The Mongol Rally Is a Guaranteed (But Super-Fun) Disaster
How about this for a vacation idea? Fly to Europe, buy a beat-up clunker, then try to make it from England to Mongolia in one piece. There’s no official route and no official rulebook. Photographer Drew Gurian and his brother, Scott, did just that this summer as participants in the Adventurists’ Mongol Rally. They bought 990ML 60-horsepower Nissan Micras, and after 53 days, 18 countries, a couple broken axles, and an emergency extraction, they crossed the finish line. We talked to to the New York City–based photographer about some of his most memorable times on the road.
Photo: Every day brought a different hole that we needed to be pulled out of. Here, our friends and adventure mates Rosi Moore-Fiander and Jane Box help us out of a crossing that proved too deep.
The night before the race, the Adventurists hosted a send-off party near the starting line at the Goodwood Racecourse, a few hours south of London.
The next morning, the field, which included roughly 300 vehicles and 1,000 participants, gathered on the racetrack for a full lap before departing for Mongolia.
The Transfăgărășan Highway in Romania was an early highlight. This stretch was named the best road in the world by the TV show Top Gear.
We had to carry jerrycans on our roofs because we were often in incredibly remote areas with no gas stations for miles, and some countries we traveled through had really poor-quality gas. It was sometimes leaded, which could have burned out our catalytic convertor.
One of the walls surrounding the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran.
The “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan. This is a former Soviet natural gas field that collapsed in 1971. Geologists lit in on fire, apparently thinking it would burn out in a few days, but it’s been burning ever since. It was one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever encountered.
The craterlike hole is about 200 feet across. Its massive scale and desert remoteness add to its surreal quality.
On the way out of Turkmenistan, we managed to not only blow our head gasket but also bust a hole in our radiator. Luckily, we found some amazing locals to help us out with the radiator. But we had no time to get the head gasket fixed since our visas were expiring, so we got a tow across the border into Uzbekistan.
You don’t miss much driving, and looking out the window was a constant draw. Here, a woman in a traditional Turkem dress.