On the Adventurous Road with Team Newyorkistan
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Slowly but surely Team Newyorkistan is creeping toward the finish line of the Mongol Rally. It's an 8,000 mile car race from London to Mongolia's capital with the drivers in cramped little cars that don't have a lot of horsepower. Audrey Roofeh and Paul Hanson and their trusty little Lada make up Team Newyorkistan. We last spoke with them as they were preparing for their adventure. They've now made it to Ukraine and join us now. Audrey Roofeh, can you tell us where you are?
Ms. AUDREY ROOFEH (Team Newyorkistan): Yes. We are currently about 300 kilometers outside of Mariupol on the coast of Ukraine, having come south from Kiev yesterday.
ELLIOTT: And what's the driving like there?
Ms. ROOFEH: Spotty. The roads are really unreliable for a number of reasons. Sometimes it's potholes. Sometimes it's having to pass someone on the left into oncoming traffic. Sometimes it's because we share the roads with cows and chickens and horse drawn carriages. And sometimes it's the police that stop us and ask for money.
ELLIOTT: So you have been stopped by the police. How did that go?
Ms. ROOFEH: It went well. It went with us apologizing profusely, being told we were speeding and then paying our fine.
ELLIOTT: So were you speeding?
Ms. ROOFEH: No. No, we weren't.
ELLIOTT: What was your fine?
Ms. ROOFEH: Yesterday is was 40 hrivna, which it comes to about ten, eight U.S. dollars.
ELLIOTT: When I spoke with you last time you had prepared to have all kinds of things that you might need in such a circumstance.
Ms. ROOFEH: Right.
ELLIOTT: Have you had to pull out any of the other so-called bribery items?
Ms. ROOFEH: Well, not as such. We ended up actually taking some of those items and giving them to folks who have been really helpful with our car when it's broken down. And it has broken down a couple of times now.
ELLIOTT: How much territory do you think you're covering each day? What's your average?
Ms. ROOFEH: Maybe 250 miles, kilometers.
Mr. PAUL HANSON (Team Newyorkistan): Miles.
Ms. ROOFEH: Two hundred and fifty miles every day, but it really depends. You know, last night we broke down at about two in the morning, so that cut us back. You know, and sometimes there are things to see, so we stop then too.
ELLIOTT: Well, Audrey Roofeh it's been a pleasure to speak with you. Would you please pass the phone over to your teammate, Paul Hanson?
Ms. ROOFEH: Sure thing, Debbie.
Mr. HANSON: Hello, Debbie.
ELLIOTT: Hi, Paul.
Mr. HANSON: Hi.
ELLIOTT: How's it going?
Mr. HANSON: It's going remarkably well. Despite everything that Audrey said was true about the breakdowns, it's still going remarkably well. We've really made the most of it, observing things that are just so completely foreign. I love every minute.
ELLIOTT: Have there been any moments where you really needed some help but you weren't able to communicate to people there what you needed?
Mr. HANSON: Yes. Difficulties with the car. You have to kind of say it's this part, not that part. You kind of have to explain the subtleties of that sound that you're hearing or that thing that just snapped. So I mean communicating is difficult. Audrey is putting her year or two of Russian to very good use. And I'm just, you know, struggling with what I can. I'm surprised we've - we've done as well as we have.
ELLIOTT: Can you give me a little example here? I'd like to hear the sounds that you were using to try to convey what the problem was with the car.
Mr. HANSON: Okay. Well, you kind of fall into the habit of just speaking loudly so a person in a foreign country will hear you, which of course doesn't work because that doesn't help. But I did say a couple of time gearbox, gearbox, and you know, I realized that it must be a completely different word.
Another example was I kind of ran off to a garage before we stopped to see if they would be able to help us with the muffler. And I kind of pointed to the underbody and went kachunk, kachunk, kachunk, kachunk, kachunk, like that and immediately after they heard that they said no, no we cannot help you or I think that's what they said at least.
ELLIOTT: What is your next obstacle? What's next for you to tackle?
Mr. HANSON: Tomorrow is the obstacle of crossing the Russian border. We have no idea how that's really going to be. Some teams have done it, mostly successfully. But of course there were reports of demands for bribes, demands for deposits to be, you know, given back to us when we leave the country. Once we get into Russia we'll breathe a little bit easier, although after that the challenges are going to keep flying at us even faster.
ELLIOTT: Paul Hanson and Audrey Roofeh make up Team Newyorkistan. They're competing in a charity car race, the Mongol Rally. We reached them in Ukraine. Thanks for talking to us and good luck.
Mr. HANSON: Thank you. And we will talk to you when we get to the end.
(Soundbite of car engine)
ELLIOTT: That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Debbie Elliott.