were fed and comfortable. A with Joel strumming guitar, a little whiskey to keep them warm, and the sweet stench of manure, they all though about how wonderful life can be sometimes. Good times, good company, good night. End transmission.

Day 18 - Cappadoccia, Turkey

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 18 - August 2, 2017
Istanbul, Turkey Cappadoccia , Turkey
Countries: 19 KMs/Miles: 7874/4893
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 21h 25m

Last night was the longest sleep they had this whole trip! So great to feel rested and ready to take on the day. The rooftop terrace was the setting for typical Turkish breakfast spread of meats, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and bread. The coffee was instant but drinkable and better mixed with milk than tea. The cars were packed and ready. Instanbul is an amazing city from the ground but let's see from the air. Grab the drone!

Now, drone law and regulations are constantly being rewritten in every country and the Kooks certainty do the best they can to keep up but sometimes saying sorry is easier than asking permission. And after seeing the kind of high quality footage it captures, it's going to be hard not to pull it out at every stop. They constantly check for reports of other team's progress crossing boarders with their drones. In Uzbekistan, one team had to smash their's in front of the border patrol. Do they hide it? Courier it? Try to fly it over? In the end, its Andy's bird and he is, somewhat, prepared to have to scuttle it on this trip. I would be a shame though, a big loss financially and he was becoming a good pilot. A damn good pilot. Finally.

Getting from their hostel to the Iranian embassy wasn't easy, a maze of cobble stone streets lined with cars on either side made things tight. With just enough room to squeeze through, unless a car was coming in the opposite direction. At the Iranian consulate, the guy helping them the day before handed all over their approved passports over without fuss, even if you weren't there in person. They were going to Iran! Number one on every Kook's list of countries to visit on this adventure. They were all stoked to jump this hurdle, now they just have to get there.

The city is gigantic so going through takes awhile but when there is congestion, it can feel like forever. The teams spirits were high though so they enjoyed the scenic city views, more mosques, huge Turkey fags, and the cranes and ships down by the harbour. A long jam over on the bridge in sweltering heat made the boys sweat. It was the perfect scenario for YACKS A/C to go down. The Kooks in that car would be driving with window down rocking skins until it can get fixed. The bridge would take them to Asia, John's second first time there.

Once out of the city, the roads really opened up and the team was flying. Mountainous tree covered hills interrupted by red roofed towns and farmers fields. And although the Skodas took a big hit when going uphill, on the downhills with the winds at the backs, they hit their tops speeds of 99 for YACKS and 101 for Millie. Not to bad for these little beauties.

Hour after hour of driving lay ahead only stoping for gas, a quick meal, or to get their PPT. A sticker that pays for toll roads and bridges. Trying to leave the country without one could lead to a huge penalty they've read. As they crouched around their roadside table finishing lunch, a random old man came over, not speaking English, and gave them all plums. At a gas station earlier, John tried to buy a chocolate treat and the guy said "Just take it." This kind of thing keeps happening in Turkey. People just being nice to them just to be nice. The Kooks wondered if they would ever just walk up to a group of foreign strangers on the side of the road and just offer them food. Hmmmm.

Temperatures were hitting 38C out there but the boys were cool as cucumbers on these fast highways. Beautiful arid landscapes spanning as far as the eye can see. Heat waves created mirages in the distance. Is that water? Is that a lake? Getting closer they discovered a huge salt flat. But as so common on this trip, they would only see it from their car. No time to stop. Got to get from point A to point B. Annoying sometimes but necessary when you're on a schedule.

It was night before they got to Goreme, the main town in Cappadoccia. Old cave dwellings and buildings lit up in different colours. A few more supplies are needed before hitting the campsite. Some Efes are in order and a little bit of ice courtesy of the shop owner. No more warm beers! Once again, the fellas are coming up Milhouse on the hospitality. It would be the first ice they've had this whole trip. And a couple of cubes would be perfect in the whiskey Mikey had purchased in Scotland just before the trip when visiting John and picking up the cars. Saving it for a special occasion. Tonight would be as good as any. And they wouldn't be able to take it into Iran so they would have to finish it soon.

They settled in to the nice campsite complete with pool and waterside. But that kind of fun would have to wait until tomorrow. It was after 11pm and they still needed to have dinner, a delicious spaghetti bolognese prepared by chef Josh. Andy called it quits early, his stomach acting up. The rest carrying on, joking around, having a couple of nips, and playing a few games of shithead, the classic backpacker game. Their early wake up time would come quick. Now 1am, they've given themselves only three hours sleep after a long day. Like a bunch of shitheads. End transmission.

Day 17 - Istanbul, Turkey

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 17 - August 1, 2017
Istanbul, Turkey to Istanbul, Turkey
Countries: 19 KMs/Miles: 7095/4409
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 21h 25m

The cool dark room provided the Kooks with a good slumber but all could have used a few more hours. The long days and hot weather the day before made them a little sluggish off the bat. The wanted to get to the Iran consulate at their 8:30am open so they could be first in line. Already having their approval codes, the team was hoping to expedite their visas in order to get them that afternoon and head out on the road again.

The consulate proved to be a pretty easy experience, with a nice security securing their phones, and a nicer counter attendant. He was happy to rush it and take their money but said it couldn't be processed until the following morning which means they would have to spend another night in Istanbul. Though disappointed, there was an internal sigh of relief that they wouldn't have to drive that day, probably nodding asleep at the wheel. Plus, no they could explore without being rushed.

The only thing that held them up that morning was more disorganization. Not enough pens to full out applications, not having their info printed to full out forms (as there phones were locked up), not everyone having passport pictures, and not having the right amount of currency to pay. The biggest losers were Mikey and John whose U.K. visas cost the most but far. Not sure what the U.K. did but whatever it was, Iran didn't like it. At least Mikey got to share tea with the bank representative. You'll often see people drinking apple tea on a small plate in a little glass cup with a small spoon and a couple of sugar cubes. And you'll be offered it in a variety of situations, even buying shoes!

They missed breakfast at the hostel so they dumped their gear and headed out. They had to change, it was HOT, reaching mid to high 30s by midday. The hottest they've experienced so far. So whats the best way to cure the body on a hot day? A hot breakfast of Menemen, a Turkish egg dish, and hot Turkish coffee, a sweet unfiltered treat that you have to let settle and leaves you with mud at the bottom of your glass. And of course white bread. At every meal. Gluten free is not a thing here. The boys loved it, a little dirty bulking never hurt anyone. The Blue Mosque was next on their list and it didn't disappoint.

There are mosques all over Turkey sporting multiple domes and towers. To the unfamiliar eye, they look like they are right out of Star Wars. Beautiful structures and a nice architectural change from all of the cathedrals they saw in Europe. The Blue Mosque may be the most famous site in Istanbul. Unbelievable from both outdoors and in. The courtyard offered a lot of informative about Islam and Muslim culture. Well layed out and easy to follow, it was a great way to debunk a lot of uneducated information many people have in their minds. On entry, you had take off your shoes and cover up. If in shorts, they gave you a dress like garnet to wear. Inside, the ceiling were spectacular and the carpet plush on your bare feet. All in all, a great spot to take a billion pictures. And you will.

The Mikey tour was on and to the Grand Bazaar they followed. Kooks be shopeeen' !!They be shoppen'! This covered maze of shops all selling the same things spans kilometres and needs street signs to navigate. Better put a leash on Geej! The fella promised their Iranian carnet de passage provider that they would bring him blue Nikes for his son and some toothpaste. An odd request but one the team would make good on. And this was the place to do it. They also purchased a backgammon/chess board for boarder waits and a lucky eyeball to hang from the rear view mirror. The Turkish people may be the best sales people they have ever encountered but their also friendly and a cup of tea goes a long way to making a sale. Andy continued hit tap water kick and Joel is baklava addiction. One would need an intervention.

They lads were baking and needed something to quench their thirst. Back to the hostel roof top and enjoy the views. "What, you don't open until three? DUR, wait a sec. I'm sorry, I thought this was God damn America!" Bagged, the retreated to their basement dungeon room for a quick power nap. Joel snoring before his head hit the pillow. Shortly after, they headed back up for a cold one and a few warm ones playing backgammon, doing some admin and just chilling. No pressure to leave that day.

Hunger set in but before doing that, they arranged their air ballooning trip two mornings from now. If they get their Iran visas first thing tomorrow and book it to Cappadocia, they could catch a couple of winks for the 5am flight. They took a hostel recommendation of a restaurant near the hostel and feasted on a local delicacy of a lamb or chicken stew in a clay pot they crack open on the table. Yummy. Another Efes and shisha laughing session followed. That's when Joel dropped a bombshell. "I hate to break it to you. Kooks, we're bankrupt."

If you are a company or individual that would like to help the Kooks get out of receivership by sponsoring our car with your name or logo go to: http://www.gofundme.com/kublai-kooks-mongol-rally-2017

The night ended by walking around the square and taking even more pictures of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Full of people yet peaceful. The smells of sweet corn and chestnuts filled the air. The call to prayer echoing from the towers. Soothing. Back to the rooftop for a few last brims and beers and off to bed early. Good night Kooks. I hope your dreams are filled with abergine. End transmission.

Day 16 - Bulgaria to Turkey

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 16 - July 31, 2017
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey
Countries: 19 KMs/Miles: 7095/4409
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 21h 25m

Wanting to spend as much time in the sun as possible, Geej and Andy hit the beach early surfboard and drone in hand. Perfect morning so catch some waves and dive bomb some beach goers. Why not a breakfast daiquiri?! Whether it be on the table or in your mouth, it was damn refreshing. The rest of the Kooks followed suit, some feeling rougher than others after a big night. It was hot as stink already but they only had an hour or so to soak up the rays and strut their bronzed buff beach bods. Luckily they had taken steroids that very morning and were jacked.

After failing to get the drone up for a flight - got to remember to charge those batteries! - the men hit the water. Geej and Mikey sporting the team buggies. The latter grabbing the board and hitting the surf. This trip had got him in the best shape of his life hardly breaking a sweat ears pinned back as he paddling way out to catch the big dogs. Roof roof! After hitting some gnarly tubes that wow'd the crowd, he handed the board over to Andy who hit the sickest set 360ing one last time before riding to shore. J3 (Joel, Josh, and John) whipped a rugby ball making unreal diving catches and all catching the eyes of the many beautiful bikini clad ladies about. Geej, standing in a foot of water, unveiling a posing routine not seen since Ed Corny hit the stage to the delight of all beachgoers. The Kooks were peacocking. Or peakooking. And peakooking good. B-CAW!

It was nice to be in, possibly, the only beach resort town they would see on the quest, but under the gun, they made a hasty two hour get away. Plato typico for this group. Too bad they couldn't have another night but Turkey called and they were excited to go somewhere culturally different. They loaded up on food at a near boarder town and crossed their fingers. They had read of other teams having troubles and long waits and just didn't feel like it today. The short line the Bulgarian side gave them hope.

They were becoming pros at these crossings. Not stressing out and expecting the wait. The weather was nice enough for Head Chef Josh to set up a road side sandwich stand which the team, and a gimpy border dog, enjoyed. Easy exit and with another short line on the Turkish side awaited them. With John suntanning between cars and the line moving, Geej, ceasing his opportunity, jumped behind the wheel and perfectly eased the Skodas forward. Nailed it again! Soon enough Geej, soon enough. Now get back to blogging!

Entry into Turkey was pretty quick too which was nice. The 95US per car entry fee was not. The Kooks were starting to hemorrhage money, bleeding their bank accounts faster than expected. Not seeing the green card kiosk in advance, they wasted their chance to beat their boarder time record. But now in, and beautiful city of Istanbul only hours away, the lads sped down the smooth highways catching their first glimpses of the mosque towers and massive flags that span this huge country; never allowing you to forget where you are.

Rolling hills are warmed by the falling sun bringing Millie and YACKS to the outskirts of the capital city. The Mediterranean Sea hugging the horizon. This place is MASSIVE! It seemed never ending. Shiny cars and shiny buildings everywhere. 747s buzzing their towers. Geej and Mikey had been here before but had flown in and never saw all this. The traffic was moving better than expected as they had heard many horror stories about major congestion. Getting in late as the sun went down was a bonus. Their procrastination paying off.

A missed turn allowed them to take, and pay for, the 5km tunnel under the Bosporus straight. Without an exit until the other side, they had to take it back. Another missed turn. Damn! Who's navigating this ship? These freeways weren't exactly the easiest to figure out but the eventually they got to the old town and their home for the night, hostel Bahaus. The owner Toogie greeting them and the door, finding them parking, and rear ending Mille with his car! Haha. No harm done, and it was worth a free beer each.

With Aussies on Toogie's hit list, Joshy was forced to pay the rent. The room was nice and cool and would provide them with some good rest but not before heading to the rooftop patio for a few bottles of Efes. They had to get up early to get to the Iran consulate for opening bell so they didn't have much time here. Not wanting to waste a minute of it, they hit the streets where they noticed some other Mongol Ralliers. Their first sightings since opening day! Were they catching up to the pack?

One team was waiting their for a late joiner fly in. The U.K. four man team was running behind schedule due to some major mechanical issues. After totally replacing their engine in Bulgaria, the new one was rendered tits-up in a matter of days. Not wanting to quit, two of them fly back to the U.K. bought a new one and high tailed it back to Bulgaria to pick their teammates. That commitment. Good job lads!

Joining forces, the ten hit the streets looking for something to eat and looking for a cold beer. Although a touristy area, alcohol isn't always easy to find and is usually relatively expensive. Being a muslim country, bars are not the norm. And there are restrictions selling such things around mosques. They would have to walk a lot further happy to swap stories along the way. The sites sounds and smells of Istanbul all around them. Walking though the main square of the old town, they got to see the Blue Mosque all lit up at night. Pretty amazing!

Passing shop after shop of Turkish delights, they all settled on a kabab restaurant, of course. It was pretty lively in the area for a Sunday night. Off to find some suds, they headed toward the bridge to Asia that connects both sides of Istanbul. A nice spot overlooking the water made their beers taste even better. And it was good to catch up with another Rally team and hear their experiences. After a few, they headed back enjoying the hot night. They had an early planned getting visas, seeing some sites, and then heading east. Serefe! End transmission.

Day 15 - Romania to Bulgaria

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 15 - July 30, 2017
Bucharest, Romania to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Countries: 18 KMs/Miles: 6680/4151
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 19h 28m

The Kooks had their earliest start yet looking forward to day ending in sand and sun. They also wanted to have time to spend some time exploring Bucharest. Only John had been here before so as per Kook kustom, he was voted tour guide. Wicked architecture surrounded them. Restaurant and bar filled streets made them wish they were staying another night. You could tell this place would be fun. With Joshy back in the mix, this six planned their next moves over breakfast.

They stop for a quick photo opp at the palace. John claims its the heaviest building in the world. His information seems untrustworthy. Everyone is always making up untrue facts about the places they're in. Andy leading the way in that. But, as per usual, it's time to leave. At least they are back in the EU and don't have to worry about a boarder crossing today. Oops, spoke too soon!

Although Romania and Bulgaria are both EU, they do have some boarder control. Mostly for making sure cars have their registrations, insurance, and have vignettes that allow you to drive on that country's roads. The team didn't have one (and was never told they needed one when entering.) The not so understanding boarder guard took for their registration papers charged them 6 Euros each. Not really sure why but they paid anyways. Then she said they owed 250Euro for a fine for not having the vignette. For each car. This fine was for a piece of paper that costs 3Euro. You have to be f'n kidding me! C-word! You had one job Andy!

Not wanting to pay and in turn causing a bit of a log jam behind, the Kooks were waved into a holding area. "Damn, why did we give her our papers and we got no receipt for the money we gave her already?!" Thinking they could have just ripped through into a new country on the lamb if they still help them. What could Romania do then? After a quick trip into the booth, the boys convened back to the parking lot to weigh there options and play frisbee to cool off. Their non-border crossing was no more and was eating up time, important beach time.

They didn't even have the cash to pay the fine if they wanted to. They decided to try to buy the new vignettes online and see if that would work. After an hour, a different boarder guard waved at them and John ran back. Now, in broken English, the woman now said she would settle for 100Euro for each car and some chocolate. John said we had neither and now there was a stalemate. But when opportunity strikes, you gotta take it. When she turned around to help another driver, John grabbed both registrations and took off. "GO! GO! GO!" Understanding the situation immediately, the Kooks jumped in the kars, and sped away. Fugitives on the run! Bad ass!

The managed to get the right stickers for the Bulgarian side roared away from the boarder up and down the winding roads barefoot at top speed. Feels great! Time to throw on some Beach Boys and Bob Marley. Feel good music. And time to start this party early. With scenic views all the and 2.59L filling their tanks, the mates rolled into Sunny Beach, a proper East Europe beach town, and couldn't be happier. It didn't happen if it isn't on film right?!...so the boys grabbed their jackets, jumped on the roofs, and rolled across the bridge drone following the whole way.

"Just give us any bed in any room in any room, we're losing daylight!" After some confusion sorted beds at the hostel, they hit the streets. Suns out guns out! Off the the playa they walked taking note of the entertainment finally feeling the sand beneath their toes and enjoying the fact the the Kooks have hit 18 countries since the opening horn sounded just over two weeks ago.

Picking pretty much the first beach bar they saw, the ganged plopped into bean bag chairs and total relaxation hit them all at once. After days of early mornings, late nights, tons of driving, and little sleep, this was a welcome treat. Beers, LITS, watermelon raki shots, and shisha was in order. And order they did. Everyone laughing and joking and adrenaline junkie Mikey, tried to slingshot himself to the moon.

The night only got more hectic from there. The degenerates made their way down the strip making frequent stops to reload or dance in a circle. Two for one. Yes please! The Kiwi and Scotsman had another shot of adrenaline, while the others continued to take in the action. The new baby faced John was not done changing his look either. And from the kitty, his new corn rolls were born. Only the essentials. Charging down the street, he picked up some German techno glasses and sprocketed up and down the boulevard joined by his merry crew of revellers spilling the drinks at every turn. Too funny!

The shenanigans went into early the morning and some Kooks had trouble finding their rooms when they went home. Others got invited to a private party in an apartment nearby. And though the party was raging, they were all asked to leave soon after they arrived. It was a fun night anyways. And in a weird way, new friends became closer friends. Uncomfortably closer at times. The last solo Kook decided to risk it. 50/50. So close! Oh well, they were better odds than trying to ride a water buffalo. End transmission.

Day 14 - Moldova to Romania

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 14 - July 29, 2017
Chisinau, Moldova to Bucharest, Romania
Countries: 17 KMs/Miles: 6287/3907
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 18h 25m

Although tired when waking, the lads had a great sleep. Being constantly tired is now the norm and 5-6hrs of uninterrupted sleep is a dream. Downstairs for a great breakfast spread and good internet, Andy and Geej started a solid morning admin sesh. Websites, blogging, fundraising, research all needed to get done and when you're moving so fast without really being able to get much done in the cars, they had to take the opportunity.

Joel worked the social media and attracted groupies for the team and for himself. He was also the CFO for the teams kitty (which is a pool of money the team pays for everything with.) The six man kitty going to a four man kitty and two man kitty when the team broke up and when Josh detoured, he had to start a four man kitty then a five man kitty when the they met back up in Chernobyl then back up to a six man when they picked up Josh. Whew! Then factor in changing currencies every day and everyone paying here and there, it can be a nightmare and super confusing. But his skills at creative accounting seemed to be working.

But first things first, Millie needs a doctor so John and Mikey took her to the Skoda hospital. Not too far from where they were staying but enough time to get pulled over by the police. With the cop not speaking English, the pair decided to play dumb. It wasn't a big stretch for either of them. The other three spent their time back at the hotel sorting out visas and finances while Joel set up a model shoot on the remaining Kook kar. Not hearing from the two in a while, they jumped in YACKS and headed to Skoda dealership, also getting stopped by the fuzz in the process.

YACKS still stinks inside. Bad. The 5L water jug had sprung while storing it in the back seat for the night, a few days back, and the stench has yet to subside. At the Skoda shop, Mikey and John's second place in the queue turned into a 45min wait for service. Moldova was losing ground in the amount of love the Kooks had for them and the fellas were once again falling behind schedule. But a new coolant temperature sensor was purchased and installed. Mille was alive again!

After that was all sorted, team found some parking and fired around the town square before settling down for lunch a Czech restaurant. A tasty lunch and a beer awarded them a bit more internet time, aka swiping left or right. Another hour and a half delay. Arrrgh, they should just give up on trying to make it out on the route on time. The roads were great though and they winding roads provided some fun driving. They hit the boarder which had free wifi. The love for Moldova was back! An uneventful crossing getting out, the Bulgarian side greeted them with a pot hole ridden roads at its entrance. Uh oh.

This time they were a bit more prepared; a few snacks and some games. FYI, when you play frisbee at a boarder, there is a 100% chance you will hit other cars! No real issues on the Bulgarian side either. Using their printed route maps and saying were on a car rally for charity seems to help a bit. 1h 50m. A new boarder record! Except for the border area, the roads became perfect and well marked. The Kooks are flying though the rolling hills and country side being careful not to hit anyone taking their bull for a stroll . What a beautiful place. And the eye candy is pretty sweet.

With getting in so late all the time, the party sometimes has to start in the car for the passengers. 1.7L for 50 cents. Grab a couple. And use the squatter, or not. But what goes in, must come out and there is a definite art to the bleeding the weasel while mobile. Some prefer to hang off the side washing the car in the meantime. While others shaky hands create a need for laundry and a near bubble. No worries though, the Kooks have been bubbling before bubbling was kool. The sun is shining and the fellas are singing and Davo is being handed off at 80kph like a relay race all the way to Bucharest.

What a awesome city! After dark now, the boys weave their way through the city with packs of high end cars. Old and new architecture blend together seamlessly. "Why didn't we get here earlier?!" Feeling loose and jugs full, they pulled into their hostel. " "Joshy!!! Get up and have some beers." "Naaaa, I'm knackered." After a long journey from Warsaw, Josh had already settled in for some hibernating. But the Kooks were back together! Thoughts of turning Bucharest into Amsterdam were thrown out and then thrown out. The potential for a beach day tomorrow overpowered any thoughts of clubbing was put to bed. They would settle for crushing a few more beers, talking to some fellow, and watching a weird light formation in the sky. What was that? Maybe they did go back to Amsterdam after all... End transmission.

Day 13 - Ukraine to Moldova

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 13 - July 28, 2017
Kiev, Ukraine to Chisinau, Moldova
Countries: 16 KMs/Miles: 5833/3625
Breakdowns: 6 Time @ Borders: 16h 35m

Ah, the Kooks woke up, fresh as daisies. Great sleep. Clean. Hour shower power really settles everyone down. All were ready to hit another country. No need to pick up Josh as due to train, plane, or hangover issues, he would meet them in Romania. The team consensus was to skip Transfagarasan road and Dracula's tower. The crew wants to do everything but just can't. Even within a country its a 500k detour. Kooks of the round table have spoken. Go see some random shit it Kiev and head to Moldova. Rock in there early have a few pints. Its Friday night yo!

Pouring rain, Kiev was difficult to drive through. The fellas were becoming pros at aggressive driving. Convoying two cars is hard trying not to run yellow lights if your the lead car and trying to anticipate the lead car's next move if your following. Walkie talkies were a good move but remembering to turn them off at night is key, they drain the batteries quick. The mates hit their only Kiev site a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Complete with outdoor and indoor sections. The devout pilgrimaging, begging, and praying. It was chaotic and fun. Not really knowing what was going on by the craziness and differentness was exciting.

Then back to it. Nobody was looking forward to this stretch. The highways were treacherous. Beyond the potholes, it looked like a giant earthquake had come through and created waves in the road. These things haven't been fixed since the Cold War. WTF. Barrelling down at 100km, the Kook Kars basically hit turbulence. It was a roller coaster ride. You have to have god set of stones and some foresight. To handle this. Drive on the shoulder, less divets. And when the rains came. The massive wheel wells created perfect conditions for hydroplaning. Maybe the Ukraine government has giant stake in a shock absorber company or something. And it's not that cars are going slow on these highways either. One can only image how awful it would be in the winter.

"Shit, did we recheck if we needed Moldavian visas?" It wasn't on any of their visa lists. The never ending search for wifi was on. Finally satisfied that they didn't, the Kooks hastily made way to the Ukraine/Moldovian border. The rain had stopped and finally there was rolling hills. A nice change of scenery from the flatness of the rest of their trip so far. Chisinau was close enough to taste the Friday night beers that awaited them. Then out the window they saw a witch floating beside a corn field. Don't make eye contact. Good bye you big weird country.

They rocked up to the border playing Moldovian trivia. All six lost this game. Riding in blind. Standard Kook procedure. Ukraine side went pretty much at planned. Get out of my country etc. Then shit hit the fan. Mikey and John usually have to do the brunt of the talking at the beginning as the cars are registered in their names. The border guard now said we do need visas. A little confused as to why (all should be exempt) and the language being an issue, the two haggled down to 10 Euro or 10US depending on what money people had. Ya, a little fishy. All decided to pay and get out of there. But then she wanted 70Euro per car as a declaration tax. Dodgy as shit. Arguing back and forth that they shouldn't have to pay this, they shouldn't even have to get visas for Moldova. She also keeps saying that this is not Moldova, this is Transnistia. WTF is Tranistria?

The boys were completely bewildered. It wouldn't be the first time and won't be the last. None had heard of this "country". With a little help from a nice bus driver, they found out that Tranistria was a separatist state of sorts. Thoughts of trying find away to drive around this place were thwarted by their tiredness. They ended up paying the "declaration" charge. Now dark, they got to the next check point. Things didn't get better. Exit tax.

Now they wanted 60 Euro per car the leave this non-country. No way anyone was up for paying this. The declaration document they were given for the car said Republic of Tranistria, Moldova. The Kooks argument was that they shouldn't have to pay an exit fee as they aren't leaving Moldova, you're not even a real country! Border patrol didn't like this and the stare down was on. A bit more arguing and thinking about how to skirt this issue ensued. In the end, Kooks finally wore them down and were allowed to exit. They were finally in Moldova! Only an hour away from a cold one. Just over the bridge then a straight shot the Chisinau.

What's this booth. A toll? Bridge tax? Wait a second, this looks official. As the guard waved them by, they are told that this is the Moldovian boarder. What? "But we're already in Moldo...." What is going on?!. They would have to do more research before crossing countries. A lot more. Andy took the responsibility. It would be on him now if the teams get screwed at a border from here on in. And the fellas would let him know it! The real Moldova border patrol was actually nice and helpful and made it an easy process. A small 4 Euro fee for each car, and entry/exit slip for each passport in lieu of a stamp. Finally again! But another team unexpected team expense.

Now getting late, unless there was a hostel bar, they would be going dry tonight. The roads were in tip top shape (though anything would be better than Ukraine.) As they entered the city, they noticed lanes free of lines and big wide roundabouts. Modern and well put together, this place appealed to them. Damn, once again, they forgot to book a room in advance. Hostel after hostel they checked were full. A couple of wild goose chases later they decided to get real hotel and get a decent sleep. With rain pouring down, Millie started clunking and coughing. Her temperature gauges had gone haywire. She had a fever. A good night sleep was in order for her too. The team found a decent hotel; a couple of beds and a floor would do them fine. After midnight again, and with plans for an early rise, they went to bed. Maybe tomorrow they could see the city. Maybe. End transmission.

Day 12 - Chernobyl to Kiev Ukraine

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 12 - July 27, 2017
Chernobyl, Ukraine to Kiev, Ukraine
Countries: 15 KMs/Miles: 5297/3292
Breakdowns: 6 Time @ Borders: 13h 30m

Andy and Mike woke up early wondering if they would see the boys today. They check the Kooks epic website for the Spot tracker Millie was wearing. It was pinging Ukraine. Sweet. Near Chernobyl. Sweeet. In the middle of a field. Shit. Maybe their dead. Bodies strewn about. Skoda in flames. Who knows. But at least the tracker was working. Let's rocket there and see whats up.

Meanwhile the three other Kooks in Millie woke up to the sun beating through the widows, condensation drenching the inside surfaces. Geej and Joel upfront airplane style, John crunched in the back. They had actually slept! Now, that's being tired. Hungry, they went off the find something to eat as their only supplies of moldy bread and onions didn't wet the appetites of most. The nearby one store town only took Ukrainian Hryvnia which they didn't have. Hopefully, Mikey and Andy will bring some. Unfortunately those boys were thinking the same things. Drat!

The cars were back together and the guys felt like they hadn't seen each other in months. Big hugs all around. Chernobyl awaits!

Right on time, their tour guide Helen, showed up with their driver for the day. No chance. Kooks be driving their own cars through this barren wasteland. Millie and YACKS and gonna get radioactive! Andy and Mikey took the wheels. Going through security checkpoints, they entered the site of the biggest nuclear disaster in history. Once 50,000 people lived in this area living the good life. Then, in 1986, a couple of explosions caused a meltdown and all were evacuated in a matter of days, if they were lucky enough to not have stay to contain the disaster or fight fires.

Since then only about 1500 have returned the the exclusion zone. Loving the silence and nature. The people here are very friendly we are told. You just have to know where to go and where not to go. We found that out pretty quick when we were given radiation detectors. Beeping away, the cars roamed though the area finding radioactive hot spots. Pretty crazy. The explosion sent out radioactive particle clusters that makes your detector go through the roof if you walk over them. Long sleeves and pants are supposed to be worn at all times and no touching foliage or dirt. And don't drive over moss! All are radiation catcher mitts.

The first impression is pretty eerie, driving down the abandoned streets through derelict buildings overgrown with trees and creeping vines. Its hard not to think that you're in a movie about the apocalypse. Just waiting for zombies to surround the vehicles. Once inside the structures, the Kooks kept close, this could turn into a horror movie at any second. Shattered glass everywhere, paint peeling off walls, floor boards rotting, and a deafening silence. Knowing people left things as they were when they were evacuated and never came back. Ever.

Walking through classrooms, gymnasiums, and pools once bustling with children were void of sound and dilapidated. Watch your step, at any moment you could fall through the floor or down a hole. Shattered windows everywhere and broken beams could jab you at any second. You are given a mask to wear, you wouldn't want to breath in the nuclear dust or lead paint chips, but the Kooks didn't don them. Breath it in boys, that's the smell of asbestos. Out the window, they see a Ferris wheel. Five tickets please. (And one more for Joshy.)

The fair area is chilling. An empty amusement park leaves one feeling right creeped out. A slight wind made the rusty rides eerily creak. Enough time for this Chernobyl boy band to take an epic picture. Although rock stars worldwide, Chernobyl is where they hit it big. Where they call home. Their concerts filled with stray dogs and foxes and spiders that will give you superpowers.

The next stops were an engineer's wet dream. The massive interlocking dome built to exact specifications to tetris over ground zero. The classic nuclear cooling tower that you can walk through and catch your echos. Their tops lined with rotting wooden walkways. And the enormous antenna aptly named the Woodpecker, 20 stories high and a half a kilometer long. It was built to bounce signals off the US and warn of a nuclear attack. Though others believe it to be a gigantic James Bond villain type machine constructed to brainwash an entire nation. Whatever its purpose, it used a third of the power produced by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant at any given time. Just an antenna 'eh?! F**k!

A definite highlight on the trip. And another long day. The driving tour ended around 7pm and the boys had get to Kiev. Everyone was bagged so a real hotel was in order. Showers, real beds, a good meal, and a couple of beers with the boys. This weird 24hr medieval hotel/restaurant provided them with all. Take a little extra soap on the wash tonight gents, don't need wake up with an extra eye. End transmission.

Day 11 - Part 2 - Poland / Belarus to Ukraine

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 11 - July 26, 2017 - Part 2
Warsaw, Poland or Minsk, Belarus to Ukraine
Countries: 15 KMs/Miles: 4919/3057
Breakdowns: 6 Time @ Borders: 13h 30m

...

The important role of the navigator was never more apparent than when the three east bound Kooks entered Ukraine. These Skodas are right side drivers as they were born in the UK. Driving on the right side of the road make it impossible for the diver to see when they can pass. That's the navigators job, sometimes having to physically stick his head out the window to give the thumbs up. Communication between navigator and driver is key. Whether it be reading maps, on the two-way radios, playing DJ, sorting cords, or bird dogging.

The crew bumped along into the night and the darkness. Millie testing her shocks every step of the way. With the roads as crap as they were and on two lane highways at night, driving can be stressful and tiring. John was doing the driving. And fading fast. They had to find a place to sleep. This was the first country they didn't have data in so they would have to go old school and rock into a town and just find one. But the towns were few and far between in Northern Ukraine. And the towns they did find scared them away quickly. This place was proper weird. Straight out of the Twilight Zone. All unlit and eerily quiet with people scurrying in the shadows. "Let's get the f**k out of here."

Well after midnight and now with Joel behind the wheel, they inched their way towards where they were to meet up with Andy and Mikey the next morning. Not even knowing if the meet up place was an actual town or just a GPS point. There had been no communication with them since the day before. Maybe the two fellas could track the three if they had wifi as Millie had a Spot Tracker on top of their car.

Let's try one more town they thought but no dice. Snake eyes again. They can't even find a hotel let alone one open. F**k! "Why did we pack all the camping gear in the other car!" BANG! Millie bottoms out. The hardest yet. The sump guard John had installed being tested to the max minus a few bolts now. One more attempt to ask for more help fails miserably.

With no other choice they veered off the highway towards Chernobyl. Now after 2am and low on gas, they roared down these Ukrainian back roads tired as f**k. Not the position they wanted to be in. BANG!!! They bottom out again, this time worse then before. This is just dumb now. Time to stop this madness. This chapter ends with three grown men sleeping in a Skoda on the side on the abandoned road near a nuclear disaster site. Now this is travelling! End transmission.

Day 11 - Part 1 - Poland / Belarus to Ukraine

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 11 - July 26, 2017 - Part 1
Warsaw, Poland or Minsk, Belarus to Ukraine
Countries: 15 KMs/Miles: 4919/3057
Breakdowns: 6 Time @ Borders: 13h 30m

The Fab Four, in typical Kook fashion, opened their eyes that morning feeling well rested looking forward to a seven hour drive and their first real, no EU, border crossing between Poland and Ukraine border. Then they woke up. Bloody Hell! Learning from their mistakes is not one of this crew's strong suits. The worst of the bunch may have been Josh but at least he gets to stay in Warsaw for a few days of R&R before hooking back up with the team in Moldova. Now the Throw-Up Three, a hellish day awaited.

Joel, drawing the short straw, took the drivers seat, Geej riding nav, and John curled up in the fetal position in the back. The grey drizzly morning perfectly matched their moods. No time to see the sites or take some pics, they'll have to just settle for a postcard or just straight up lying about really being there. In remanence of two days prior, Joel settled in to his routine of just trying to stay awake. Dangerous? Maybe. But no more dangerous than the other drivers this two lane highway using the middle section as a free for all passing lane.

Hours passed like minutes and after seeing construction of a super highway for the last two days (every stretch of it being built at the exact same time for some reason) they finally hit the one completed section. This brought them to the nice town of Chelm, near the Ukraine border. No need to wake up John, he didn't sleep at all. It's not easy for a 6'1 Scotsman to sleep in the back of a tiny Skoda that crashing around. Just enough time to walk around and stretch their legs.

For these three, it was their first checked border on this trip. EU was easy, just fly on through but now the waiting game. Make sure you're in the right line. Have your docs ready. Hide Davo. The Polish side wasn't too bad. A car line, a minor check going through your car. Most countries are happy to let you leave.

The Ukrainian side was a little more confusing. A definite language barrier. This part of the Kooks team didn't know about the Google translator app yet and certainly didn't think about downloading any offline translators in the state they were in in the morning. John only got yelled at once. You just got to stand your ground when there's a group of people trying fighting to try talk to the unhappy person through this little window at passport control. All in all it was a two hour process. Relatively painless with a few lessons learned. And probably a better than the people pushing their car through or the guy guzzling beers as he is being looked over. Welcome to Ukraine!

And let the weirdness begin. It was apparent straight off the hop that this country would be the first true test for the team and for the cars. The roads were atrocious. Small fires burning everywhere. The mist added to the creepiness. The houses were tiny. The ambulances needed a ambulance. A collective shiver ran down their spines. Buckle up, the roller coaster ride is about to begin! And off they rumbled...

Mike and Andy, the Kooks teammates that had a Belarus visa, started their day with a nice breakfast and lovely six hour drive that turned into 20. Dreary and pissing rain, this was their first time in the Eastern Block and it seemed quite fitting. Row block building lined with propaganda type billboards. Maybe this was all in their heads but another day of arriving to a city you want to see but arriving so late that all you can do is sleep and having to leave so early that all you want to do it hate it may have been a factor in their reasoning. Then you remember why you're doing this. And that people out there are having a much harder go than you. And that they need help pulling though. And that you can do something to help. Cancer sucks. That's a fact. If you agree, please donate here: https://support.firstdescents.org/team/100469
Adventures helping adventures.

This trusting twosome headed towards the Ukraine border under the careful direction of their devout leader MapsMe. A useful app that you can download offline to get the most direct route to your destination. The unfortunate thing is that is may also send you through a nuclear exclusion zone. Of course that's your fastest route. There's no cars, because you can't get in.! It is the fastest way to get to the border. But once there, you're screwed. Well YACKS, they fellas let you down again. Time to double back and try this again.

This border was a bit better than the last. A little more prepared and savvy, Andy and Mike had started to perfect their talk tracks. Bring a route map, show the route. Big strong army men love an adventure like this. Once the first crew of unmotivated border patrol was replaced by a bus load of fresh new ones, they had their in. And it may have actually worked. They loved it. The whole team has been doing this for a bit and forgets that others find it a kick. Nice. Good work gents. Celebrate with a turtle burger?

Although this border leg was a bit shorter than the last, they didn't get into their locked up hotel until 2am. And didn't get much help from the miserable c who worked there but luckily managed to find someone from the neighbouring hotel who was still up. All in all, it was a long day for them but they had a warm dry bed and couldn't be happier to crawl into it to pass out...yet they wondered - where the f**k are those other guys?1 Are they alive? End transmission.

Day 10 - Lithuania to Poland / Belarus

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 10 - July 25, 2017
Vilnius, Latvia to Warzawa, Poland or Belarus
Countries: 14 KMs/Miles: 4200/2610
Breakdowns: 6 Time @ Borders: 9h

Day 10! To the boys, it felt like two months. Lack of sleep, long days on the road, a little too much fun had started some of the team to get a little sick. But they'll hit 14 countries today. Partially because they have to split up today. Andy and Mikey were the only ones able to get visas in time to go through Belarus, on the way to Ukraine, the the others will detour to Poland on the way to Ukraine. Except for Josh who will meet back up with them in Moldova. Maybe its not sickness, maybe its separation anxiety. They've grown close.

No matter how hard they try, it's been hard to get out the door at the planned time even on a rare day they're not hungover. A pancake breakfast, then one more full team excursion to a cathedral and a lookout point to see all the red roofs of Vilnius. The Fab Four sped away in Millie sporting Davo as their new hood ornament. His head bobbing away with the bumps in the road.

The other pair headed out in YACKS visit Trakai castle just outside of town to get some sweet drone footage. Next, off to rip around in tanks and fire off their cannons. Not a better way to feel like a real man. Sadly these weren't really men, and their dick swingin' testosterone fest would have to wait as the tank company cancelled on them so the Terrible Two were off to the Belarus. At first glance, they suspected the process would take awhile. Little did they know... A line up of cars on the Lithuanian side was long at least things were moving. The issues came on the Belarus side.

Just pull in to the "Nothing to Declare" line of course. Easy peasy right? Nope. Wrong line. F. Have to declare YACKS. Even if you're just transiting. Ok fine. My bad. Luckily their new friend Sergei was there to help. Its always the best idea to make BFFs in a customs line right? but at least finally things are moving again. Only one more car in front. Then CRACK! BOOM! The loudest thunder and biggest bolt of lightning the boys had severed all power and communications at the border. Some would say it hit the place. Others would question that account. None the less: total shutdown. So close!

After three hours, restlessness was growing within the growing line. Yelling, arguing, berating border patrol in a rage seemed to be all the rage. Nothing could stop this crowd from an uprising. Nothing except for border cool guy pro that everyone loves, Sergei; pushing his lollies bringing smiles. "We're gonna be that rad soon brew.", the boys thought. But lets nap first. After their slumber a bullish woman came out and demanded they speak French. First border on the trip. 9 hours. Only 14 more to go. Yay! Finally rocking up to their hotel in Minsk at 3:20am, falling asleep when as soon as their heads hit the pillow. The Eastern Block had welcomed them with open arms of uninspired block apartment buildings a grey rainy skies. It can only get better.

For the other four Kooks driving to Poland, Davo provided the humour for this leg of the journey. Every passing car doing a double take and subsequently bursting out laughing, some even taking pictures. He may cause an accident! Poland did have a different feel to it, a little less normal. Having a night in graffiti painted Warsaw excited the crew finally pulling into their accommodation around seven. They were easily coaxed in to having a pint at the hostel which the bartender upsold to a pint with a vodka shot in it, a Polish delicacy. That pretty much ended any chance to see the city that night.

The gang stepped out for a kebab, narrowly avoiding flyerers trying persuade the quartet to come to their restaurant, bar, or strip club. They couldn't be coaxed though, it was back to the downstairs hostel bar for some live vagabond music or Polish rock and for shots. Magic John compared hairstyles with a cute Brazilian lass. Who wore it better?! Josh attempted to buy out the bar from the angry Polish bartender because it was so CHEAP! Nostrovia! Red faced Joel practiced his Spanish with a Madrid beauty. Claro! While Geej spent his time insulting everyone and getting away with it. As he does.

Geej was the first one to bail though, feeling like he needed a good rest for another day of not driving. His sleep was short lived as Joel returned snoring his sweet song. Josh followed later, several times, looking for the keys to the car, the door, and the universe. Later still, John knocked and started trowing his boomerang around. Down boy, down. Really, who needs sleep. Overrated. End transmission.

Day 9 - Estonia to Lithuania

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 9 - July 24, 2017
Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania
Country count: 12
KM/Mile count: 3569/2218...
Breakdown count: 6

Good morning Tallinn! Thought no one in team Kublai Kooks. Lack of sleep of no rest days were starting to take their toll. At least they'll have some clean clothes. What they're not even wash yet? Mikey was not pleased. So much for early start again. Well, might as well go for breakfast. Andy, Geej, and Mike, the only ones up at this point, headed back to the main square to find some chow and write a few post cards, Andy making a new friend on the way. If only Mikey could find someone to sell him a stamp or tell him where a mail box is. Just wasn't his morning.

At least the donations kept coming in. That definitely lightened the mood. Their Cool Earth goal was now at 100 percent and First Decents were climbing. Much gratitude was felt towards all their friends and families. And also, their cars were running better than ever since the start of the trip.

They headed back to the hostel to pick up the rest of the write-offs who were still passed out in their beds. The long drive was about to begin. No one wanting to be lead car, too much thinking. No one wanted to be navigating. Too much thinking. Just got to get to Latvia. Then to Lithuania by nightfall. They were already weeks behind other ralliers but who cares. And a crane swooped in front of their car and they were at the Baltic Sea. A quick dip and a little Davo and they were off.

A very normal looking countryside again brought them to the city of Riga. With still another three hours to Vilnius, the team would have to make this one of the quicker visits to any country on the tour, checking out historic city centre and stopping for a local delicacy of dumplings. Onwards and downwards and enough stalling, time for the next set of drivers to take over...unhappily.

Joel's time behind the wheel was one of shear despair. Scratch your beard, scratch your head, drink some water, sing a part of a song, don't look at the time and repeat. That rainbow, your best friends, the best time of your life. Anything to keep focus and stay awake. But he toughed it out, like a trooper. Like a Kook. And so did the rest of the team, pulling into Vilnius close to midnight. A one km walk to the hostel gave them only a glimpse of the city. This wouldn't be a night of exploring, only sleeping. End transmission.

Day 8 - Finland to Estonia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 8 - July 23, 2017
Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia
Country count: 10
KM/Mile count: 2946/1831
Breakdown count: 6

"Get up! The ferry is about to unload!" Awesome way to start the day. Panic packing. Just grab anything from the room whether its yours or not. Just as the Kooks all jumped in the cars, they were being waved off the ship into Helsinki, Finland. A bright sunny morning lay before them but, sadly, only a quick stopover as their next ferry would take them to Estonia later in the day.

The boys found parking near the old centre and waved good-bye to John as he went to meet up with some old friends for the day. The rest grabbed coffee and hiked around town visiting some old churches and monuments. It was a bit of a struggle today but a pint or four should fix that so the team headed down to a restaurant district where a friend of Mikey's, from a previous trip was working. Its always nice to catch up with people you've had adventures with. Especially in their home countries. They've been lucky enough to be able to do that so far. But have missed a few:(

They sat around swapping travel stories and having laughs while Joel found a new pen pal. Think these fellas are going to miss Scandinavia but the afternoon was upon them and it was time the head back on the open water to Estonia. The land of ?! Joel was the only one who had been to this part of the world (randomly just three weeks earlier on a lacrosse trip), the rest of the gang were going in fresh and most likely with low expectations.

And right of the boat they couldn't have been more surprised. This place looked, well, normal. Modern. Orderly. Nice even. It goes to show you how even a group of worldly gentlemen who have collectively covered a good portion of the world can have no idea what really lays around the next bend. Definitely a fun part of this trip.

Pulling into the Mad Monkey hostel right in the heart of Tallinn, their parking spot was conveniently beside a sex shop where the Kooks found their new mascot, Davo. This would be the first place they would start unpacking their roof racks and throwing everything in the cars. Reports of robberies from other ralliers had started coming in and it would suck to lose their threaded tires. After Mikey checked them in and tried to arrange some much needed laundry, the boy enjoyed a beer and a shot and got ready to explore this cool looking town. Out the door the went and hit the cobblestone streets.

At their first stop, the boys were drawn into this dark medieval looking restaurant. Only candle lit and in the side of a castle, this place looked as if it had been there for 500 years. They ordered a couple bowls of hearty soup, sausages, pickles, and ceramic crafts of old school pumped beer. Hands reaching everywhere, just pass around the bowls and jugs. The Kooks had become good at sharing everything. Eat, drink, and be merry!

Next they found their way to a little pub selling many Estonian brews which the enjoyed. Simply delicious. The medieval flare continued at every turn and the town became a bit spooky as the sun went down. Creepy sculptures and gas lit lamps lined the streets as the team found there way to a viewpoint, entonces, up a steep narrow spiral stares to the top of a castle to sample some muld wine more craft beer. The whole night was filled with too much laughter. Estonia, F**K YA!

Back at the hostel after midnight, the party had picked up and things were lively. The Kooks fit right in and revelled in mixing with fellow backpackers and finally having time to talk to the opposite sex. Who would become a wizard tonight? Usually Mikey but he had to take it "easy" as he had first driving shift in the morning. Same with Andy, though his chance to get a some needed REM time was foiled by an abdominal snore-man. Noise cancelling earphones where no match for this beast. There's really nothing worse in a hostel dorm room. That and a creaking bed, if its not yours. Another sleepless night for Andy but a chance to talk to MT.

Geej, who was booked in the same room, walk in later, heard the noise, saw a still wide awake Andy and decided to find another room to sleep, but to no avail - contracted the Spanish flu. The rest of the Kooks decided to do a little clubbing. Joel leading the way first, the triangle decor of the first place didn't appeal to him so he took off but looking for something classier. John and Joshy coincidentally running into him later on. Anyone for a hot tub? Anyone up for being berated by a scary Russian? Any seen Josh?

Everyone left unsatisfied that night and some were looking for a refund. They fellas announced their return by giving a one horn salute. Thanks guys. The next wake up call will come in a matter of hours. Oops again! Tomorrow will be hell. End transmission.

Day 7 - Sweden to Finland

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 7 - July 22, 2017
Stockholm, Sweden to Ferry to Helsinki, Finland
Country count: 9
KM/Mile count: 2932/1822
Breakdown count: 6

After an awesome night and showering up, for some, the first time in a week, the six Kooks drove into Stockholm feeling fresh and ready to see the sites. The ferries had been sorted and the detour from the detour had been rectified. They were back onto their second original plan and would be taking an overnight ferry to Finland later in the day. Once again having to skip Norway.

Driving though the endless maze of tunnels heading in to the city, they decided to parked near the ferry in preparation for a quick exit remembering to lock all the doors. John had smartly (aka luckily) swapped the passenger doors on the silver and red Skodas giving the team access to the cars with either key. All their gear would be in these rides so they would have to be diligent in keeping them safe. They didn't like walking around with backpacks, only donning their Shinesty jackets hoping to capture the eye of some beautiful Swedish princesses, of which there were many.

It got hot early so they headed underground to the cave-like metro to ride the rails to the old town. Unfortunately missing the first one by seconds. The delay worked out for John though, allowing him to catch the train to love town. Stepping on, he was completely mesmerized by the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Give her a card mate!

Stockholm proved to be a super cool city. One definitely felt like you were in Scandinavia with their old beautiful building and crazy blonde hair. Walking up and down the cobble stone streets, to the castles and clocktowers, and over the many bridges. A round of Swedish beers, meatballs, schnitzel, and Viking burgers filled them up before heading having catch the the 4:30 ferry for the 16hr journey to Helsinki. Their shortest drive so far was on this day and now they were about to take a mini vacation. The only time times their cars would be travelling without spinning their wheels.

Hardly a ferry, more like a cruse ship! Complete with a mall, bands, restuatuants, bars, a casino, and the much needed wifi. Time to use up your right swipes! You've got a captive audience on this 13 level love boat. Unfortunately the average age was 50+ so it became though to set up any rendezvous.

Loaded up with their German purchases, the mates hit the sun deck to take in the scenery but not before losing Geej again. The scenery was epic. Sailing through endless waterways of tree covered islands and peppered with stunning cabins. Very familiar to some. This would be as far north as they would get on this journey. Once again, they would experience an endless sunset which can make it hard to sleep. The inside cabins with no windows would provide the kind of blackout they needed though the Texas Micky of JD would provide the blackout the didn't need.

Time to hit the casino and make bank. Jackets on, they hit the roulette table with intentions of parleying the kitty into early retirement. Mikey led the way with an early hot hand. Josh evened it out with a cold one. Everyone knows that in the end the house always wins. But they weren't in a house, they were on a ship. The ship was steady, the lads weren't and getting worse by the minute. The donated black licorice flavoured liqueur on the deck didn't help as they went ruckusing through the hallways before forming a massive dogpile six deep. Where was their f'n chaperone? Probably sleeping standing in the toilet - like a baucht een. End transmission

Day 6 - Denmark to Sweden

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 6 - July 21, 2017
Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden
Country count: 8 (or 9 if you include Christiana)
KM/Mile count: 2906/1806
Breakdown count: 6

After a wet night sleeping in the park, the Kooks were well rested. It was the best sleep they've had since getting to Europe. Maybe it was the cool weather there in Denmark but more likely was because they were so exhausted from the previous night. After crushing some cereal in their makeshift open air breakfast nook, the team boarded the Metro and headed in to town for coffee meeting up with Katie, another friend of Andy's and Joel's.

Checking the ferry schedules once again, it seems that the boat from Stockholm to Helsinki was all booked up so they'd have to change routes again. They could skip Finland but would have time again for Norway. Damn ferries! Joel, the team's stand-in guide, suggested biking around town. It was a great idea as the boys peddled past old castles and waterways. The wide bike lanes everywhere made it simple to get around and only having a back wheel lock made hopping on and off easy. No problems leaving your bike anywhere in this city.

Little did they know they would enter country number nine (unofficially). Christiana, a self proclaimed country right in the heart of Copenhagen was set up by a group of squatters and has since remained with no official status. Normal Danish laws don't apply here. Stands selling weed and hash operated beside artisans, bars, and skateparks. Just no pictures are allowed as Andy found out trying to covertly get evidence of this stop. The beer cups will have to do.

On to the bikes again for some chow in the street food based warehouse. So delicious. The team was already a bit sick of gas station sandwiches so this was a nice treat. With the best meal they've had in awhile in their bellies, they settled in for the long drive to Stockholm throughout the afternoon. The roads were clear and fast and the lads were pumped to get into Stockholm for a bit of nightlife. They still needed to get a few supplies to tighten up their pack jobs and give them a little more room in the cars. If only Sweden had a store that could meet all of their needs and cheaply! IKEA would have to do.

The new bins on the top were perfect for carrying beer. But still no dog bowls for Mikey! What the hell was the team suppose to eat out of?! At least Geej would be able to use the huge parking lot to finally get behind the driver's seat for a test drive around the parking lot. And like a boss he nailed it. And almost nailed another car too! Maybe a bit more practice would be needed after all. But in a stroke of luck and because of the sudden jerk forward when he ground those gears, Josh's phone shot out from under the front seat where it had been lodged. It wasn't lost after all and Geej became a self proclaimed hero. All felt a nice dinner was earned so they classed it up, put on their dinnerware and went upstairs for some Swedish meatballs. After a quick game of frisbee, they roared away.

A painless ride into Stockholm allowed the non drivers to turn the cars into Club Millie, and YACKS Ultra Lounge. Singing, dancing, and general carousing ensued as the Skodas gained stares from every car they passed. They made good time not having to stop by taking a page out of the truckers handbook, but still arrive too late to think about hitting the big city. The boys pulled into a busy campsite in the nick of time. They quickly set up their tents, grabbed some bottles, and unsteadily climbed some rocks to a nice view point overlooking a lake and orange. If they would just cut down those f'n trees!

With a little help from John, a laugh-fest ensued where no one was safe from getting hammered with a left handed joke. "Is it getting darker?" The sun barely goes down at this time of year up in Scandinavia making for a great backdrop for a private concert from Joel, the Kook's resident musician. Awesome time and an important team bonding evening was had. They might make it after all. After a round circle of much needed snack munching, Andy laid out all of their pillows for them before they hit the hay. And he was very proud of himself for doing so. End transmission.

Day 5 - Netherlands to Denmark

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 5 - July 20, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands to Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark
Country count: 7
KM/Mile count: 2266/1408...
Breakdown count: 6

Yikes. After the night before, the early alarm was shattering. Surprisingly enough, the Kooks all got up pretty quickly knowing that the day ahead of them would be long. Feeling like crap, they loaded the cars and left the sin city of giants. Not a lot of words were spoken or needed to be.

On to Amersfloot, where the Kooks met up with another KK donor, Ben, Andy's friend. After a delicious breakfast, a little shopping was in order to buy a few needed camping items. After giving the usual two horn salute they were off. Hours of driving lay ahead stopping only for a slash and of course to load the roofs with a couple of crates of German beer and spirits. Liquor is expensive in Scandinavia and this bunch usually thinks with their collective livers.

The weight of the car slowed down by about 10 mph so YANKS blazed by dazed and confused and pulled in the lead. Weather took a bit of a turn so they all prepared for a wet camping night. Three countries today. Not bad. Passing though some massive harbour cities and solar farms, the long day turn to night as the cars eerily raced across the crazy long bridge connecting to Copenhagen being pushed around by the wind and rain.

The free camping national park gate was closed as it was well after midnight, so the boys had to set up their tents in the drizzle and wet grass in a city park. Slumber came quick. Cane toads and slugs sang them to sleep. End transmission.

Day 4 - Belgium to Netherlands

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally 2017
Day 4 - July 19, 2017
Bastong, Belgium to Amsterdam, Netherlands
Country count: 5
KM/Mile count: 1315/817
Breakdown count: 6

Early start to the day as the morning sun baked the team awake. Probably shouldn't fill the air mattresses with the exhaust pipe any more as they tended to leak out at night. Andy and Mikey drove back into town to grab Meandering Millie and her new windscreen and finally Andy's F-up would be erased from their memories.

All packed up, the team headed to Antwerp for a nice lunch and of course more Belgian beer. Seriously cool main square area with lots of old architecture and a sweet cathedral. There was only time for a quick stroll around the city but they still enough time to lose Geej again. The Kook cars hit the road north to Holland and hopefully a big night out in Amsterdam.

Flat. That's pretty much how you would describe the drive. And a lot less windmills than they hoped! But the mood was light and the sun was shining and the cars were running fine. The crew checked in to a busy city campsite where they here greeted with a 6-pack of Heineken...of course, it's Amsterdam. Only time for a shower, the fellas were keen to get into the heart of it and do a bit of window shopping.

The train took them to the city centre and they quickly found a place by a busy square to people watch and order a few pints. And it was time to celebrate, the two 'Mericans finally got their authorization codes and all the boys will be going to Iran! With the smell of herb in the air, Mikey bought his trip hat, a hand crafted gem from a street artist in front of the restaurant complete with the Kublai Kooks logo. Feel loose, the gents went for a stroll to red light district to take in the sites.Too funny to see families waking around checking out the action. But when in Rome...

Bars and coffee shops lined the canals and revellers young and old filled the streets. Probably the most liberal of all places they will visit, the Kooks needed some java so into the kitty they went. But with coffee comes appetite so in the most important team decision they would agree on that night was made and truffles were purchased. Yummy!

After being kicked out of one bar - you can't bring outside food in, they headed off for pints while theirs meals settled. A couple of games of fingers ensued with Geej mastering the game in seconds and a new kitty was formed in his honour. The Kooks were soon in fine form and their bellies were aching from laughing so hard.

Feeling extra giddy, it was hit the streets. A complete assault on the senses. Colours, smells, chaos. As Mikey would say, "Things got a bit hectic!" Not two minutes after leaving the bar, the Kooks inenvertanly split in half and never found each other again. Joshy, Mikey, and John heading in one direction, Andy, Geej, and Joel in the other. The first group had a plan of attack from the start. Hit a shop and gear up. An hour later all they managed to do was walk in circles forgetting the mission altogether. Awkward conversations and gut busting laughter ensued only taking breaks to re-enter the the real world to, in Josh's case, empty his stomach and drop some weight for another go around. Maybe to a men's club.

Group two surfed down the rabbit hole seeming oblivious to the laws of physics. Up was down, left was right. Just enjoying the ride. Crying laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. What a great time to be alive! The thirst came again and they hit another pub. Then Joel turned into the devil and Andy took it as his queue to go. Mr. Responsible. The two were left wandering the streets enjoying the waves.

Although apart, the Kooks were all together in spirit and their spirit them took them to places...............choose wha..........can you help m.......shit, radios are breaking up. "Just got a message from John. It reads - 'I have bifbyd way tidbit held?' - Rubber Ducky?!".......End transmission.

Day 3 - Luxembourg to Belgium

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally
Day 3 - July 18, 2017
Luxembourg to Bastong, Belgium
Country count - 3
Km/Mile count - 959/596...
Breakdown count - 6

Day three started early and efficiently as the team was keen to race to Antwerp, get the windshield fixed, and have a big night out in Amsterdam. Millie refused. Not even waking up. After a failed push start, John, the Kooks resident grease monkey (he doesn't care for that term), had to get out the tools again and try to solve the problem. Not the morning the fellas were hoping for.

After running though his checklist, and doing a bit of tinkering, he decided to check the fuel pump which was buried under the back seat. Much to his surprise, he found a family of mice had made a nest and had been hitching a ride from Scotland! Little buggers had eaten through some wiring and shorted the flux capacitor. A new fuel pump was found with the help of Monique and Ramone but it was just across the border in Germany. John and Mike took YANKS for the mission while the rest of the crew did what they did best. Crush beers by the pool. Cannonball!

It was determined then that a kitty had to be formed to pay for team expenses. It would make things a lot easier. Each Kook threw in 200 Euro to start then they would have to sort something else out once they started hitting a new currency every few days. Once YACKS returned and the fix was done, Millie purred like a kitten. It was a bit too late now to get to Antwerp so they found a campsite just over the border in Bastong, Belgium. They would plan for an early morning and had arranged for a new windshield to be delivered to the glass shop in town.

The new campsite was assembled and Andy's drone was brought out for a test run. So cool! The video quality is awesome and it's ability to herd cows is second to none. The team will be getting some great shots in the future. Some sunny beers were had and the team decided that due to the delay, they would have to unfortunately skip Norway. Its just to out of the way to walked to town for some pizza and a couple of local Belgian brews.

Feeling good, the boys called it a night pretty early and dreamt of Amsterdam mañana.

Day 2 - France to Luxembourg

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally
Day 2 - July 17, 2017
Paris, France to Luxembourg
Country count - 3
Kms/Mile count - 896/557...
Breakdown count - 6

After a much needed slumber, Josh, John, Mikey, and Geej got ready to hit some Paris tourist sites. Andy stayed behind to try to rectify his debacle and arrange to get the windscreen fixed. Pete stayed behind to work on his Kooks video and make a plan for his next move. The Uber arrived and took them to the most famous of all Paris landmarks, the Eiffel Tower. Quite impressive in person actually. And quite weird to see machine gun armed security everywhere but I guess thats the world we live in.

Next, they grabbed some city bikes and cruised through traffic to Champs de Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, and Norte Dame losing Geej in the process. This won't be the last time is this happens. Tickin off sites, it was realized that they'll only ever get a taste each place they would visit. Not a lot of time to explore on a trip like this. But all in all, these gents will see a shit tonne in the next couple months.

Once back at the hostel, it was determined that the windshield would have to stay smashed until the next stop. Faulkner failed them again;) After a short visit with Geej and Andy's Antarctic friend Tamara, they said good bye & thanks to Pete and headed to Chalés de Gaulle to pick up Joel. With a guitar strapped to his back, the last of the Kooks had arrived and the team was fully assembled.

The first of many pit stops proved to take more time than expected. They'd have to come up with a better system for shopping and gas stops if they wanted to meet their targets. Crossing the border into Luxembourg too late to meet their first camping reservation, they settled on an open one near the Belgian border. Making a few calls while on the road, they figured out they could get their windscreen fixed in Antwerp the next day and keep time.

Camping Simmerschmeltz was a great choice as the owner, Monique, understanding our plight and supporting our mission to raise money for charity, gave us our campsites for free and went out of her way to make us feel at home. And while trying to set up there tents and finding a few problems while doing so, they were donated a new tent by their Dutch neighbour Ramone, who was camping with his family next door. The karma pendulum was swinging their way and they were grateful.

A couple of cheeky pints and the boys were off the sleep. Next stop Belgium and possibly Netherlands. End transmission.

Day 1 - U.K. to France

Kublai Kooks - Mogol Rally
Day 1 - July 16, 2017
Goodwin Racetrack, England to Paris, France
Country count: 2
KM/Mile count: 491/305...
Breakdowns: 5

Race Day!
The team, waking up in various areas around the campsite, could have used a few more days of sleep. Hangovers were of epic proportions. But it was race day and the start line awaited them. Though they may have been the sportiest cars of the lot, they weren't awarded the coveted green sticker which would have gave them the pole position. They would have to start from the back of the pack and play catch up. Millie had other ideas.

Overcast skies greeted thousands of Mongol Rally fans as the boys took to the track. Mikey and John were handed the keys while the rest of the bunch prepared the cameras and trash talked the other the competition. A quick swig of Buckfast to get rid of the shakes and they were off! Roaring down the track with 340 other ralliers, the Kooks were in good spirits. Meandering Millie, the Kooks' red car, would change that as she began to sputter down the raceway and was soon being passed by dozens of other reams. Maybe peeing in the gas tank wasn't such a good idea! YACKS, the Kooks' silver car, faired better, only being slowed down by a competitors spew slick projecting out the side of their van. Too hilarious!

What a fun run but it was time to get out of dodge. The Dover to Calais ferry was ready for them but not before stop at Mackers for a quick slash and barf. The sun was hot as they boarded and the Kooks were on the way to France. Country number two. Such a long way to go.

With Pete's gas for ride donation, they got to Paris after midnight. Greeted by an odd late night traffic jam and some aggressive drivers. They just had to find a hostel and a parking spot which proved to be a bit difficult. So did the unhelpful hostel front desk prick. It doesn't help that the Kooks keep trying to speak Spanish to any non English person. The language barrier will be prove to difficult. Kind of like trying to have a conversation with John.

Some Paris site-seeing in the morning and then off to Luxembourg. End transmission.