Women rev up for rally to Mon­go­lia

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­times.co.uk

TWO ‘gal­li­vant­ing quines’ from Oban and Skye are about to set off on the 10,000-mile Mon­gol Rally, billed as ‘ the great­est mo­tor­ing ad­ven­ture on the planet’.

The daunt­ing race will take the two pen­sion­ers across the moun­tains, desert and the steppes of Europe and Asia.

Kay Simp­son, 70, from Oban and Anne MacAskill, 67, from Skye be­lieve they are the old­est par­tic­i­pants in the 300-ve­hi­cle race.

Kay told The Oban Times: ‘ We’ll be the old­est for sure – but not the slow­est.’

On July 16 the duo, nick­named the gal­li­vant­ing quines, will set off on their five-week route from Good­wood Mo­tor Cir­cuit through France, Ger­many, Hun­gary, Slo­vakia, Bul­garia, Turkey, Iran, Turk­menistan, Uzbek­istan, Kaza­khstan and Mon­go­lia to Ulan-Ude in Siberia, Rus­sia. Dring the trip, on July 29 – prob­a­bly in Turk­menistan – Anne will cel­e­brate her 68th birth­day.

They will be driv­ing Kay’s 22-year- old, two-seater, 1,200cc Re­nault Ex­press van, nick­named the Green Ma­chine.

‘I bought the van in Hol­land,’ the re­tired vet re­called. ‘It had only done 100,000km and the en­gine was per­fec­tion. I love that ve­hi­cle.’

For the trip, the van will be dec­o­rated with a giant horned yak’s skull called Genghis that Kay picked up in Mon­go­lia on a rally with her late hus­band, Dun­can Stra­chan: ‘I brought it back on the plane in my lug­gage, and I wasn’t found out,’ Kay re­vealed.

Kay and Dun­can set up Oban Rare Breeds Park in 1984, which they ran for 16 years, but in the off-sea­son the cou­ple loved ex­plor­ing the world, driv­ing from Oban to Cape Town, and, in an old am­bu­lance, from Bo­livia to South Amer­ica’s south­ern­most tip and back.

They planned to do the Mon­gol Rally to cel­e­brate their 70th birth­days, but four years ago Dun­can was trag­i­cally killed in an ac­ci­dent on their al­mond farm in Spain. ‘Af­ter Dun­can died, I said I wouldn’t mind do­ing this to cel­e­brate my birth­day,’ Kay ex­plained. ‘I want to do the things we were go­ing to do to­gether.’

Anne, the mother of Skye stunt cy­clist Danny MacAskill, was asked to take Dun­can’s place. ‘I couldn’t refuse,’ she said. ‘My hus­band [Peter] thinks I am mad, but what are friends for?

Anne, who lives and works in Dun­ve­gan and also helps run Skye’s Col­bost Folk Museum and Giant MacAskill Museum, added: ‘I’m cer­tainly not fright­ened to go off to new places. Ev­ery­one thinks I should be fright­ened about my Daniel on his bike, but I leave the wor­ry­ing to my hus­band. He’s very wor­ried about tim­ing belts, and what we’ll use as a toi­let.’

When younger, the old friends, who grew up on neigh­bour­ing farms in Fife and shared a flat as stu­dents in Ed­in­burgh, equipped them­selves with a bag of tat­ties for road trips through Europe and Africa. ‘ We were still speak­ing at the end of it,’ said Anne.

They will sleep un­der an awning, fill­ing the van with en­gine spares, clothes, a stash of wine and a Lilo for lux­ury. And, of course, food – but ‘not noo­dles, I can’t stand them’, said Anne. ‘It’s like a camp­ing trip, for about 10,000 miles.’

In Iran they have to pick up a guide ‘for se­cu­rity, so we don’t wan­der off and see some­thing we shouldn’t’, Kay ex­plained. ‘But where is he go­ing to sit?

‘Noth­ing bothers Anne,’ she added. ‘She’s very game; she’ll do any­thing. I’m not fright­ened at all. Be pre­pared to bribe, and Mon­go­lians and Rus­sians like vodka – that’s how [ Dun­can and I] got through.’

Kay plans to build a tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian ‘ovoo’ me­mo­rial for Dun­can, where a bot­tle of vodka is placed un­der a pile of stones. ‘It’ll be an empty bot­tle,’ she said.

‘Mon­go­lia was im­pos­si­ble – un­less you like horse­meat. I’ll eat any­thing. I don’t know if Anne will. Anne’s a good cook. She’ll look af­ter me, and I’ll look af­ter the ve­hi­cle, be­cause I’m not a bad me­chanic. I’ll put the awning up while she makes my tea,’ Kay added.

Anne con­trib­uted: ‘My weight helps: I can al­ways stand on the span­ner when we’re try­ing to change a tyre. I picked up Dutch and Ger­man, and I’ve been try­ing to learn Rus­sian, but we’ll need to wave our arms a lot there. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

Anne is fundrais­ing for two char­i­ties – Can­cer Re­search UK and Wings for Life spinal re­search foun­da­tion – while Kay is rais­ing money for An­i­mals Asia. Re­cently they’ve raised £690 from stalls in Oban at Christmas and the re­cent Char­i­ties Day, and £1,786 from a bingo and chilli night in Dun­ve­gan last Satur­day. You can also do­nate and fol­low their progress via their Face­book page The Gal­li­vant­ing Quines – Mon­gol Rally 2016.

Anne MacAskill, left, and Kay Simp­son will raise cash for char­ity.

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