It was a disorganised start. They always are. But this was worse than usual. The morning of our big trip to Mongol. The car had no dashboard, no tyres, and most of the interior still half ripped out. I had a hangover like never before, and only half a liver still functioning. I have no idea where Sam was. At the time I’m not even sure if I remembered who he was. Let’s not even talk about the packing.
Somehow, by the late afternoon, the dashboard was back on, the car had 4 new tyres, the rest of the interior either ripped out or put back (can’t remember, who cares), and some clothes were bundled into a rucksack. Most importantly of course, the ‘Big Beats’ were fully wired in, and we had bass. Some severely dubious (and possibly concerned) parents waved us off, and we blasted (relative term, 800cc 3 cylinder remember?) down the motorway to Goodwood for the official Mongol Rally start the next day.
The start was a humorous affair, and really allowed us to put into context how underprepared we were on every level. Not all the cars had been modified so to prepare them for the trials of the coming weeks in a mechanical sense, but most had had significantly more (read ‘any’) effort put into their general appearance and preparation. But hey, I was with my best mate, about to drive to Mongolia, and we had a Matiz, so who gives a fuck. Matiz’s trump anything (save perhaps the totally awesome Unimog, which was possibly the coolest thing ever). Roll on continental Europe.
We found ourselves in a queue to the Dover ferry next to another set of likely looking Mongol Rally participants. Undersized, underpowered, and very dodgy looking trim. Their car however was a wonderful machine, complete with chalkboard paint job, for all those useful notes you need to make while driving, and have the inclination to write it on the outside of your vehicle. It was commanded by Alex and Alex. More on these two reprobates later.
Our first couple of nights on the continent were spent in convoy with another couple of ralliers, and generally driving around, making a mischief of ourselves, and discovering that all the other drivers hated us. Obviously the jealously of seeing two young men in ownership of such a fine Matiz specimen drew scorn from driving past. It is generally thought unimaginable to own a car of such caliber and class as a Matiz unless you have just finished a long and distinguished career as a successful investment banker, and successfully divorced your equally successful wife, while retaining full ownership of the joint assets. Seeing us in that car undermined the system in which they believed.
We eventually arrived at the European start of the rally, and the full might of the Mongol Rally fleet was displayed in all it’s glory. It was frankly ridiculous. 50cc scooters. 125cc motorbikes. Cars with 3 wheels. Cars with 4 wheels. Cars with 6 wheels. Ambulances. Fire engines. The list goes on. It was a great occasion to wander through the fields of vehicles, and wonder at the vehicles in fields. Then there was a party. My memories fades from this point on…