What's it all about?
This is a 4x4 Adventure Drive, a style of event invented by HERO to enable owners of modern 4x4s to take their own vehicles on an organised long distance journey of discovery to places off the beaten track, sharing the experience with others of like mind. It isn't a competitive rally, but we are rally people: we use rally techniques to give you the freedom to travel on your own, but within the security of a competent organisation that takes care of most of the hassle of visiting remote parts of the world.
Are the organisers experienced and reputable?
4x4xplore is part of HERO - the Historic Endurance 'Rallying Organisation. Event Director John Brown is one of the worlds most experienced organisers of rallies and long distance motoring adventures. HERO was founded in 1996 by John and around 100 enthusiasts. Today there are some 2,500 members, the great majority of whom have competed on at least one big event organised by the club. Major 4x4 endurance events have been the London-Cape Town of 1998, 2001's Inca Trail around South America, the Arctic Winter Trial in 2003 and the 2004 Great Tour of China, followed in August 2005 by our African Adventure. HERO's classic car rallies include the legendary LE JOG (the Land's End to John o'Groats Reliability Trial), the Scottish Malts Reliability Trial, and the London-Lisbon Classic Rally.
How experienced do I need to be?
If you are a reasonably experienced and skilled driver on normal roads, you should cope perfectly well. Before the event, you should accustom yourself to your 4x4, and gain some experience of driving it in off-road conditions - why not come on one of our training days? The event does not require you to drive at high speed, and gives you time to find your feet - and our experts will be there to help.
What are the roads like?
China's road system is being transformed by the creation of a network of dual carriageway expressways, and by improvements to other roads. We use these when we want to move quickly from one interesting area to another.
But we take you, too, on smaller byways, frequently gravel surfaced. When we travel in remote areas like Tibet and Hunnan province, even the main roads may sometimes be just rough tracks, subject to the ravages of nature.
How will the event run?
We are particularly privileged. Our 2004 event was the first event of its kind in China, for which we received special permits from the Chinese authorities. However, these require us to observe certain disciplines. We must follow the route we have chosen, and run within a certain time window. Crews must sign out at the start and back in at the finish of each day, and at one or two points in between. This is for your own safety as much as anything else.
But we do not run in a nose to tail convoy. You are free to travel on your own or just with a small group of friends, to stop at places along the way, to explore local sights, to shop in the street markets and eat in little restaurants.
What kind of car is best, and will it need special preparation?
A reputable modern 4x4 with high ground clearance should cope perfectly well with all the conditions we are likely to meet. You will need to make sure that the suspension is in good condition, and that the vehicle is properly equipped, with long range fuel supply, extra spare wheel, good jack, and so on.
We will issue you with detailed advice notes on vehicle choice and preparation, and you will be able to bring your vehicle along to a Briefing Day and discuss it with one of our experts.
Your car will need Chinese licence plates for the event, and you will need a Chinese driver's licence. These are arranged by our agents in China and will be issued before the start.
How do I get to Beijing, and back from Hong Kong?
The entry fee includes shipment of your vehicle to and from the event, from our nominated ports in the UK, continental Europe, west coast USA or Australia. Our shipping agents will take care of all the hassle, and help you with the paperwork.
The fee does not include your own personal travel to and from China. We can help you with this, too (although you may find better fares on the Internet).
What kind of hotels do we stay in?
We use the highest standard of accommodation available. In major cities like Beijing, Xi'an, Kunming and Hong Kong, we stay in luxurious international five star hotels.
In smaller places, our lodging will vary from four star hotels with fully equipped air conditioned bedrooms, to simple one or two star Chinese inns. You must be prepared for conditions that do not always come up to Western standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
What do we eat, and where?
In China, you will experience one of the world's great cuisines, discovering its wide variations as we travel from region to region. In the bigger hotels, you will be able to find skilfully prepared Western-style dishes, although the programme does include visits to some wonderful local speciality restaurants. In most places, we eat Chinese food, normally using chopsticks, although knife and fork (and Western dishes) are usually available.
During the day, you are free to stop for lunch where you choose, eating at a small restaurant or buying local food and fruit from stalls - our route survey team will give us their own recommendations.
What insurance cover will I need?
The entry fee includes statutory third party vehicle insurance in China, as well as generous personal accident and medical cover. You are responsible for arranging your own comprehensive vehicle cover, and your own travel insurance covering personal liability, theft or loss of personal effects, etc.
What support do 4x4xplore provide?
The event will be accompanied by three or four official vehicles crewed by 4x4xplore's Event Director and other British officials, along with a Chinese tour manager and other interpreters. Each of these vehicles will carry a satellite phone to ensure good communications wherever they are.
A sweeper vehicle will follow the event, crewed by a skilled mechanic (who is also a trained paramedic) with tools and other light equipment, and by the event doctor with an emergency medical kit. The event doctor will be present at each overnight halt to assist anyone taken ill. An advance car will run one or two days ahead, checking the route and roadbook, and passing back the latest information.
At overnight halts in bigger towns, we will where possible arrange for local motor traders to stay open, to provide workshop facilities, tyre repairs and replacements, etc.
Participants must however be aware that the event is potentially dangerous, and that the Organisers' resources are limited and may not be able to cope with a serious accident or mechanical breakdown. They should not take part unless they accept that there is an element of risk to themselves and their vehicles.
What clothes will I need?
The temperatures will vary from the subtropical to the chilly, falling below zero at night in the high Himalayas. Bring a range of practical, comfortable clothes, bearing in mind that you may need to change a wheel at some time. You will be able to get clothes laundered during the rest days, so don't load yourselves down with a whole month's supply.
Most evenings, smart casual dress is fine; although you may want to bring a jacket and tie for some special functions.
What about altitude?
In Tibet, you will be at over 3,000m (10,000ft) for about 14 days, climbing on occasions to over 5,200m (17,000ft). The 2004 event followed a similar route, and none of the 80 participants (some over 70 years old) experienced significant problems. You should nevertheless talk to your doctor before tackling this challenge. The event doctor, Dr Greg Williams, will be giving guidance at the Briefings and in later bulletins. He and paramedic Mike Johnson will accompany the event, with the necessary equipment and medication to alleviate altitude sickness.
How much does it cost?
The entry fee of £26,950 includes the rally itself; 32 nights bed and breakfast for two people sharing a twin or double room; welcome and farewell dinners; 30 other evening meals in your hotel or in speciality restaurants; various other functions and receptions; coaches to and from various functions; shipping of your vehicle from our designated ports; transport of vehicles from Tianjin port to customs port in Beijing; Chinese permits; Chinese driving licence; rally number plates and door panels; a souvenir award for all finishers; event clothing; fully detailed tulip roadbook etc,etc. Hotel upgrades to single room accommodation are available at extra cost. No refunds are available to participants not taking up accommodation booked for them, for whatever reason.
What training and briefing opportunities will there be?
There will be a Briefing Day in early November 2005. A second Briefing Day will take place prior to the shipping date of vehicles, giving you the chance to make sure you have not forgotten anything, will take place towards the end of February. Dates will be advised.