DRIVING across 20 countries might seem challenging for some. Despite the hardships, four Malaysians did it for charity and had a whole lot of fun in the process.
It was a simple idea that turned into an adventure of a lifetime when Reuben Chan told his friends and family about a Mongol rally to help raise funds for charity.
“All four of us have one thing in common; we love a great adventure and this seemed crazy enough.
“We are used to backpacking through different countries but driving a car across national borders is entirely different.
“The knowledge that no Malaysians have done it yet and the thought of being the first got us even more excited,” he said, adding that they hope to inspire more to follow in their footsteps.
Hosted by The Adventurists, an organisation that runs several extreme activities, Mongol Rally is a charity event that has been organised yearly since 2004.
It required participants to drive 17,000km unsupported, in a car below 1.2cc and raise RM5,064 or 1,000 Euros with the aim of spreading awareness on urgent global and social issues.
The organisation also runs several other extreme activities such as the Mongol Derby – a 1,000km horse ride through Genghis Khan’s legendary empire; the Ngawala Cup – sailing across the Indian Ocean with a dugout canoe made from a mango tree and the Icarus Trophy – para-motoring 1,600km across the sky unsupported.
“We raised the money by promoting the New Zealand Spark Charity website via social media. Most of our friends and family were very supportive of our decision to travel halfway round the world in a tiny vehicle.
“Half of the money we raised will be channelled towards rainforest conservation and the other half will go to a local charity called Harap Foundation.
Together with his brother, Rufus and two friends Shanker Supramaniam and Ng Aik Fei, they started their journey from London and then took a ferry to France before driving to Belgium.
Then they headed north to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Munich, Germany; and stopped at Prague, Czech Republic, where the first checkpoint was.
After a break, they headed south to Austria and Greece and then passed through Turkey and Iran and finally across Central Asia to Siberia, Russia.
They took 40 days to complete the journey.
“We faced a lot of challenges such as getting lost as many roads in Mongolia do not appear on Google map.
“Finding food and water was challenging and we had to stock up at least three days’ worth of supplies as most of the small towns on our route did not have grocery stores. We also punctured our fuel tank due to the rough terrain and almost ran out of petrol in the middle of the Mongolia desert,” he said.
“Communicating with the locals was difficult and we also got pulled over by police several times as each country had their own driving laws.
“Some required us to carry a fire extinguisher in the car while in others, we had to keep our headlights on during the day.
“We could even get fined if we did not keep our car clean in one country,” added Reuben.
The entire journey had its fair share of memorable and terrifying incidents.
“Our most memorable experience was being denied entry at the Turkmenistan border as it was closing so we could not go back to Iran as our visa had expired.
“We were stranded in “no man’s land” with snipers watching us from the border control tower.
“We had no choice but to set up camp and hope everything went smoothly the next day.
“Thankfully, the Iranian guards were very friendly and offered us food and water. We ended up having a great night there exchanging stories despite their limited English,” he said.
The group also had several opportunities to experience the kindness of strangers with several locals inviting them to stay in their houses.
“We are relieved to have made it to the finish line as the car engine was close to dying.
“Looking at the photos now really brings back fond memories of that time,” said Reuben.