The Queen of Lady Adventurists

You can't talk about Lady Adventurists without mentioning Zaya 'Badass' Badrakh. From October 2012 to October 2013 she did every one of our motorised adventures, including the old Bajai Rally and Mototaxi Junket. She ended on The Mongol Rally by bike and when her team-mate crashed out in Europe, she continued the southern route solo.

Zaya hanging out at the Gates of Hell - Try this at home kids, just not in Turkmenistan

In your own words explain what you did in 2012/2013

I took one year off to do all five motorised Adventures around the world, one after the other.

Why the heck did you do that?

I’ve always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle and thought the Mongol Rally would be the perfect way to learn
— Zaya

I thought the right way to do a massive adventure like this is to get drunk with your friends and then convince them to do something crazy, stupid and epic together, hopefully having them all sign-up together. In my case, unfortunately, I couldn’t get any of my friends drunk enough to agree to spend the whole summer trying to get to Mongolia in a tiny car.

After not much success finding teammates, I decided to do the Mongol Rally solo on a Motorcycle instead. I've always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle and thought it would be the perfect way to learn. Then, when I went to the Adventurists page to sign up for next years’ Mongol Rally I came across other motorised rallies they offered around the globe. They all looked so amazing and I was compelled to sign-up for ALL of them! 

Have you done anything similar before?

No. I was pretty new to traveling and any type of adventuring. My curiosity and passion to see the world via travelling was so overwhelming that it pushed me to take the plunge in the way I did. All at once!

What were you most worried about?

I wasn't really worried about much until I was there doing each Adventure.

We would drive on those narrow roads high in the mountains and would pass a spot with a few crosses where people lost their lives. Then there would be another dozen crosses further up, then just one, then another few, then ten more.
— Zaya

My first adventure, was “The Mototaxi Junket” in Peru, (which is the most prolific drug producing country in the world), I' heard stories of people crossing paths at night with the occasional drug cartels doing business in smaller rural areas. Little did I know that these types of rural roads are exactly the kind of roads we were going to travel on. There were few times where we had broken down at night time with no choice but to ask for help to whoever was driving past us. We were just hoping that it wouldn't be the drug cartels and smugglers who often dress up as fake local police.

Making friends on the Ice Run

Then it was just driving those unreliable motos on the most dangerous roads by itself. Peru's 'Death Roads' get that name for a reason. Even on the narrowest roads, on the highest mountains in the Andes, people still managed to overtake. We would drive on those narrow roads high in the mountains and would pass a spot with a few crosses where people lost their lives. Then there would be another dozen crosses further up, then just one, then another few, then ten more. We even passed a spot where a whole bus full of tourists and locals went straight down for about 800 meters killing 22 passengers the day earlier which made the news. It felt like we were constantly facing death and we had to be very careful driving there.

When I did the Ice Run in Siberia. It was COLD! Coming from the coldest capital city in the world (Ulaanbaatar) made it a bit easier. However driving an open Ural on frozen rivers at -40C with wind-chill at 40mph that added a further minus 12-20 degrees was at times excruciating. Although the Ural was built like a tank, it definitely wasn't designed to take on such a journey and we were worried about the cold and whether the Ural will make it to the finish line.

In The Rickshaw Run, I was a bit worried about driving the unreliable Rickshaws and driving on India’s infamous roads which - according to Run Chief Mr Matt - are known to claim a life every 13 seconds.

Did you have much mechanical knowledge?

Close to none. Being never afraid to ask for help, meant I learnt a lot on the road.  

What was your best bit?

It’s only in the cold of Siberia I could drink vodka for breakfast in the name of survival
— Zaya

There were so many and I could talk about it non-stop.

Just traveling for a whole year in such extreme conditions was amazing in itself. I met amazing people and became good friends with many. Being in such beautiful and isolated parts of the world that I never thought I would travel to was incredible. There is nothing like traveling by land and seeing the landscape, peoples faces, hearing the language, tasting the food, enjoying the music and watching the culture change from border to border. It was amazing experience.  

No matter how dangerous it felt at times in Peru, it was a breathtakingly beautiful place, filled with kind people. Siberia was the same. That cold white snowy desert now has a very special place in my heart. It’s only in the cold of Siberia I could drink vodka for breakfast in the name of survival. Also, while riding across Siberia. I met someone very special. He later came to Mongolia to join me on the last leg of The Mongol Rally and after my Adventures I flew to Australia and now we live together in Sydney.

Doing the Mongol Rally by motorcycle was very exciting. Often I couldn't believe it was all happening. It was surreal. Everywhere I went I met good people who where excited to meet us and wanted to help.

What was the worst bit?

The first two hours of the Mongol Rally, I was riding a motorcycle with no previous experience. We left London to catch the ferry and that was the scariest two long hours of my life. Following my teammate Andrea, riding through heavy traffic and not being able to turn and constantly running into the wrong lane to oncoming traffic; I was genuinely worried about my life.

I felt so out of my element and kept imagining myself crashing in the most gruesome way. I really thought I wasn't going to make it to the ferry alive let alone the finish line. I started to think about death a lot. I started to think about all my loved ones and that I’d never see them again. It felt like that was it, I wasn't going to make it, or I wouldn't make it in one piece.

I started to think about death a lot. I started to think about all my loved ones and that I’d never see them again. It felt like that was it, I wasn’t going to make it, or I wouldn’t make it in one piece.
— Zaya

I wasn't even going that fast. My tiny 125cc Suzuki Van Van could only do about 90 km/h max. I couldn't wait to get on the ferry and call my mum and tell her how much I loved her and maybe cry a bit. It was miracle I made it to the ferry with nothing bad happening. Unfortunately, the ferry didn't have an internet connection and I couldn't call my mum. I told Andrea how scared I felt, that there was no way I was going to make it to Mongolia in one piece. Andrea tried to calm me down telling me to take it easy and that we could go super slow together if necessary. 

Two other teams after hearing that I didn't have previous riding experience suggested that I should jump in their car and do the rally with them. By the next night, after two full days and about 1300 km to the Czechout party, I was feeling much better. I learned how to steer the bike properly. Since then it just got better and better and I started telling the bike who was the boss.  

In Ankara Turkey, my teammate Andrea unfortunately fell from her bike and broke her arm and needed to fly back to UK to get surgery. That was definitely the worst part of the whole Rally. It was heartbreaking to see her leave. It also meant that I now had to travel through Turkey to Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia....... solo! I did my best to convoy with other rally teams whenever I could but often times I ended up alone due to difference in visas and dates etc.

How did you motivate yourself when it got tough?

I always had a ”don’t worry, everything is gonna be alright” attitude. No matter how tough things got, I always tried to tell myself that somehow it will all pass and leave just good memories, so enjoy the challenge.

Each adventure had it’s own kind of worry and difficulties but here is a couple of examples of tough times.....

Driving the Rickshaw across India was nuts in every way. It felt like we were in this surreal super colorful cartoon world with chaotic traffic trying to kill you all the time. What amazed me (as with the other adventures) that this environment was normal life for everyone else there. I made sure that I consciously experienced that element in each adventure.  

On the Mongol rally, when I was riding solo through the 'Stans I tried to avoid sleeping alone out in the middle of the steppe in my tent. So many times I just keep riding well into the night until I could find a safe place to stay with people around. Often though, the roads were pitch dark with just little light from my bike. Sometimes I rode for hours without passing a single car on the road.

At times like this, I would listen music on my i-Pod until the batteries went flat and then to sing loudly inside my helmet to not get frightened from the quiet and darkness that surrounded me. I tried to focus solely on the road in front of me. If I looked to the sides of the road, to the steppe, I was getting scared of the thought that I was all alone out there.

What's next?

Now that I have the adventure-bug bite, there are so many adventures I can’t wait to do. I want to learn to paraglide and hopefully do the next epic adventure, the Icarus Trophy. That would be amazing.

Why do you think more girls aren't out there adventuring?

Through most of history it has been “Man’s World”. Mostly men went to war because they were usually bigger and stronger and women stayed at home, taking care of the family. Men did the outdoor stuff, while women carried babies. And it made sense back them where families were usually bigger. But that ideology has changed.

Many amazing and brave women have been out there exploring the world and doing amazing adventures. Though the numbers are definitely not the same as of the guys out there, there are still good numbers of girls doing cool things. I met so many amazing ladies on these adventures. We need more woman traveling and doing adventures. We can’t let society tell us what we should and shouldn't do. Get out there ladies! 

What would you say to other girls worried about doing an adventure like this?

Just do it! It will be the best thing you’ll do in your life no doubt. You’ll meet the best people in the world and see some cool places. You’ll learn so much about yourself, the world and about the true meaning and value of life.

Don’t worry. Life is too short to worry. To say it on a bit of a dark note, no matter how safe we choose to live in the end we all end up dead just like everyone else on earth. So enjoy your short time here a little more.

Go out there and explore the world! This world is becoming way too sanitized and we need to change that. Just do it and amazing things will follow. 

There are still places on the 2015 Mongol Rally. You can save £50 if you sign up by Jan 6th