By Nelson Groom
Three best friends have taken on a 12,500 mile rally through the wilds of Mongolia, Georgia, Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan without technology – in a £400 Nissan Micra.
Aussie trio Brady Monoghan, 21, Hamish Williams, 21, and Adam Chappell, 22, all from Adelaide, crammed themselves into the car to embark on the infamous 20,000km Mongol Rally in July.
They drove through 30 nations from Britain to Mongolia – facing volcanoes, lakes, mountain ranges and deserts – without any set route before finishing their epic journey earlier this month.
The pals said the challenges were plentiful – with keeping the car alive foremost as they battled the elements, fear and even being robbed in Iran as their friendship was tested to near breaking point.
Barista Brady said: “It was hard spending so long in a cramped car. We’re all such great friends, but tensions sometimes ran high.
“Hamish called me one day and basically asked ‘You up for doing something stupid’?”
“After convincing Adam to tag along, we set about mapping our path.
“We understood that we had to get from England to Mongolia, in a car that shouldn’t make it. We knew it would be tough.
“The rest we were oblivious to. We’re all relatively seasoned travellers, but none of us have ever tested ourselves like this. It’s on another level.
“To start with we blew up our engine in Germany, leaving us at the start-line without a car.”
The Australians, who did an extra leg from London to the official starting line in Prague, then crossed the rugged mountains and deserts of Europe and Asia and obeyed the strict rules of no backup, no support and no set route.
Despite the inexorable breakdowns – both mental and motoring – the pals managed to tow their obliterated shell of a car the last 622 miles [1,000km] to the finish line in Ulan-Ude on September 7.
And if things weren’t going well before the start line, they took a definitive turn for the worse in Iran when the intrepid adventurers crashed the car before being robbed the following morning.
Brady said: “In Iran we hit a pothole and skidded over the shoulder onto the next road, losing control of the car.
“Adam did his best to correct us, but we were at 80km/h with the car skidding out of control.
“The car won and we slammed into a single concrete divider, caving in our back right door, tyre and rim.
“Still with momentum we somehow bounced off the divider, and stopped the car facing traffic.
“As the dust settled, it became apparent that we weren’t the only ones on the road.
“The Iranian police were driving right behind us, witnessing the entire thing.”
“The next day we got to the car and It quickly became apparent something wasn’t right.
“The key didn’t work in the car anymore. The car was already unlocked at that. The boot was somewhat open.
“We’d been robbed.
“Hamish’s entire travel bag was taken; clothes, his camera, camping equipment and other items.
“My camera bag was taken as well, which had all the adapters, chargers and of course his camera in it.
“We spent the entire day with Iranian officers filing a report and sitting on our anger over the situation.”
If that wasn’t tough enough, the rules keep the race as challenging as possible; each team must run on an engine of 1 litre or less, travel alone using their own route, and raise at least £1,000 for charity.
The mates, who dubbed themselves the ‘The UlaanB**stards’, raised £2,200 [$4000 AUD] for humanitarian charity Rotary International but it all threatened to end short of their final destination as in Mongolia the vehicle began to fall apart and they were forced to pool together the last of their money to reach the journey’s end.
Brady said: “The car was slowly falling apart, we could feel it… we had to drive with a broken crossbar.
“As the sun sets, a small yurt makes itself known in the distance, and we speed towards, hoping it can help our however necessary.
“As we roll up, a man walks out of the yurt and almost yelps in surprise, it’s not every day you’d have a beaten up Nissan Micra rock up at your front door, with three western males inside it.
“The nomad and his family; a wife and baby, invite us into their yurt and the man scurried around, looking for things to fix the crossbar as the wife hands us small bits of Mongolian cheese; smelly, salty and sour.
“Eventually the nomad comes back with a metal rod and a long rope, which he then ties with the strength of a weightlifter to the underside of the car.
“We thank the nomad and limp off back to the main highway, down on petrol and we were still a long way from any town. There’s nothing scarier than that fear, especially knowing how far away civilisation was.”
The car did eventually give out 1,000km from their final destination but ever determined the team got a tow to the finish, somehow smiling all the way.
“As everything added up the trip became more ridiculous, and our overall attitude a lot more carefree.
“Finishing was a mixed feeling of satisfaction, sadness and disbelief. We’d pushed so hard to get to that point that it almost didn’t feel real.”
FACTBOX: THE ULAANB**STARDS’ MONGOL RALLY ROUTE
(RALLY STARTING LINE)
• Czech Republic