If you're looking for a dust-covered, oil-slicked, down-and-disgusting way to spend the next four weeks of your life, the Mongol Rally is it.
A raucous trek across 16 countries, the Rally is complete mayhem, with about 150 teams speeding along some of the worst roads on the planet in cars powered by nothing more than a wussy 1-liter engine. (Imagine a VW bug, or maybe a really pricey suburban lawnmower.)
The teams blaze a trail from London to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar — that's around 10,000 miles, depending on your route. The only rule: There are no rules. As the organizers put it, "If nothing goes wrong, then everything has gone wrong. You only start having fun when you break down in the desert with only a short stick and some chewing gum to fix your car."
So why would anyone sign up for this? Well, because they can, but it's also for a good cause. Started three years ago by 24-year-old British adventure junkie Tom Morgan (of TheAdventurists.com), last year's Mongol Rally raised nearly a half-million dollars for Third World charities, the Adventurists claim. The charities range from Mercy Corps Mongolia, which helps the country's rural communities become self-sufficient, to the Christina Noble Children's Foundation, which houses and teaches children from the streets of Ulaanbaatar.
MTV News followed Team Quo Vadimus (Latin for "Team Where Are We Going?") from New York. After months of prep in the city, the crew — writer Alex Padalka, designer Ellis Dixon and actor Ryan Blackwell — finally set off with a handheld camera in tow to document the dirty highs and lows of the trip.
From the launch in London's Hyde Park, the Rally teams head to Prague for a first-destination party before splitting up and going along their own routes. Quo Vadimus' especially out-of-their-minds route includes Turkey, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. And unlike other teams, Quo Vadimus made the controversial decision to go through Iran, adding miles — and plenty of politically fueled stress — to their adventure.
Remember, not everyone makes it: Last year, out of 167 teams, only 117 made it to the finish line. And many of those hobbled to Mongolia in unimaginably bad shape.
So is Iran as dangerous for Americans as the media has us believe? Is Kazakhstan as, um, backward as "Borat" made it out to be? Can a friendship born in Brooklyn survive thousands of miles of potholes and a month of sleeping in the back of a busted Honda? From a forbidden shrine in Iran to the Black Sea to ancient ruins in Turkmenistan, with plenty of bang-ups along the way — will Team Quo Vadimus make it all the way to the finish line?
Watch the series to find out. And let us know which of the teammates you think held up best under pressure.
And to join in the madness yourself, you can register for the Mongol Rally 2008 online on Tuesday (November 6) and Wednesday right here.