It’s been described as the mother of all adventures – travelling a third of the earth in a tiny car you nicked from your gran.
The annual Mongol Rally is an adventure that will see Tauranga’s Simon Dawson and Mat Still head off from England on July 15, driving 16,000km across Europe and Central Asia to cross the finish line just over the Mongolian border 60 days later.
Their journey will take them through countries such as Iran and Uzbekistan and up over treacherous, 4500m mountains on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.
Apart from being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a hell of a lot of fun, the men are doing it for a special woman in their lives - Simon’s sister and Mat’s wife Renee.
Renee has Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect and inflame anywhere along the digestive tract, from your mouth to the anus. She has been affected by it for more than 17 years, enduring agonising pain, fatigue, constant medical attention and numerous side effects, one of which is needing to use the toilet often.
In honour of this particular side effect, Simon and Mat have named their team ‘Loodicrous Racing’, with a man driving on a toilet as their logo.
The pair have a fundraising goal of $10,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand, which supports families through support services, patient education, professional education and patients’ rights advocacy.
Since 2015, the organisation has held summer camps for children and teenagers which costs about $70,000 a year.
Some of the funds will also go the Mongol Rally charity Cool Earth, which works to protect endangered rainforests.
The trip has been a year in the planning, including swotting up on the experiences of past entrants, applying for visas (seven are needed in total) and finding a suitable car. The rules stipulate the car can be no more than a 1.2L engine and the more of a wreck it is, the better.
A third team member, Luke Price, will join them for a few weeks and is currently trying to source a suitable vehicle in England.
“The intention is you will probably break down and need to interact with the locals along the way, making it more interesting than just driving and sticking to yourselves,” says Simon.
“Yeah, it won’t be a Range Rover. It’s looking more like a Toyota Yarris,” says Mat, who will be the mechanic on the trip.
“I’m not a mechanic, but I’ve got an engineering background. There’ll be plenty of zip tie, wire and duct tape repairs I’m sure.”
The pair have travelled in Europe before, but Central Asia will be a new experience.
“The ‘stans [Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan] get a bad rap, but I think they will be a lot better than the perception of them,” says Mat.
“Oxygen is going to be at a minimum on the Pamir Highway at 4500m, so we may face altitude sickness and the car not working, but the scenery is meant to be amazing” says Simon.
The trip will include some sleeping in tents and cooking on the side of the road.
“We can put some baked beans on the cooker, or eat them cold if we have to,” says Mat.
Simon and Mat have so far gained sponsorship for about a third of the trip, which is costing about $15,000 each, as well as the two-to-three months they will have off work.
To find out more about Simon and Mat’s trip, including how to become a sponsor or make a donation to their chosen charity, visit: www.loodicrousracing.com
You can also follow their rally from July 15 on Facebook and Instagram.