Report #2 from the Road: The Mongol Rally

Peterson '12 at the wheel in Turkey

When Casey Peterson ’12 and her merry band of adventurers last checked in with Middlebury Magazine, they were setting off on a 10,000-mile journey from London to Mongolia in a short yellow school bus — all to raise money for underprivileged children and women in Asia.

In her latest dispatch (below), we find Peterson and Co. passing through Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro. And today, August 5, if you consult her website, you’ll see that the group is passing between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in Georgia.

They have traveled about 4,000 miles in 14 days as one of the 306 teams participating in the 2011 Mongol Rally. The idea isn’t to be the first team to arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, but to raise money for Central Asian nations and have a great time doing it. Or, as the organizers say, the Mongol Rally is about “getting stuck, lost and in trouble, then finding your way out armed with just your wits. It’s about setting forth to tackle 1/3 of the surface of the Earth; unprepared, ill-advised and with no idea of what might happen. What you generally find is a whole giant heap of adventure.”

So with that in mind, here’s what one Middlebury senior is experiencing this summer:

“It felt a little ironic driving into economically-challenged Greece last weekend in our short American school dubbed 2Big2Fail. But as usual, we received nothing but smiles, laughs, waves, and blank stares as we drove towards our destination for the night, the coastal town of Thessaloniki. I never realized how novel a yellow school bus would be in Europe, since I had grown up riding them all my life. But I must say, out of context our bus elicits some amazing responses.

“Here’s just one example. Upon entering Serbia on Saturday, we began to hear a strange noise coming from our left rear wheel. We were gratefully directed to a bus mechanic (‘Autoprevoz Janjusevic’) just past the border that resembled a Soviet-era graveyard for derelict coaches. Three slightly confused mechanics greeted us with the little English they knew. Luckily, we had just picked up our sixth team member in Bosnia who speaks Serbo-Croatian, and he was able to explain the issue at hand. It turned out the lug nuts had worn away at the wheel and could no longer stay snug. After an hour of labor changing and checking our tires, the manager refused payment. We offered him a bottle wine, which he reluctantly took, only to repay us with a bottle of homemade plum liquor he distilled at home. We then gave him a mango from one of our team members’ backyard garden in Miami, which prompted the lead mechanic to fetch fresh tomatoes and peppers from his garden next door. Having nothing more to give, we said our goodbyes with utmost gratitude and drove away with smiles on our faces and what we hoped was a sturdy bus.

“From there, the plan was to drive straight into Kosovo. However, due to recent border skirmishes, we rerouted ourselves through Montenegro first, which led us onto a rather tedious mountain pass during sunset. We were all relieved and dare I say surprised to see our bus make the journey and live up to its name; it is indeed too big to fail.”




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