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Epic journey comes to an end

Tribune Staff • Oct 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM

EDITORS NOTE: Grand Haven High School graduate Allie Vaandering and her boyfriend, Fredrick Svensson of Sweden, recently completed the Mongol Rally — a two-month drive covering 12,000 miles from the United Kingdom to Siberia to help raise money for the United World Schools charity. 

Vaandering and Svensson recently completed their journey, and she shared their story below:

We. Did. It.

We did it, we did it, we did it — we made it to the finish line!

To the finish line was 13,103 miles, 23 countries, eight RestorFX stops, 59 days, several convoy teams, 12 police encounters — three of which bribes were paid and nine of which we smiled and giggled our way through, seven stops at the mechanics — three of which were false alarms and nothing was wrong according to the local.

And in the end, Team RestorFX dominated the Mongol Rally.

And then we decided to turn around and drive all the way back to Europe.

A number of reasons told us we should make the drive back. Put simply, putting our beloved steed, Rolfie, on a train back to Europe seemed a bit sad. He still cruised along quite nicely and he wasn’t putting up too much of a fight. It seemed wrong to not use him to his fullest ability.

The train was not only expensive, but it would take well over a month to get him back. And previous ralliers had noted that their cars had been stripped of anything valuable — from headlights to spare wheels. If we had ended up sending him on the train, we were to remove anything from the car, meaning we would have had to throw out our tools, camping gear and bits and bobs we weren’t able to shove into our backpacks to take home. Now that just seems like terrible consumerism.

Not only that, but petrol in Russia is very cheap, meaning we spent less on petrol than we would have shipping Rolfie back.

But of course we weren't going to take the most direct route back. Instead, we decided to drive home via the Arctic Circle! We figured we had already driven 13,000 miles, what’s another 6,000 or 7,000 more?

Due to time constraints on Freddie's visa, we had to exit Russia before it expired. Freddie was only given a two-week visa, starting from when we entered Russia the first time, leaving Kazakhstan to reach the Mongolian border. So, in six days, we drove 4,000 miles from the Mongol Rally finish line to the Finnish border — something we highly do not recommend. We averaged 4-6 hours of sleep per night. The driver was just extremely bored and the passenger was meant to sleep but that didn’t really go to plan.

Luckily, we convoyed with two other Mongol Rally teams. Once we reached Finland and were in the relaxed/non-existant borders of the Nordic countries, we took our time exploring and embracing the cold and nature. It was spectacular. We finally reached our final destination — Oslo, Norway.

In the end, our total distance driven was 19,989 miles through 26 countries in 78 days. That's 80 percent of the circumference of the world in two-and-a-half months! On the world's most hostile “roads” in a tiny vehicle with the engine capacity similar to a golf cart.

Four of those days were spent at border crossings, 22 of those nights were spent sleeping in the car, we used 19 different currencies, took seven ferries through seven times zones and visited the mechanic nine times. The longest time without a shower was only four-and-a-half days, the highest temperature we somehow managed to survive thru was 116 degrees and the lowest 28.

We are both happily in our home towns, soaking it all up for the time being until it’s time to hit the road again.

Our goal was to raise awareness and as much funding as we possibly could for United World Schools, a charity that teaches the unreached. They have an admirable and successful model that uses the local communities in rural villages in Nepal, Burma and Cambodia to build schools and create community projects to help lift them out of distress and give them the opportunity to break free from the poverty circles they are naturally bound to.

We are still raising money and have a few weeks left before we hand in our total. Our donation site can be found at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/team-restorfx. Our full story and blog can be found at: RestorTHEWORLD

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