or (More Likely) Bust
be driving a 15-year-old Volkswagen ambulance with 435,000
miles already on the odometer. Their route will traverse
10,000 miles through not-always-friendly terrain on roads
that at times amount to no more than dirt paths. They expect
to break down in the middle of nowhere, sometimes several
times in a day.
Team Magical Mongolian
Mystery Tour (left to right): Tom Dorwart, Stephen Jan,
Judith del Cuadro-Zimmerman.
a donation. Also, follow their .
Judith del Cuadro-Zimmerman ’08
will team this summer with her friends, Stephen Jan and Tom
Dorwart, to take on the Mongol Rally 2010, a quirky cross-continental
vehicle rally in which participants make their way from London
to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia’s capital.
The annual event, coordinated
by a British group called , invites hundreds
of similar teams to make the rugged trip as a fundraiser
for international charities that help the people of Mongolia.
Del Cuadro-Zimmerman’s team, dubbed
the Magical Mongolian Mystery Tour (they love the Beatles), will raise money
for Mercy Corps, a nonprofit organization that helps Mongolian families become
self-sufficient; and Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontieres.
will set out from London on July 24, taking turns driving
Lennon, the name they’ve
given their road-wise vehicle (other candidates considered for purchase: Ringo,
Harrison and McCartney). Their planned route—one-third of the way around the
earth—will take them due east through Europe (the easy part), across Turkey,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Siberia, and finally,
Mongolia. The trip is expected to take four weeks.
“We have no idea what we will encounter,” says del Cuadro-Zimmerman. “I expect
the most dangerous part of the trip will be driving. But other concerns we have
include sickness, disease, corrupt border officials and thieves.”
The unfortunate fate
of many a Mongol Rally vehicle.
Del Cuadro-Zimmerman gives both
official and unofficial reasons for taking on the monumental
trek. Officially, it’s about raising money for good causes, she
says. But it’s her unofficial reasons that speak to the truth of her wanderlust.
“There are plenty of concrete
and particularized reasons to not participate in Mongol Rally—it’s
dangerous, inconvenient and time consuming,” she admits. “But
I don’t want to be the type of person who is afraid to take
risks or create movement in my life. I think this will be
a life-changing experience. I am sure I will see and do things
that most people only get to dream about.”
Del Cuadro-Zimmerman’s team is one of more than 400 to attempt
the Mongol Rally. Each team must raise at least 1,000 British
pounds (nearly $1,500) for its designated charity to participate.
Typically, only half the teams finish the rally.
zany organizers, the Mongol Rally is at least as much about
adventure as it is about raising money for charity. “The
world is just a little bit too safe,” they
proclaim on the event Web site. “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.”
When not taking on adventure,
del Cuadro-Zimmerman is a law student at American University,
Washington College of Law. When her friend Jan asked her
to join him for the Mongol Rally, she didn’t hesitate. “I didn’t give myself time to
think about my answer,” she recalls. “I just said ‘I’m in’ and
figured I would work out the details somehow.”
Though her parents are supportive
of her participation in the rally, some of del Cuadro-Zimmerman’s friends think she’s
crazy to take on such risk. She doesn’t
argue. “This isn’t the type of experience where you can convince
someone to see your point of view,” she says. “They either
get it or they don’t.”