*A 10,000-mile journey from London to Mongolia across hostile territory, desert and everything in between.

It all began so very innocently. My computer. A quest for adventure. And a bored Englishman. A rather combustible combination if I may say so myself. I yearned for an end to this pounding boredom. It really was excruciatingly depressing.

I began surfing the net looking for something exciting to fill my days. The Mongol Rally is what popped up. The perfect boredom crusher:

“10,000 miles of adventuring bliss through deserts, mountains and steppe tackled in a car your Granny would use for shopping. The Mongol Rally is hurling yourself at one-third of the Earth’s surface in woefully unsuitable vehicles to see what happens…”

Mongol Rally HQ

I had inadvertently stumbled across the holy grail of ‘boredom crushing’ adventures. What I didn’t realize was that this little escapade was ever so nearly going to be the end of me! But more on that later…

Mongol Rally - Destination
Mongol Rally – Destination by Julian Mason, on Flickr

There is an uncannily large amount of preparation involved when one intends crossing multiple borders and thousands of miles of barren territory. However, by far the most important accessary was the car, soon to be nicknamed ‘The Beast’. So. Off I went on a wild goose chase to find myself the crappiest car. The rules were very clear: your car must be crap. Under 1.2 liters in engine power to be precise. This should have been my first warning sign! But alas I was not listening…

The next accessory was to find a team mate equally as unhinged as myself. I found one. Fortunately for them they backed out at the last moment. Very wise indeed. I scrambled to find another unsuspecting recruit and find one I did. It wasn’t hard. I promised him adventure and glory. He took the bait. Steve still won’t talk to me…

Then came the visas. All six of them. (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Mongolia) Ultimately these visas ended up being as useful to me as an air-conditioning salesman in the deepest darkest Siberian tundra. But more on that later…

All that was left was to fly the friendly skies to England and begin the madness.

The first few days of the trip were somewhat uneventful. We travelled through England, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Belgium and Austria. No problems there. We were plodding along quite nicely thank you very much.

Our first sign of trouble began when Steve’s visa for Uzbekistan teetered on the brink of being denied. Denied visas are bad. Our second sign of trouble came as we drove out of the safety of Western Europe into the east.

The Beast
The Beast by pezz361356, on Flickr

It wasn’t the remnants of the Iron curtain that nearly did us in; it was in fact a simple street side burger. Yes a street side burger! A Slovakian burger to be precise. I fell ill with food poisoning and ended up in a Croatian motel room. Violently ill. After the sickness subsided we drove to Budapest, Hungary and met up with some fellow ralliers. These chaps were on a slight detour from everyone’s goal of reaching Mongolia: they were off to Chernobyl!

I warned you that we were a funny bunch.

The next day we made the exceedingly unwise decision of driving all the way to Moldova. Yes. Moldova. If you don’t know where Moldova is don’t worry, I don’t think even the Moldovans know. A 15-hour drive waited. So too did Romania…

The morning was brilliant, sunshine piercing through the curtains of our motel. Our epic drive began uneventfully. So far so good. Unfortunately, things would not be good for long. As we were driving on one of the highways in the sleepy town of Moldevece in Romania disaster struck. A black Volvo SUV careered onto the Highway from a side street and smashed our car into smithereens.

My life flashed before me.

It turned out that our new Romanian friend was going the wrong way on a one-way street and careered onto the highway. I remember a black wall approaching as I was sitting in the passenger side. He was heading straight for me. Death was close. Too close. Luckily the quick thinking of Steve meant the passenger side was spared but the car was wrecked. Our adventure was over. Or was it?

As we sat in the ruins a crowd of local townspeople surrounded us. Angels and a few troublemakers it seemed. The ambulance came. Then the police. The local drug dealer came. Everyone came it seemed. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a youngish chap smoking a joint. That didn’t necessarily bother me. What bothered me was that he flicked it at the oozing gas spilling out of the cars underbelly. Oozing gas. Lit joint. Another rather combustible combination. I quickly stepped on the joint and prayed that this nightmare would end. He winked at me. I winked back. He snarled. I backed down.

Still in shock I was taken to the local hospital in an aging ambulance. They took x rays and cleared me to continue. I was in perfect health it seemed. In fact I wasn’t. It turned out I had a cracked collarbone, but the Romanian x ray machine failed to detect that one…

As I lay in the hospital bed my dream of reaching Mongolia was in tatters. The car. Destroyed. Yes I was alive. But my spirit was broken, I had stared death in the face and I didn’t have the heart for the adventure anymore.

In the morning I decided to make the long trek back home, with my tail between my legs. My Mongol Rally adventure was over. I would not be marching proudly through the gates of Genghis Khans great empire. Instead I would be returning to Los Angeles, ego deflated.

As I landed in America I made a vow. Next year it was going to be different. Next year I was going to make it through the great Gobi desert and reach my goal: The Mongolian Capital of Ulaanbaatar. Next year was going to be my year. Next year I would make this right. Next year.

Of course I would be bypassing Romania…

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Leon Logothetis

Leon Logothetis is a global adventurer. He has visited more than 50 countries and traveled to every continent. He is the host of the TV series 'Amazing Adventures Of A Nobody', which is broadcast across the world by National Geographic and, over the course of three seasons, sees Leon cross America, the United Kingdom and Europe on just $5, 5 Pounds, and 5 Euros a day respectively. Leon has also documented his travels for numerous media outlets including Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Outside, Good, Psychology Today, and 90 Mins. His new book, Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, is in stores now. For more info visit Leon Logothetis
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