Perth lad Trent Adams is gearing up to drive a very tiny car through a very difficult route next month to raise money for two important charities.
Trent, his sister Loren and his best mate Kam make up a trio called the Machaniacs who will be driving from the UK to Mongolia as part of the Mongol Rally, an event run by UK based charity organisation The Adventurists.
This will be the 10th year for the rally and this year it includes 279 cars that will make their way across the continent to Mongolia. Geographically speaking that means a distance of approximately 10 000 miles and visiting countries such as Iran, Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan.
Then there are the cars, the rules state that participants must drive cars that have no more than a 1.2 litre engine. For us non motorist folk that’s the equivalent of a teeny tiny Nissan Micra.
Starting on the 13 July the rally will take between three and six weeks to complete and ends in the Mongolian Capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Not satisfied with the already challenging journey, Trent and the team will also be attempting the return journey, leaving them on the road for around three months.
I caught up with him to see how his preparations are getting on:
What was the inspiration for undertaking the rally?
I was headed down the path of buying a house. I had a block lined up, I was meeting with builders and then it hit me, I don’t want to live in the ‘burbs and have a mortgage! The boredom of that would kill me! So I pulled the pin on that idea and decided I would spend my money travelling instead, although I had no idea where I wanted to go.
One day my sister Loren rang up and mentioned the Mongol rally. It was the first I’d heard of the event but she pitched the idea well. I’m a big fan of road trips so for me it sounded like the ideal holiday.
What preparations have you done?
I have learnt basic Russian so I know the alphabet and a few basic sentence structures. I’m hoping this will be enough to allow me to phonetically understand street signs and that will get me through. We haven’t put much preparation into learning about the countries we are going through. We will only be in most countries for a couple of days… winging it is all part of the adventure!
Most of the preparation for the trip has been to do with planning the route, planning what dates we expect to get to certain countries, getting the visas and trying to sort out the car. It’s obviously a pretty long drive so we are still busily trying to sort out what parts we will need to replace before we leave, where we can work on the car, what parts we need to take with us and what tools we need to get us out of trouble.
What visa hurdles have you jumped over and how did you get around them?
The visa hurdles are ongoing and the whole process is a nightmare. It’s compounded by the fact there are a lot of visas to get for a trip like this and some of the countries aren’t too focused on tourism so the application process can be difficult. We have a 3rd party company assisting us with the visas but it is still a total pain in the arse!
Firstly, for some countries we need a letter of invitation before the visa process can begin. In most cases being part of the rally helps to get us these invitations and having the 3rd party company act on our behalf helps further as they are familiar with the process. But it makes the application process quite time consuming and adds expense.
Secondly, the timeline of visa applications has been difficult. For some counties a visa can only be applied for a certain amount of time before entry and with so many visas to apply for, this can be hard to manage. In some ways, this restricts the trip and dictates how much time we can spend it certain countries.
The biggest issue I am facing at the moment is that while my Russian visa has been approved to be processed, there isn’t enough time to get my passport back to before my flight! I guess we’ll be playing that one by ear for a while longer.
There are also some political issues facing our visa applications. Some countries are a little more unstable than others. Iran for example will be going through an election around the time we enter the country. As a result they won’t process our visa application if we are unescorted, so at the last minute we’ve had to tee up an escort at a considerable expense. Turkey may also be an issue at this stage so we’ll have to see how that pans out.
I could go on all day about visa issues. I guess I’m just hoping a combination of good luck, flexible route planning and bribery will get us across the line.
What are some of the problems you are anticipating?
Breakdowns will be common. Getting bogged will be common. In fact, we have one donor that will be basing his contribution on how many times we get stuck. The car we are driving is not the most suitable for a trip like this but that is all part of the adventure. Kam and I have a lot of 4×4 experience so I think we will be able to get our way out of most of these situations eventually. The advantage of the rally is that we should be able to tee up a convoy through most of the journey so we should have a bit of support if we get stuck.
The language barrier will probably be an issue, but there’s not much that we can do about that given the time constraints. I think we will take some PDF phrase books for as many of the countries as possible.
Differing cultures, political instability and corruption could be an issue. There are several places we are headed to that aren’t exactly tourist hot-spots and there may be some places where the locals have an issue with westerners. There are a few cultures/religions where Loren will have to be cautious about what she says and how she acts. There may be some border crossings that don’t go to plan, even if we do have all the paperwork in order. There may even be some countries where violence breaks out for whatever reason. We can’t control all these things, all we can do is go into this adventure aware of what could happen and be flexible enough to deal with any problems that arise.
The three of us in a tiny little car for such a long time might also prove to be an issue. There will undoubtedly be a couple of arguments but as long as we all show a little respect for one another I’m sure we’ll get through it. The plan is to put some sort of team structure and rules in place to ensure arguments are kept to a minimum.
Why did you choose your charities ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Cool Earth?
The rally is organised by the Adventurists. Each year they nominate a charity and a certain amount of proceeds from each team entered goes towards that charity. This year they have nominated Cool Earth so every team will be allocating funds towards this cause.
ME/CFS as our second charity was driven by Loren. A couple of years ago she was diagnosed with CFS and foundations like this were obviously a big help for her. Now is our chance to show our thanks for that and send a bit of money their way.
What fundraising have you done and how far are you away from your goal?
Fundraising can be a bit of a nightmare because everyone seems to be raising money for something these days. We had a lot of grand plans at the start but a lot of them didn’t eventuate because other jobs got in the way. The most successful avenues for fundraising for us have been:
We have held 3 sausage sizzles. The first one we had was at the Good Guys and there was another one right next door so we really didn’t do that well at all. I think we made about $30 for the day! We arranged another sizzle at Cash and Carry. We had to provide everything (i.e. the BBQ, tables, awning for shade) but that was much more successful.
We have 2 small raffles on the go. One is for a beauty therapy package which mum has been responsible for. We should make $500-$1000 from this raffle. The other raffle is for an iPad, camera and speaker which I’ve been trying to organise. I think if we were better organised we could have had some prizes donated, however we weren’t so in the end we had had to pay for the prizes and that will eat into our end profit. We still hope to make about $1500 from this raffle.
Through word of mouth, twitter, facebook, pinterest and the website we have received a fair few donations. When people learn about what we are doing they are usually pretty happy to support our cause.
As the start date approaches it is getting harder to find the time to get everything done. All three of us work full time and things like website development, purchasing a car from the other side of the world and sorting visas have consumed far more time than expected. Originally, we had hoped to raise $20K minimum but I don’t think we’ll be raising anywhere near the money we had originally hoped. At this stage I’m not even sure that we’ll reach $10K.
Why are you attempting the return journey as well?
When we were trying to plan a route it was evident that we wanted to see too much to fit into a six week period. We originally planned a route that still encompassed most of these counties, zig-zagging our way east, but it meant that we would no longer be part of a convoy and we would miss the finishing party for the rally. What is the point of entering in a rally if you’re not actually going to socialise with fellow ralliers or attend the rally functions?
So we decided that the best way to see everything was to do the return trip as well. The southern route is the one we expect to be the riskiest and therefore we decided would do that as part of the official rally so we have support from fellow ralliers if we get stuck. The Northern route should be a little safer, with better roads so we will do that for the return trip. We will be completely unsupported for the return leg but at least this way we get to see more of the world.
What are you most looking forward to?
There should be a lot of highlights. I’m particularly looking forward to the cheap women I’ve heard you can find in eastern Europe, eating a yak and drinking home distilled spirits in country towns with local farmers!
But seriously, we are headed through a lot of out-of-the-way countries which I’m hoping are relatively untouched by the western world. I am less interested in the cities and monuments and more interested in the locals and landscapes we might find off the beaten track. In particular, I think the mountains throughout the stan-lands should be a highlight and I’m just hoping that we have enough time to check them out a little and not just blast straight through them.
For more information about the Machaniacs or to donate to their great cause visit the Machaniacs website. ( it is also good for a giggle!).
A big thank you to the Adventurists who allowed us to use some of their amazing photos from previous Mongol Rallies. You can visit the Adventurists website for more information about participating in the Mongol Rally or any of their other wacky adventures.