Mongol Rally, Day 34: At road's end, life is sweet, memory short - Leon Logothetis

August 17, 2012

Mongol Rally, Day 34: At road’s end, life is sweet, memory short

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” –Frank A. Clark

As Steve Priovolos and I started our final drive into Ulan Bator, Mongolia, I was again reminded why the Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip that began July 14 in Britain and ends here, is not for the faint of heart.

The terrain and the sheer magnitude of the task unfolded every day before our eyes. If it’s not corrupt policemen trying to hamper the journey, it’s the potholed roads. There was always something.

On Friday it was the overheating engine and a pesky river that stood in the way of our getting to Ulan Bator and finally a good night’s sleep.

The engine in our Daihatsu has been overheating the past 1,000 miles. It finally had enough and stopped. We were so close! Our trick of driving 20 minutes then resting for five had run its course.

But we were not going to fail, not now. We took out the cooking gas and made ourselves a bowl of pasta in the scorching heat. If we left the car for an hour to recalibrate all would work itself out, we were certain.

The pasta was good. That the car eventually restarted was better. The high was short-lived, though, because we were soon faced with the river crossing from hell. The river was at least 3 feet deep. We searched for another way. There was no other way.

We braced ourselves and we drove into the river. We thought we might end up downstream, but somehow we made it to the other side.

The path to our victory dance was wide open now. All we had to do was drive and hope for no more rivers, potholes, overheating troubles or stray asteroids.

Soon we came to a paved road. I know. I couldn’t believe it either. We asked a local, and this road was supposed to lead us all the way to the center of Ulan Bator. Unbelievably, it did.

We arrived in the capital without a hitch (several thousand of them now safely behind us). The emotional toll of the past five weeks was forgotten in an instant as we crossed the finish line.