Amherst Adventurers Prepare to Take on the Mongol Rally
Issue   |   Wed, 02/04/2015 - 00:39
David Lander '17
Team FC Mongoal will traverse the 10,000 miles between London and Mongolia to raise money for meaningful and much needed social change.

An Amherst duo has sought out an opportunity to implement social change while embarking on a modern-day adventure. On July 11 David Lander ’17, Thomas Bull ’16 and a hometown friend, Percy Stogdon (University of Chicago ’17) will take off from London for the Mongol Rally. The Mongol Rally, founded in 2004 by a group called the Adventurists, calls itself “the greatest motoring adventure on the planet.” Raising money for a charity of their choice along the way, groups traverse a highly unpredictable 10,000 miles. The rally, beginning in London and ending in Ulan-Ude, Siberia, has simply three rules (from the team website):

1. All teams must drive a comically inappropriate car with an engine smaller than 1 liter so that it will (not a typo) break down along the way.
2. Teams must do the trip completely on their own, without backup.
3. Each team must raise at least 1000£ for a charity of their choice.

Teams are encouraged to choose unique routes for the trip, enticing impromptu decisions and detours. The Adventurists claim that if the groups aren’t getting lost, they’re doing something wrong.

David Lander organized his group after hearing of a Mongol Rally trip completed by a family friend last summer with four friends, raising over $25,000 for breast cancer research. David was sold as soon as he watched the group’s introduction video, so he returned to campus, eager to find fellow travelers. His teammate, Thomas Bull, and hometown friend, Percy Stogdon didn’t need to be convinced. The parents involved, however, did.

“It was all in the hands of our parents’ protective natures,” Lander joked. “But with enough hard selling they all jumped on.”

The team has chosen the oh-so-punny name, “FC Mongoal,” in honor of their love of soccer (David and Thomas are both on the Amherst Men’s Soccer Team), as well as their chosen charitable organization, Streetfootballworld. The organization is the leading global organization in the field of “soccer for social change,” and it works to address social issues like gender inequality, lack of education, HIV/AIDS, discrimination and unemployment. The organization’s global network spans 62 countries, connecting 101 nonprofit organizations across the world. Streetfootballworld works with partners from the worlds of sport, business, politics, philanthropy, and social enterprise to bring global support to sustainable local initiatives. In addition to their monetary donations, the FC Mongoal team looks forward to visiting a number of the local programs along the way in order to play soccer with the children, and donate their most important luggage: soccer balls.

In regards to the FC Mongoal route, the team plans to maintain the spontaneous nature of the Rally; thus far, their plan, for lack of a better word, consists of a southern route through Turkey and Central Asia.

The team plans to touch the soil of at least 17 countries, several deserts, a few mountain ranges, and the Caspian Sea. Lander, Bull and Stogdon will start in London, then make their way through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia and then down the Mediterranean coast through Bosnia, Albania and Greece. From there, they will skirt through northern Turkey up through Georgia and Azerbaijan.

“This is where the trip truly becomes the adventure it is made out to be,” Lander said. Team FC Mongoal will arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan and wait for a ferry across the Caspian Sea which only leaves when full (which could take one day or five). After a (short or long) awaited ferry, the group will cross the mountains and deserts of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and finally, Siberia.

When asked if he was afraid, Lander said, “Are we afraid? Afraid might be going too far, but we definitely plan to be cautious as we skirt a few war zones and countries that don’t love the United States. But past that, our main worries are that only one of us actually has experience driving a manual car, our steering wheel will likely be on the wrong side, and of course the three of us know next to nothing about fixing cars. Other than that I think we will be just fine.”

Lander said the team was itching for an escape from the predictable.

“When we got the chance to jump ship and try something completely different, none of us looked back,” Lander said. “We will be meeting so many people with backgrounds so different than ours and visiting places that we have only read about. The stories and experiences we will gather along the 10,000 miles of European and Central Asian roads will offer us something we could never garner from the 10 week internship we could get back home.”

Lander said the team is particularly excited to be raising money for programs that can help “change the trajectory of kids’ lives.” They have been excited by the thought of helping children learn skills that will help them get jobs, do better in school, become peacemakers in their communities and stay healthy. The group has set its fundraising goals above the entry requirement level in hopes of raising an amount far beyond expectations. The group is also working alongside various local businesses and companies in their hometowns and potentially in Amherst to sponsor the expedition.