Driving thousands of kilometres in an old banger through inhospitable territory. And hoping to get lost. That’s the plan for next summer for Jeroen Baardolf, Master’s student of Molecular Life Sciences and three of his friends. ‘We quite often do shit not a lot of people do.’
Jeroen Baardolf, Bart Letitre, Stan de Weert and Wesley van Beek are fond of adventure. In July they will be taking part in the Mongol Rally, a road trip to Mongolia. The car rally is run every year in aid of charity. On the journey the lads will be pretty much on their own: there are no support teams and the car they use has to be small, old and battered. It is not for nothing that the rally’s motto is: ‘if nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong.’ ‘We don’t have any navigation system or road maps,’ says Jeroen. ‘We just write the names of all the major cities on a piece of A4 and set off. Hopefully local people will help us find our way.’ The route the four have sort of mapped out goes through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Jeroen jokes: ‘We count on a 75 percent survival rate. And the car will probably break down in Germany.’ This will not be the ex-Thymos board member’s first rally. In 2013, he and two friends took part in the Put Foot Rally, a car rally through South Africa. Jeroen: ‘That was really cool. I wanted to do something like that again, but crazier. I ended up with this idea.’ Three fraternity mates from Ceres were in for the trip. ‘We quite often do shit not a lot of people do. We nicked a painting from KSV, for instance, and took it to Spain. We all love travelling and going beyond our comfort zone. We are a bunch of idiots in search of adventure.’
Money is the biggest challenge. Not only do they need funding for their own survival, but the rally participants are also required to raise money for charity. The gentle wolves, as the gentlemen call themselves, are collecting money for Doctors without Borders. ‘We think they do good work and we saw a nice similarity: we are crossing borders too.’ They are trying to attract attention to their adventure through Facebook in order to raise as much sponsorship funding as possible from friends and family. The lads are putting aside 200 euros every month for fuel, accommodation, food and unexpected expenses. They expect to be away for six weeks. They think they will see a lot of beautiful things: mountainous landscapes, deserts, and the gorgeous palaces of former communist leaders. They hope to sleep in traditional Mongolian huts, ‘and in Kazakstan cannabis grows everywhere, apparently’. They are not afraid, except of IS. ‘That IS shit is not chill. We’ll see on the spot what is safe and we might change our route.’ At the moment the four are working hard on tracking down a suitable car. It has got to be as cheap as possible and must not be too powerful (‘we have a Renault 4 in mind’). They need to get visas too and they are learning a few words of Russian so they can have a drink with the Russians. Jeroen: ‘It is difficult to prepare because you don’t know what to expect. But it would be a bit strange to prepare super-seriously for a trip with the motto of this one. In any case, we are having a great time in the run-up to it. Almost as much fun as the rally itself, which will be the strangest adventure ever.’
The Mongol Rally is a car trip from London to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Navigation equipment is not allowed, there is no support team and the organization wants to see small, old cars on the starting line. The point is to complete the race, rather than to be the first in Ulaanbaatar. The participants are required to raise funds for charity. Hundreds of teams take part every year.
More info: www.theadventurists.com/mongol-rally
Follow these guys on www.facebook.com/volgthegentlewolves