The Maya End of the World Rally

Maya rally blackIf the UK economy is anything to go by, the end of the world could well be just around the corner, just as the Maya predicted. Apparently, according to some interpretations of the stela and scriptures that litter the abandoned pre-colonial cities of Central America, on the 21st December 2012 we are to be destroyed by a cataclysm which will herald a new era for the world. Unfortunately we all die in the process.

So, with this in mind it makes sense to abandon our society values and expectations and say in a very loud voice “Sod it, I’m going out with a bang.” From what I understand, when people are presented with the prospect of certain death, in general the men think of fornicating in the streets with numerous and all too willing babes, while the women think of crying into a family-size tub of chocolate ice cream. It strikes me that a man with an ice cream van prior an apocalypse would have it made, in the short term at least.

I don’t have an ice cream van and Liz might have a thing or two to say about it if I go in search of babes, so we have instead entered The Maya End of the World Rally

To encourage a competitive spirit and the not-too-serious side of the rally the organisers have asked all teams to write a short biography. We have obliged:

The team members:
Driver – Chris Smith
Navigator – Liz Peel
Security – Johnny V.

We are the people behind Finding Manchester, expeditions to lost Amazonian villages and contributors to many adventure overland books, including the acclaimed ‘The World’s Great Adventure Motorcycle Routes’. We are also supported by the Ted Simon Foundation and honored to be Jupiter’s Travelers. Sounds good doesn’t it, and its all true!

It’s also true that we just bumble along and things either work or they don’t, the latter being the more common outcome. Don’t ask us about our failed attempt to get a tuk-tuk over the Andes or the failed canoe adventure to reach the Island of the Sun or dodging lava in the volcano fields of the Atacama Desert. (unless you’ve bought us a drink first).

We will be winning the 2012 Maya Rally (note the choice of words there!) in a 2009 Lada Niva 1.7i. We’re two Brits with a disabled Hungarian dog in a Russian 4×4. What more do you need to know than that eh!

For anyone interested in the Maya 2012 prediction read the following link (in blue). For anyone who wants to bury their head in the sand or is a disbeliever, don’t read it but if you see lots of women with tubs of chocolate ice cream don’t say I didn’t warn you! The end of the world may or may not be just around the corner (but probably not).

Cheezy Brits are coming


The Story of the Niva

Story of the NivaThe decision had been made – we were going to Central America, but the question remained, how were we going to go. We’d have loved to get our overlanding bike, Kim, back on the road but while she’d served us well for three years all over the Americas she wasn’t the answer for us this time. We now had a dog, who could admittedly go in a sidecar quite comfortably but this time we also wanted to be able to get to some of the places that the bike couldn’t get us to last time. We’re no strangers to dirt roads (or no roads) but there are limitations when you’re two-up on a big Africa Twin. No, this time we needed four wheels.

If we were going to go down the four wheels rather than two wheels route we were going to do it properly – four wheel drive, good ground clearance and the ability to go pretty much anywhere. Somehow we didn’t think the likes of a Vaxhall Corsa would quite meet our criteria. However, we’re on a budget and the likes of a lovely turbo-diesel Land Rover was out of the question too. It needed to be as cheap as chips, capable off road and easy to work on. In this day and age there is only one vehicle that I know of that fulfils that criteria – the trusty Russian Lada Niva! So the search was on.

We could only find two in the UK for sale, both in Automart and both in the south of the country, one at a dealer, the other a private sale. We left a message on the answer phone of the private seller.

Phone call No.1 (to the dealer) –
“Hi, do you still have the Niva for sale.”
“Yes’ I do.”
“What’s its history?”
“Oh, its in good nick, you should come and see it, it’s a great car.”
“Is there anyone else interested in it, it’s a long way to come? Can you hold it for us until say, lunchtime tomorrow?”
“Well, you’ll have to put a deposit on it.”
“I’m not putting a deposit on a car I haven’t seen mate. Can you hold it until lunch time tomorrow?”
“Well, until lunch, yes.”
“Ok, see you then.”

Next morning we threw the dog in the boot of the car complete with his right leg in a cast and set off down the M6 for Buckinghamshire. The guy on the phone sounded like a patch ‘em up and flog ‘em kind of guy but given that there were only two for sale in the UK we decided to take a risk and at least have a look. 120 miles later we were standing beside a Niva that didn’t look quite as good in the flesh as it did in the pics. There was a history to this vehicle and it wasn’t a good one. The dealer didn’t even have the V5 (pink slip), just a receipt that anyone could have written. We politely told him he was a tosser and left.

Phone call No.2 (to the private seller) –
“Hi, do you still have the Niva for sale?”
“Yes, yes I do.”
“Great stuff, can you tell me a little about the history?” I asked.
It was three years old, had 20,000 miles on the clock and he’d imported it himself from Russia. “It’s a great 4×4, I’m only selling it because I change them for a new one every three years. This is my third one.” He said.
“Sounds perfect. Would it be possible to come down and take a look?”
“Of course. Where are you coming from?”
“We’re in Staffordshire so it’s a bit of a drive but we could be with you by mid afternoon tomorrow perhaps.”
“That’s a long way to be coming. Are you sure you want a Niva though?”
“Yes, why?”
“Well, if you know it’s a Niva you want, I’ll be surprised if you don’t buy this one because its in very good condition. I only ask because I’ll come and meet you somewhere north of London if that helps.”

It did help, a lot, and by 2:00 the next afternoon we’d driven 120 miles again and stood beside a lovely Niva in a service station on the M25. David was a gentleman farmer in his early seventies and a lovely man through and through. All the paperwork was in order, the vehicle was in great condition and just as he’d described it and he was the kind of chap that you’d like to buy a vehicle from. We shook hands, handed over £3000,00 and drove home.

My God, does a Niva have some character. Its like going thirty years back in time. It’s perfect.

The Hungarian drug addict

Meet John – a Hungarian Vizsla who in his short life has to date popped nearly 4,800 pills. He simply can’t get enough of them, and he’s less than eighteen-months old. As though this weren’t enough, he has a real thirst for knives, razors and steel bars.

John at 15 weeksWhile he may sound like a 1980’s skinhead there’s actually quite a reasonable answer for all this. Unfortunately, at a young age his hocks didn’t form properly. Instead of them forming as bone the growth plates formed as soft tissue which couldn’t take the stresses of normal puppy life. Unsurprisingly it all ended in disaster when both legs failed. To cut a long and depressing story short, he’s had six operations and ten months of rehabilitation to put things right. At this moment in time he is sporting a rather unattractive and industrial looking metal frame on his right leg which prevents him from moving it and putting any strain on the damaged area while it heals. Fingers crossed, everything is going in the right direction and he’ll be fit to travel in three months time. His left leg now looks normal and is strong enough to take his weight until he can put pressure on his right leg again. The four steel pins and wire frame under the skin, along with the four-inch scar are the only clues to the history of his left leg.

So, John continues to pop pills, wear the dreaded ‘cone of shame’ around his neck to prevent him from pulling the scaffolding out of his leg as soon as our backs are turned. Touch wood this will all be behind us soon and the three of us will be on the roads of Mexico (and off-roads) soon enough.

Team Niva GB is born

Having watched our careers and business activities crumble for long enough at the hands of necessary Government cuts and apathetic Public Sector naval gazers, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a fire called “tits-up”, Team Niva GB is born.

Cheezy Brits are comingWith our Hungarian drug addict – John, we’ll be shipping a Russian Lada Niva to Mexico via the USA and entering the Maya ‘End of the World’ Rally. The rally is a good few months off yet and there’s a lot of work to be done before we cross the start line of that particular adventure, but that’s our medium-term goal at the moment – Dispose of everything that we don’t need to live on the road, pack everything else up, say a few goodbyes and bugger off. Life, for a great many reasons has been far tougher than it should have been for far longer than it should have been, so our response is the birth of Team Niva GB.