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Student attempts to drive to Outer Mongolia in an ambulance

Posted on 15/06/2010

Dave Green and Ashley Coates with the ambulance that will take them across the world.

Royal Holloway student Ashley Coates is gearing up for a 10,000 mile rally to Outer Mongolia in an ambulance, to raise money for charity.

Ashley, who is studying History at Royal Holloway, University of London, will be setting off on the expedition next month with his three school friends. They will join 200 other vehicles when they head off from Goodwood race track in West Sussex and will travel through Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Kazakhstan. They will face five mountain ranges and three deserts, including the 2,200km Kazakh Steppe, before reaching their final destination in the remote city of Ulaanbaatar.

The rally rules state that you must drive a vehicle of less than 1.0 litres but there is a clause that allows you to drive an emergency vehicle of any size as long as you are prepared to donate it to the Mongolian people when you get there.

“We decided to try and get our hands on an ambulance and scoured eBay for weeks. Unfortunately a lot of the ambulances didn’t look as though they’d be cut out for the Gobi desert but once St John Ambulance (Wiltshire) heard about what we were trying to do they offered to donate us an ambulance. They have been so supportive and we are very grateful for their help,” says Ashley.

The students are hoping to raise £10,000 - £1 for every mile they travel - for Mercy Corps and CNCF Mongolia, two charities that are working hard to provide infrastructure and relief to Mongolians who have been affected by both the driest summer and coldest winter for decades. This winter, Mongolians living around the Gobi desert have been subjected to prolonged periods in sub-zero temperatures. In an area where farming has always been difficult, the harsh conditions have led to the widespread death of livestock depriving the people of their primary source of income. The charities are helping the rural population get back on their feet by providing shelter and infrastructure.

So far the friends have raised almost £4,000 and this week Ashley has been awarded Royal Holloway’s Lionel Butler Travel Bursary of £300. The fund was set up to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Lionel Butler, Principal of Royal Holloway College from 1973 to 1981 and is awarded to students to contribute to the costs of travel and enable them to enhance their academic work and/or broaden their experience.

Ashley says they are prepared for a bumpy ride but they have their sights on the finishing line: “A lot of the roads that are labelled as motorways in Kazakhstan are in fact just dust-tracks that could be very uncomfortable to drive on. I don’t know how we are going to cope for six weeks confined to an ambulance in countries we have never visited before. Apart from that the Kazakh Steppe, presents a serious challenge to us and the vehicle. There is very little civilisation and, at the height of summer, could be extremely hot. But it will all be worth it when we get there and see the great work the charities are doing to improve the lives of the people that live there.”

To find out more or make a donation visit: www.bristoltobaatar.com


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