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July 30th, 2008 · 1 Comment

We are in Esfahan overlooking the famous bridge. Up North to the Caspian via Tehran tomorrow. Will stay in Chalous.  On the way here got stopped by three policemen fascinated by our steed who found us short of water…needless to say Iranian hospitality kicked in.

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A phone call from an archaeological site

July 29th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Ed has just called in from an untouched archaeological site just off the road from Tehran to Esfahan.  He hoped that his father, who graduated some decades ago in classical archaeology, might know where they were: describing a walled town, with granaries, ovens, and working water mills and pottery lying everywhere.   The only advice the father good give was not to be arrested for stealing archaelogical artefacts. Sound advice as the the thought had fleetingly crossed their young minds.

The generosity of the Iranian people has left the boys in awe:  the taxi driver who tells them to cross the road to take another taxi ‘because it would be cheaper as I would have to go a kilometre in the wrong direction’; the student who showed them round Tehran and insisted on paying their bus fares; the brother in law of a friend who let them use his laptop.

The boys have studiously avoided being drawn into political conversation but note that there is a sense of revelling in isolation; while ordinary people do not understand why they are portrayed as ‘evil’.  ‘Why do you think we are terrorists?’ is a common question.  ‘We don’t’ is the only reply.

The plans are to move from Esfahan to Persopolis and then the long way round back up to Turkmenistan on 2 August which is when their visa allows them in.

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TA 1194L 45 Driving south to E…

July 28th, 2008 · No Comments

TA 1194L 45 Driving south to Esfahan. Just got 40 litres of petrol for 35p

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Tactical setback –

July 28th, 2008 · No Comments

A usually reliable source reports that a TDT member has lost his wallet with his credit card and all his cash at a petrol station in Tabriz. While the errant team members name is being withheld in the sake of team harmony, the incident apparently occured while the unnamed individual was outside the car switching seats. However, it’s also been learned that the shortfall will soon end with the arrival of a USAID package, handcarried by the spiritual leader. God Bless those Yanks.

The team is recovering  with a trip, 400 km south of Teheran, to Isfahan, a UN World Heritage Site, twice the capital of Persia, known for outstanding architecture and pale blue tiles.

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From Istanbul to Iranian border

July 28th, 2008 · 1 Comment

After 14 hours of sleep we set about some shameless tourism in Istanbul. This entailed returning to the Hagia Sofia more appropriately dressed to go inside. The rest was very much needed after the rigours of the previous 2000 miles. Little did we know what was in store for us east of Istanbul…

Before leaving Europe for good we set about a serious admin session for the old girl. Max managed to successfully fix the door that he broke with a hammer and some loo paper. Charles secured the windscreen wiper on the other side and Ed secured a donation of a water cooler tank for the back of the cab. A life saver as it turned out. The attendants in the car park were so enamoured by our characterful steed that they gave us a complimentary pressure wash. Unfortunately the seals of the boot couldn’t hold up under the pressure of 500 miles of rain and a pressure hose so the entire contents of the boot needed to be reorganised and dried out. After a considerable amount of Charles’ faffing, we finally hit the road.

Max again took the wheel to take on the mad Istanbul driving. Little did we know that this would soon have to be considered a walk in the park. One particularly memorable moment of Max’s driving came just before the Bosporus Bridge where Max found himself stuck in an enormous tailback. Spotting a coned off service lane, he nips between the cones and undertakes 200 cars before popping out the other side of the road works. Mild lunacy saving us an hour in traffic in Istanbul heat. We have discovered that people are much more willing to forgive our traffic misdemeanours once they have seen what has just cut them up.

Max’s driving brilliance hailed the start of a heroic motorway blitz from Istanbul to Tosya, a small town 500 km east of Istanbul where we stopped for supper. The teenage proprietors of the restaurant were fascinated by the English visitors and plied us with fermented sheeps milk and Kofte. This was the first time we realised that we had truly left the western world. A fantastic sensation.

Feeling suitably polluted by the ayran sheep’s milk we pushed on into the night, aiming to stop in Asmaya, a town recommended on our map. We arrived at 1 a.m. and found a peach grove down a mountain track to pitch camp. Max and I were too tired to set up our inordinately complicated tent and so just lay on the groundsheet under the stars. Charles took the wiser choice of sleeping in the car. In our brief four hours of sleep a mosquito feeding bonanza occurred. With a combined total of nigh on 100 bites we drove the two kilometres into the charming old town of Asmaya. Charles caught up on a few hours more sleep while Max and I set out to climb up to the Ottoman fortress overlooking the town. We soon realized that we had bitten off more than we could chew but being stubborn and young we decided that we would storm the fortress at any cost. After much sweat and nearly blood and tears we succeeded. The view from the top was worth it all. Having congratulated each other we tried to find our way back to Charles and the car. A harder feat than we had imagined as descending the way we came would be tantamount to suicide with sheer cliffs, potholes and geos aplenty. After a lot of swearing and despair we found some builders who were arriving to restore the fortress who directed us to a road where we hitch hiked back to Charles. Charles had been left like a dog in a in the sun. We found him on the floor of the cab in his very own Hammam, half dead from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Having resuscitated Charles, Max put on Handel’s Messiah and sped off east. 5km later, using a hill to gather momentum we shot past an undercover Turkish policeman at a blistering 105km/h (the speed limit was 90km/h), which resulted in our first fracas with the law. We were shown a video of the taxi speeding past the unmarked car. The fine for our horrific offence was $76, however Max, with the help of a lovely Iranian biker called Bahran, succeeded in not only negotiating a charity discount but also a ride in the back of the police car for Ed. A police chase ensued as the bike, the police car and our cab raced in convoy to the police station where we tried to obtain a copy of the video of us speeding for the website. Unfortunately the chief of police at the station vetoed any such plans. Nevertheless, probably the best $76 spent so far on this trip.

The Iranian man then took us to a tea house and explained all the various customs of Iran, gave us some basic Farsi phrases and told us which roads to take, leaving us his address and number incase we needed any help. This was our first encounter with the extraordinary kindness of the Iranian people.
It took us the rest of that day and all of the night to reach the Iranian border. On the way we encountered a drunk petrol station attendant vaguely threatening assault, a very scared tortoise, and a starling dealing a blow that was not only fatal to itself but also to our forward right indicator. We arrived at the border just before sunrise and started queuing behind a coach load of Iranian tourists being processed by a very bored and tired Turkish border guard. Having been let through the Turkish side it became the Iranian side would not open for hours to come so we set about explaining every detail of the cab to a crowd of fascinated spectators before sitting down for tea 10 yards from the gate as the sun slowly rose above Mount Ararat. Iran just moments away…

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A loss and a detour

July 27th, 2008 · 6 Comments

A usually reliable source  (his mother)  reports that a TDT member has lost his wallet with his credit card, driving licence and $18, at a  lay-by on the road between Tabriz and Tehran. It apparently  fell out of his pocket while he was outside the car, switching seats. However, it’s also been learned that the shortfall will soon end with the arrival of a USAID package, handcarried by the spiritual leader. God Bless those Yanks.  The team is recovering  with a trip, 400 km south of Teheran, to Isfahan, a UN World Heritage Site, twice the capital of Persia, known for outstanding architecture and pale blue tiles.   They also apologise for the lack of longer updates.  A session in an internet cafe in Tabriz was interrupted when the whole town was plunged into darkness by a powercut.  They do promise some good photos and stories in due course.

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Left Tabriz, now in Teheran

July 27th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Iran is wonderful. The people are so kind interested and helpful. Bought 30 litres of diesel for 28 p. In Tehran going to dinner with someone we met at a fruit stand. Amazing people we love it here.

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We are waiting at the Iranian …

July 25th, 2008 · 6 Comments

We are waiting at the Iranian border with the sun rising above Mt. Ararat. Sharing tea with seven Iranians

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July 25th, 2008 · No Comments

Speeding, originally uploaded by desertaxi.

Stopped for speeding fine in Turkey a passing Iranian stopped on his way to Tehran to negotiate a charity discount.

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Max was caught speeding. A qui…

July 25th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Max was caught speeding. A quick cup of earl grey brewed in the back helped negotiate a charitable discount on the fine.

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In the back of a police car. S…

July 25th, 2008 · No Comments

In the back of a police car. Stopped for speeding. Over a cup of earl grey we have negotiated a charity discount.

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Belgrade to Istanbul: Storms, bumps, brıbes and baths

July 23rd, 2008 · 6 Comments

We left Belgrade at 1700 yesterday afternoon, well rested and well fed wıth high hopes for the slog ahead. As soon as we started the engıne ıt started to raın. Thıs raın was to contınue for the next 300 mıles and ten hours, makıng for some quıte ınterestıng drıvıng consıderıng the complete lack of regard harboured for human lıfe by Serbıan drıvers.

At the fırst pay toll we saw our fırst Mongol Rally team sınce Folkestone, Team Ulan Bar Tour. After a brıef chat at a servıce statıon we pıcked up two very sodden hıppıes who were hıtch hıkıng home to the Bulgarıan border. They seemed unfazed by the lunacy of theır bretheren who made repeated attempts to undertake on the hard shoulder goıng round a blınd corner ın a monumental (and beautıful) thunderstorm. We were slıghltly less well rested and fed by the tıme we had dropped them off at the Bulgarıan border and trıed to negotıate our way through a mınefıeld of brıbery and corruptıon. Our efforts were not helped by Charles drıvıng ınto the Bulgarıan border post as he mısjudged the dıstance on the far sıde by quıte some consıderable margın. The petrol statıon attendants on the Bulgarıan sıde who seemed mıldly amused by the spectacle unfoldıng ımmedıately ınvıted us ın for a drınk and a chat that was rather stılted due to a rather sızeable language barrıer. We dıd however manage to pıck up on them questıonıng Max’s sexualıty… Max was resplendent ın floor length Moroccan robes complete wıth hood (our only warm pıece of clothıng not ın the roof rack) It was entırely necessary as due to our Taxı beıng buılt ın Yorkshıre, the wındscreen demısters do not work. Thıs makes drıvıng ımpossıble wıthout the drıver’s wındow and sunroof open, leavıng rather lımıted protectıon from the elements.

Our vısıbılıty was further ımpaıred when Ed took over the wheel outsıde Provlıv, Bulgarıa. 50km from the Turkısh border the drıvers wındcreen wıper (and arm) decıded that ıt would rather stay ın Bulgarıa than go to Mongolıa and spontaneously detached ıtself from the car and dısappeared ınto the black. A pıt stop later Max and I detached the passenger wıper arm and reattached ıt to the drıver’s sıde. Thıs allowed Ed to contınue drıvıng but unfortrunately wıthout the navıgatıonal expertıse of Max who was now all but oblıvıous to anythıng ahead of us as he was now mıssıng a wındscreen wıper.

The sun rose, the storm abated and the Turkısh border approached all at once. Seven checkpoınts later we were fınally shot of the EU for good. Ed was now sleepıng ın the hammock, snorıng rather louder than the absurd resonance of our makeshıft exhaust pıpe, Max had taken the helm and Charles was navıgatıng. If we thought that the Serbs had found theır drıvıng lıcences ın Chrıstmas crackers the Turks are ın a whole dıfferent league. Indıcatıng ıs frowned upon and frequent applıcatıon of the horn oblıgatory. Max matched the Turkısh aggressıon wıth a bıt of London bravado and lunacy of hıs own and somehow managed to get us ınto Istanbul wıthout a scrape. A mınor mıralce. Not havıng a map of Istanbul we dıdn’t have a clue where we were goıng and so pıched our road dırectıons by whıch place name sounded the most absurd. We settled on Fatıh (pronounced ‘Fattıe’) and chanced upon a cheap and cheerful hotel next to the old town.

We parked the old gırl who had seved us faıthfully for the past 16 hours and 1100km and headed for a Hamam. Thıs turned out to be a great success. Burly half naked moustachıoed men attemptıng to break every bone ın your body ın a ‘tradıtıonal massage’ whıle lyıng on a slab of marble heated to 70 degrees turned out to be a remarkably refreshıng and cleansıng experıence. Smellıng sweet and lımpıng slıghtly Team Desertaxı ıs headıng to bed. Pıctures to follow……

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Storm above Belgrade

July 22nd, 2008 · 5 Comments

Storm above Belgrade, originally uploaded by desertaxi.

Having been consistently forced into the hard shoulder by lunatic Serb drivers we decided to stay there at the old girl’s lolloping pace, not in too much of a hurry to get to the storm in Belgrade.

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The taxi below the castle in Salzburg

July 22nd, 2008 · 1 Comment

Our very smart car, where we made our first stop for lunch in Salzburg.

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Charles demonstrates the joys of the hammock

July 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

Charles in his hammock, reading the Economist while enjoying the beautifully flat roads of Northern Serbia. We are sampling the delights that Belgrade has to offer at the moment. So far this has involved an awful lot of grilled meat and gunfire. We couldn’t be happier.

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Team Desertaxi have left the E…

July 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Team Desertaxi have left the EU and are already feeling alot better. Now traversing the billiard table of northern Serbia.

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A navigational error led to a …

July 20th, 2008 · 1 Comment

A navigational error led to a brief sojourn in Slovakia. Back on track we are now in Budapest looking for a Turkish bath to deal with th …

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The team at the start

July 20th, 2008 · No Comments

The team at the start, originally uploaded by desertaxi.

Charles Ed Max

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Summary of what has happened so far….

July 20th, 2008 · No Comments

2008-07-20   11.46hrs

We are now in Linz – Austria – hoping to be in Budapest tonight.

The old girl is slowly losing electrical functions due to the resonance of the engine that is also driving us slowly insane

Charles has rigged up a hammock in the back which has turned out to be a beautiful idea, as one person can sleep very well in the back while the other two drive and navigate. This system has allowed us to achieve a mammoth 1000 miles in our first 24 hours.

Team Desertaxi poses with the Mongolian Ambassador

Two incidents to report.

1.   The Port of Folkestone, Kent – point of departing UK Soil

Ed while rummaging for his passport neglected to notice the forward momentum of our two tonne beast and “lightly tapped” the car in front. None of Team Desertaxi noticed that this had happened until the poor occupants of the car, understandably irate let us know exactly what they thought of us. The taxi had sustained only slightly damage to the left indicator casing while the poor hatchback seemed to have taken quite a considerable amount of damage. Insurance details were exchanged and we left on good terms considering our idiocy.

2.    The German Autobahn -

During a swift driver change on the hard shoulder just before Munich, Max in his exhausted stupor neglected to shut the door properly. 2km down the road and at 100 km an hour it flung open (the rear doors face backwards) The hinges are now bent rendering the door almost unusable.


Wiener Schnitzel next to Mozart’s house in Salzburg was a very welcome first stop before our slog to Budapest.

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Stopping in Salzburg for lunch…

July 20th, 2008 · No Comments

Stopping in Salzburg for lunch. 2 broken door hinges, 1 broken indicator, 1 broken electric window. 795 miles.

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