It all started around Christmas. Daniel showed up one night with the idea. He tells me: “What are your plans for the summer?” “…no plans” I replied, “Then check this out” and he shows me the Mongol Rally video. We both got so excited! This was way too crazy…
The first problem though was to convince our girlfriends. In the beginning they thought it was funny, but when they realized we were really going for it, they were not very pleased. This meant no summer vacations together- all the days of our summer leave would be spent for the Rally. I started working overtime…
However, we still missed a third teammate. You see, 12.000 km with two people is tricky – you never know how it is going to turn out. 12.000 km with four people in such a small car is definitely not a good idea. So, we decided that the ideal number of candidates was 3.
We talked about it with a lot of people who liked the idea, but liking the idea is far from actually deciding to do it. There was only one person who kept asking about our progress and if we found the third person. Even though he was not sure he could do it, due to his master degree obligations, he seemed to dig it a lot. So, one day he shows up and says: “The hell with it! This is an once in a lifetime opportunity. I am coming with you!” This was our way of thinking as well, so we clicked.
We were 27 years old. We had started making our own money. No kids to leave behind and just before this point in your life where things ‘start to get serious’. So we thought: this is it. It’s now or never.
For months, we spent most of our time dawdling over videos and articles about the Rally and did practically nothing regarding actual preparations. And then came April. And with April came the realization. We either had to do something immediately or there was no way we could make it. We didn’t have a car, we hadn’t concluded on which countries to cross, we hadn’t even announced it to our bosses. Pure panic. We started gathering every night. We made a presentation of who we were and what we planned to do and sent it to car manufacturers, asking them to grant us with a car. George went to an auto show and gathered as many contacts as possible. We talked with the headquarters of huge manufacturers in Japan and Germany. We picked the route, completed dozens of forms and passed our passports to an office in order to proceed the visas. 7 visas needed for this trip. We contacted some rally veterans that had done this in the past and got some information. We also contacted some teams that were planning it for this year and every time we were 10 steps behind them. The deadline for the applications was just around the corner, and we didn’t even have a car; basic precondition to register for the Rally! By then, we were in discussions with two manufacturers, but these corporates need time to move things around. So, we pushed them, asking a final confirmation ‘by Friday’. And of course it didn’t happen.
What happened is that we got alerted – once more.
We started looking at car ads here, but also in nearby countries. We asked everywhere. Friends of ours offered their cars, others gave us advice on how to choose one. It was impressive. We saw plenty of cars within a week. If one of us found something that would do, the others would go and check it as well. And all of this, at the same time as work, studies, PhD’s – pure madness. We got very close to buying a car and just when I was ready to go and pay for it, my phone started ringing. It was Daniel, saying: “No matter what happens, don’t give that money for that car. I talked to an engineer and he said this car has problems with the electrics”. The last thing you need in this rally, is electrics problems. Because if something happens to the mechanics of a car, you might be able to find someone to fix it. If something happens to the electrics, you are by yourself.
I lost control at that point. I thought ‘No way can we make it. That’s it’.
But Daniel had already found what we wanted in a city nearby. He told me to take the train and join him. I went heavy-hearted, but it turned out this was our car! We booked it right away.
And the madness went on. Insurance, payments, etc. We managed to register one day after the oficial deadline. Probably we were the last ones. And then we spent that weekend in total agony waiting to see our team’s name on the list of participants.
The name… What a long story! Thousands of ideas, thousands of back and forth’s.
But now that we registered, there was no turning back.
We started looking for sponsors, we created a website, I even flew to Amsterdam to meet the organizers and the other teams, exchange ideas and get the stickers for the car.
The first photo shoots came, the first lists, the first rejections.
We all went crazy.
“We got the Visa for Kazakhstan!”
“They are writing an article about us!”
“Did you send the papers?”
It was a difficult time for the team, but an essential one as well. A real crash test.
We still have 20 days to go, Nissan is our sponsor now, many companies support us in kind (like free cameras), and we have even raised our first money and made agreements with important media sponsors.
“Did you hear about what’s happening in Iraq?”, “Did the Visa issue procedure change for Mongolia?”, “How many extra tires are you getting?” and so on.
There is no time not event to think.
We only dream of deserts and open roads now.
Our dreams go hand-in-hand with our fears.
We just wait to see who wins in the end…