There are a lot of things we don’t know about the adventure we are about to go on. How many other teams will be leaving the UK with us? How many of them will reach the finish line? What will they be like? What cars will they be driving? Is it really dangerous? Where exactly is the finish line?
It might seem a bit careless to set off on such a big trip without knowing a bit more about what we are getting ourselves into, but in the spirit of adventure we are trying not to overplan and to ‘go with the flow’. This is something Shane is very good at and something I’m not so good at.
In keeping with the idea that the Mongol Rally is all about jumping off a cliff into the unknown, the Adventurists haven’t exactly overloaded us with information, but they have given us some interesting stats from previous rallies. Check out this infographic about the teams who took part in 2015:
So how does our team compare, and what are we letting ourselves in for?
We are the ‘average’ age - in 2012, the oldest rallier was 74, the youngest was 18 and the average age of all ralliers was 30. We don't know what the average age will be this year, but at 27 and 33 (soon to be 34!), Shane and I also average out at 30 years of age, so we shouldn't find it too challenging to make some friends.
We have a woman in the team (OMG) – seriously, the vast majority of Mongol Rally participants (9 out of 10) are men. There are some other women out there, but girl power is seriously lacking.
We have an ‘average’ car – or do we? The Nissan Micra is the rallier favourite. This may seem quite strange, as a Nissan Micra is obviously way too small and completely impractical for driving in the desert. But out of all the 1 litre cars you could choose to drive to Mongolia, they are one of the most reliable makes out there, and easy and cheap to fix along the way. Several ralliers deliberately avoid driving to Mongolia in a Micra, because it’s too ‘easy’ or ‘mainstream’. Shane and I might have a ‘mainstream’ car, but we love her. Also, at 21 years of age, Martha is older than most. She is also gold. It’s hard to see how something so old, so gold, and with so much character could ever be described as ‘average’.
We are taking it very slowly – On an average 'drive day' we are hoping to drive for around 8 hours and cover about 500km. Most days will be drive days, but we are planning to take a few days off along the way to see the sights, fix Martha when she inevitably breaks down and to sort out our Turkmenistan visas. We also know there will be other days when we won't move very far becuse we won't have much choice – days waiting at borders, or days waiting for the ferry to take us over the Caspian sea. Factoring in the deliberate and the not-so-deliberate days off, we think it will take us about eight weeks to get to the finish line. Even with our fairly intense driving schedule and limited stopping time, we will probably be one of the last teams to get to the end. This is partly because we've chosen a long route which involves complex borders, the Caspian sea and a lack of good quality roads, but it's also partly because some of the other teams are happy to drive a lot further each day, and spend more days driving and less days enjoying. In 2015, one team completed the entire rally and made it to Mongolia in FIVE DAYS. They drove for 24 hours a day. We may be one of the last teams to reach the finish line, but hopefully we will have a nice time and get to see some of the countries we're driving through.
This could end in divorce – in 2012, there were two marriages created on the Mongol Rally. It’s amazing and lovely that romance was able to blossom in such harsh conditions. But one marriage was also ‘uncreated’. In 2015, 19 teams ended up splitting for various reasons along the way. Shane and I have travelled together before. We’ve camped together, we’ve driven long distances together, we’ve survived extreme temperatures, extreme tiredness and not showering for days at a time. We’re confident we can make it through in one piece and that we’ll still love each other at the end… but team ‘marriage uncreated’ probably thought the same thing.
This could also end in death – in 2010 a British man died participating in the Mongol Rally. He was killed in a car crash in Iran. Since then several other participants have been seriously injured – some through car related accidents, others through alcohol related accidents. In 2015, eight people ended up in hospital. Cars flipped over. Cars went on fire. While car crashes can occur anywhere at any time, the odds of serious injury or death are greatly increased when you’re driving on the wrong side of the road, in a car which shouldn't really be on the road, in different countries where the rules keep changing, and other people don't necessarily keep to them anyway. Fortunately for me, I’m going with Shane, and he drives like a tortoise. Unfortunately for both of us, we’re also going with me, and I don’t.
Having read through those numbers and written this post, I’m starting to see why the Adventurists might be cautious about how much information they share. Maybe being kept in the dark about what we’re letting ourselves in for would have been better after all.