Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clan and van: The South Afristans give it horns in Mongol Rally

The South Afristans, a team of four brave South Africans, are on the adventure of a lifetime, driving a 20-year-old van named STAN 15,000km from London to Mongolia over four to six weeks.

JP Hunt, Jessica Morgan, Susanne Ostermann and Richard Montajoie have been on the road now for two weeks as part of the famous Mongol Rally, to raise funds for SA charity The Gumboots Foundation.

For travellers with a passion for extreme challenges, the Mongol Rally is ideal as it takes participants across some of the most remarkable and difficult terrain in the world. For the South African team this challenge fits perfectly with their philosophy of exploring and discovering the world; following the road less travelled; and, experiencing the richness and diversity of places, people and cultures in as many countries as possible. They have planned a route through 21 different countries and have just reached country number 16.

The South Afristans joined more than 200 teams that left Battersea Park, London on 20 July.

Just over 800 amateur adventurers in 248 teams from more than 30 different countries are taking on the unsupported overland trek across a third of the planet to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

The rules of the rally are simple. Vehicles must be inappropriately small and unsuitable with an engine size of around 1-litre. There’s no back-up, no support, no set route and no guarantee of making it to the finish line with their car.

In a mad dash across Europe and Asia, teams can chose their routes, some wandering north as far as Finland, others perhaps foolishly crossing the Ukraine, while the South Afristans have chosen to take the scenic route through as many of the ‘Stans’ for which they could get visas! They have crossed the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and will continue through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyztan and Kazakhstan before reaching Mongolia.

This is a rally and not a race! Teams have up to six weeks to arrive in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. The objective is not to get there first, it is just to get there. This is the real challenge, with Stan’s first major break down on day 5 when he was heroically towed 7km by a Smart car in Germany, and later received a Hub replacement by another Libero aficionado. His second breakdown was six days later.

STAN the Afri-van, a Suburu E12 Libero, has become a bit of celebrity, easily recognisable wrapped in his giant Ndebele print and complete with a silver water buffalo head mounted on its front. He doesn’t go very fast but has already clocked up some 250,000km.

You can track his progress (via satellite) on their website and read the team’s blog and Facebook page to follow their journey.

The South Afristans are challenging readers to make a donation to the Gumboots Foundation for the number of countries they reach. Their goal is to raise £10,000 over the duration of the rally and this is where they need your help! If you like their story and initiative go to their JustGiving page:

The equivalent of £15 is roughly the cost to send one child to Leratong preschool for 1 month (R250). Small amounts of money can make a real difference. Of the 140 kids at Leratong this year, 85 of them have no means of funding for the school, £10,000 would be almost enough to send all 85 kids to pre-school for 1 year.

The Gumboots Foundation is a UK charity which supports community projects in South Africa. They help vulnerable and orphaned children in Alexandra township in Johannesburg. Providing for basic needs like food, education, school books & uniforms and emotional support. There are more than 1,000 beneficiaries of this organisation, which is solely run by volunteers.

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