Syd Stelvio: 500km from Aix Les Bains to Dijon on Day 36 of the Peking to Paris Rally

Hero Era Rally (Peugeot)

The morning in Aix Les Bains was typical for a Saturday, marked by heavy skies and low-hanging clouds draping the surrounding mountains. For the Peking to Paris rally participants and crew, though, this day was anything but ordinary. We measure time in kilometers and days rather than weekends, and today marked day 36 of 37—the penultimate stretch of our incredible journey.

Five weeks have passed since our departure from Beijing, a reality that’s still astonishing. This sentiment was mirrored by a policeman who stopped us at a toll booth yesterday, incredulously asking, “Where have you come from?” Responding with “Beijing” never fails to elicit disbelief.

500km from Aix Les Bains to Dijon (Peugeot)

With the end so close, staying focused on the task at hand is increasingly challenging. It’s not just the anticipation of crossing the finish line; it’s also the longing to reunite with loved ones after such a prolonged absence, which feels like the greatest reward.

Today’s leg included two final competition sections: simple regularities on a 284 km route to Dijon—a relatively easy day compared to the grueling stages we’ve faced over the past five weeks.

Reflecting on these five weeks—eight countries (and a micro-state), seven border crossings, and over fourteen thousand kilometers of deserts and mountains from Asia to Europe—underscores the enormity of our journey.

This is my final account of the trip. It’s difficult to capture the scale of what we’ve accomplished and the deep emotions tied to reaching this point. While there will be official winners based on penalties, the purpose of this rally extends beyond mere rankings.

The rally becomes an all-consuming entity, shaping every aspect of our days. Each kilometer feeds this experience, making it larger and more profound. By the time we reach the finish tomorrow, everyone will have their own unique story.

Though we share the same path and goal, each participant has undertaken a deeply personal journey. This rally is a collective testament to individual experiences, each as important and memorable as the next.