The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2010

September 10th - October 16th, 2010




Gorgan to Rasht

The Other Side of the Moon


Today started in darkness. It had been a remarkable night, even by rallying standards. 

On arrival at the hotel, we had been told that the President would be paying a visit to Gorgan, and therefore all the rooms would be taken over by his troop of bodyguards. So, the Iran Automobile Federation go into bat, and this is cancelled – we can have our rooms back.

Something got lost in the translation and when push came to shove – and it’s now late into the night – we find the entire rally of over 200 people has on offer just 15 rooms. This was sorted rapidly by Heidi and the camaraderie and goodwill of the rally, who all agreed that each room would be shared by eight. This was lightened somewhat when 20 agreed to erect their tents on the flat roof of the hotel.

Some of the crews got in very late, and the sweeps, Peter and Betty Banham arrived at 4.30am, snatched half an hour of sleep before starting off again.

So, at just gone 5.0am this morning, the first car fired into life for the run from Gorgan to our coastal resort by beach of the Caspian Sea, another long haul of some 650 kilometres. Car 50, Detlev Borner and Peter Gillespie’s ’29 Studebaker President, rolled out of the hotel car park. The two were to have an eventful day, as they were to stop four times with the unusual problem of wheels breaking up. They opted to take the “coast road” route using the map-book supplied to each crew, instead of the suggested roads of the route-book which ran over a mountain range, and through some stunning scenery, on brilliant tarmac – not a pothole in sight – and traffic-free.

The roads in the hills just inland from the coast road of the Caspian Sea might as well be on the far side of the Moon – you sweep from corner to corner on perfectly maintained road surfaces, a big contrast to everything that has gone before us. As you drive through villages, locals all join in impromptu waves…wherever we go, we get the feeling that local Iranians are pleased to see us. One village had put up a series of hand-drawn banners across the streets.

Quite a few other crews opted for the shorter route of the coast, and by 7.0am, most were now on the road.


We have arrived at a town near Rasht that nobody has heard of, where Alastair Caldwell immediately jumped onto his Alfa engine to begin the tedious task of trying to change the head gasket in the dark. To make matters more trying, it has also started to rain heavily.

Our hotel is greatly improved, some of us are in villas in the garden overlooking the sandy beach, and we have all tucked into lamb kofta and rice, or local fish.


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