Tackling the mother of all adventures

Stolen passports and getting stuck on a ferry in the middle of the Caspian Sea for three days has failed to deter two Tauranga men from their mission to travel a third of the earth to raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand.

Simon Dawson and Mat Still are taking part in the annual Mongol Rally – an event billed ‘the mother of all adventures’ – which will see them drive their tiny 1.2L Vauxhall, Colin Oscar Pee, 16,000km across Europe and Central Asia.

The men, taking part under the name Loodicrous Racing, hope to raise $10,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand in honour of Simon’s sister and Mat’s wife Renee, who has Crohn’s disease – a painful inflammatory bowel disease.

The Weekend Sun first caught up with Simon and Mat in May as they were preparing to hit the road. The trip was a year in the making, including swotting up on the experiences of past entrants, and applying for seven visas.

Unfortunately, the pair and fellow traveller Luke Price had their passports stolen in a robbery in the Hungarian capital of Budapest a few days into the rally. While they were able to get the passports replaced, they couldn’t replace all of the visas and have had to adjust their planned route.

It hasn’t stopped the fun or the adventures though, including racing the car on the world famous Nurburgring track, taking part in the unusual festivities on the Mongol Rally start line in Prague, meeting wild bears on the Transfagarasan highway in Romania and modelling a mankini on Lake Tuz, a salt lake in Turkey.

Simon described the official start line as being “straight out of a scene from Mad Max”.

“There’s cars and buildings patched together or made out of scrap and turned into these crazy creations,” he says.

“We got to experience some Mongol wrestling, dancing and traditional music along with things like how many people could fit in a Nissan Micra, a tug of war between the Micra drivers and the Fiat Panda owners to determine which car was the best, a fire show, DJs and bands in the Rave Caves, as well as plenty of other weird and wacky things.”

With a five-day wait for new passports and three days stuck on a ferry in the middle of the Caspian Sea waiting out a storm, the pair will be pushing it to reach the finish line of the rally in Siberia by September 16. But they’re up for the challenge.

In Uzbekistan, they had to deal not only with heavily potholed roads, but a lack of available petrol.

“When we finally found a station that actually sold petrol – everyone runs their cars on propane and methane here – we pulled in and topped up all our tanks,” says Simon.

“While we were there we noticed that all our rims had flat spots on them from hitting all the potholes, so with a bit of persuasion with the hammer they were good as new!”

Simon, Mat and Colin Oscar Pee are currently tackling the mountains of the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, which reach heights of 4500m.

They are still accepting donations for Crohn's and Colitis New Zealand, so head over to their Givealittle page at: givealittle.co.nz/cause/loodicrousracing to donate.