Ivanka the TankaStory of how one Lithuanian and a Latvian drove (yet to be proven otherwise) to Mongolia.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง โค๏ธ ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡บ ๐Ÿš— ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฟ ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฒ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฟ ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฏ ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฌ ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ณ



Emilis 2019-07-06

For me and my co-pilot Rendijs this is a road trip of a lifetime. We are trying to do many things here: survive, have an adventure, grow up and, of course, give back. This is where CoolEarth comes in!

We are taking 3 months off work and driving from Riga (Latvia) to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) and then to the finish line in Ulan Ude (Russia).
In terms of numbers this is a minimum of:

  • 43 days actual driving
  • 15 369 km on the road
  • 357 km avg per day
  • 1844 liters of petrol

Our route takes us through Iran to Pamir highway, Altai mountains, Gobi desert and finally lake Baikal. We are not exactly sure how we are getting back yet, but that is a question for another time.

To us giving back to charity is not just a cherry on top a cake, but rather something that gives this trip a meaning. Without this, we are just burning petrol and sweating in a 35 year old car (the size of of a bathtub) from one side of Eurasia to another.

In few weeks time we will be starting under the flag of Mongol Rally 2019. We have been meaning to do this for the last 10 years, but now we have a start (22nd July, Prague) and a finish (14th August to 16th September - Ulan Ude).

Wish us luck and if you can, please, contribute to CoolEarth. Even if it is just 1 unit of your favorite currency. Or actually, if you kept reading thus far, contribute 9.59. If we see 9.59, we will know it is you, the ever thorough reader and we will share a moment together!

About Us

The executive summary

Emilis 2019-06-16


This is a project page and project is drive from Riga (Latvia) to Prague (Czechia) and then take part in Mongol Rally to Mongolia.



There are two guys. Me (Emilis) and Rendijs. I am Lithuanian and Rendijs is from Latvia. We have known each other for a while (about this later) and we have decided to drive to Mongolia this year (which is the year 2019 since Jesรบs of Nazareth tried to save us all).

This drive will be long and hard. We are going through Iran and absolutely all of the *-stans and doing it in the middle of the summer and in the least fancy (but most hipster) car we could find. We will sit on our butts for 15.000 kilometers and 2.5 months and since the pain will be so great it calls commemoration on the public internet. Which is how you found yourself here.

So now a little bit about ourselves.


This is our team name and also our car name. Yes, well itโ€™s complicated. We had another team name in mind, but due to geopolitical tensions decided to change it and cannot mention here. Stay tuned!
TODO: add the real team name once we are back

So why Ivanka and what is this Tanka?

Ivanka is a Wife, mother, sister, daughter. Advisor to POTUS It is also a female version of popular Russian name Ivan (ะ˜ะฒะฐะฝ, I see what Trump did there).
Rendijs and I agreed that our car is a female rather than a male (do not ask me how this works). And since it is Russian made (like most of the Ivans) and built like a tank (hence then Tank-a) we went with all catchy Ivanka-the-Tanka. Best team name ever right?

Mr. Rendijs

There are gentlemen who are scholars and there are metalheads who are petrolheads.
Well Rendijs is probably a little bit of aforementioned and a whole lot of trouble.
He codes for a living, some space age stuff (from what I hear), but this is not his LinkedIn profile so for all you care he might as well be a tea farmer.

Mr. Emilis

I am a gentle flower in this cruel world. Warmestest person you have ever met.
Seriously! Cycle to work scheme, does not use a lift and drinks kombucha kinda kinda guy. Lives in Shoreditch and recycles. How did I not get a letter for the Queenโ€™s honours yet, it is beyond my comprehension.
I also write a little bit of code for a living, but mostly I just blossom.

The Duo

You can book us for 600 pounds an hour and we will take you over the Moon with nonsense we get into.

We met at Uni and since day one were on a quest for an adventure. Stay a while and listen!

Once in Uni, we went to this park, very far away, and then wanted to swim in a drinking water reservoir as it was very hot, but then we chickened out as there was a patrol boat and Rendijs is a total wuss. So we only dipped our toes in a creek. I think Rendijs was on a bike and I was running as I did not have a bike. Totally normal weekend. Or this other time we trespassed a golf course at night and we think we heard guard dogs and ran for our lives. I am telling you man, it was crazy! But to be honest we have done only one truly awesome adventure. Some 10 years ago me and Rendijs went on a roadtrip together (with my now wife) and this other awesome lady to Morocco. It was crazy, the situations we got into were unbelievable and they keep getting better every time we retell them.

This is me with Gaddafi and the rest of the crew in Morocco Sachara

All in all we want to do this again. So we are taking some time of off work and hitting the road.

Fun fact. We wanted to do this some 7 years ago when we both worked for Microsoft, but then I could not take time off work.
And last October this other guy (known as Faustas in certain circles) said we should drive to Mongolia. It kinda got everything started. Next thing we know, Rendijs already bought the car. Faustas however fell through, cannot take time off work just now.
No hard feelings there buddy. He is 2m tall and Lada is like 1.8m long or something.

The Charity

Finally last but not least. As part of all this we are also running a charity campaign.
Please take a look here, we might even tempt you to save ๐ŸŒ

What is this car?


Emilis 2019-06-15

ะ–ะธะณัƒะปะธ - Zhiguli - VAZ 2101

Soviet Union had a deal with Fiat which led to birth of cult classic VAZ 2101. Car know known by several nicknames, but in the East it is mostly โ€œZhigulโ€ and in the western countries, that have seen it, it is as Lada 1200.
A lot can be said about this car, but for us the important things are:

  • It can take a beating. Literally even Clarkson could repair it.
  • There are still a lot of spare parts in the central Asia
  • Rendijs only seems to able to drive a rear wheel drive. Canโ€™t teach an old dog new tricks ๐Ÿคช
  • It is not a Nissan Micra. Yes, it is an absolutely different car.
  • Most importantly it qualifies for Mongol Rally requirements (engine is smaller than 1.2L) and it is only bare essentials for added effect

VAZ-2101 was based on Fiat 124 design and that in turn was an evolution of Fiat 1300/1500 from 1961.
Fiat 124 blueprints

Soviets tested the Fiat prototype extensively.

Modified Fiats went around NAMIโ€™s polygon from 17 November to 10 December 1966 covering 12 000 km (8 000 - light cobble, 2 000 - heavy and 2 000 more - unpaved roads)

You can read more about the history of this car here.

Our is is from 1985 (model 3) and has done a respectable 250 000km around this planet so far. We are planning to add another 15 000 km on top of that.

Rendijs did a great job hunting it down in Latvian auto trader websites this winter.

Few shots from the very first ride. Steering wheel is actually rather thick, but Rendijs has oversized potato hands. Pickup

And the flair for the dramatic

Lights are barely onโ€ฆ But then again we did replace the alternator. So it should be better now. And of course you must require a photographic proof of that. Do not take anything for granted! Pickup


Sorry what?

Emilis 2019-06-14

One list to rule them all
One list to find them
One list to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

The preparations

  • Plan the route
  • Build our day to day itinerary
  • Buy a car
  • Get the car ready
    • Change alternator brushes
    • Change wiper motor
    • Get new tires
    • Get new(er) rims
    • Reinforce the chassis
    • Put on new springs and
    • Repaint
    • Cover with stickers
    • Put on new LED bar
    • Change oil
    • Attach roof deck/rack
    • Attach jerry cans for fuel and water
    • Get some sort of music going in the car
  • Test the car
    • [] Get a sense of fuel consumption
    • [] Drive for a stretch of 4-5 hours
  • Emilis track
    • Turkmenistan Transit Letter of Invitation
    • Russian visa
    • Mongolian visa
    • Iranian visa
    • Get passport back
    • International drivers permit
    • Vaccinations
  • Rendijs track
    • Turkmenistan Transit Letter of Invitation
    • Russian visa
    • Mongolian visa
    • Iranian visa
    • Get passport back
    • International drivers permit
    • Vaccinations
  • Altai border region permits

Blog about the blog

How to overengineer a blog

Emilis 2019-05-01

It is 2019 and the future is NOW. As a human race we are are still struggling with global warming, alternative โ€œfactsโ€ and few other tidbits. But what we have really, really nailed down is sharing content online. So how hard can it be to build a blog?

Well thanks for asking! Extremely easy. There are solutions left and right. One might say, you should not even do it. Use instagram.com, they have a nice website. Host your eggs thereโ€ฆ

Well, I fully intend to. But first I will procrastinate! Content creation is hard. You have to sit, think and get the spelling right. It is much more interesting to build this first:

Blog flow diagram hence the procrastination

Few high level goals for an overengineer blog:


  • HTTPS - yes folks everything you read here has been encrypted because ๐Ÿ”’ is a badge of honour
  • HTTP/2 - Haute couture on the internets nowadays
  • CDN - Pages need to load fast, very fast. There is no excuse for slow, life is too short
  • Static - thinks should be static unless they need to ne dynamic, not vice versa
  • Cached - static means cacheable, cacheable means fast, fast means happy
  • Cheap - if it brings no money it should cost (almost) no money
  • AWS - it has itโ€™s own kinks, but it is made with best intentions in mind and honestly it is AWeSome!


  • For a blog? Are you mad? Probably
  • Commit - it would be nice if you could just do ``git push` and the thing updated itself magically
  • Build - you can keep build artefact in source control, but then you will never go to heaven
  • Test - yes, thank you for testing โค๏ธ


  • Jekyll - something to take posts, few page templates and build a website
  • SASS - Did you know that is stands for Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets and I absolutely did not need it?
  • Markdown - Because you can only close that many xml tags in your life

Why not github pages? Actually, ivankathetanka lived on github for few weeks. But honestly it was like having your personal blog on wikipedia. It is not meant for that. Use it for your open source project documentation. There is nothing better for that! Iโ€™ve quickly gave up trying to squeeze into the limitations imposes by jekyll on github and decided to host on AWS instead.

I suppose the end result could be summarised by XKCD 974: The general problem

Repository structure

โ”œโ”€โ”€ _includes - JS shared across pages
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ shared.js 
โ”œโ”€โ”€ _layouts 
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ compress.html - layout that compresses HTML
โ”œโ”€โ”€ _posts - every post goes here
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ 2019-05-01-we-are-here!!!.markdown 
โ”œโ”€โ”€ _sass - shared styles
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ shared.scss
โ”œโ”€โ”€ _site - the output folde created during build
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ *.html and resources
โ”œโ”€โ”€ css - top level styles
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ styles.scss
โ”œโ”€โ”€ js - top level sripts
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ card-modern-blog.js
โ”œโ”€โ”€ img - processed images
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ *.png/*.jpg/*.svg
โ”œโ”€โ”€ raw_img - unprocessed images
โ”‚   โ””โ”€โ”€ *.png/*.jpg/*.svg
โ”œโ”€โ”€ favicon.ico - oh this is a beauty!
โ”œโ”€โ”€ index.html - main site template
โ”œโ”€โ”€ map.html - page with a map
โ”œโ”€โ”€ route.json - geojson for the map
โ”œโ”€โ”€ buildspec.yml - CodeBuild build file
โ”œโ”€โ”€ Gemfile - Ruby bundle dependencies
โ”œโ”€โ”€ Gemfile.lock - Ruby dependency versions
โ”œโ”€โ”€ _config.yml - Jekyll configuration
โ”œโ”€โ”€ optimise.sh - script for compressing the images 
โ””โ”€โ”€ serve.sh - script to start local dev server

Coming soon:

  • Juicy details on code pipeline
  • Lambda to update s3 object headers
  • Image compression
  • The geo location
  • Route 53 entries
  • The minimum number of Cloudfront distributions one needs to be happy
  • Auto-generated background
  • Javascriptless splash
  • The actual trip to Mongolia