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MDS UK is extremely grateful to David and Vikki and to all the people that made this extraordinary adventure possible:
David’s Mum Jayne, David’s grand-father John, sister Elaine, staff at Mini UK, Bracknell and Jan Buchanan.
Here’s the story from David’s point of view: I love road trips and in 2008 I thought I’d do a long distance drive to raise money for charity. I wanted it to be the most challenging drive possible so came up with the idea of driving as far North as you can – driving through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland & Norway to the Arctic and back. In 2008 we did the trip in the Autumn – in 2010 I decided to do the same trip but make it even more difficult – by making it longer and in the depths of winter.
On December 22nd 2010 we completed our 25 day trip that took us to the Arctic (in temperatures as low as -30oC) and back as well as raising over £3,000 for the MDS UK Patient Support Group and over £3,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.
My sister Elaine had Leukaemia when she was a child so the charities have always been close to our hearts, if it wasn’t for the treatment she received Elaine wouldn’t be here now. Elaine is now 28 and has just had her first baby. Sadly my best friend Andy, who was at the beginning and end of our journey, passed away in January having suffered Leukaemia three times in his short 24 year life.
During 25 days we covered over 7,000 miles – most of which were spent driving on ice roads. Once inside the Arctic Circle we didn’t see sunlight for around 11 days – it’s not until you lose the sun that you realise how much it’s taken for granted. The main effect it had on us was feeling the days were very short and making us tired all the time. It gave us a new level of respect for the people that live in the Arctic who endure it for so long. 11 days was enough for us and we couldn’t wait to see The Sun again.
Neither of us had any experience of driving in icy conditions so we took lots of advice from people that had. When we reached the first iced over roads we took things slowly until we got a feel for how the car handled on it and until our confidence built.
The car we took to the Arctic was a MINI Countryman. I’ve driven a MINI since I passed my driving test and once my family saw it they all wanted MINIs too. We then went on to set up Kent And East Sussex MINI Club and due to our enthusiasm for the car MINI UK lent us their newly released MINI Countryman 4×4 Cooper D. We knew the ALL4 Countryman was the logical choice as we’d be driving through snow and ice and the Cooper D made perfect sense for fuel economy as we’d be traveling such huge distances. The only thing that was done to the car was to have studded tyres fitted and screen wash that wouldn’t freeze in the possible -40oC conditions. We took survival gear and a snow shovel just in case we got stuck somewhere and needed to spend a night in the car.
The coldest temperature we experienced was in Northern Norway when temperatures dropped to -30oC – when we got out the car our nose hairs froze instantly!
Our goal was always to reach the most Northern point drivable in Europe, Nordkapp which sits at over 71 degrees north and is marked by a globe monument. Despite the epic challenges on day 14 we achieved this. Of course we had to consider our safety as the final road to the point was said to be very dangerous, 4x4s were allowed to go but only in convoy with a bus and snowplough at a certain time each day. We discussed it at length and decided we had to give it a go in our MINI Countryman.
It was a scary drive up the mountains with a several thousand foot drop either side of the tiny, twisty iced over roads but we made it. Getting both us and the Countryman to the globe was a huge achievement to us, it had made all the months of planning and the stress of driving worthwhile. Not only was it a great personal achievement as we’d done what we set out to do but it was also an amazing achievement for the new Countryman – it proved itself to be a proper 4×4 that could deal with the Arctic conditions and come through them.
Our favourite moment of the trip was in a Husky farm in Karasjok, Norway – we stayed in a beautiful wooden lodge and got to meet the dogs, including 15 Husky puppies, before an amazing sled ride through stunning scenery.
On day 25 of our epic journey we returned to the UK to see our families and get some much needed home comforts! We’d achieved all the goals we had set out and it had been a privilege to raise money for the charities that mean so much to us. Due to the driving conditions the trip had been more stressful than we could ever of imagined but it had been worth it for the amazing sights we saw along the way.
The journey was shared with people across the globe via our blog which was updated daily and can still be accessed at baylissracing.com We will soon be posting a video of the trip which perhaps explains the trip better than words ever could. Also you might be interested to know we are discussing our next trip that may happen in 2012 – either MINI to the Arctic 3 (in the summer next time!) or MINI to South Africa!
Thanks for everyone who donated helping us reach far above our donation targets with a current total of over £7,000…