Save the hedgehog!
Taxi for two from Bangkok to Brighton? Ants Bolingbroke-Kent and Jo Huxter aim to cross 13 countries by tuk-tuk, and raise £50,000 for Mind.
What's going to stop our two intrepid travellers in their tracks? Enter Mrs Tiggywinkski.
I awoke early and left Jo snoring in bed to go and investigate the local market. We'd been so cold in the last few days that I wanted to find us some warm clothes so we wouldn't have to drive in our sleeping bags.
Two hours later I returned without any warm clothes, but a baby hedgehog called Henry. I'd found Henry in the market, being sold by two mischievous little boys who'd caught the unfortunate beast the day before. Henry looked very unhappy in his little box, being prodded by passers by, so the only solution was to rescue him and think about what to do with him later. He was so sweet, with black eyes and a long twitchy nose, it was tempting to secrete him in TT, give him some goggles and bring him back to England with us. But of course this wasn't possible and two hours later we released him in a silver birch copse in the middle of some farmland, where he scuttled off into the undergrowth without even a wave goodbye.
Our destination that day was Yekaterinburg, about 400 km north west of Troitsk. The roads were good and we banked on being there in time for supper. But at 3pm, the heavens opened. Anuwat warned us to be careful in the rain and that Ting Tong's spark plugs wouldn't be happy if they got wet, but we'd always been alright before and we carried on driving through the rain at a sedate 40 km/h. Anuwat's wise words soon became reality and TT began to splutter in an unseemly manner. It wasn't until 11pm that we finally made it to Yekaterinburg, having crawled along in the rain at 40 km/h for the last 150km with TT choking and backfiring.
"So here we were, in a random little internet cafe yesterday evening, when two (very handsome indeed) boys came over and said 'Are you the two driving the pink car to England?'."
We've only been in Yekaterinburg for 36 hours and once again Jo and I have been overwhelmed by kindness. While fruitlessly searching for our hotel late on Tuesday night we met Ivan, a local radio presenter who speaks very good English. Without him we would never have found the 'Gostiniza Academia Geologia', tucked away on a dark side street behind Prospekta Lenina. Nor would we have found a safe place to park our three-wheeled friend. Ivan, a philosophical, highly intelligent 31-year-old, was fascinated with our trip and went home and posted all about it on a website read by people here.
Among those who read the site were two 21-year-old boys, Oleg and Vadim, who, with nothing else better to do, decided to go and search for the 'tuk tuk girls'. So here we were, in a random little internet cafe yesterday evening, when two (very handsome indeed) boys came over and said 'Are you the two driving the pink car to England?'. By total chance they had come to this cafe to use the internet and track us down, and here we were! Yekatinburg is a big city with 1.4 million inhabitants and they had stumbled upon us by complete accident.
This afternoon we're going to check out some of the city and go and see the Bloodhound Gang with Oleg and Vadim tonight. I have no idea who they are, but Jo and the boys seem very excited. I'm told they are some hot American group. Jo described them as the music the US troops in Iraq like to drive their tanks around to - sounds great!