At last, we met her

Last night I was reading up on what I wrote back in November about our options for our Rally ride. An extract of that blog post:

This is going to be our priority order: 4×4 Emergency Vehicle, pickup truck or a van

Well, in the end it was neither of them.

Over the last few months we have looked everywhere, really. We first looked at the Spanish market but we soon realised that it would lead to a few awkward situations in Central Asia:

Random officer – “Papers please”

Ribbon and Beard – “Yes, well, we are Spanish citizens, we live in the UK, we are driving a Spanish car, but we started our trip in Belgium and we are going to Mongolia. Would you like some Rioja wine sir?

Random officer – “WTF?” (or his local language equivalent)

A Spanish car was not meant to be, and for the same reason we rejected a few options in France and Germany. It would have to be a car with UK plates then, a right hand drive vehicle. Why would the Brits have to be different (once again)?? But then again, it is not just the Brits. And to be fair, it is all the different cultures, languages, foods and traditions in the world that make it so interesting. So here it is to keep things different!

And so, our final search began: we combed websites like Ebay and Autotrader for months, we spoke to many of the UK NHS Trusts, re-sellers, Mountain Rescue Teams and Private Ambulance Services. We have met loads of lovely people who genuinely wanted to help us and quite a few confused phone operators.

Excuse me, Mongolia you said? And you want a what? An ambulance??

In the last few months we have been offered two fantastic Land Rover Defender Ambulances, a number of Frontline ambulances, two or three 4×4 rapid response vehicles, found a few pick-up trucks and even a caravan. Some were too old, some too expensive and some were just not quite what we needed.

Until last Saturday. After months of sleepless nights we found love in the most unexpected place: an auction house. Good condition, 100K miles on the clock (less than half of our other options), well within our budget and it came with all sorts of bells and whistles for its kind, a PTS ambulance. However it was due for auction the very same day. Which meant that with less than 4 hours to make up our mind and no time to travel to Wales for a test drive or even touch her, it really did not make sense. But this was love at first sight and as with any love story, the heart always wins.

We got on the phone to our bid spotter Gareth and took part on what was probably some of the most exciting 5 minutes of our lives: a live auction, over the phone, for what was going to be our companion in the Mongolia Charity Rally.

And so, on 11th April 2015, we got her, at the fall of the hammer. I can’t remember much of it, only that Paula was screaming and shouting, not at me for once. By the way, that was Enrique’s birthday, what a nice present!

What followed was one of the most stressful weeks of the Rally planning so far. Let me state the obvious: a London post code coupled with Spanish driving licences (and no previous experience of driving in the UK) means that finding insurance and a parking space (a safe one if possible please) is not an easy task. I knew we should have moved to Hitchin! It has truly been a roller-coaster which could well deserve an entire post one day.

But it is all sorted now. And yesterday, after a 5 hours commute from London to Merthyr Tydfil (I don’t think either of us can pronounce it properly yet) on a rare sunny day we finally met her in all her glory. There she was, patiently waiting for us, shiny and ready to go.

We set off for home, cruising down the M4, dealing with the odd traffic jam, managing through Central London traffic to reach our destination. We almost didn’t stall her a single time. And yes, we did try to change gears with the door handle a few times.

There is no shortage of buttons in the dashboard and plenty of gadgets in the back I doubt we’ll ever understand. Our girl needs some make up (the “Ambulance” stickers have been removed), new shoes (tyres), a hand bag full of tools and a good shower. But we love her. We have 80 days to get to know her and perhaps more importantly to get her ready for what it is yet to come.

Behold… Lola



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