These days, real adventures are becoming a rarer and rarer thing. This is not to suggest, however, that the age of adventure is dead. As long as The Mongol Rally exists, that will never be true.
The Mongol Rally is a mad, motoring odyssey that begins in London, England, and ends in far-off Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Participants begin by purchasing their own cars – cars that must meet certain parameters of shittiness to ensure a truly bumpy ride and optimal levels of adventure. From there, participating teams roll into the rally kick-off party, where they typically drink enough to pulverize the liver of a bull elephant, and once they’ve guaranteed themselves sufficiently hellish hangovers, go to bed in the tents that will become their homes for the coming weeks. In the morning, it’s time to roll out. Teams are free to take whichever roads they choose, so long as they ultimately trundle into the distant capital of Mongolia.
Some participants take their time, as it’s a rally, not a race. Other participants rush to the finish line, eager to push themselves and their vehicles to the brink of destruction. All participants experience a sort of adventure that is almost as rare as the snow leopards of the Mongolian countryside. This is exactly why you, the beleaguered wage slave, must break free of your shackles and attempt this hectic journey across the Eurasian landmass.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here are a few more reasons to do The Mongol Rally.
1. It’s for Charity
Adventure for a good cause. What could be better? One of the key premises of The Mongol Rally is that each participating team must raise a whopping £1000 for charity (about 1230 USD at the time of this writing). Half of this sum, which teams typically raise through individual and corporate sponsorship goes to a charity of your choice. The other half goes to Cool Earth, an NPO with the goal of protecting our rainforests, and the official charity of the The Mongol Rally. To date, this hectic motoring odyssey has generated £5.5 million (some 6,805,700 USD). Not bad at all.
2. Nothing beats a good road trip
Traveling by plane is fast and convenient, but by hopping from one airport to another, you miss everything that exists on the ground in between. The people, the food, the music, the madness, everything. When you’re in the air, these things are simply notions somewhere down beneath the clouds. When you’re traveling a car, this is not the case.
With every stop, turn, and detour at the discretion of you and your teammates, you will see things that those who travel by plane will simply never encounter. Think about flying from England to Mongolia. You’ll buy some duty free goodies, you’ll eat some airplane food, you’ll chat with the American in the seat beside you. Now think about driving from England to Mongolia. Your senses will be besieged by wonders you didn’t even know existed for weeks on end. When it comes to getting from point A to point B, there is nothing like a good road trip. There is no contest.
3. You’ll meet people of every imaginable origin
The friendly beer-drinking Brit in the pub in the small town outside London. The French dockworker you share a cigarette with in the port town of Calais. The dreadlocked Italian hitchhiker you shuttle from Venezia to Vienna. The beautiful, blue-eyed Slovakian barista you won’t stop thinking about for years to come. The elderly Ukrainian who can not believe you’re driving all the way to Mongolia. The young, Russian flight attendants who show you the real Moscow. The bearded Romanians you meet on the side of the road in god-knows-where, Kazakhstan. The man selling hand-made hatchets out of a shack on the side of the road in Siberia. The woman who trades you rubles for American dollars when you can’t find a fucking ATM to save your life. The Mongolian border guard who won’t let you cross into his country until you take a picture with him. The nomad family moving from here to there with their traditional Mongolian ger and everything else they own packed into the back of a pickup truck. The list goes on.
On the Mongol Rally, you will meet more people from more places than you could ever imagine.
4. You’ll eat food you’d otherwise never be exposed to
When you’re on the Mongol Rally, much of the food you will eat will be procured at gas stations. While a diet of chips and beef jerky does not make for a particularly cultural experience, it does make for an affordable trip, and in some of the more barren stretches of Russia and Kazakhstan, this is simply all you’ll be able to find. Yet you will also encounter food that will dazzle your taste buds, and you will rarely see it coming. Whether it’s a homemade borscht in tiny living room in the backcountry of Russia, or a tough, horse meat stir-fry in Mongolia, you will encounter culinary thrills that even Anthony Bourdain has not experienced.
4. You’ll want it to be over
When your dirt-caked skin has forgotten the feeling of a hot shower, and your favorite meals have been replaced by mysterious soups and gas station snacks, and your heart has been pulverized by frighteningly potent Russian energy drinks, and your back aches from long nights on the hard ground of Eurasia, you will long for home. You will dream of baths and blankets and big breakfasts. You will want the Mongol Rally to end, but it won’t. Not unless you make it – and there are only two ways to force the end of The Mongol Rally.
The first is to give up, but when you consider the logistics of legally disposing of your car in a foreign country, and finding your way to an airport from a quiet highway in Hungary or an alley in Kazakhstan, this option quickly becomes unfeasible. The other option is to finish the damn thing, and while doing so will certainly test you, you probably will. Which brings us to the final reason you should attempt the Mongol Rally…
5. When it ends, you’ll want to start all over
You will roll through the finish line which, in past years, has been located at the luxurious Chinggis Khaan hotel off Peace Avenue in Ulaanbaatar. You will hand your car keys to the Mongol Rally’s saintly organizers, who will sell it to raise funds for local Mongolian charities. You will turn to your teammates and ask, “what now?”
By this time, you will have evolved into a creature of adventure, a windswept rover whose home is the road. And when that road has come to and end, you will want it to begin again. Of course, you will probably be pulled home by family, work, and other obligations, but once you’ve tasted the kind of adventure the Mongol Rally produces, you will not be able to live without it. In one form or another, you will experience it again. So get to it, adventurer. Make your grand escape.
This article first appeared on WildLives.co on 21/5/2017