2008 Mongol Rally: The Countdown Begins

June 6, 2008 by

Asia, Europe, Places to Go, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Editor’s Note: Read the latest on the Optimistic Fools preparation for the 2008 Mongol Rally. Viator is pleased to be a sponsor of the Optimistic Fools rally team, on their journey to complete the 2008 Mongol Rally from London to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The race starts July 19, so the next time we hear from them it will be from the road. Good luck, you Optimistic Fools.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The
great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to
come down off this featherbed of civilization, and find the globe granite
underfoot and strewn with cutting flints”
–Robert Louis Stevenson

Mongol Rally: Gearing Up

People are regularly confused as to why my teammate and I would want to drive 10,000 miles from London to Mongolia? What perplexes them even more is our choice of vehicle, ignoring setting free one of the many SUVs from a life of boredom on inner city roads, in favor of a car built in the same decade as flower power, equipped with an engine equally as languorous. I long for a little Robert Louis Stevenson to carry around in my top pocket, to bring out whenever one of these dumbfounded faces gazes back at me, to explain with greater lucidity and clarity than I ever could, the true wonders of travel.

mongol rally 2008 optimistic fools car
Teammate Oliver tinkering with Irene’s underbelly

It’s like living in a dream world, where everything is the same, yet slightly askew where one is less a participant and more a voyeur. In the thoughts of the Dice Man, such is ‘romanticism to academics yet simple neurosis to physiologists’. Either neurotic or a dreamer, as explained in my previous Mongol Rally articles for Viator, a friend and I, the Optimistic Fools, are intending to embark upon one of life’s last greatest adventures, the Mongol Rally. Leaving London’s Hyde Park on the 19th July, our aim and goal is to arrive, perhaps a trifle optimistically, 17 countries, two continents and a few time zones later, in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.

We will be undertaking this race in a circa 1965 sky blue Renault 4 called Irene, donated to the Fools by a marvelously generous gentleman from Guernsey. A trusty little car, Irene has spent the vast majority of her long uneventful life negotiating the small highlanes and bylanes of the tiny isle of Sark, part of the Channel Islands. Ripped from the cosy warmth of barnyard retirement she has been tickled into action by these two fervent gentlemen.

A Worthy Farce

All of you reading this article will, by the very nature of the readership of Viator, will have something burning deep inside of you yearning to break out, some hidden Columbus wanting to rupture through the surface of the humdrum drone of everyday life in search of untainted adventure. This race, however, is not just a simple jaunt designed to satiate the itch in the feet of disenfranchised, intrepid, pseudo Marco Polo’s. Quite the contrary, by way of its very blue print, which was drawn up in the architectural adventure head quarters of the Adventurists in Bristol, England, it is much more.

The actual intention is to draw on this innate animalistic yearning and to spur people to act in a foolhardy and reckless manner in the hope that wallets will open and funds will flow from those who respect lunacy, envy boldness and value adventure to support the worthy charities championed by the 200 audacious teams.

These particular Fools have decided to take on the 10,000 miles in the name of 4 highly reputable aid organisations, stemming from all corners of the globe. With Mercy Corps and the Christina Nobel Children’s Foundation in Mongolia, the PCRF in the UK and the Children’s University in Mexico we have been hot on the trail of seeking as much cash as possible to help our elected causes. Through sponsorship by companies both large and small, to generous donations from friends and family the Fools and in deed all their fellow teams are the mere stimulus for the stream of funds to pour down to those in need.

We have teamed up with Berocca (the leader in effervescent vitamins), Viator.com (the Cassious Clay of the travel writing world), Telegraph (2007 champion of beers 6X) and Shambala (the Michelangelo of the landscaping world). Through these partnerships we have managed to secure sufficient funds to more than cover the minimum £1,000 needed to be raised for the two chosen Mongolian charities. With the help of friends, family and well-wishers we aim to exceed that for the PCRF and the Children’s University. Therefore we are continuing to seek donations, however small, to guarantee our charities receive a more than worthwhile sum. But it is not just their funds that will help, Berocca vitamins will help keep us sharp and healthy whilst on the road, Viator have offered to send relief packs for us to pick up on route and Shambalas Marc Austin designed the Fools remarkable logo.

2008 mongol rally optimistic fools

A Traveling Fool

In the spirit of the ancient Mongolian proverb — “A traveling fool is better than a sitting wise person” — the Fools will do everything necessary to get to Mongolia. Should our trusty steed, Irene, crumble into disrepair in the highlands of Central Europe or the plains of Kazakhstan we are willing to do what ever it takes, from bicycle to donkey, to cross the finishing line in Ulan Bator.

However as this folly is a traditional race turned upside down we will ensure that so too are our preconceptions. Instead of choosing the fastest 4×4 available we have chosen a car whose rust ridden underbelly would make Keith Richards innards look fresh and healthy, instead of opting for the fastest route the Fools have chosen the hardiest and so instead of striving to come first the Fools will look to be last across that finish line. If it means that we can raise more money for our favorite charitable organisations yet missing the jubilous champagne bearing crowds and welcoming ceremonies in favor of tumble weed and perhaps a sip of fermented yak’s milk all will be worthwhile.

After having chosen the tentative route as noted in the previous article we soon changed our minds to include the primeval forests of Slovenia, the rocky Adriatic coastline of Croatia, one of the worlds newest countries Montenegro, the mountains of Albania, the rugged valleys of Macedonia, into Greece to dip our toes off the beaches of Thessalonica before heading back onto the previous course that will see us through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and finally Mongolia.

In order to prepare for the cultures that we will encounter I have poured over the Koran, battled through Crime and Punishment, studied Genghis Kahn and learnt how to say ‘hello’ in 10 different languages. The only hurdle left for us to leap is appraising ourselves with the inner workings of the wonderful Irene. To travel lightly and cheaply we will carry little more than a fishing rod, a tent, a water purifier and a 1954 portable gramophone complete with a selection of 78 records to while away the evenings spent in remote hills, cooking over an open fire, a far cry from the tube centred lifestyles we now lead. In the wise words of William Blake ‘Great things are done when men and mountain meet. This is not done by jostling in the street’.

Christoph Courth

To find out more about this foolish adventure visit the Optimistic Fools over at their own website: www.optimisticfools.co.uk


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