Our convoy grew from 3 to 7 and my stowaway #3, a German hitch-hiker Stefan, has decided to travel all the way to Ulaanabaatar with us, officially making him an honorary rallier.
The day is filled with a continuous choice of LEFT! CENTER! RIGHT! for each divergent road. We’ve driven through Mongolia long enough to believe that all roads will lead us to the finish line. There is only 800km left, we drive more aggressively, a little more recklessly, after all, the cars only need to last us another 2 days. With 7 cars in the convoy, we stop following each other as religiously as we normally do. We stop fearing that we would get lost and we lose all sense of restraint. We over take one another at every opportunity and I must admit it is a thrill to over take the Canadians and stop eating their dust for once.
There is a hot spring marked on the map, a 30km detour from the last town before UB. We feel confident. UB and the finish line is a sure thing now. Our cars will hold up, all will be well. Yes, lets take a detour and go find the hot spring. After 10 days of nearly freezing temperature, we all dream of sitting in a hot spring of 35ºC with a drink in hand and celebrate our last night before the finish line.
We speed our way through grassy field, driving on roads that are not roads and I get a flat. The boys hop out of the car and the tire is changed with the precision of a Nascar pit crew and we race towards the setting sun. Oh god, please let us find this hot spring before the Sun sets.
We find the tiny village that is marked on the map and the hot springs is supposed to be near. The villagers have no clue what it is that we are looking for. We give up on our beautiful dream of a hot spring and start to look for a camp sight. Wait, what is that over there? A soggy patch of grass leads up to a pipe. Hot, sulfuric water is coming out of this pip! Oh My God! We actually found the hot spring….or at least, a pipe bringing hot spring water down from somewhere.
We set up camp for the last time and we try to eat EVERYTHING we have. We crack open the small tin of foie gras I bought in Budapest, couple bottle of Chilean red wine we found in the last town. Even though our hair is matted, we are covered in dust, and our clothes are beyond dirty, all of sudden, we feel like our civilized selves again.
Tonight is the first night that has not been freezing cold.
Scott and I grab a blanket, walk 10 meters pass all the cars into pitch blackness, lay down on the grass and look up. Stars upon stars, galaxy upon galaxy. Under the stardust, we feel a little small, a little complete, but more than anything else, we feel the pulse of infinite possibility.
Locky breaks down a wooden table the Americans had hit with their car for firewood and we warm ourselves with a campfire and Chinggis Vodka. Oh yeah. This is living!
The next morning we race towards UB and the finish line on sweet tarmac at 100-120km per/hr breaking only for the occasional unexpected pothole.
A giant ugly polluted Asian City with its insane traffic welcomes us. Our finish line is in the center of town, in the back streets, in front of a slightly dodgy hostel. But the victory banners are giant and so is our sense of elation! The Finish Line at last!
We might have been aiming for the finish line all these weeks pass, but the Mongol Rally has certainly been about the road here and not the final destination. The finish line only matters because all that we’ve been through. It is about the majestic, ridiculous, stressful, near death, breath-taking, fast thinking, quick talking and wickedly brilliant kilometers we’ve traversed to get here.
I MADE IT!!!
PS. At the end of the 6 week finish line only 230 teams have made it to UB, another 58 still unaccounted for. Out of the 230, only 140 of them drove in, which means the rest of the cars were in really bad shape and could not finish the journey.