Report from the Road: The Mongol Rally
On July 23, long before the sun comes up in North America, Casey Leigh Peterson ’12 will embark on a 10,000-mile journey from London to Mongolia with five other adventurers in a short yellow school bus.
By participating in the Mongol Rally, now in its eighth year, the intrepid band in their 1998 Ford E350 are raising money for three charities that serve underprivileged children and women in Asia: the Christina Noble Foundation, Room to Read, and a newly formed nonprofit called Women in India.
Peterson, who will be on the road for about six weeks, has agreed to file regular reports for middmag.com so readers can follow her progress from England to France (through the Chunnel) and then on to Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and – if all goes according to plan – conclude in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Casey Peterson’s group, called 2BIG2FAIL, has already raised close to $15,000 for their charities. Here is her first report, filed just 24 hours before the start of the rally:
“Two days ago, my brother Griffin hopped out of the driver’s seat at a stop light and said ‘Your turn!’ I took his place and found myself for the first time at the wheel of a short yellow school bus, and also on the left side of the road in London traffic. Chaos ensued, but I managed to find an overnight parking spot for our bus after suffering through a maze of hedge-lined streets and funky roundabouts. I wondered to myself that if I had this much trouble in London, how would I ever make it to Mongolia?
“There are a lot of assumptions involved in the trip on which I am about to embark. My team of six bright-eyed adventurers assumes that our short yellow school bus will not sputter into disrepair along the journey. We assume that there will be room for us on the cockroach-invested Caspian Sea ferry that crosses from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan and that we will in fact get into Turkmenistan with no visa. We assume that we will not get malaria and that our two jerry cans for gasoline will provide enough extra diesel on the long stretches of desert in Kazakhstan. We assume we will not drive each other crazy in the confines of a short school bus.
“We are taking part in the Mongol Rally from London to Mongolia in which the participating vehicles must either be cars with less than a 1.2-liter engine or public service vehicles; hence our short school bus. The Mongol Rally is an excuse to get back to the way travel used to be, full of unknowns and dangers, and devoid of GPS and Lonely Planet guidebooks that offer a sense of comfort and control in foreign lands. The road rally is also a way for the almost 350 participating teams to raise money for various charities based in Central Asia.
“Our team originated last summer when my brother, stuck in the confines of his cubicle in New York City, searched for a way to escape his life in finance. Things got moving last October when he purchased our vehicle at a bus auction in New Haven, Conn. Since then, the team has grown to six loosely related strangers. We’ve been frantically collecting visas, raising money for our charities, and figuring out how to ship the bus from the US to England. And now here we are in London, a little frazzled, slightly clueless, and extremely excited for what the future holds!
“Visit our website to track our progress on the journey that begins July 23rd from the Goodwood Motor Circuit in Chichester, England, and hopefully ends for us in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Feel free to donate to our worthy charities through our website as well: Room to Read, the Christina Noble Foundation, and Women in India, a non-profit co-founded recently by my mother. For now I am off to Chichester!”