015 The glare from the car makes them squint
Sebastian Gross and Paul Hickman with Silvia, the Peking to Paris Bristol 403

The first ever Peking to Paris event took place in 1907. It came about as a challenge in the Paris newspaper Le Matin on 31 January 1907, reading:

“What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?”

The race, as it was called, began from the French embassy in Peking on 10 June 1907. There were originally forty entrants, but only five actually started from Peking.

Shell supported the race with fuel dumps placed strategically in the Gobi Desert and regular reports were telegraphed from along the route by a very young Syd Stelvio (who reports on Peking to Paris today) who travelled with the press convoy.

The winner was an Italian, Prince Scipione Borghese, who travelled along with a journalist, Luigi Barzini. He arrived in Paris on 10 August 1907 in his Itala, having covered a distance of 14,994 kilometres. His prize? A magnum of Champagne.

The ‘modern incarnation’ of the Peking to Paris was launched by Philip Young and his Endurance Rally Association in 1997. The ambitious route was 16,000 kilometres long and took 45 days to complete. The Rally drove through China, became the first rally to cross Tibet, and the Friendship Bridge into Nepal was opened especially for them as the Rally ploughed on through India and towards Pakistan. Some 95 cars took the start.

Ten years passed before the Endurance Rally Association ran another Peking to Paris in 2007 and this time the route was more true to the original one which Borghese set, in that it crossed Mongolia and the Gobi Desert before pounding through Russia towards Moscow.

Such was the success of the 2007 event that the Endurance Rally Association settled on a plan to run Peking to Paris as a three yearly event and the subsequent 2010 and 2013 editions went down in legend in much the same way that the original did.

For 2016, the Endurance Rally Association is staying faithful to the original route, in that 109 competitors cross the Gobi Desert and Mongolia before striking through Russia but instead of heading to Moscow, turn to Belarus and enter Europe through Poland where the rally has been so warmly welcomed in the past.

This will undoubtedly be the most extraordinary journey possible in a motorcar.

Many of you in BOCA have seen Paul Hickman's Peking to Paris 403, prepared by Sebastian Gross. But you may not know that it is a fundraising vehicle for Bright Light, a charity helping Mongolian women to lift themselves out of poverty. The blog below, from Paul and Sebastian, tells you why they are supporting this charity and how it will help. So, once you have read it, please donate!

Charity Begins at Home …… in the ger!

Paul and Sebastian are calling on friends, family, and those who just stumble onto this site, to consider donating to the Bright Light Organisation in Mongolia.

Partaking in a car rally is highly exciting, and very, very indulgent. One could be selfless and, instead of rallying, donate to others who have less opportunity. We chose both, and hope that by drawing attention to our adventure we can also contribute to helping those who don’t get to do car rallies, people who get few indulgent choices in life.

Why the Bright Light Centre? Well, it so happens Paul has (in spirit) ‘adopted’ a wonderful Mongolian couple, Bukhu and Chimka, who live in Sydney. (See blog on our website When life throws you a curveball…)

Through Bukhu, Paul became acquainted with Munkhchuluun Ganburged, Bukhu’s sister, and the work she was doing as the main organiser of Bright Light. Despite being dealt a rough deal herself, she has been a bright light for those less lucky. (For Munkhchuluun’s story see blog Munkhchuluun’s story…)

The Bright Light Organisation aims to support disadvantaged females in a very practical way, by teaching them life skills. Whilst female education is not unusual in Mongolia, there are those less fortunate who miss out for all the usual reasons – poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, physical and mental illness etc, etc … and there is no government safety net.

We want to help, and have set up a Donate Button on our website. The aim is to raise $10,000AUD, which will be used over 18 months to help about 380 women and girls. Most are in single-parent households, with 980 dependent children, living in the Ger district (i.e. the shanty towns, or slums). And whilst a ‘ger’ or ‘yurt’ is delightfully romantic and appropriate for the countryside, when in an urban setting, without infrastructure, living cheek by jowl, ger life is far short of idyllic.

Similar programmes have been run by the Bright Light Organisation for five years, allowing women and girls with little money and no prospects, to earn an independent living, giving them the chance to save for the future. Giving them hope.

Munkhchuluun has explained the background and outlined a programme with timetable and budget. Wages are minimal, as many of the staff, including Munkhchuluun, are voluntary. Childcare is a cost because most of the women could not partake otherwise.

There are so many charities to donate to, why this one? Because…we’re never going to ask you again!!!! …and it’s a good politically correct cause …and you’ll feel even more generous because it’s not tax deductible …and when Paul’s happy, Sebastian is happy, and when Sebastian is happy, the Bristol 403 is happy. And we want the Bristol 403 - Silvia - to help make the women of Mongolia happier too.

Thank you!

Paul and Sebastian

By Damian