Help a Mongol Out…

March 25, 2010 7 Comments »

A race to Mongolia

I am drawn to the unusual – it’s a curse, but I’ll never change. In fact that magnetic pull towards the unique and different seems to get stronger and stronger for me as I get older. The harder part is that the unusual/unique/different becomes harder and harder to find. So when I found out my friends and career breakers, Lauren and Mike, over at Abandon The Cube were doing the Mongol Charity Rally, I was intrigued.

According to the Abandon The Cube website,

There are no rules in the Mongol Charity Rally, no set route, no assistance on the road, and no way to make the 10,000 mile journey in an ill-suited, 1 litre car without encountering problems. As the founding father of the Mongol Rally say, “If you haven’t run into massive difficulties on the way, then you are doing something wrong!”

Yup – that’s all I needed to read, I knew this was something I wanted to do in my lifetime. I decided I would follow the Abandon the Cube team this year in hopes of learning more about it for a future go of my own.

I contacted Lauren and Mike to learn more about the unique charity rally. Lauren kindly answered my numerous questions.

Lauren and Mike - Abandon The Cube Team

The Plan:

When and why did you decide to do the Mongol Rally?
In 2009 we were in Central Asia traveling for a few months and saw a rally car. The four folks insider looked miserable, dirty and helpless, they were trying to put gas in their car out of tiny little water bottles (what a Central Asian gas station usually consists of) and they could not understand the attendant, so we helped them out and they told us about the rally. We checked it out online later that afternoon and we were hooked on the idea.

What is your route and how did you decide upon it?
We will be traveling through 13 countries, leaving from Hyde Park, in London, through France, Germany, Czech, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia. We decided on this because we looked at a map over Christmas and then colored in all the places we wanted to see. Romania is a bit out of the way, but we really wanted to visit Transylvania, so we added it to the route. Basically, its a semi-logical traveling wish-list that we get to see come true this summer. There is no time limit, but after we launch in the UK, we have three days to get to Prague, where there is a massive ‘czech out’ party where teams link up to caravan, or just to network,. After Prague, we are on our own until Mongolia. We want to see stuff along the way and are allowing around 40 days for the rally.

Will you be camping, staying in Hostels…or sleeping in the car?!
We will be camping almost all of the time. The luxury of having a car traveling is that we can now drive to the middle of nowhere, camp out, and drive away the next morning. We don’t have to find camp sites, just stop along the road out of site and catch a few Zs. When we cant find a spot, we’ll do hostels, but that is a last resort because of the cost associated with it, and safety for the car and supplies parking in cities and towns, etc.

Good cars in Mongolia are hard to find!

The Car:

You say that you need a car that is fully ‘decked out’. What is meant by fully ‘decked out’?
Well, spending 40 days in a car is alot. We’ll want to make sure its comfortable, capable, and can carry everything we need for that long a trip. We’ll need to add a roof rack, add a few cup holders, paint the exterior and apply all the sponsorship logos, etc. Ideally, we’ll also have a few amenities, like a CD or MP3 player on board– no body wants to hear me sing for 40 days.

Do you all have international driver’s licenses?
Surprisingly, that was one of the easiest things to get. We simply sent in a form to AAA and a few bucks and they send back the license. Easiest part of this adventure so far!

Are any of you mechanics? Can you all change a tire?
None of us know anything about cars, but luckily we’re all pretty good with tools. I’ve been reading a lot online about minor car problems and how to fix them, so hopefully that helps. I’m waiting to find out what kind of car we’ll end up with before i tackle how to deal with major breakdowns. I’ve changed a tire or two in my day, but I can’t say they look perfect when the new one is on. Guess that’s another skill we’ll perfect along the way!

The Charity:

Did you get to choose your own charity or was there a list to work with?
There was a list to choose from. The rally administrators create a list of verified charities since there are just so many scams out there that they really want the rally associated with good, helpful charities.

Why did you choose Mercy Mongolia?
We chose this charity because it is well known, and because they have a high rate of donation. Additionally, 90% of donations made to Mercy Mongolia go directly to their causes, with very little overhead. We’re excited about the work they do, and we are looking forward to seeing the good they have done first hand when we arrive in Mongolia.

The Sponsors – or lack thereof:

How much money do you need to raise in order to participate?
We’re looking for around $5,000, which would cover the entry fee ($1,500) as well as the car, supplies, gas, insurance, and visas. That’s in addition to the money we need to raise for charity in order to participate in the rally ($1,700)

You talk about media coverage and web frenzy – How will you cover your progress while on the road?
Surprisingly, while traveling we rarely had a hard time finding wifi. This year we’ll be in new territory, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find an internet cafe wherever we stop. We have a blog to maintain, media information and press releases to send out, as well as just keeping in touch with concerned and excited family members.

How’s the sponsorship progress going so far?
So far, things are going slowly. With the tragic earthquake in Haiti, many companies and individuals have donated their maximum already. We’re hoping a generous company out there somewhere will take pity on us and supply us with ogles of cash so we can compete.
Here’s your chance to help sponsor their effort and raise money for Mercy Mongolia. To learn more, here’s a great PDF document about sponsorship benefits and details that Lauren provided. LINK (PDF document)
Please do consider helping as what they are taking on is no easy task!

Excited? Nervous?

What is the one thing that you are most looking forward to about the Rally?
I’m very excited for the experience of traveling in a car while abroad. We’ve always taken local transportation like buses and trains, which can be nice but also holds you back on what destinations you can visit. Last year in Uzbekistan it was just too difficult to get to the Aral Sea. Now that we’ll have our own ride, we can go where we want, see what we want. That liberation is amazing, and we’re looking forward to pointing our car towards some great sights along the way.

What is the one thing that you are nervous about regarding the Rally?
My biggest concern is raising the money to do the rally. Fund-raising is harder than I imagined and so far we’ve been striking out more than not, so we’re growing nervous. But, in the end you just have to have some faith that things will work out (and if not, we’ll tackle that when we’re faced with it). We’re doing the rally regardless of the funds, even if it means riding in the world’s crappiest car.

Mongolia has a very special place in my heart and I’ll be following the Abandon the Cube team with great interest during the Mongol Rally starting in July 2010. By the way – they are currently looking for another two teammates – so if you want an adventure for 40 days for a great cause, contact them!

Abandon The Cube

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