Mongol Saga Episode IV – The Beginning of the 2009 Mongol Rally
Yesterday I smelled like rancid sour dirt, incubating underneath a hot laptop and a rolled up sleeping bag in a 1.0 liter Nissan Micra with a broken ventilation system, windows rolled up to lower drag, a surf board on top, and a loose cigarette-lighter powering my laptop as I edited as many photos as I could on the long drive from Dunquerque, France to Munich, Germany.
As of Saturday, I have begun an epic journey from England to Mongolia by car. This being the first official post since the start of the Mongol Rally, let me take the opportunity to get everyone up to speed, so to speak. My team, Team Great Job! (my friends Ryan, Bones, Michael and I), arrived in Europe at the beginning of July. We bought a car in Dusseldorf, Germany – a Nissan Micra – and at some point I will have to dedicate a post to how we got pulled over outside of Amsterdam and the Dutch cop told us tongue-in-cheek, “I believe the technical term is…ah…you’re fucked.” We slowlz made our way west across Europe toward the launch of the Mongol Rally at the Goodwood race track in London on July 18th.
From Dusseldorf to Amsterdam to Brussels to London we’ve been travelling for two weeks already, so the Mongol Rally launch party known as ‘The Festival of Slow’ threatened to be anticlimactic. But after camping the night before the launch with 300 other teams, the mood of the night dominated by
revelry, sharing beers and stories of past journeys with new friends got us fully energized for the first major adventure of our lives.
Of particular spectacle at the launch on Saturday were some of the alternative vehicles that, despite having a larger engine, make up for the size limit imposed by the Mongol Rally organizers, the Adventurists, by having some sort of novelty. One team of about nine people are taking a full-sized red fire engine…covered in fake red fur. Their team name is aptly “Great Balls of Fur.” Another team from America driving a
large pink custom-made ice cream truck goes by the name “The Rolling Cones.” The winner for a side-contest of ‘largest non-functional item’ carried along the route is a team with a 12 foot longboat
mounted on top of their car. Of the three hundred cars, most appeared to be decorated with silly themes in keeping with the spirit of the Mongol Rally, which has no set route, no award for fastest finisher, and despite the acknowledged extreme risk of driving across countries like Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Mongolia, prefers to emphasize taking your time and enjoying the journey more than the destination.
After a celebratory lap around the 2.4 mile Goodwood race track it was off to the ferry for Team Great Job! and most of the other teams. We saw a lot of fellow rally-goers on
the road to the white cliffs of Dover, and we passed a lot of them in our attempt to catch the
earlier ferry at 6:00. We got there in plenty of time, as we
realized, because our timepieces were all set 30 minutes too fast. In fact,we realized that in our entire four days in England our four-person team had not kept up on what time it actually was.
We took the extra time at the ferry landing to chat some more with some friendly ralliers – about a dozen other teams were waiting with us. One team, from England, was a couple middle-aged men, one of which had done all sorts of adventures but in their own words couldn’t work a screwdriver. Another team from America told us about the problems they had importing their car from America – it turns out all the teams
that shipped their cars had trouble. One team had their car rerouted from its destination in England to an alternate one in Germany.
After the ferry we joined a caravan of other Rally cars, which were going to Gent for the night, but we pushed on to Germany before collapsing into a tent at a roadside rest stop somewhere in Germany. It was a rough first night that provoked a heated team discussion about our travelling priorities (comfort versus time-saving). We made it passed golden crops and lush grass to reach Munich yesterday to complete the first stretch of the rally, not counting the race to the ferry, and Team Great Job! is feeling good about ourselves.