Let me tell you about a car I know. It goes by the name of Godzilla and
its one of the finest all terrain offroad vehicles out there. Now I know a
lot of you think that your SUV is pretty cool and could handle the tough stuff
if you ever took it offroad, but I can assure you, its got nothing on Godzilla.
"What kind of vehicle is this?" you're probably wondering. Well its a
1987 Fiat Ducato panel van. Yup, front wheel drive, 2.5 liter diesel
engine, 6 inches of ground clearance 150,000 miles and bald tires. But
with Roman at the wheel, Mirella clearing the road and Taco watching over
everything, Godzilla made it through terrain that the average Los Angelino SUV
would never think of attempting.
We met Godzilla in Tsogt-Ovoo while working on
Roman and Mirella had agreed to follow us for a bit to make sure that the
clutch would hold up. In exchange we offered to show them the correct way
out of town to avoid the red clay lake.
That evening we were first introduced to the sweet side of Godzilla.
You see the van had been transformed into an RV by a previous owner.
Luxuries that we could only dream about while traveling by bike awaited inside.
A fridge that kept things cool, a two burner stove, a working sink, a fully
stocked pantry, comfortable seats and a table. This may not sound like
much, but compared to squatting on the ground around a hastily prepared meal, to
be able to sit like a human being, listen to music and play Uno through the
evening was something akin to nirvana. Not to mention that Mirella is a
great cook (she is Italian after all).
It didn't take long to learn Godzilla's tough side, though. Mongolia
doesn't really have roads in the normal sense. For the most part you're
just following a compass direction and some telephone poles. There's
usually several sets of tracks leading to the destination
as the route varies from year to year in an attempt to
avoid obstacles and sleeping camels. Yet every time I thought Godzilla's
never going to make it over this hill or through that gully, I would quickly be
the narrow canyons of Yolan Am were no match for
Godzilla. Mirella would pop out of Godzilla, move a rock or two and guide
Godzilla along. Okay at one point we did have to improve the road a bit to
keep the tires from digging into the soft gravel but, it made it all the way to
the end of the trail.
Riding with Godzilla was a great experience. On the one hand it was like
having a support vehicle, tea with bread and jam in the morning, a hot home
cooked meal in the evening, followed by a several games of Uno. On the
other hand, we got the feeling that we were the support vehicles, scouting out
the proper route for the wagon train, or even buzzing around the mother ship
like sci-fi fighter pilots.
Roman and Mirella only paid $3,500 for it, and bought it mainly as a way to
bring their dog Taco with them on their journey and it is a Fiat after
all. But in two years Godzilla's taken them from Switzerland through Iran,
Pakistan, India and Southeast Asia to Japan and back through Russia and Mongolia
and then on to the 'stans before heading back to Switzerland with hardly any
problems. It makes you wonder doesn't it? If a 15 year old Fiat van
can do all this, what can that SUV in your garage do? And, more
importantly, what can you do?