From rusty to ready

With two weeks to go until we wave goodbye to the U.K. and head for Mongolia, we still have a lot of preparation to do. From moving out of our house to assembling all the equipment we need to hitting our charity fundraising target, we are starting to feel under pressure to tick off the items on our to do list. Our main driving partner (Martha), however, is now ready to rally.

To understand the scale of this triumph, it’s worth a quick blast from the past.


Three months ago, I took Martha to a local garage in Solihull to get her MOT, which was just about due to expire. I thought this would be relatively simple and straightforward. Over the five years I’ve owned Martha, we’ve perfected our MOT routine: I take Martha to her MOT. She fails. She needs some minor work to get her through. I hand over money. She passes, and she’s good to go for another year.

However, in 2017 – the year I planned to take Martha over to Ireland and drive her to get married on my wedding day, and the year I planned to drive her 10,000 miles to Mongolia – the MOT routine didn’t go quite as smoothly as usual. In fact, it didn’t go at all. Martha failed, and I found myself having a familiar conversation with the man at the garage (I think his name was Dave), with a not-so familiar ending:

Dave: “Sorry, your car has failed the MOT.”

Georgia: “OK. What does it need?”

Dave: “The thing is, given the age of the car and the mileage it’s done, it’s not going to be worth your while repairing it.”

Georgia: “Oh, well, actually I love this car, so…. What does it need?”

Dave: “I’m afraid we wouldn’t be able to repair it for you, even if you wanted us too. It’s gone past that stage. It’s what we call an ‘uneconomical repair’… it’s failed on [lots and lots and lots of things that I didn’t understand]. We wouldn’t even know where to start with some of that, and it would cost you thousands. It’s a no-go I’m afraid. We can help you organise scrappage.”

Georgia: “I see. No… that’s not an option. I’ll come and pick up the car tonight.”

When I went to pick up Martha from the garage, I told Dave about our plans to take Martha to Mongolia. He laughed. A lot. When he had finished laughing, and asked (several times) whether I was really serious, he told me that I would never get there and needed to pick a different car. I picked up Martha’s keys and told him I would send him a picture of Martha when she reached Mongolia. As I left, he was still laughing.


With no help whatsoever from the local garage, Martha made it to Ireland for our wedding. She didn’t break down on the way to the venue, and she even managed a little trip around Kerry, untroubled by some of the rough and windy roads.

Dad driving Martha and I on my wedding day

Shane and I with Martha at our wedding

Martha navigating difficult roads in Kerry

Martha posing for a picture in Kerry


A long time before the dramatic MOT-fail, Shane’s Uncle had very generously offered to help get Martha in tip-top shape for the rally if we left her with him after the wedding. So, wedding over and mini-moon around the ring of Kerry complete, we left Martha in Ireland for a few weeks of TLC. Whether Shane’s Uncle realised exactly what he volunteered for, I don’t know. He does now.

This week, we went back to Ireland. Shane’s Uncle and brother had done an amazing job looking after Martha – getting rid of the rust, making some armour for her so that she survives the non-roads in Mongolia, making a bespoke roof rack completely from scratch to give us some extra storage space and extending her battery tray to make room for a bigger battery – and over the last week Shane has joined them in working from dawn until dusk (well… more like until midnight) to make sure Martha has everything she needs and more.

Shane fixing Martha

Shane’s Martha to-do list

Shane’s Dad fixing Martha

Shane’s Uncle fixing Martha

Shane, Shane’s Dad and Shane’s brother fixing Martha

We also had a lot of amazing and generous help from motor factors in Kilkenny. Thank you to:

  • James Walsh Auto Electrical for paint and wipers so we can see we are going.
  • Top Part for a rather large battery so that we can leave the lights on to put up our tent, charge items over night and still be able to start the car in the morning.
  • Madden’s car breakers who let Shane’s Dad and I explore their car graveyard and take whatever we needed off old (although not as old as Martha) Nissan Micras. They even stopped their real work and used their serious tools to get us some extra bits.
  • An anonymous motor factor who doesn’t wish to be named but went above and beyond, supplying brakes, suspension and service parts for Martha.

All the above motor factors offered their time, expertise and parts completely free of charge to help us raise money for our chosen charities – Cool Earth, Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.

A trip to Madden’s car breakers for bits and pieces

The sad car graveyard at Madden’s car breakers

Helping ourselves to a few bits off this Nissan Micra


Yesterday we brought Martha back with us to the UK. Her MOT expiry date had been and gone, so we couldn’t drive her legally unless we took her straight to an MOT centre. Luckily there was a garage in Holyhead – just a six minute drive from the ferry port – which had time to test Martha.

Shane and I waited nervously. If she failed, it would leave us with several problems. How would we get home from Holyhead? How would we fix it? How would she ever get to Mongolia?

But this time, Martha passed. And when I told the man at the garage that we were going to take her to Mongolia, he didn’t laugh. He didn’t even look surprised. He nodded, and said she was a good car. In fact, he even said “Your Nissan Micra is more likely to make it to Mongolia than a £20,000 Land Rover”, and he said it without a hint of sarcasm.

And in that moment, as Martha sparkled in all her golden splendor, with new brakes, new tyres, new shocks, new springs, a brand new handmade roof rack, new lights, a new battery, new armour and new non-rusty bits, we knew that thanks to the nonstop work of Shane and his family and the generosity of motor factors across Ireland, Martha’s transformation into a super expedition vehicle was complete.

Martha ready for her adventure

Martha is ready for the trip of her lifetime. Now Shane and I just need to get ready too.





Nature vs Martha

Since humans first evolved on planet Earth they have been trying to overcome the forces of nature and control the world around them. But humans aren’t separate from nature – they are products of it – and usually nature triumphs in the end. Just as a big meteorite or change in climate could wipe out the dinosaurs, we could be gone in an instant if nature had its way.

While there are examples of humans taming nature, there are also places where nature is slowly reclaiming what once was human territory.  A few years ago, Georgia and I visited Ta Prohm – a temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where the jungle is slowly consuming the ancient buildings which once made up this temple.

Georgia at Ta Prohm temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

In many ways, Martha is similar to Ta Prohm. Nature is slowly trying to take her back. Each year, Martha has her MOT, and each year we find that more bits of her have rusted away. When a big hole appears nice people at the garage find a piece of steel and cover it up. When the extra pieces of steel also rust away, you know nature really is trying really, really hard to reclaim our little gold Micra, who at 21 years of age is pushing her natural lifespan to its limit.

Even Martha’s rust is rusty

While welding bits of metal over holes has been just about enough to get Martha through the MOT each year, they probably won’t stop all of our belongings from falling through the holes when we drive on bad roads and no roads.  Martha’s last attempt to get an MOT certificate back in April ended badly. The garage refused to fix her and get her up to MOT standards, classing her as an “uneconomical repair”. Essentially, Martha is so rusty, she has been written off.

Undeterred by rust and claims that she is “unfixable”, we have some brave family members who have very generously started to save Martha from nature, return her to being a car, and prepare her to drive 10,000 miles across the world.

Martha on the operating table ready for her armour

The big things to do (after repairing the rust) are:

  1. Replace the tyres and get some spares – one of the most common problems rally teams face are driving over giant potholes which destroy tyres. Martha needs some serious tyres to keep her going in the wilds of Mongolia, and some spares for when she inevitably suffers some damage.
  2. Replace the shocks and springs – this will mean her suspension is in tip-top shape, ready to get us over those non-roads with only mild discomfort.
  3. Body armour – maximum protection for Martha, turning her into a sort of golden tank immune to all bumps and bruises.
  4. Make sure she can stop – new brakes, discs, pads and pipes.
  5. Fix the speakers – Georgia already has her Taylor Swift CD ready to bust out the tunes while we’re on the road. Once Martha’s speakers work, we will be able to entertain ourselves and any locals we meet along the way. Hopefully they love Taylor just as much as Georgia does.

Martha’s extra body armour

Sounds simple. The first time our “Pit Crew” saw Martha they must have thought so too, as they didn’t say much. Perhaps they were horrified that we are attempting to drive to Mongolia in such an obviously inappropriate rust-car. Or perhaps they were merely wowed by Martha’s beauty and the classic struggle between nature vs human structure, just as Georgia and I were once wowed by Ta Prohm at Angkor Wat. History would tell us that nature usually wins in the end, but hopefully, with a little help from our friends and family members who have no choice, we can get Martha to Mongolia before nature returns her to her base chemical elements.