About a year and a half ago I bought a classic Mini. She is a 998cc 1992 Rover Mini City. I bought it because I love cars and the Mini is one of the most ingenious and iconic of them all. At first, she was rusty and generally run down. The previous owner had given it a black roof and bonnet stripes and had messed around with the electrics by the looks of things, as a result not a lot on the car worked. And so I spent many man hours during the summer getting rid of the rust, filling and priming the bodywork for painting. I found somebody to give my Mini a cheap paint job, bolted some chrome bits to it and I was off! My Mini isn't a completely mint, completely original 1960's Mk1 Cooper S or anything, but I still love it.
Another one of my passions is travelling, one day I want to have travelled to all 196 countries of the world. About a year ago I dreamt up a trip to go across Europe, going to every country that I haven't been before (which is almost all of them). I thought that the best way of doing this would be to drive, that way I would have the freedom of going where I want, when I want. So all I had to do now was to find a new car, because surely my Mini couldn't do that sort of a journey, or could it?
Never one to turn down a challenge (albeit one that I gave myself), I began thinking if this could actually be possible. I scoured Google Maps, imputting various routes in order to hit as many countries as possible with the least amount of mileage. I eventually settled on a route that goes through every country in Europe except obviously the island nations also Norway, Sweden and Denmark (as they would add extra thousands of miles onto the trip). The route that I came up with was 10,000 miles long. I questioned "can an old Mini do that? It has already done 60,000 miles, why couldn't it do another 10?" I assured myself.
The more I planned, the more I thought that it was feasible. I decided to just go for it and the worst that could happen is that I would have to pay somebody an obscene amount of money to tow my car home. So I did, I booked my ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, Spain for the 17th of May - there was no going back. And so I planned some more, the more I planned now the more daunting the challenge appeared. To my knowledge, no one has ever done a trip this big in a Mini, especially one that is this underpowered and in this condition. Nevertheless, I was going.
To get it prepared for such a journey, I have been hard at work. I have fitted an upgraded hot weather radiator, water pump and fan so it can keep cool in the hotter climates. I have had the electrics sorted out, new stereo and speakers fitted for entertainment on the long journeys and a power outlet for sat nav and phone charging. And of course, she will be getting a (very) good service before we leave.
Even now, I am unsure weather this is even possible, I am heading into the unknown. Quite possibly you could see me on the 17th of May in a cloud of smoke on the M6 and the journey would be over. Who knows, I'm going to give it a try anyway.
Because this trip will be so difficult, I thought that it might inspire people to donate funds to a charity so at least someone would benefit from this. Since this is a pan-European trip, I wanted to help people, particularly children, that have been effected by the Chernobyl power station disaster which is the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history. Some of the nuclear materials spewed from the reactor were carried around the world, but the heaviest fallout landed in Belarus. A quarter of the country's best farmlands and forests were poisoned with Caesium 137 which will be in the soil for hundreds of years. Radioactive Iodine has only a short half-life but it was ingested by so many people that thyroid cancer in the children living in the most contaminated parts of the country rose by over 100 times. Despite the evacuation of over 400,000 people, there are still two million people in Belarus living on seriously contaminated land. Almost thirty years after the disaster in northern Ukraine, the children of Belarus continue to suffer from the effects of the fallout.
I decided to donate to Chernobyl Children's Project (UK) as they do some fantastic work in Belarus, caring for seriously ill children and improving the lives of children with disabilities. They supply medicines, support families that have children with special needs and giving their immune systems a boost by taking them on recuperative holidays. On my trip I will hopefully be visiting them in Belarus (if I make it) to learn more about what they are doing there.
If you want to learn more, visit their website at http://www.chernobyl-children.org.uk/. I want to raise as much as possible for this charity, so please give what you can. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
Thank you for donating. I will keep you posted on how the Mini and I are getting on!
Andorra la Vella (Andorra)
San Marino (San Marino)
Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Sunny Beach (Bulgaria)
St. Petersberg (Russia)
Prague (Czech Republic)
Luxembourg City (Luxembourg)