“Tajikiwhere!!!”- The voice echoed down the phone line. That was my mum’s response at the time to the news that I was planning on taking part in the Roof of the World Rally 2014. Hardly a glowing approval of our journey that would take us also a third of the way round the world battling the elements, altitude sickness, corrupt border guards, more dust than you could imagine and the odd suicidal yak!
We had signed up for the Roof of the World Rally, a 100% charity rally where teams raise funds for the international development charity “Go Help” (who are responsible for organising the rally) and purchase/renovate vehicles to drive to Dushanbe, Tajikistan in central Asia. Upon arrival the vehicles are either donated to support local community projects or sold to provide further funds for Go Help. In particular Go Help encourages teams to take part in the rally using high quality used ambulances, for which there is a dire need in Tajikistan. In addition our team (comprised of myself and two friends from university) also chose to raise funds for a local charity- the Trauma Recovery Centre, a Bath based charity who provide support and therapy to children who have suffered trauma and are pioneering therapy for victims of human trafficking.
Not content with simply taking a sensible 4x4 over some of the toughest roads in the world and keen to test our engineering skills our team opted to take part in an ambulance which we promptly christened Judith. Our planned route looked a little like a sine wave dipping down from the UK towards the Alps for a little bit of scenic fun, before heading North to the Estonia/Russia border and a chance to visit St Petersburg. Our route then turned South again, passing through Moscow, across the Kazakhstan steppes before finally depositing us at the start of our greatest driving challenge of the whole trip- the Pamir Highway.
The Pamir Highway, the 2nd highest highway in the world at 4655m and recognised as one of the great sections of the original silk road, was built by the soviet union to enable rapid troop movements to Afghanistan and links Osh in Kyrgyzstan with Dushanbe in Tajikistan. The Pamir’s certainly didn’t hold back on us with daytime temperatures in the mid 40’s and freezing night time temperatures both man and machine were sorely tested. Notable events along this section include push starting a broken bus on the Afghan border, several river crossings (a couple of which were very ambitious given our vehicle- much to the amusement of the locals) and accidentally interrupting a police narcotics division parade.
And so it was that after 13,400 Km and nearly 6 weeks after setting off from the UK we arrived at the finish line in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Here Judith was put through a Tajik MOT to ensure she was still road worthy after her long and challenging journey. The Tajik MOT consisted of the following tests:
1) Turn on the engine and listen to it for a bit
2) Push it on one side and watch the suspension
…After passing these stringent tests with flying colours we were ready to deliver Judith. Go Help had decided to match Judith to the Khujand Cardiac hospital to provide their 1st stretcher capable ambulance to the whole region. A handover session (including a TV interview with the health minister of Tajikistan!) concluded an amazing, if not challenging and surreal, 6 week trip and we returned to the UK ready for a well-earned rest.
In total we raised just under £10,000 in donations and equipment and If anyone would like to make a donation to either the Trauma Recovery Centre or Go Help all donations would be very gratefully received.
Donations can be made through the charities websites: