TV Presenter looking for Mongol Rally finish after early bath in 2011
Last year Leon Logothetis, a British TV presenter known for his American show 'Amazing Adventures of a Nobody' was one of the many Mongol Ralliers that didn’t make it to Ulaanbataar. Not many were forced to back out in such dramatic style though.
“Last year on Day 8 Steve and I were broadsided by a driver in a 4X4," wrote Leon before setting off on his second attempt, "we were in a Nissan Micra. It was destroyed.”
The two escaped unharmed(ish) from the crushed vehicle pictured above, but left with the nagging sense of an unfinished adventure. So Leon and his trusty friend and cameraman, Steve, came back to have another go in 2012.
They're determined to make it all the way this time and put a fair bit of pressure on themselves to clock up some healthy mileage. They're donating one book to a children’s charity for every mile they drive. If they reach the finish line in Mongolia they could end up donating 10,000 books.
Ups and downs, and some more downs...
They're doing a grand job of their second attempt so far, but have run into an impressive number of the pickles that the Mongol Rally has become famous for.
In a run of events that places their team somewhere in the middle of the Gaussian bell curve of bad luck they've been confronted by Ukranian police, broken down a lot (made worse by their total lack of mechanical knowledge), faced the usual potholes, received a severe dose of fatigue and frazzled nerves, driven over sinking bridges and been accosted by Russian gypsies for some rather unclandestine photography. “Time flies when you’re being screamed at by Gypsies” apparently.
Leon has been documenting every step of his journey online in the LA Times, on his own blog, on Twitter and on the Matador Network. His outlook on the rally seems to be swinging wildly between the fearless determination of a brave and intrepid adventurist and moments of doubt that make it sound like he may well be missing the pool-side Pina Colada travelling life.
In this video about having a second go at the Mongol Rally despite the proper scary end to his first attempt, Leon ponders the idea that history has a habit of repeating itself. Then quickly follows up with a firm and assertive "well I say, fuck that" and a promise to make it well past Romania and all the way to the finish line.
“When (not if) I reach my destination of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar," wrote Leon just before they set off, "this man’s life will be changed for the better in some small way. And hopefully the 10,000 books I’ll be donating will have a powerful effect on 10,000 kids.”
But because he's documenting everything with impressive honesty and regularity from the road, he's been recording and broadcasting the wobbles that have inflicted a few dents in his previously steely determination.
Pina Colada Leon
“Traveling is for sissies. That’s the signature slogan of the Mongol Rally," wrote Leon after about 5000 miles, "I guess the Mongol Rally people think that on a ‘normal’ trip, things probably don’t often go so terribly wrong.
"I am beginning to realize (again) why the fine chaps at Mongol Rally headquarters think that. Of course things do go wrong on leisure trips, but on an adventure trip, the things that happen are not for the faint of heart. Bad stuff happens. It seems to happen to me and fairly often too.
"While I wait to be saved by a random act of kindness, I think I may have realized something about myself. I may just be one of those sissies who wants to travel like a normal chap. Or maybe I am just having a moment….”
In a later update from Turkmenistan, 17 days and 5000 miles into the rally, while it was particularly hot on some impressively crap roads and their car was breaking quite a bit, Leon took another big sip of his pool-side Pina Colada and wrote:
"Here we were, driving hundreds of miles in 104-degree heat. The potholes were endless. So were the overzealous drivers, who came at us from both directions. I began to question why I was doing this in this dinky, crummy little car (which is what the rules call for — dinky anyway, crummy not specified).
"In that moment of weakness I had no answers. Just fatigue and frazzled nerves. When we finally arrived in the capital, we settled into a hotel overlooking the presidential palace. I decided to sleep on my thoughts. Maybe Tuesday will bring with it a renewed vigor. Maybe it will not."
At this point the founder of The Adventurists, and the chap that came up with the idea for the Mongol Rally back in 2001, Tom Morgan, decided to offer some heartfelt moral support via Twitter:
"Man up @LeonLogothetis you big girly man. Those roads are a trifle. Wait till they run out."
The Adventurists chipped in when Leon wrote a blog called 'Is it time to quit?' with a simple response: "No Leon, it is not."
And the truth about Leon is...
He is experiencing what most people on the rally go through at some point. It's like that bit when marathon runners hit 'the wall' and think 'fuck this, I'd be better off watching this race at home with a cup of tea and a packet of hob knobs".
It usually happens just over halfway, when you've already got into all manner of shit, and you make the mistake of opening a map and experiencing an episode of code brown when you realised how far you've got to go on roads that are only getting worse.
But that is also the point of it all - proper adventuring is really rather tricky at times, and dangerous, and entirely unpredictable. If it wasn't there would be no point, after all you only really start having fun when everything starts going wrong.
Thankfully the solution is simple, if the sky has fallen in, you prop it up with a windscreen wiper and carry on. And that's what Leon and Steve have done.
In response to The Advenurists' comment about it most definitely not being the time to give up he posted: "You're right. its not. Thats why i haven't. And i wont. Unless my car blows up. Then i might."
The Pina Colada moment had passed and any thoughts about being "one of those sissies who wants to travel like a normal chap" had been banished. They were replaced with the task at hand - thundering across Uzbekistan in a comically unsuitable car, not changing money illegally and not posting photos of not changing money illegally, then heading north through the Kazakh desert and approaching the final third of the rally, chin firmly up and trucking through the miles.
They've also discovered that regularly breaking down in the most incovenient places often results in making friends quickly. “The Mongol Rally is not just about adventures," wrote Leon, "equally important are the people you connect with along the way.”
Grinding to a halt in the Kazakh desert with no idea where they were, Leon and Steve managed to befriend the local melon seller, camping in his garden and dining on a fruity feast for the evening.
Leon (right) with some mechanics who fixed their burst tyre
They've also met a lot of mechanics who have kept their car going and their chances of making it to the finish line alive.
We'll report back soon on Leon and Steve's progress, and you can follow them live on the links below. In the meantime take a second to enjoy the mental image these words will give you. Sometimes a few words are better than seeing a photo:
“On Monday morning, I was awakened by a dog chasing a camel. I got up and exited my tent to see what the commotion was and then the camel started chasing me.
Welcome to Turkmenistan.”
Article written by Rosa Lewis and Dan Wedgwood
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