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French in Normandy Mongol Rally for Charity

French in Normandy

Update July 19: After a lovely visit with Julia from our charity Friends of Heart Children’s home, the engine overheated today but are en route to Vincenza!

Update July 20: Crossed into Slovenia and on the way to Lublijana. A well-deserved rest by Lake Balaton before the last 120km to Budapest.

Update July 22: Arrived at Constanta hot and tired and really ready for a dip in the Black Sea! Final Check Point for the rally before each team sets off on their chosen route. Brilliant final dinner with Rafael who is leaving us tomorrow for Rome. Slept like a log in the van but the boys were not so lucky as camping on the Beach and the music went on until 4h30!

Update July 23: A very long hot drive on poor roads in Bulgaria but then at least there are roads! Crossed two borders…from Romania to Bulgaria and then from Bulgaria to Turkey…a few hold ups but arrived in Istanbul at 8h45pm and then a marvellous dinner on the Bosphorous with a good friend Mehmet who treated us like royalty!

Update July 24 & 25: Rest days in Istanbul before heading along the Black Sea Coast. Sunday was the first real day off with no driving and rather lots of walking! Touristing in Istanbul!

Update July 27:  Back on the road after a two night stop in Bolu, Turkey where our van overheated and needed to be repaired. We can not thank Faruk, the chief mechanic and Baris and Esra who looked after us, fed us and organised super accommodation for us with Kerem, who with his wife and family who gave us aIMG_6029wonderful dinner last night at the Mekan Apparthotel‎. Had to say au revoir to our team-mate Rafael as he was unable to continue the journey with us! A+, Rafa!

So sad to leave our new friends but now we have to get back on track. We have done an amazing 5500 kilometers so far. Here we would like to pay tribute here to ICEF who are our sponsors for the petrol. Markus Badde, ICEF CEO was the first person to ‎ embrace the idea of the rally as a means of raising money for our chosen charity: Friends of Heart. Thanks to ICEF support we were able to finalise the plans for the rally knowing that we had a super sponsor for the petrol…..without ICEF we would be going nowhere!

Update July 29:  We battled with the roads in Armenia and Georgia doing a staggering 180 kilometers in 8 hours. That being said, we had a wonderful drive along the Black Sea Coast then turned up into the mountains and through a national park to get to a quiet border crossing into Georgia as we had been told that people were waiting for up to 7 hours at the crossing on the Black Sea. We whizzed through the border late at night and we’re lucky enough to find a little hotel. Let me remind everyone that all our personal expenses are being met by each one of us so all the money collected goes to charity. We were fortunate enough to have been sponsored by ICEF for petrol and Guard Me for visas and insurance! We battled with the roads in Armenia and Georgia doing a staggering 180 kilometers in 8 hours.

Update July 30 – August 2: In Armenia we were lucky enough to find the Iris guesthouse. Irina was marvellous and helped us when Gustavo kindly opened a beer for another guest using the petrol cap key which snapped leaving us with a locked petrol tank in the mountains of Armenia and very little petrol! The FIN tema do love a challenge! Irina ‘s friend fixed it and we we were off again to Georgia as the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia is closed we had to return in order to cross over. Baris the sniffer dog went through the “potato” but was spectacularly unimpressed!

We recovered in Tibilisi. A most beautiful city. Two days there to check the van and get around.  I am still in shock to think that the poor old van survived these roads. August 3 was a very long very, very hot day, at midnight it was still 30 degrees here in Baku.

Update August 9 – 11: We are back online with lots to share but let’s just say we were very lucky today to have crossed the Turkmenistan border in about 6 hours! Even the immigration soldier told us we were the first not to be deported or pay a huge fine because we took a different route in their country. We did camp under the stars at the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan; woke in the early morning for the sunrise to find a goat ran off with one of Eleri’s shoes leaving her barefoot. We finally managed to leave Turkmenistan yesterday and get to Uzbekistan…

We are now in Khyva and heading to Bukhara and Samarkand, We are all enjoying the warmth of the Uzbek welcome and friendly atmosphere here. The sun and heat are relentless and I think I will really notice not being in 45 degrees most of the time if not more!

Update August 12: We are in Bukhara! Towed another team across the Uzbekistan desert for about 9 hours using a washing line! Stopped at a mechanic today to buy a rim for our spare tire and to fix jerry cans to the back of the car. So many things happening but so little time to update!

Update August 14: Arrived in Samarkand today, a city of dreams with many majestic Islamic buildings!

Update August 17: Started the Parmir highway today. 12 hours of driving through beautiful valleys and mountains along the Afghanistan border. Going slower that a camel …

Update August 21: Crossed into Kyrgyzstan and driving to Osh. No internet at the moment. Lots to share but need to hit the road!

Update August 22 – 28: What a week! We passed through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Sam the camera man from the Adventurists joined us to shoot some video of our last leg of the journey! We crossed into Russia on Friday evening where we camped under a starry sky. Finally on Sunday we hit the Chutsky Trakt which runs down to Mongolia. We were turned back at the border today as it was closed. Try again tomorrow but time is running tight! We are ready to pop the champagne when we reach Ulanbataar, scheduled for Wednesday evening. The final frontier …

Update August 29 – September 1: C’est la FIN. This week we saw Eleri leave us to return to London for the Alphe Workshop. It was impossible to cover all the ground we wanted to before Wednesday, taking us nearly 3 days to drive just 350 on horrendous roads. After Eleri’s departure from Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Gustavo and Julia will continue on to Ulan-Ude and then back to Rouen.

IMG_6563We are so happy to have taken on this challenge and have so many stories and adventures to share. It has been an enriching and surprising experience for us both personally and as a team. We are so proud! French in Normandy: Superstar! 

Nous sommes très contents d’avoir relevé ce défis et d’etre arrivés jusqu’ici certes avec des histoires et des aventures mais enrichis de cette expérience étonnante personnelle et collective. French in Normandy: Superstar!

See our Mongol Rally photos here!


French in Normandy has assembled a team of passionate go-getters, ready to take on the Mongol Rally for charity!

Our route will take us half way across the world in “… the shittest rolling turd of a car we can find”!

Follow the FIN team as we make this once-in-a-lifetime adventure for charity starting July 17 in the UK and finishing sometime before September 12th in the Russian town of Ulan-Ude. Meet the FIN adventurists below or donate now to support our charity!

french in normandy mongol rally charity


Meet the French in Normandy Mongol Rally Team

FIN meeting Barcelona-4Hi my name is Eleri Maitland And i was born in Wales a long time ago. I first came to France at the end of the 60s and have lived here since 1989 when my husband Tom and I changed our lives forever by moving first to the North near Hazebrouck and then to Rouen. We opened our school, choosing Rouen, as it was the place we stayed on our first ever holiday together‎ abroad.
I am doing this rally to help my good and dear friend Julia Steiner raise money for Friends of Heart Children’s Home in Kenya, and for my late husband Tom who would have been thrilled to do take on this adventure. We often talked about doing a rally especially when the Paris Dakar moved to South America but ‎like so many things never got around to it. So please help Tom complete this journey and raise money for his chosen charity, Friens of Heart Children’s Home. Thank you so much for helping us help others….


6 years ago Gusti Junqueira gave up conventions to live his biggest dream: To ‘hit the road’ and see the world. 80 countries later he has not stopped traveling and the biggest adventure is yet to start: Give a chance to children in Africa to believe in their own dreams through the Mongol Rally.

Visit our gofundme page and make your donation to our charity, Friends of Heart Children’s Home now.


IMG_2095Rafael Martins, 26 years old, Brazilian. French in Normandy’s  representative in Brazil and a world traveler, in the last 4 years Rafael managed to visit 64 countries. He is passioned about traveling, getting to know new cultures and seeing the world. The beauty, the pain and the fun of The Mongol Rally enchanted him and he is looking forward to embrace the road and to see/be part of places he hasn’t yet with the company of amazing friends. Being able to contribute to a good cause and get people to know about it, is sure a top reason to embark on this adventure.


My name is Julia Gago, I’m 29 years old, I’m Spanish, I’m from the south, in delightful Andalusia.  I am a librarian by profession and adventurous at heart!
One day I decided to take some clothes and my little car and undertake a journey of more than 3.000 kilometers to discover France. On this trip, which lasted more than three months, I visited unique places I lived fun experiences and met wonderful people from all over the world, including Eleri Maitland, great friend, who gave me the opportunity to join the French in Normandy team, the best school in the world! And why not continue the adventure? The possibility to do The Mongolia Rally, see exotic and awesome places with good friends indeed for a good cause, is the best experience ever!
This project will help the charity Friends of Heart Children’s Home, improving the quality of life for these Kenyan children, ensuring their education throughout their youth and giving them a fair chance.


Donate to Our Charity: Friends of Heart Children’s Home in Kenya

French in Normandy proudly supports Friends of Heart Children’s Home

Heart is a community project managed by a local committee in Malindi, Kenya. There is an average of 24 children living under Heart’s care ranging in age from 1 year to 17 years.  Started in 2005, Heart depends solely on donations from friends and well wishers. Donations support the cost of the the house they are living in, medical care, clothing, food and schooling for the children as well as income generating projects such as poultry farming and baking in the local community. Your support is greatly appreciated by Friends of Heart Children’s Home, French in Normandy and most of all, by the children in the community of Malindi, Kenya.


FIN is grateful to our loyal supporters and sponsors in the international education industry helping us with this charity rally! Special thanks to:

Inline marketing
Study Travel Magazine
The Pie
IALC + all contributing member schools
Valérie Fourneyron Députée de Seine-Maritime