We've reached the day of the epic Mongol Rally Launch party! Tonight we will party rally style among our comrades and their shite cars. We'll be arriving at the famous Goodwood Circuit in Chichester where we'll pitch our tents and begin forty days of unshowered glory. First though, we had to pack up and leave Brighton where we spent the night. Farewell Brighton, a beautiful seaside city of restaurants, bars, glorious cocktail fuelled hens nights and pebbled beaches.
We ate breakfast at the hostel and drove our little Panda onward to Chichester where we planned to stock up on some cash for the party and grab lunch. First though, we needed to find a nice quiet location to park and sticker up the car. By chance we drove past a sign that read Bramber Castle. That'll do! We tested our Pandas 4wd capabilities and took her up a small off road hill to reach the historic Bramber Parish church, it was built in 1073! A perfect backdrop for our stickering expedition. We walked around the Bramber Castle grounds first and had a look at the ruins, then we angled the car to have the church in the background and started sorting out all our sponsor stickers. Natalie and James worked on connecting the light bar wiring to the car while Haylee and Patrick figured out the sticker placements. An hour later we were good to go. Sponsor stickers in place our little Panda was looking less naked and more Straya inspired. It will be damn hard to mistake us with the Americans now!
Chichester proved to be a nice town with little shops. We stopped for a quick lunch break before driving on to Goodwood race circuit.
We arrived a Goodwood in style ready for a big night ahead and keen to meet our fellow ralliers. We weren't able to enter the circuit yet though and were directed to the field next door where we'd be setting up camp. Ahoy ralliers! We could see in the distance roof boxes galore and an array of shite cars bound for Mongolia. Quite surreal finally seeing other Rally cars in person, before now we'd only seen photos of other teams but here they were in the flesh. We came upon two Aust post bikes, it was Kerry and Peter! Our mates we'd met in Melbourne; they weren't there so could only be one other place, the bar! We came upon the greatest vehicle of the rally, a car covered in fur and dressed as a Scottish Highland cow. Gave it a pat and continued walking around looking at the three rows of cars. Everyone was definitely not there yet as three rows proved to only be around 35 cars. Approx 200 more cars were expected to arrive in the next couple of hours. More glorious pieces of metal crap! The ones already there were ridiculously impressive though. Our little Panda ended up parked next to a fellow Aussie team from Victoria. The Aquaduck team were brave enough to put an entire wooden boat on the roof of their car. Not only that though, there were two bicycles stored inside the boat!
We pitched our tents next to one another, James and Patrick were in their three person mansion tent. Haylee and Natalie in their lightweight 2 person hiking tent. The two boys are a bit afraid of accidentally touching one another so splurged on a three man to prevent any unnecessary bonding. Tents pitched we ventured to get some official stuff done with The Adventurists before getting onto the bar. The bloke at the rego table checked our team name on his computer and said "there's two teams here with the name That's Not A Car!" "Say what?! How can there be two teams with our name? Someone's stolen it!" "Oh hold on" he said, "no there's only you guys, my mistake". Phew! We were given a red tag to hang inside the car which would give us entry onto the race circuit tomorrow morning for the official launch. Each of us then received an official Mongol Rally t-shirt, a blue wristband and a free beer! We found a large tent with tables and chairs underneath and went to the long awaited bar! Kerry and Peter were there as we'd thought and welcomed us over. Kerry explained she'd only brought with her two pairs of pants and one had ripped yesterday, so she was down to one pair of pants for the next fifty days lest she find some sewing equipment or glue. After a few beers and ciders we had another team join us, they were from England and had called themselves the Mongol Knights. They'd had a company sponsor them and offer chain mail for photos but unfortunately weren't allowed to take it on the rally for knightly inspired photos in the Gobi desert.
More and more ralliers arrived throughout the evening. A bunch of Mongolian men were throwing their traditional clothing on. They'd been hired to launch the night with an instrumental performance and, wait for it, Mongol wrestling! In a moment of great timing they started setting up their Mongolian flags at the official sign for the rally. We grabbed the men quickly and set up a team photo with them. One to hang in the pool room for sure!
The Mongolian men then performed with their traditional instruments and did some insane throat noises that would rival even the grisliest of bears.
Time for some traditional Mongolian wrestling. The demonstration involved a lot of male skin-on-skin and front row views of Mongolian bottoms. Volunteers were invited to challenge the men and volunteers they had! A long line of brave ralliers awaited their chance to bring one of the men down onto the grass. The first of the two to have their hip touch the ground loses.
See below highlights of the Mongolian wrestling competitions!
The score stood at 8-2 the Mongolians way. There were some epic battles including one where the Mongolian wrestler spun the guys around in the air then threw him down. We forced James to stand up and get in line to challenge the men, unfortunately they called a quits just as he was about to debut in his first Mongolian wrestling competition. Probably for the best though, James was a few beers into the evening and would have had to get quite physical with another bloke. An English sword fighting demonstration followed then the official talk from the organisers of the rally. To summarise, we were told to be mindful of other cultures and avoid gaol. Obviously gaol time is not on anyone's wish list for the rally! We were given the example of another team who took antlers off some roadkill and stuck it on their car. They reached the border crossing and were thrown into gaol because the animal they took it off was endangered, and also the national animal of that country! Bottom line, don't do dumb shit that will get you thrown into the lockup. We were also reminded that this years rally will be made into a tv series and they'd like us to send a whole bunch of footage to them so they can put it all together. The Adventurists want the good, bad and ugly including all the times you're crying over the fifteenth packet of two minute noodles you're forced to eat.
Our stomachs were begging for food so we tucked into a Mongolian beef curry while chatting with Andrew and his brother (who had kindly stored our Panda until we arrived in the UK). Team Aquaduck were also eating with us, they were looking over all of Patrick's camera gear. Seems like everyone we chatted to was planning to do the southern route through Iran and all the stans. Hopefully we see some teams planning on going through the central route via Kazakhstan like we are. We saved ourselves quite a few visa headaches for Iran etc as numerous teams we met throughout the night hadn't even got their Southern route visas done yet.
Before we lost light we walked around all the Rally cars parked in the camping field. Hundreds of cars had shown up now, it truly was a field of tiny yet noble steeds. A rally car we came across literally had toothbrushes hanging from the bottom of their car. We asked them why, the answer was obvious "we're Team Toothbrush!" It was obvious that teams from the UK had had ample time to fix up their cars and decorate them before the rally started. One team had a canoe on their roof, another had decorated their glorious tin can to look like a pirate ship. A bunch of teams we spoke to said we'd taken the easy way out getting a 4wd Panda, but then we explained we had four people squashed in there and they changed their tone. Not many teams are attempting to fit four adults in their tiny vehicles! We were more surprised that all the European teams kept remarking that we'd come all the way to the UK to drive toward Asia where Australia was. None of us had ever actually thought of it that way, but to others it seemed ridiculous.
In the distance we could hear thumping music, the party was officially underway and the irresponsible ralliers were coming out of the woodworks (obviously fuelled by a lot of alcohol). We were still doing laps of all the parked Rally cars. Natalie and Haylee came across a Polish team who liked that we had some Polish background in us. We eventually came across Mitch and Jeremy who we'd met back in Sydney, they were next to two guys from the UK , Matt and Will, who had been preparing their car for the rally for a few months. After a lengthy chat we headed back to see what had happened to James. We came across him at the bonnet of our Panda surrounded by people watching him fix the car lights. Quite a sight to see! Especially because there was a person in a banana suit looking in on James' hard work.
We had crept up to the end of the night so hit the dance floor for the final few songs. Returning to the camp site we kept chatting with Will and Matt until a rally called Jacob stumbled over to us. He'd had a few too many rally shots and could barely stand. I challenged him to do the worm and he obliged, however, gave up half way and lay flat faced on the grass for a good minute leading us all to think he'd passed out. He then explained that he could go for a good nudie run along the cars. We challenged him to go ahead not thinking he was serious. He absolutely was though and pulled down his dacks in front of everyone to reveal his crown jewels. We eventually called it a night despite hundreds of ralliers still going on until the early morning, God help them getting up at 7am to prepare for the rally!