Checking out the competition

With Martha ready for adventure, Shane and I thought we would take her out for a drive to make some new friends. The Adventurists were holding a get together at Ashdown Motorcross Circuit in Oxfordshire for people about to set off on the Mongol rally and their “cars”, so we drove down to have a look at the other cars and meet some of our future travel companions.

We made it down the M40 and A34 without any problems, but to get to the Motorcross Circuit we then had to drive for a couple of miles on a rough, uneven dirt track. First we wondered whether we had come the right way. Then we realised this was Martha’s first little test. Thankfully there were no problems – Martha definitely handled the non-road like a little adventure car – and she trundled along much faster than the considerably newer (but unmodified) Nissan Micra which followed us. Martha: 1, other Mongol rally cars: 0.

As we drove into the meet-up area, I noticed with some excitement that there were quite a few other girls there (I had been prepared for a severe lack of women given the number taking part in the Mongol rally in previous years). When I mentioned this to Shane, however, he joked that they were probably only here to accompany their boyfriends and wouldn’t actually be going on the rally. I snapped at him for being so sexist. In total, I met five other women who were taking part in the Mongol rally. In the case of the other women who I saw at the event, sadly Shane’s sexist assumption turned out to be absolutely right… they were there with their boyfriends and would not be driving to Mongolia.

On the plus side, the five women I did meet (and the men) were all pretty cool. Based on our experience of watching previous rally teams on youtube, we were expecting most of the teams to be made up of 18 year old guys on their gap-yahs, but our real life experience was completely different. We met a father and daughter team, two couples, and a number of people who had given up (or were giving up) their jobs to take part in the Mongol rally, and some who were completely changing their lifestyle to work less and travel more. They were also really adventurous and up for some fun, and many spent the afternoon competing in a monkey-bike race to win 100,000 Iranian rials (worth about £2).

Some of our fellow ralliers racing on monkey bikes

We also met some pretty cool cars. There were quite a few Micras, a Yaris or two, and some other slightly more exotic choices, including the Trabant and the beach buggy which are featured in a blog by the Adventurists here. We also heard tales from the Adventurists of someone undertaking this year’s rally in an electric Nissan Leaf. “Wow!”, Shane and I said. “Oh. It won’t make it”, the man from the Adventurists said.

Q: "What colour do you say your car is when filling in visa forms?"    A: "Yellow. Or custom. Yellow / custom. Although the car used to be blue.  Maybe we should put blue."


Q: "What do you do when it rains?" A: "Get wet."


Q: "Are you going to install a roof box?"       A: "We already have one. It's also a canoe."

Despite some of the cars being a little more unusual than Martha, she still stood out. She attracted a lot of attention for her golden colour, her rally-ready appearance and for the fact that she is my actual car. Everyone else we met had bought their car specifically for the rally, while Martha and I have a longer-term bond.  In comparison to some of the other cars we saw, Martha was pretty well kitted out with her tyres, roof rack, extra wheels, sump guard, super-strong lights, big battery… some of the cars had had no improvements whatsoever.

Suddenly we felt a little better. We may be under-prepared, but so is everyone else.