One of ‘many’ adventures of a lifetime

Posted on: 10th September, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Above: Eoin pictured at the ‘Door to Hell’. “In 1971, Soviet engineers looking for oil found a gas reserve; they decided that the gas would burn out in a few weeks so they set fire to it. Now it is a 200-foot crater that has been burning for 40 years.”

Adventurer Eoin Murphy, 30, from Clonakilty, recently partook in the Mongol Rally 2015 covering 10,000 miles across the mountains, desert and steppe of Europe and Asia in a 15-year-old Nissan Micra. His partner in crime was Marty Gregor, 37, from Brisbane, Australia. Having met each other during and survived the Rickshaw Run across India in 2010, the couple of daredevils kept in touch and decided the thrills and spills associated with the Mongol Rally sounded right up their street as a joint venture. In between, Eoin also took part in the Mototaxi Junket in 2012, driving Mototaxis on off-road tracks and over massive mountains across Peru. Eoin talks to Mary O’Brien about his latest adventure.

Eoin currently lives in Seattle, USA, working for Microsoft. Marty lives in Jakarta, Indonesia working as a chiropractor and travelling the world in his spare time.

Run by a British company called the Adventurists, the rules of The Mongol Rally are very simple… 1. You can only take a farcically small vehicle. 2. You’re completely on your own. 3. You’ve got to raise £1000 for charity.

There’s no backup, no support and no set route.

“Driving half way around the world in a 15-year-old Nissan Micra sounded exactly like an adventure that would suit myself and Marty,” says Eoin “The Adventurists have several other events but, as we weren’t keen on rafts or paramotors, we decided on the Mongol Rally. We are both very passionate about travel and experiencing new cultures and liked the challenge of attempting to see so many new countries in such a short space of time. We are also very passionate about raising money and awareness for important charities through these ridiculous adventures.”

The Adventurists provide the start point and the end point of the trip but the route in between is completely up to each participant. Eoin and Marty’s route took in the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania, Iran and the Pamir Highway. “Some teams went through the Scandinavian countries and straight to Russia, some teams took the ferry across the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan (by all accounts a horrible experience) and a lot of teams took a route to the south through Iran,” explains Eoin. “We originally had another team member in England, Phil, but disagreement about going through Iran saw him leave the team.”

“Once the route was agreed upon, we needed to get visas for all the different countries, seven in total. This was a long drawn out process…”

A friend of Marty’s, Jesus, offered to sponsor the car through his company “He bought the car and had it serviced, then drove it from Belgium to the start line at Goodwood racetrack in England and joined us for the start of the Rally back to Belgium,” explains Eoin.

“The car is a year 2000 1 litre Nissan Micra — it comes without power steering, power windows, central locking, heaters or fans that work. But the Micra is a staple of the Mongol Rally, there is even a rumour that no Micra has ever failed to finish the Rally. One team lost the keys to their Micra and so tried to open it with a crowbar; after 30 minutes trying to pry the door open, they gave up and decided to smash the window, which took four attempts. Micras are a lot tougher than they look. A lot of cars on the Rally have snorkels fitted for river crossings and sump guards for off-road driving and show up with four spare gravel tyres. Marty and myself decided this was not in the spirit of the Rally and did not make any modifications or bring any tyres besides the spare in the boot.

“In a clear violation of the rules, one team brought an old Porsche. Everyone was slightly disgruntled by this fact, until the Porsche hit a rock in Turkmenistan, caught fire and burnt to the ground. The team was fine, but off home, to the delight of the other teams.”

According to Eoin, one of the biggest challenges of the Rally is spending 24 hours a day with the same people. “Some teams didn’t even make it two weeks into the Rally and gave up and went home due to the in-fighting. Myself and Marty always got on well together and never had a problem.”

Another challenge on the Rally is river crossings. “The Pamir Highway and Mongolia constantly have bridges and roads that are washed out by floods. A lot of time is spent knee deep in freezing water searching for a shallow spot where a Micra can cross. Eventually everyone’s river crossing luck runs out and the car will stop in the middle of the river; we were lucky enough that locals in a jeep were nearby to tow us out when this happened to us,” says Eoin.

One day in the town of Kvod in Western Mongolia, the lads’ engine decided to die. After a day at the mechanics, it was determined the distributor had failed. “The mechanics drove us to 25 shops and garages in town to try and find a replacement distributor and failed. The next day we were discussing getting buses and flights home when the mechanic drove us to an auto-electrician, giving it one last shot. The electrician smashed open the distributor, soldered some wires to the circuit board and calmly said ‘ok’. The car started first time every time from then on. It was our first experience of ‘Mongolian Magic’.”

The Transfagarasan Highway in Romania was an amazing experience. “It is a long winding road full of switchbacks, snaking up a valley with an amazing view at the top.” Another highlight was seeing Iran. “It was amazingly welcoming and we constantly had people shout, ‘Welcome to Iran, brother’ at us,” says Eoin.

The guidebook describes Ashgabat in Turkmenistan as a cross between Las Vegas and Pyongyang. “It is a very strangle place…It has more fountains than Vegas and is full of giant marble buildings. The previous dictator built a giant gold statue of himself that rotated to follow the sun, and then announced that the sun was actually following him.”

Eoin and Marty drove through a sandstorm and thunderstorm to get to the ‘Door To Hell’ and had to spend an hour digging the Micra out of a sand hill. “In 1971, Soviet engineers looking for oil found a gas reserve; they decided that the gas would burn out in a few weeks so they set fire to it. Now it is a 200-foot crater that has been burning for 40 years.”

The Pamir Highway is described as a road that is an excellent challenge for 4X4 adventurers. “It is even more of an adventure for a Nissan Micra,” says Eoin. “The Wakkan Valley follows the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan with amazing views of the mountain ranges on each side.”

An Australian team that Eoin and Marty met along the way, called ‘The Drop Bears’ had their car die in the Gobi desert. “They got an official police report stating that the car was undrivable and headed for UlanBaataar. Once there, they were told that they would have to drive back the 200 miles to the car and have it towed to UlanBaataar where customs could inspect it and confirm that it was unusable. Not wanting to do this, they jumped in our car and headed for the border, hoping they would be able to get away without the $5000 fine. After a tense few minutes at the border, the Australians literally skipped through the border with stamped passports.”

In Uzbekistan, the pair asked a family stopped on the side of the road for directions. “They demanded that we drive seven hours out of the way to have dinner and stay the night with them. They were four brothers accompanying their sister to her university entrance exams to become an English teacher. Dinner involved the traditional six shots of straight vodka. In the morning Marty gave the children a chiropractic assessment for some problems with their hips and we were gifted fabulous woolen Uzbek jackets.”

In Iran, Eoin and Marty met Bahar, who said: ‘You are from Ireland? I know Ireland. 2002, Roy Keane, Robbie Keane’. “He spent the entire afternoon with us and helped us negotiate a good price for a souvenir carpet,” says Eoin. “He also told us, ‘It is my dream to live in America for one hour’. He has always wanted to travel to the West but he has no family and he cannot travel on his own because he will be suspected as a terrorist.”

Eoin and Marty’s four-week journey took them through England, France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and finally Mongolia. “All of my US vacations for the year,” says Eoin wryly.

The car did amazingly well on the journey and survived to Ulan-Ude in Russia where it was loaded on a train to go to the scrap yard. In previous years the cars were sold or given away in Mongolia but the Mongolian government has taken a hard line on leaving scrap cars in their country and now look for $5000 for any car left behind.

“The only thing I would have changed about the trip would be the amount of time we took,” says Eoin “Our route was extremely challenging and really should have taken five weeks. There was a lot of driving through the night in order to make up the time. But we made it just in time to the airport, extremely wrecked but extremely happy!”

Eoin and Marty have raised $1122 so far for Cool Earth, a charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction (£1,076 has also been raised so far for Classrooms in the Clouds. Classrooms in the Clouds works in the Everest region of Nepal in remote villages building classrooms and training teachers. You can still donate to both charities and

Latest News Articles:

Sam Maguire School Tour launched
Fundraising drive to get Kinsale students to World Robotics Championships to Kentucky
Answer the Call to save lives on March 23
Clonakilty students return from trip of a lifetime to rural Malawi
Clonakilty Fairtrade Fortnight celebrates 15 years
€44 million to improve Cork roads
Clonakilty Access Group AGM hears of many frustrations and challenges for people with disabilities in the town
Schull student scoops top invention award at BT Young Scientist
Schull Garda Station wins ‘Leading Light in Road Safety’ award from Road Safety Authority
Go quackers at the 2018 West Cork Bird Race

Join us on Facebook

Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
... See MoreSee Less

20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
... See MoreSee Less

8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
... See MoreSee Less

20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

Jump to: