The Mongol Rally still surprises me - each summer I'm walking down a pot-holed Mongolian road to my home, when I'm suddenly passed by a Spanish ambulance; walk past a parked British fire engine; or stumble upon an Italian garbage truck.
Question: How did they get here?
Answer: Some lunatics drove them over 10 000 miles...
The Mongol Rally starts from various points in Europe and finishes at a Mongolian pub.
The participants set of in hundred-dollar vehicles bought on eBay. Pointing their vehicles in the general direction of Mongolia, they endure blistering deserts, freezing mountains, moving roads and turbulent political climates.
Along the way, ralliers pass renowned landmarks such as the Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia and the Door to Hell...
A darned good question! There is no reward for finishing first. Most are grateful just to finish at all.
Some claim kinship with Christopher Columbus and Sir Francis Drake.
Others found inspiration in Ewan McGregor. Ewan drove his motorbike to and through Mongolia on a round-the-world trip. You can read his story in the book Long Way Round.
Many simply had the taste for adventure and a desire to raise funds for charity.
So far the rally has raised 1.6 million British pounds for charity. The most by a single team stands at 56 thousand pounds.
The participants come from diverse backgrounds - some stock shelves; some have famous parents. A few have even worked as mechanics.
Most participants organize themselves into teams - some of whom only meet at the start of the trip!
In 2011 entry to the rally cost £714 per team. Per person depends on the size of your car and how much leg space you need.
You must then raise £1000 for charity. Half of the money goes to a charity you nominate and the rest to the Rally Charity of the year.
(The money you raise can also cover your costs.)
Remaining trip expenses depend on many variables - including the integrity of the officials you encounter and your aptitude for bribing.
A Fiat 126 attempted to pioneer the trip. It failed. But in 2004 one of the drivers went on to establish the Mongol Rally. Of the 6 teams, Only 4 succeeded.
Since then, Over 3000 ralliers ranging in age from 18-74 have attempted the Mongol Rally. The typical team broke down 9 times. Of the 40 recorded crashes, one resulted in the deaths of two participants.
Here's some advice for choosing a vehicle...
Tip one: Mongolian law stipulates the vehicle must be less than ten years old.
Tip two: Rally rules state that the vehicle must have a 1.2L engine or smaller. You can have a larger engine - but you must also increase the amount you donate / raise for charity.
Tip three: Considering the substantial chance of a crash, bump, scrape - buy a vehicle with a strong body. I drive Mongolian "roads" in a Rover - built like a tank!
Tip four: Buy a vehicle with universally easy to get parts. This will make emergency repairs easier when you get stuck in the desert. It will also help the new owners! At least one London cab has sat in a Mongolian garage for a long time.
Tip five: The 1.2L limit does not apply to vehicles of comic value -such as an ice-cream van. One ice-cream van actually made it all the way here! Click here to learn why some Mongolians mistook the ice-cream van for a garbage truck!
Tip six: You can ignore all of the above if you arrive in an ambulance or 7-ton Carmichael Fire Engine. Mainly because of a strong need for such vehicles in Mongolia.
Tip seven: Motorbikes can also ignore the above. They must have an engine size of less than 125cc.
You are free to plot your route. Most teams travel through the Czech Republic where a final Czechout party takes place.
But plan your route with care! Government Web sites list warnings aplenty about many of the countries teams pass through.
A team typically takes three-four weeks to complete the journey.
So far Mongol Ralliers have crossed borders 41,539 times, with 23,320 visas - and getting those visas has caused many a headache.
But the Mongol Rally organizers now offer a service called the visa machine which will obtain those visas for you!
Tip one: Make sure you get on with your team mates. Calais witnessed the earliest punch up between team mates. Marriage means nothing; the Rally claims one divorce to its tally.
Tip two: Take your boy/girlfriend. Endless nights under the stars have resulted in two marriages so far (or maybe it was the goat testicles -see tip five).
Tip three: Make sure you get on well with your boss. The longest time spent at a border crossing lasted 28 days! The rally organizers record seven jobs as lost during the rally.
Tip four: Mongolian roads move! Make sure you read my Mongolian road map page to discover why and how to prepare.
Tip five: With 217 goat testicles listed as consumed during the rally you should consider taking plenty of tinned and dried food with you. Failing that try the horse testicles, they're far tastier.
Tip six: Whichever charity your team supports try to get messages of support from well-known personalities. Sir. David Jason and Queen Elizabeth both sent messages of support to help rally teams raise funds for their charities.
Tip seven: Make sure you get all the immunizations you need. And take some Imodium - you never know when you might need it!
Tell us YOUR story! Share your experience and tips...