Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Travels with Genghis

Robert Schenck
Chicago, Illinois, United States


At age 80 retired Rush University hand surgeon Robert R. Schenck, MD, seized the challenge of his life by driving an ambulance 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia for charity. He wrote a book, Travels with Genghis, to recount his many challenges, successes and cultural experiences in traversing 16 countries via “The Silk Road.”

Dr. Schenck, with co-driver Norbert Ertel, experienced such exotic cities as Istanbul, Baku, Bukhara, Tashkent, Samarkand, Semey, Novosibirsk, Ulan Ude and Ulaanbaator. Some of the challenges they faced included unmarked and hazardous roads, potentially hostile towns, and border crossings that were true tests of endurance. But their overall impression was of the inherent helpfulness and goodness of people. Once in Mongolia, they traveled to the mysterious Gobi desert. These blogs formed the basis for his book.

Travels with Genghis is available for purchase through the author at [email protected].


Fig. 1 Dr. Schenck in leather armor similar to that worn by Genghis Khan’s warriors.
Fig. 2 The Windy City team, aka the new “Chicago Blues Brothers,” with their ambulance before the start of the Mongol Charities Rally at Horseguards near Buckingham Palace in London on July 2, 2010.
Fig. 3 A sand storm almost obliterated our view of the road in Turkmenistan. The sign warns that camels preferentially walk on the road, an added hazard with poor visibility.
Fig. 4 The Gur Emir Mausoleum, the burial site of Tamerlane of Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Fig. 5 Ceramic decoration detail from the mausoleum, showing geometric and floral patterns, but no human depiction.
Fig. 6 Colorful spices in the market of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Fig. 7 Maxim, my local guide to finding a hotel in Semey, Kazakhstan. We are shown holding the Chicago Adventurers’ Club banner carried the entire 10,000 mile route through 17 countries.
Fig. 8 Early morning pastoral scene as horses came to their pond to drink.
Fig. 9 The Trans-Siberian Highway had frequent detours, potholes, and mud for the 1,000 miles of travel east from Novosibirsk, the federal capital of Siberia, to Ulan Ude just east of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world.
Fig. 10 The entry point into Mongolia took the longest of any border crossing, at 8 ½ hours.
Fig. 11 In Mongolia the old and the new coexist, even on the Steppe. The ancient round Ger is made of felt, which is warm in winter and cool in the summer heat. But a motorcycle and a solar panel supplying a television inside represent modernism even in the desert.
Fig. 12 This Buddhist prayer wheel was solar powered and sat on the dash of our driver’s vehicle in Mongolia.
Fig. 13 Robert Schenck, and his co-driver, Norbert Ertel of Des Plaines, IL, are shown at the Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi Desert, a site where an American found dinosaur bones in the 1920s.
Fig. 14 The ambulance has been driven safely 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia, and at this “Finish Line” is being donated to the Go Help Charity to support the many Mongolian orphans found on the streets of Ulaanbaator. The trip had taken seven weeks.
Fig. 15 A map from our website shows the location of the author’s 40 blogs through Europe and the Silk Road countries





Highlighted in Frontispiece Summer 2014 – Volume 6, Issue 3
Summer 2014  |  Sections  |  Travel

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