“Eight weeks, two continents, 20 countries, one car unsuitable for the task at hand.”
A mere 16,000-km trek over road, trail, track and highway in every state of repair is all that lies between the starting line and bragging rights for a pair of Langley men.
Matt Standish and Derreck Travis will fly from Vancouver to London, England next month. From there, they will set out — as Team Khanada — on the Great Mongol Rally.
The two men, both 32 and graduates of Brookswood Secondary, decided to take part in the grueling rally as a way to support a pair of charities.
Their efforts will raise money for the rally’s charity of choice — Cool Earth, which works to halt rain forest destruction — and for the B.C. Cancer Foundation, in honour of a close family member of Standish’s who recently beat cancer.
The race, which has been run annually since 2004, takes competitors from London to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Teams can choose to take either a northern or southern route across Europe and Asia.
Team Khanada, one of about 300 teams taking part, will go south.
The men will be gone from July 10 to Sept. 6, covering an average of about 450 km/day, they estimate.
Beginning in London, they will cross the English Channel in a 1999 Nissan Micra, which a friend found for them in the UK.
One of the few rules that govern the rally is that vehicles’ engines must be under a certain size.
As far as Standish is aware, the fastest the rally has ever been completed was 10 days. The longest it has taken someone, on the other hand, is two years.
“That shows how loosely it’s organized,” he said.
From Europe they will cross into Asia through Turkey. From there, they plan to drive through Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia on their way to the Mongolian capital.
While the northern route is no doubt faster and more direct, for the Langley duo, this trip isn’t about being the first to arrive at the finish line — it’s all about getting there.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in,” said Standish of the trip, which he has been planning in his mind for the past three years and in reality for the last 12 months.
Not that he’s had much time to sit and think.
The last year has been a whirlwind of preparation — of fundraising and route planning and medical appointments.
In order to travel through many of the countries on their route, the men have had to get a number of vaccinations.
They’ve had shots for typhoid, tetanus, measles, mumps and hepatitis.
“I felt like a pin cushion there for a while,” laughed Standish.
They’ve also been inoculated for rabies, since their journey will take them through Uzbekistan, the nation with the highest rate of the deadly disease on the planet.
One of the biggest challenges so far has been getting travel documents in order, based on the unique demands of each country they plan to visit.
Right now, the one wild card is Iran, said Standish.
If the Canadians are denied entry, plan B will be to drive through Armenia into Azerbaijan, cross the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and then carry on as planned.
“It’s definitely a risk, but it’s a calculated risk,” said Standish. “We’ve had lots of time to prepare.
“I think that once we dig into what’s along the route . . . we’ll get more excited and more nervous.”
Standish’s younger brother, Reid, completed the rally a few years ago and it was those experiences that piqued his own interest.
He knew that he wanted to try it himself. And he knew there was only one person he wanted to bring along for the ride.
“We know what makes each other tick. We’ve been friends for 20 years,” said Standish of his high school buddy.
“We’d BS’d about it for years.”
“For the most part, he talked about it,” said Travis.
“I was more like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”
Then one day, Standish sent Travis a text saying it was time to get serious and enter the next race.
“I’d just graduated and started a new job. I was skeptical that I’d be able to do it,” said Travis.
Although they weren’t necessarily excited about losing their new employee for two months, the firm where Travis works has been very supportive, he said.
The architect, who has travelled in about 40 countries, isn’t worried about the reputations of some of the places they will pass through along their way.
“I find that the dangers of the world are grossly exaggerated,” he said.
“I was in Greece during the riots. If you have a head on your shoulders and you are inconspicuous, you can make it anywhere.
“I think human nature is not given enough credit. If you are positive and nice to people, they will help you. That’s been my experience.”
For him, the opportunity far outweighs any risks.
“(I place) an emphasis on things that develop you as a person,” said Travis. “This could change my perspective on how I view the world.”
While Standish cites Iran and Uzbekistan as the two countries he’s most excited to visit, for Travis one highlight will be the opportunity to travel portions of the famous Silk Road.
“These are countries that are at the root of who we are as a culture today.”
“The expectation for me is that we’ll make it,” said Travis. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The men will take plenty of food and water and as many spare parts for the car as they reasonably can.
Reid’s own experience served as a cautionary tale for the men to prepare for the worst — his car broke down in the Gobi desert, leaving him stranded for three days while others went for help.
Once they’ve reached Ulan Bator and completed the rally, the car will be recycled and the money from its sale donated to charity. They will fly home from Moscow.
When and wherever they are able, the men plan to blog as they go.
To support Standish’s and Travis’ fundraising efforts or to follow them along their journey, visit mongolrally.ca