For the first time a team of Hong Kong competitors has completed the gruelling 16,000-kilometre Mongol Rally. Teacher Natalie Chan, University of Hong Kong medical student Aaron Chan and Chinese University law student Jonathan Ma, who set off from London on July 13, crossed the finish line in Mongolia last month. It was the 10th time the event was held. The Panda Express team, as the three 26-year-olds called themselves, embarked on their epic trek across a third of the world after paying £2,400 (HK$28,000) for a 2004 Fiat Doblo 1.2 8V Active 5DR for the journey. The trio completed the trip in 37 days and arrived in Ulan Bator on August 20, finishing 96th out of 200 teams, having crossed eight time zones and 18 nations. "We met many teams along the way whose car broke down completely or was scrapped before they could get to Ulan Bator," Natalie Chan said. "We were very fortunate to not have had any significant breakdowns." Only about 50 to 60 per cent of the teams make it to the finish. Natalie and Aaron Chan first got the idea after completing a six-week trip from Mongolia to Iceland together last summer, just as the 2012 rally was finishing. The Hong Kong team drove through countries including Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. It was far from plain sailing, but kindness and generosity were never in short supply. "From corruption to great humanitarian acts, we have experienced it all," Natalie Chan said. "We had to bribe our way through some countries because it seemed we practically were stopped by every police officer … Yet I had never experienced true altruism until then. "People would invite you to stay in their home because they would see you camping outside; people would give you food because they'd see you stranded; and even stop in their tracks to help you fix the car … and expect nothing in return."