It’s a surreal moment, standing in the valley below Klenova Castle, and looking up at a sign that says ‘Mongol Rally’. It’s the moment when I realize that this is all real. That after months of planning, worrying, and stress, I am here. I am doing the Mongol Rally. This is no longer one of my many pipe dreams. Wow.
Our drive from Prague to Klenova was fairly uneventful – even though we were still feeling the stress from earlier in the day – and once our car was parked, Charlie and I went about pitching out tent, and placing the sponsor stickers on our car.
Then, well, the rest of the day felt rather anti-climatic. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Teams were arriving throughout the day, but none of them wanted to park down by us – we showered, what the hell was their problem?! Charlie and I spent the afternoon hiding in the car from the rain, walking up the road to check-out the other teams, and hanging out with the Spanish/Italian team across from us.
When it came time to crawl into the tent and call it a night, I thought I was good to go. I had a sleeping mat from Thermarest, my Maasai blanket, and a camp pillow – I was also wearing like 4-5 layers of clothing – but I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. It was cold. Teeth chattering, bone-chilling, cold. I spend the majority of the night trying to find a sleeping position in which I could generate more body heat, but all of my attempts failed. By 4 a.m., I was in the passenger seat of our car, reclined, slightly warmer, and slowly nodding off to sleep.
I know, I should have brought something warmer. How on earth could I have messed up on this?! I assure you, when we roll in Istanbul in a week, I’ll be buying a warm blanket!
Our second day at Klenova was a definite improvement. It was the day of the Festival of Slow (where all the teams present their cars) and Czech Out (the best party of the Mongol Rally). Yes, the Mongol Rally is even more real now.
Cueing up to present our car was exciting, and a tad stressful. It was only our second day, and driving stick was still relatively new; plus we had to constantly start and stop on a hill. Needless to say, the car stalled, the tires screeched, and we almost rolled backwards into a fire truck, BUT in the end Charlie prevailed, and we drove onto the stage to introduce out team, and have our photo taken.
It was an afternoon filled with laughter as Buddy (Jonathan Hunt) ribbed and teased teams for being unprepared, too prepared, too weird, and everything in between. We laughed, I’m sure someone cried, and when the festival of slow was over we walked away with a sense of camaraderie and excitement, mixed with a wee bit of mental instability; all the things needed for a successful rally across 1/3 of the world.
As I write this I’m still not sure how this all came to be. How I ended up here, in the place, about to take on one of the world’s craziest adventures. Yet, here I am. I’ve made it to Prague. I’m with Charlie. We have a car. This is the beginning of the most intense 6 weeks of my life, and I hope to you know who that I make to Ulaan Bataar with a smile on my face, all my body parts intact, and a desire to do it all over again! Let the Mongol Rally Begin!