The Mongol Rally officially ended on 17th August with a celebration that Ulan Bataar will remember for a while to come – until the next time anyway.
And it was certainly worth celebrating in style. Described as “the greatest adventure in the world”, this is a race with many unexpected challenges. Obviously the goal is to get to the finish line – and in time for the party-of-all-parties, but to get there you have had to traverse very diverse terrains, cross many borders, some of these borders being the most difficult countries in the world at the moment, cope with breakdowns, dust, dirt, exhaustion, many different languages, hostility, over-friendliness… what else? You name it, these teams will have experienced it. And then, just when they spy Mongolia ahead of them, almost the worst challenge awaits. The Mongolian border is notoriously difficult to cross. At it’s fastest it takes around 8 to 12 hours and it is perfectly normal to stay overnight, often over the weekend (!) at the western border. One just has to remind oneself that this is part of being on the Mongol Rally… though if there is a party about to be missed it must have been extremely frustrating!
After a month of adventure 100 teams crossed the finish line 4 weeks after the start date, in time to enjoy the party which continued long into the night – in fact, seemingly it only came to an end at 5 in the morning when a rumour that the police were on their way brought it to a close.
In increasing states of inebbriation, the teams competed with each other as to who got the most lost, had the worst breakdown, paid the highest bribe, got stuck in the most sand, ran into the most camels etc. Things which, at the time, seemed like the end of the world became a source of amusement and teams who almost gave up on the trip swore they never doubted that they’d make it for a second.
This event is not a race and there are no winners and no losers, if fact the organisers (the Adventurists) are at pains to emphasise that no recognition is given to the first finisher. However, 6 teams were awarded prizes for being the most outstanding entrants of 2009. These prizes were, of course, accompanied with copious quantities of champagne and much bonhomie. Andrew Chisholm of Team XX then serenaded the crowd with bagpipes that he had carried all the way over thousands of miles for that satisfying moment of entertainment at the end.
Remember that the Mongol Rally is not all about a bunch of crazy idiots looking for some adventure in their lives (apologies to all you who I’ve, with poetic licence, called crazy idiots), but it is also about raising money for various Mongolian charities.
In keeping with this spirit, the party was kicked off with a speech by Mr. Zandanshatar, a Mongolian MP, who thanked the teams for their monumental efforts in raising money for the Mongolian charities and this was followed by representatives from CNCF, Mercy Corps and CYPPD, the 3 official Mongol Rally charities, giving a bit more information on what they do, and why the Mongol Rally is so important in keeping their projects up and running. The teams got to see first hand how their support helps as all the children from CNCF came along and put on a fantastic all-singing, all-dancing performance.
More teams have been arriving over the last few days having just missed the Finish Line festivities. But, happily for them, The Adventurists have promised that there will be plenty more parties to come…