Our involvement in the original Silk Road trip in 2010 was quite fortuitous. We didn’t know Dave Godwin or any of the other participants but saw an advertisement posted by Dave in the Hunter Region MG Car Club magazine which at the time was edited by our friend Gavin Fry. I don’t recall whether it was the couple of red wines enjoyed over dinner or just the thought of ticking the Silk Road off the bucket list but within a few hours I was talking with Dave who told us all 6 places were now filled and unless somebody pulled out we were out of luck. A couple of days passed and we were almost over the disappointment when he rang to say one couple was doubtful whether they could spare the time to complete the entire event. Could we call them to come to an arrangement? A meeting over a cup of coffee was arranged with Simon and Maddy and within half an hour we had agreed on a plan – we were in and a few weeks later we were the joint owners of Navy Car.
It had been a long time since there had been an MG in the garage. I had an almost new 1968 MGB when I first met Lorraine but it had to be sold when I worked overseas for 12 months. I remembered them both very fondly so when I got back to Australia, Lorraine and I got together but the finances wouldn’t stretch to another MG so a Mk 1 Sprite met the need for a fun car. Amazingly all three of us are still together after being blessed with two wonderful children and more recently two beautiful grandchildren. There have been all sorts of interesting cars in the garage since, mostly courtesy of the formerly generous GM Holden where I worked for most of my career but the Sprite and an MX5 are still favourites along with the MG.
The Silk Road experience was an absolute eye-opener. I had no idea how well suited an MG was to this sort of travel. The sight of a convoy of brightly coloured MGs driving through towns and countryside where the normal transport is a beaten up truck, a bus or for the more affluent, a Land Cruiser is almost guaranteed to generate excitement – 99% of which is positive. And while MGBs are structurally almost unbreakable, they do have a tendency to stop without a lot of warning – not regularly, but when there are 6 or 8 cars in a convoy it is probably going to happen several times a day. This is when you learn that every bystander thinks they are an MG mechanic and can help fix your problem. While most times they can’t, there have been many occasions where the roadside mechanics with the hoist and welder have risen to the challenge and got us back on the road for just a few dollars. So you get to meet lots of people who you would just pass by if you were riding in a tour bus or a Land Cruiser. The other eye-opener was how extensive and generous the world-wide MG family is. We have been welcomed and entertained in so many countries by so many wonderful friendly people, something the normal traveller rarely gets to experience.
So for us, there was no hesitation about participating in the 2012 Cape to Cairo event and now we look forward to the 2015 Panamerica trip with great excitement. This time we get to drive the first leg from Santiago to Lima via Ushuaia and the plan is to deliver the car in Lima to Simon and Maddy in the same pristine condition as it entered the container. Fingers crossed!!
Firstly I must say that I am an excellent passenger but my driving skills are best suited to driving around Melbourne in familiar terrain. Of course I have a fondness for the MGs, their style, heritage, robust nature and fixability, but to be perfectly honest I am more interested in their drivers, passengers and the interesting and exciting places they take us.
Ian mentions that he was driving a red MGB when he first met me, but what he omitted to say was that his main passenger was a former girlfriend and I wasn’t all that upset when both disappeared from his life.
When Ian and I first teamed up I drove a pale aqua/blue VW Beetle, 1960 something, which he was quite rude about, muttering things like “Hitler’s revenge” and “hopeless wiring” and it wasn’t long before that also disappeared from our lives.
Mini’s also played an important part in those early days. We didn’t have much gear and the green and white Cooper S was large enough to take our clothes and camping equipment and head off on our honeymoon. It was in mini’s that Ian honed his driving skills at “motorkhana” events, and for this I am forever grateful.
On a Easter holiday trip to Sydney, in the mini, we had left Melbourne early and were on the back road to Benalla. Rounding a corner we were faced with another car pulling out in front of us. In a split second, Ian had spun the mini out of his way and we ended up on the other side of the road facing in the opposite direction. The other driver was a bit stunned, as were we, but very apologetic and quite pleased he was still alive. When you are young you take things for granted, but I know now how close we were to losing our lives.
These are the skills Ian used to similar affect when driving through Africa dodging, vehicles, donkey carts, camels, dogs and humanity in general. The roads quite often were atrocious; heart was in the mouth, holding on to the seat for dear life, wondering if we would survive another day. The drivers needed to be skilled, alert and thinking ahead all the time. Passengers had to remain calm, and I think I did that (most of the time with the occasional squeak, “oh my god”, “aaaargh!!).
I am thrilled to be on another of Dave and Laurels’ wonderful MG trips. Their generosity, vision, energy and good nature makes for an extraordinary adventure. Dave’s favourite saying is “this is not a holiday it is an adventure” and you have to keep reminding yourself this particularly when the days are long, every vehicle has broken down at least once, the accommodation isn’t up to scratch and there are no towels!!).