We were in a tiny backwoods town in Russian. In less than a minute, everything had changed; our car was totaled, our spirits deflated, and our future looked bleak. We were no longer the Drama of Llama, but the Llama without Drama.
We were clueless as to where the road would lead next. Silently Norbert, Alex and I carried everything we had salvaged from our recently deceased car down a dark, unfamiliar street towards our “luxury” hotel. The emotional heaviness we felt was increased exponentially with every step as we carried chin high piles of camping gear, tents, sleeping bags, and other things that were valuable on the rally. My backpack never felt so heavy. There wasn’t a question of whether or not we were going to finish this adventure. The only question was HOW. Each overburdened step was a testament to that fact.
After checking in, we had a team discussion on our next move. We realized we had three options.
Option 1 – Buy a new car. That option quickly flew out the window once we found out that even a crappy car in Russia was upwards of 3 grand.
Option 2 – Take trains, buses, etc to Ulaanbaatar.
Option 3 – Go to the nearest town that the other teams were passing through and see if by some chance, there was extra room in any of the cars and perhaps hitch a ride.
The logical thing was to roll the dice, take option three, and see where the road led. We could at least get a ride over the border before our visas expired. So faster than you can say, “I’ve been a Russian celebrity for a day, now please get me out of here“, we jumped on a bus for a 14 hour ride to a border town that I can never remember the name of.
As it often happens when traveling, everything went from chaos to perfection. We had one of those extraordinary travel moments when everything in the universe conspires together and works out perfectly. As soon as we arrived, we met several of the rally teams convoying together, and they just happened (with a little rearranging and a lot of cramming) to have room for three extra people. Option 3, please! Norbert and Alex joined the ” Thunderyaks”, the most helpful badasses I’ve ever met.
Alex later joined the team from Denmark, appropriately nicknamed the “Great Danes”, also badasses. I joined the one and only “Cads and Bounders”.
Before we continue with this tale you’re probably wondering what the hell a Cad is, let alone a Bounder.
A Cad: An old English word for a man who takes a girl on a walk through a park and never talks to her again.
A Bounder: a man of objectionable social behavior.
Yep, I was now a social objectionable player.
So who are these international men of mystery? Let me introduce you to The Cads!
First you have Ash Thompson.
With his perfect, wavy, never washed hair. Seriously, he never washed his hair once during the entire rally. Plus, he was the only member of the team with a driver’s license. Yep, he agreed to do all the driving to Mongolia. (Once I joined the team I also drove)
For more on Ash watch his wonderful driving skills in the video below.
Next, you have Kevin Murphy.
I am convinced Kevin is one of the funniest people on the planet. Most people say he looks like Zach Galifianakis, others say Jack Black. I like the latter. Kevin’s job was twofold; making us laugh and taking pictures and video.
Last, but certainly not least, you have George Richardson.
Yes ladies he is a tall, handsome, well-spoken English man who speaks French fluently. (Get in line ladies – and the line seems to be rather long) George’s job was to pack the car every morning, cook, and try to translate our many misadventures.
Kevin and George also had extensive survival training as you can see from the video below.
Now you have to meet our trusty or untrusty steed, Victoria!
A Kia Picanto with an serious attitude problem. Ash added on a roof rack and a roof seat! Yes, you heard that right this little baby is rocking out a roof seat. The record holder for fastest speed while sitting in the roof seat I believe belongs to Kevin with an impressive speed of 73 mph.
Entertaining lot, no?
This was my team now. I must admit, I wasn’t nervous; although I probably should have been. I was now, once again, crammed into a tiny granny mobile with complete strangers that I may or may not get along with. To top it off, we still had a month to go! Eh, such is the life of travel!
When traveling long term, you learn quickly to roll with the punches and accept the situation. So committing to such a long journey with people I didn’t even know twelve hours, wasn’t really an issue. I was just happy to be in a car that was headed towards the finish line.
However, I soon realized just how special (I mean that in more than once since of the word) these guys were. Their charity was for Cancer research and this touching video shows how they raised money.
Don’t skip this video!
My first day as a Cad was a very long day on the road. At midnight, I realized it was officially birthday and upon hearing this, Ash pulled the car over. Unable to find candles and a cake in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan, this group of legends improvised. My cake was a gas station deformity that could barely pass as eatable let alone desert worthy and my candle was a cigarette that they lit while singing happy birthday to me. What a better way to start a new age!
Truthfully, these acts of kindness the other teams showed The Drama of Llama members defines the Mongol Rally. The true spirit of the Rally is about a bunch of strangers forming a ragtag family of wanderers that are devoting two grueling months while traveling one-third of the planet to support various charities, each team helping each other every step on this massive undertaking.
The only problem was the clutch cable and the fact that we did not have one. How could we make drive to Mongolia without a clutch? Well, that comes next week!
Stay tuned my friends; we are just touching the icing on the cake.