Hong Kong-residents Michael Godby and Scott Taylor are still thawing out. They recently won the first ever ‘Ice Run’ event, an epic race that involves battling temperatures of -40C and driving a Ural motorbike with a side car for more than 2,000km across the frozen Siberian wilderness to Salekhard, the only town in the Arctic Circle.
In just eight days, the duo – calling themselves Team Xie Xie – spanned the icy expanses in the name of charity, not only winning the race but raising $135,866 for Room to Read, a charity dedicated to the education of children. We spoke to them both about their adventures and Siberia as a travel destination.
Hello beasts of the Ural motorbike! So, being from Hong Kong, what was it like dealing with the bitter cold?
Godby: Not very pleasant…..I think the lowest temperature we experienced was around -35C, a temperature that makes you promise you will never complain about HK’s sweaty summers ever again.
Taylor: There was one time where I literally, virtually gave up, I was so cold. I was so cold I thought – how could I do another 10 days feeling this cold, it’s not possible. Once, we stopped and had a cigarette, and a van pulled up beside us, I explained it was a charity venture and they looked at us like crazy idiots and said ‘get in the back of our van and warm up’. They were awesome. That’s actually happened all the way along the trip. Unbelievable.
I imagine the sights during the trip were beautiful nonetheless?
Taylor: We had pure blue skies; it was beautiful in the sense that it was white and barren. It’s not mountain, it’s very flat, flat white. The most beautiful sights were when you drove, you’d go through a forest and get these beautiful trees covered in snow, real Alice in Wonderland type scenery.
Did you get a chance to do some sightseeing while you were there?
Godby: We were ‘sightseeing’ from start to finish and were tourists throughout, just not in the most traditional way; without sounding cheesy, we felt we got to see the countries in the most ‘real’ and natural way possible, rather than just staying in the confines of a hotel complex.
Taylor: By travelling through roads, you experience and see so much of the local culture, and you go to places that would never be on a map, and sometimes there are these cool little villages who have never seen Westerners, or very, very rarely.
What were your experiences like encountering some of the people and culture there in that regard?
Taylor: That for me was one of the best things about the trip. They were the most kind, open-hearted, warm, and generous people. Very, very proud, they were proud of their country and wanted us to see the good side. The further you got, you got more Asian-looking Russians. Because they’ve got to go down to -60C, like seven or eight months a year, you find that they are pretty tough people. And although they’ve never seen a Western person before, they just took such good care of us, saw us over and we stayed the night in their house or in their beds. And they all drank vodka; it’s all they drink. A bottle of vodka, and just do shots, and then they’d have orange juice.
Did you have a chance to try any of the local Siberian cuisine?
Godby: We tried to eat the local food as much as possible – it was delicious, hearty, meaty dishes that you could imagine a grandmother cooking – they were perfect for warming you up after a long day on the road…
And finally, any new adventures planned?
Godby: I’m quite keen for kayaking down a jungle-lined river somewhere in South America.
Taylor: Amazon, yeah! We’re going to look for the Lost Ark! I’ve got to get clearance with the girlfriend so I’m not sure, she’s only just forgiven me…
Interview: James Kim
See theadventurists.com/ice-run-handbook for more info on their Ice Run.