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November 8, 2012
Adventure of a lifetime
THIS annual event has no real
prizes except for the chance
to camp in some of the most
remote parts of the world
while taking in some of the most
unique and breath taking scenery
In the May 4 edition of Navy News
we introduced you to the Trekking in
Tweed team which was preparing for
the 2012 Mongol Rally.
While the team changed slightly,
planning proved a challenge as the
intrepid participants were living in
different locations around the world.
LCDR Eric Radford was in Malaysia,
LCDR James Lawless in Canberra,
reservist LEUT Mick Newman in
Singapore and newcomer to the team,
New Zealander Phillippa Hendl, was
Little did the travellers imagine that
driving more than 18,000km in 42 days
across 18 countries and crossing two
seas from Europe to Mongolia would
end an amazing experience that no
glossy holiday brochure would come
close to describing.
"Countries like Uzbekistan and
Kazakhstan certainly provided a view
of lifestyles and cultures very differ-
ent from our experience back home,"
LCDR James Lawless said.
"We started off with the four of us,
but due to work, illness and family com-
mitments, we completed the second half
of the rally with just Pippi and me," he
said.The 2012 Mongol Rally attracted
more than 400 teams from around the
world, the only requirement being a
small fee, and a vehicle as a means of
The start and finish positions were
fixed but it was up to each team which
route they took and how long the
adventure would be.
At the end, most of the cars were
donated to be auctioned to raise further
funds for the Lotus children's charity
in Mongolia and UK's equivalent to
Legacy, Help for Heroes.
"We were towed across large rivers,
drove on dusty, dirty, barely recognis-
able roads, and on several occasions
came close to wrecking the car,"
LCDR Lawless said.
"It really was an amazing experi-
ence, and on top of it all we made
many new friends."
He said the teams gave each other
support, especially in repairing the
"Our little Skoda Fabia was not
modified, it was great and it survived
some pretty harsh treatment from
Romania all the way to the finish line,"
It's a unique event with no rules, support or safety net. LAC Bill Solomou talks to LCDR James Lawless about his
experiences in the Mongol Rally.
THE STARTERS: LCDR Eric Redford, LCDR James Lawless, Pippi Hendl
and LEUT Michael Newman dress in their best tweed for their official send
off, hosted by Legacy at Queensland House in London.
LCDR Lawless said. "During the
later stages of the rally, in the wilds of
Mongolia, it became necessary to con-
voy with other teams for support and
companionship as some of the places
were very remote.
"We supported each other with
towing, fixing broken suspension,
flooded engines, punctured fuel tanks,
tyre blowouts, bad fuel and damaged
LCDR Lawless said the rally had
two distinct parts, the first part from
London to Russia, and the second from
Russia to Mongolia (the finish).
"The road surfaces changed dra-
matically," he said. "The closer you
got to Mongolia, the worse the roads
became. In fact the gate separating
Russia and Mongolia literally marked
an instant change from paved to dirt
"We took the harder, longer west-
ern road into Mongolia from Russia,
which meant we travelled on some of
the worst roads imaginable.
It also meant our time in
Mongolia was much longer than origi-
nally planned, which is why Eric left
us in Russia. However, it also meant
we were able to witness some of the
most beautiful and unique scenery in
Along the way the team tried to keep
family, friends and followers up-to-date
on their progress on their Facebook and
"We tried to provide as much infor-
mation and photos, as possible, back to
our friends and family," LCDR Lawless
"In some places, such as
Turkmenistan we couldn't get inter-
net reception and in others, such as
Mongolia, wifi and internet cafes are
probably yet to be invented, so our blog
fell behind and as a result Pippi and I
'disappeared' for about two weeks."
• To donate to Legacy go to www.legacy.
com.au/donate. For a detailed description
of the journey, visit trekkingintweed.com
THE CAR: The Skoda Fabia was the
car of choice for the team and proved
more reliable than first thought. LCDR
James Lawless and LCDR Eric Radford
pose (above) take in the scenery in
Turkmenistan as (left) LCDR Radford
provides a push after LCDR Lawless
bogged the car in Kazakhstan.
THE FINISHERS: Illness, work and family commitments meant LCDR
James Lawless and Pippi Hendl were the only team members to finish the
second half of the rally. They are pictured (above) in their finest tweed in the
dust and wilds of Mongolia and (below) enjoying the breathtaking scenery
in Southern Russia.
ndon to Russia
and the second from
"It also meant our tim
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