ATHLONE-based duo Niall McHugh and Kieron Sloyan are heading off on the adventure of a lifetime today to take part in the Mongol Rally. They will attempt to navigate a third of the earth's surface in a 1992 one-litre Toyota Starlet. It's all for a good cause as they are aiming to raise €10,000 for the Lough Ree RNLI.
Niall, from Hodson Bay, and Kieron, from Marine View, who both work as volunteers with Lough Ree RNLI, are setting out on their epic journey today, when they join adventurers from around the world for the first leg of the Mongol Rally in Prague.
From there, all participants will take different routes to get to the finish line in Ulan-Ude in Russia, negotiating the difficult and little-visited terrain of Mongolia and its capital, Ulan Bataar, along the way.
The tough challenge is to drive the 23,731km route through Ireland, across the UK, through Europe, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, navigate across the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in central Asia, head for the border of Mongolia and take on the Gobi desert in an attempt to reach the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bataar and finally reach the finish line in Ulan-Ude in Russia.
They have to reach the finish line between August 12 and 15.
After a brief two-day rest, Niall and Kieron will set off on the return leg of the journey taking in Siberia, Ukraine, Moscow, Europe and back to Athlone.
While this adventure will be new to Kieron, Niall took part in the Mongol Rally ten years ago.
They are both looking forward to the trip and are hoping that the support from the public will continue, in the form of donations.
“I'm looking forward to it. We are excited more than nervous,” said Niall. “A lot of people are asking us when we are heading off. With the hot weather we have here at the moment it's going to be hotter there.”
Kieron said: “I can't wait to get going. It can't come quickly enough.”
They got the car from Midland Autos after they spotted it for sale on Done Deal.
“I saw it on Done Deal. I rang to see where it was and they (Dan Kelly and his brother PJ) said they would sponsor it because it is for the RNLI,” said Niall.
“We just got it back from Joe Lynch's. They did a check on it for us,” he added.
They are due to return home around August 24 or 25, just days before Kieron returns to his job as a Special Needs Assistant in Athlone Community College on August 27. Niall, who is originally from Dublin, is taking time off his job as a Mechanical Engineer with OxyMem in Blyry, Athlone.
Kieron said the great work done by lifeboats is a huge motivating factor for their trip.
“Lifeboats in Ireland are vitally important. Through my involvement in Lough Ree, I see the other side of it,” he said.
They have a €10,000 target and they are appealing to people to donate.
Kieron's message to the public is: “Keep the sponsorship coming in and keep an eye on our Facebook page.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so via www.justgiving.com/LoughReeRNLI-MongolRally or check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LoughReeRNLIMongolRally18/