Going Bananas for a Good Cause

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Driving 10,000 miles in a miniature, beat-up car from London to Mongolia might not be everyone’s ideal method to travel around the world (or at least, about 1/3 of the world’s surface). However, this challenge, known as the Mongol Rally, is more than just an unconventional thrill for adventurers. The challenge also requires participants to raise a minimum £1000 for charity, the first half going to Cool Earth, an organization dedicated to protecting endangered rainforest in order to combat global warming, and the rest to the charity of the team’s choosing.

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Team Bananavan from gilmoresdrive.weebly.com

On July 16th, two dear childhood friends of mine (the Gilmore siblings), part of  team Bananavan, set off from Chichester, England to commence the journey, and here is their recount of the first day:

And we’re off (7/17/2016)

Yesterday our trusty Fiat Panda joined 310 other Mongol Rally cars in taking a quick first lap around the Goodwood Racetrack in Chichester England. The mood among our fellow ralliers was excited and apprehensive, the mood among our cars was really apprehensive and likely “I’m too old for this.”

Among the cars was a three-wheeler convertible from 1959 that can’t reverse, a car that featured a moose head on the rear, and several “vehicles” that looked like they struggled to even get to the launch site. All in the spirit of the rally! Our trusty 2006 Fiat Panda was not among the worst-looking cars in the pack, but it certainly wasn’t the car that looked most capable of taking on the rough roads on the way to Mongolia. That honor went to a Nissan X-terra that promptly received the Cone of Shame for featuring over a 1L engine. The rally isn’t supposed to be easy, y’all.

We got to meet a lot of other ralliers during the pre-launch camping party. 400+ crazy people ready for this long journey congregated together (and partied) and exchanged stories about difficulty acquiring cars (one guy’s teammate stole their money and car before the rally), the challenges of their chosen cars (missing sunroof), and general questions about each others’ routes. Most people are taking the Southern route through Iran, but we got to chat with a few others who are taking our central route (excluding Turkmenistan – story for another time).

After a roaring start, Team Bananavan made our way through England and on to the Dover – Calais Ferry. We stayed in Brussels for the night and are now setting our eyes East, with sights on Germany tonight.

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Currently, almost three weeks later, Francisca and David (along with Preston, their stuffed sheep companion) are more than 2,500 miles into the race and have taken a ferry into Kazakhstan. They will be arriving to Uzbekistan soon, where David has promised to tame his ‘flow’ and get a haircut (but not just any ordinary haircut – see challenges below). Their Instagram account and blog will surely keep you entertained, but if you’d like to  keep them entertained (perhaps by having them listen to “Cotton Eye Joe” on repeat for an hour, dare them on one of their silly challenges and enjoy seeing or hearing about it later from them.

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