Intrepid travellers, Dave & Laurel Godwin, are looking for like-minded people to join their next little jaunt from Thailand to Nepal. We reckon that’s about 3,500 kms and probably includes a mixture of roads, weather, culture and scenery… naturally, that’s why they’re going!
You could be there too.
Before you start digging out the maps and the puncture repair kit, heres a bit more information. it’s a fairly long read, but worth the effort, with a few of their photos from around the world thrown in for good measure.
At the bottom are Dave’s contact details.
PS – Don’t be put off by the name, RIP Tours… ‘Retirement in Paradise Tours’ seems pretty enticing to us.
RIPs Tours – The Full Story
Being a Mechanical Engineer, people often make the assumption that I am a mechanic – which could not be further from the truth! I learnt all about stresses and strains at university but could not replace a head gasket if my life depended on it. And, I had no interest to learn the workings of an engine either, as cars were merely a form of transport for me – adventure was my passion!
Fast forward 30 years and 3 petrol stations later – all with workshops leased to “real” mechanics – and the thought occurred to me one day in 2004: it might be nice to have a little, red E-Type Jag roadster in my garage at home one day!
Casually, I picked up a copy of the latest Just Cars magazine and flipped over to the “Jagyewah” section. Holy Ghost, I got a fright! There was this red E-Type roadster advertised with a price tag of $85,000! The most I had EVER paid for a car was $5,000! I was in shock!
It was obviously “perfect” in every way, so I joined the local MG club and entered it in their Concours de Elegance – she was sure to be a winner – not only in her class, but also overall!
She didn’t get a mention!
The judges in white coats either didn’t know a perfect MGA when they saw one, or I had unrealistic expectations!
Around that time, the Queensland Transport Dept were looking at additional ways of soliciting funds from the motoring public and decided to offer personalised number plates for sale. As our self-managed superannuation (pension) fund was called RIP Super Fund, it seemed like a good idea to choose RIP as my MGA’s registration number.
Why RIP Super Fund? Well, I wouldn’t want to Rest in Hell, so Rest in Peace sounded like an obvious choice for a Super Fund. However, one of my “concerned” sons didn’t like the connotation that RIP represented, so coined the phrase Retire in Paradise. We were now all happy! Except for some of my MG friends at the Gold Coast MG Car Club! Many a time, an MG would pull in next to RIP, notice the numberplate and reverse out again, only to park down the road a little.
Soon after joining the Gold Coast MG Car Club, a note appeared in our Club magazine inviting interested parties to share a container to ship MGA’s to the UK in 2005 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the MGA. Laurel and I took 5 seconds to apply!
So, in the summer of 2005, RIP spent a wonderful month on the continent travelling through France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland – up and down the numerous mountain passes and back up again, just to hear the exhaust note straining up and the over-run crackling down… Like pure music to my ears! I love that Car! Even though we found 16 broken spokes on one rear wheel when we returned to the UK!
Another month was spent driving around the UK with 74 other MGA couples – MG friends that we hadn’t met yet. The original intention of the organisers was to visit the MG workshops of old, but too few remained, so the trip became known as the “MGA Around Britain Tour”. Laurel and I got to know many lovely MG people and as a result, our “International MG Friendship” base was cast in stone.
Being absolutely truthful, I do have an admitted weakness – or two! And, one of them is that I HAVE to do what I say I will DO!
Stupidly enough, while in the UK, I innocently said to one of our new MG friends that I would like to drive from Peking to Paris one day. It just slips off the tongue, doesn’t it! So easy to say! Well; before I could retract that statement, I was given the details of a Chinese chap who had competed in the first re-enactment of the original Peking to Paris rally held in 1907!
One thing led to another and a deal was struck: Pen Yew would lead me along the Silk Road in his MGA if I took him to Africa – a continent he had not visited before.
Knowing absolutely nothing about cars and how they tick – and realising how absolutely lucky we were not to have had a breakdown while overseas – except for the 16 spokes that couldn’t handle the mountain passes of Switzerland, of course – a plan had to be made to increase my mechanical knowledge level from zero to 100% in a short time!
Enter “Dan, the MGA man”!
I decided that a crash course in repairing MGA’s was in order, so I fitted a hoist in my “coke and oil” shed – the excess coke and oil was packed into the shop where it belonged – and Dan gave me detailed advice: undo everything! Just like that! So I bought a set of imperial spanners – including an imperial multi-wrench – and stripped RIP down to the last nut, bolt and washer.
To make a long story short, RIP was off the road for 9 months and I enjoyed the exercise thoroughly, but could only honestly say I now knew no more than 20% of the mechanicals of classic cars… There is just so much to learn, especially when one is coming off such a low base!
Now that RIP was rebuilt and looking fabulous, I felt that I needed to test my new-found mechanical confidence, so Laurel and I decided to do a trip across Australia over the winter of 2007.
I bought a wheel chair trailer, fitted a coffin body to it and registered it “Coffin”. RIP ‘n Coffin covered 17500km with only having to repair a stuck carburettor float by tapping the bowl. With a small hammer! We travelled from the Gold Coast to Longreach, up to Karumba, across to Ayres Rock, down to Port Augusta and across the Nullarbor to Perth and surrounds. Then back again across the Nullarbor to Adelaide and home. All with the hood down. What a lovely experience. Travelling “the Outback” should be part of the school curriculum in Australia, we maintain! The children will get to understand the soul of the country. What makes it tick!
We were now ready to go further afield, although I was acutely aware that I had not been seriously challenged by RIP as yet!
RIP ‘n Coffin signed up to tour the length of New Zealand, along with members of the Gold Coast MG Car Club in 2008 and, other than a failed hydraulic brake light switch, behaved impeccably! Visiting iconic places such as the Milford Sound, Rotorua and the Bay of Islands in RIP ‘n Coffin and riding the steam train from Christchurch to Greymouth was the makings of a wonderful 3-week holiday with like-minded MG friends.
Soon after returning home, RIP – without Coffin – was shipped to Durban, South Africa to join Pen Yew and to fulfil my part of the deal! We met members of the local MG Club, drove in convoy through the Transkei to the local national MG meeting, called an Indaba, in Port Elizabeth and made more lovely MG friends over the long weekend. Later, we joined a group of classic car people from Johannesburg and drove through the mountains of Swaziland, the poorly kept roads of Mozambique, beautiful Malawi, even worst roads in Tanzania and on to Nairobi, Kenya, to a hero’s welcome, organised by the local classic car club! RIP had arrived without one ounce of trouble – and won a prize for being “The Best Prepared MG”. My newly-acquired mechanical knowledge still had not been tested as RIP was behaving herself too well!
Fearing that my mechanical knowledge was still seriously lacking when considering driving RIP from Peking to Paris – and RIP not wanting to test me – something further had to be done to teach me diagnostic and repair skills on MGs. A very good MG friend “advised” me to start up a classic car business so that I would have friendly “staff” to share their knowledge with me. Yeh right! – How much would THAT cost! However, that is precisely what I did in 2010 and managed to attract two “ex BMC” mechanics from the UK to help set up Classic Car Clinic and get things underway. I’m please to say that I now have a thriving classic car restoration business and do, indeed, have access to a lovely bunch of knowledgeable mechanics from different parts of the world to assist with maintaining my now growing British classic car and motorcycle collection.
Back to RIP.
Isn’t it interesting that just when everything in life seems to be going well, a curve ball enters from nowhere!
After organising the China trip from start to finish – shipping; visas; vehicle requirements; accommodation; guides in countries that demanded us use them – Pen Yew emailed me to say that he had hurt his back and could not fulfil his part of the arrangement!
What was I supposed to do now?
Remember, I have to do what I say I will do!
I know I have a sort of adventurous personality, but not THAT adventurous as to drive through countries I couldn’t even spell, with Laurel and RIP, all on our own! To me, that was just plain foolish! However, if I could only find a few MG Tragics to join me on a long drive… I placed an “Expression of Interest” article in MG magazines in the USA, the UK, France, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, outlining a proposed route, including a “gentle drive along the Silk Road”. After all, we would be the first MGs to ever drive from the MG factory in China to the MG factory in the UK! Surely that would get a few responses. And it did! I received 5 responses – all with classic cars but no suitable MGs – and all from Australia! No-one from the UK, USA, South Africa etc! Why is it that Aussies are such adventurers? That title used to be held by the Portuguese, Spanish, French and the English!
The “entrants” – who were soon to become very good friends – went out and bought MGBs, prepared them to within an inch of their lives and loaded them into containers, destined for Tianjin, the port of Beijing. This was 2010 and the dream was about to become bigger…
Driving one’s own car in China is not an easy thing to do. Nor is it cheap! The car has to undergo a roadworthy check and receive a Chinese number plate. The driver also has to undergo a health check and then pass a driving test – thankfully with the help of a translator. At this stage, one is allowed to drive on Chinese roads, but only with a Government approved guide in tow. Our MGs, being two-seaters with every seat occupied, we had to pay for a 4X4 to accompany us, with a driver, as the guide was not allowed to be a driver and a guide! How is that for red tape!
Anyway, not knowing the 12 personalities within the group, which included one MGA and 5 MGBs, the real problems were just beginning.
The captain of the container ship in Brisbane, Australia had ruled that it was too dangerous to load the container storing the last two MGs onto his ship as there was a storm brewing over the China Sea. Hence, the first 4 MGs headed off with the English speaking guide into southern and western China, one week before the next two MGs were cleared at customs. In addition, another English-speaking guide was required to assist the latter group to visit the MG factory in Shanghai and then catch up the former group.
We all caught up at Xian and the personality problems resurfaced. The first group had gelled and wanted everything to stay the same. The second group had also gelled but wanted to become part of the first group. I had not bargained on managing this type of thing – all I naively wanted was good company to join Laurel and me to Paris and the UK! Anyway, over time, except for some embarrassing moments, the group gelled as one and the 24,000km trip through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia and on through Western Europe to the home of MG, Abingdon and then Longbridge, the UK based MG factory, was more exciting than I had ever envisaged it could be. We saw the Eastern and Western ends of the Great Wall of China; drove through the Taklimakan Desert over a 3850m pass; saw one of the 12 Koran’s written on deer skin in the 8th century; swam in the Caspian Sea; saw Mt Ararat – without the Ark – and had experiences that would take a volume to tell.
On reaching Istanbul, Turkey, the notion of RIP and her “Friends” driving iconic trips developed further – over a few drinks, naturally! One of the ladies, who was the most cautious of all to begin with, shocked us with this question – at a weak moment during our Hat Party night!
Where to next?
Who said there was going to be a “next”?
After picking myself up off the floor and dusting myself off, I considered if it was wise to start a series of RIPs Trips? Besides, our children didn’t really NEED our money and we have all worked hard enough and taken enough risks to DESERVE to see the world – in our beloved MGs – so why not make another plan?
The notion of Rips Trips was born!
And our “Cape to Cairo and Beyond to Abingdon and Longbridge” trip in 2012 was germinated.
I have always held the philosophy that if you put yourself out there, you may meet someone and you may enjoy your life. But, if you stay home, behind closed doors, nothing much of interest is likely to happen to you.
This time, the Aussie Adventurers – my reference to our MG group – all chipped in and shared the organisational duties of the Africa trip: someone organised the shipping, another the visas, others organised accommodation in each country that we traversed, yet others organised car insurances, Carnets and the myriad of functions that require attention before a trip of this nature can take place.
Yes, it was a lot easier on me and my marriage!
However, Africa had other ideas!
We had been warned that the Road from Hell between Nairobi, Kenya and the Ethiopian border was a car-breaker and that many an adventurer motorcyclist and 4X4 fanatic had given up and returned to their starting point when encountering THAT ROAD! The Road from Hell sure did frighten us!
However, our Africa trip started off well enough. The MG family in Johannesburg and Cape Town were extremely generous and hosted the 11 couples – there being ring’ins from South Africa and the UK this time – all in classic MGs. But the roads were waiting to test our steeds!
On entering Namibia, the 2000km gravel road section began and every nut and bolt that was not tight, dropped off – along with the item they were meant to secure! The corrugations were wicked! As was the dust! Especially in northern Kenya, on the Road from Hell. The dust found its way into all our suitcases and clogged the carburettor air filters to the extent that the engines stalled due to lack of air! Then there were the speed humps of Tanzania! So high that we learned to take them at a certain speed so that we could skid over them fast enough so that the rear wheels did not remain airborne! And the pot holes of northern Zambia! So deep that trucks were littered along the route to Dar Es Salam with broken backs… We learned very early on that driving slowly and sensibly in these conditions was the only way to give ourselves half a chance to get through with the least number problems to solve – but not everyone learnt this lesson, unfortunately!
With 11 MGs, personality problems were now more numerous! Expectations differed widely as to what was expected of each Adventurer but to their credit, the problems did not spill over into the nightly gatherings and decorum and good manners prevailed at happy hour.
With the benefit of hindsight, this is the hardest trip we have ever undertaken, but the experiences were absolutely fantastic and we often relate that bad experiences on the road make for great stories over dinner. This is just so true, isn’t it!
On the plus side of the ledger, we all loved the African bush, the African animals and the African culture! There is just nowhere else in the world where one can feel the African heartbeat in one’s chest! Experiences such as viewing the tablecloth “cloud” over Table Mountain in Cape Town, the wild animals found in the game parks we visited, the smells and spices on the Island of Zanzibar and the 100-strong classic car show in Nairobi are all memorable! In addition, there is no country quite like Ethiopia – absolutely unique, being the first Christian country this world has ever known, with its own calendar, clock and churches underground. Next comes the Sudan, the home of the Egyptian Pharaohs, where there are more pyramids than the whole of Egypt. Lastly, what can I say about Egypt! Absolutely awesome! We drove the full length of the Nile River from Aswan Dam to Alexandra and visited numerous historical sites with 4000+ years of history that will confuse all but the scholars…
However, on the negative side of the ledger, Africa can be intimidating! Poverty is prevalent; people and animals use the road as a corridor, making for dangerous driving conditions; temperatures in Sudan are oppressive; roadblocks are common place with “payment for passage” requests by Police many times each day; border crossings are complicated and confusing with a new “tax” at every turn. The list goes on…
Our biggest disappointment, though, was that our visas to enter Libya – which we worked very hard to get and at great expense – were not honoured and we had to make alternative plans to ship the MGs across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey and on through Western Europe to the UK. In hindsight, I guess the victorious forces were in control of Tripoli and Benghazi but not the roads in-between.
While in the UK, a few of us decided to leave our MGs in storage and to meet in 2013 to drive through Denmark and Sweden to Northkapp, Norway, the northern-most town in Europe, at latitude 71 degrees N. That’s a long, long way north! We then drove down through Germany and the Czech Republic to Italy and took a ferry to Sardinia, to join the Italian MG Club once again. (We drove RIP from the UK to Italy in 2011 to join the Italian MG Club on their visit of Greece). Thereafter, we took another ferry to Sicily, mainly to drive the Millie Miglia route and returned to the UK via the length of Italy and France. Another magnificent trip in RIP with her Friends – without any breakdowns!
Where to next?
This was becoming a rhetoric question – there was only one massive iconic trip left for us to do – the Pan America Highway – from South America to Alaska! We were becoming predictable! RIPs Trips were coming to an end!
The MGs had all taken a hammering through Africa and the next 18 months saw 8 of them virtually rebuilt. Clutches replaced; leaking seals replaced; shock absorbers replaced; new tyres; exhaust valves reground; cooling systems cleaned – all, if only for good measure. Red Car was even repainted! We were expecting around 2000km of gravel roads in Patagonia and the gravel roads of Namibia were still fresh in our minds. We also knew we were to experience six weeks of high-altitude driving in Ecuador, Bolivia and eastern Peru – all above 3500m, to a maximum of 4566m. Would our little MGs have sufficient heart to carry us and our luggage up some of those mountain passes? As it turned out, they were heroes, often beating local cars up the steepest gradients…
Organising the Pan America trip took the same, well-proven format as that of the Africa trip – everyone chipped in and assisted. The team was well oiled by now as the Adventurers were now all very good friends… The terms of shipping were agreed upon, the accommodation was booked, the visas were in our passports – it was 2015 and our destination was Santiago, Chile to be reacquainted with our well-travelled MGs.
The Pan America Highway starts in Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina, so the first portion of our trip was to drive down through Chile from Valparaiso, across the islands that make up the archipelago that is southern Chile. And what a beautiful and exciting drive it was – island hopping and oh, so rural! Think Kathmandu and Patagonia – Adventure Royale!
Thereafter, after visiting the southern-most city of the world, at 54 degrees S, we headed forever northwards for 30,000km, over 110 days, through places such as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia (where there were excessive police and army road blocks and speed humps), Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, central USA and Western Canada, on reasonable roads for the most part. Along the way, we visited numerous private car collections and also met members of the MG Club of Buenos Aries, Phoenix, Seattle and Vancouver and members of the Antique Car Clubs of Quito, Ecuador, Bogotá, Colombia and Costa Rica. And received hospitality that we are not used to giving in Australia! Needless to say, we were all overawed!
Again, it was the “Third World” vistas, cultures (Spanish, Maya and Inca) and attractions (Terra del Payne, Machu Picchu, Panama Canal, Grand Canyon) that made this trip a wonderful experience – and the relatively few car problems we had to contend with. (It becomes a worry when a statement like “relatively few problems” includes replacing two head gaskets, a core plug, a water pump and “fixing” many electrical issues along the way!) Confidence in the Team to keep our MGs on the road was high indeed – and with good reason! They ensured that we slept in the hotel bed that we had booked months prior, every night of the 110-day trip!
Sometime, during this trip, the realisation came to us! Some of us have almost driven our beloved classic MGs around the World! We only had to traverse Canada from west to east and then ship the MGs to the UK and the circle would be completed!
So Red Car, Navy Car and RIP were stored in Vancouver, along with Green Car and Blue B, for the winter of 2015 and the crews returned in May 2016 for a 2-month jaunt across Canada and northern USA.
By now, we were acutely aware that each of RIPs Trips has its own personality and Trans Canada was no exception. This trip would be the most MG-sociable of them all! We were met by MG clubs and MG lovers along the way and shared our experiences with all that would listen. Presentations to MG clubs became the norm and MG lovers turned out en mass – from Vancouver, BC to Calgary, to Louisville, to Ottawa, Quebec and Montreal.
Other highlights of this trip were numerous too!
The roads were “beautiful” in comparison with the previous trips, of course. We got to see the Canadian Rocky Mountain ski fields of Jasper and Banff; the Glacier, Black Hills and Badlands National Parks; the stone carvings at Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse; the aircraft museum at Oshkosh; the Harley Davidson museum in Milwaukee; the once-in-five years massive MG event in Louisville; the cities of Chicago, Ottawa, Quebec and Montréal. We then took a ferry to Newfoundland (pronounced Newfin – land) and drove to Seal Rock, the Eastern-most point of Canada, for a photo session of massive proportions – three of the MGs had driven around the world! Red Car, Navy Car and RIP! What a wonderful experience it was. We considered what other vehicle could have achieved this result, with RIP never missing a pre-booked accommodation in 6 years of tripping and Ken, Sue and I having sat in the car seat the whole way! Approximately 140,000km!
Long may the MG marque be successful and active!
My sincere thanks must go my lovely wife, Laurel, who does not have the same passion as I have but has supported me wholeheartedly and accompanied me most of the way. Massive thanks must also go to occupants of Red Car and Navy Car, who have supported me and driven with me every inch of the way. Many thanks too, to the other Adventurers – one couple is South African, another is British and the balance are Australian! As a group, you have made the experience of driving my RIP around the world so much more enjoyable than it could ever have been if Laurel and I were to have done so on our own. Many, many thanks indeed.
Dave and Laurel Godwin