What is life without adventure? It is the one thing that unites all travelers – the spirit of discovery, of new places and friends, new experiences, and hopefully some good stories to tell.
The Mongol Rally is a car rally across Europe and Western Asia that tests the limits of even the bravest of adventurers.
There are only three rules:
The Mongol Rally is not a traditional race. Rather it is celebration of adventure. Teams can take as long as they like to get to the finish, with no official prize other than bragging rights that you made it. I met Dan Thomas from DKT Edits on Facebook after viewing one of his amazing adventure videos. He and his team “Kanga and the Kiwis” (Dan, Petra, Sophie, and Ben) graciously agreed to do an interview with me for Portugal.com.
Joe Portugal: Dan, The Mongol Rally seems quite the undertaking. What have you gotten yourself and your teammates into?
Dan Thomas: So that you fully understand what we are getting ourselves in for before I babble on, here are a few quick facts about the Mongol Rally and what is involved:
Joe: You are the primary person behind DKT Edits – what got you into the outdoor lifestyle? There are no wolves in New Zealand, so were you raised by a pack of roosters (or kiwis?)
Dan: No wolves, snakes, bears, crocs or anything really that can hurt you. I grew up on a diary farm with around 500 cows, some sheep, goats, chickens (no roosters) and some dogs. So therefore I was destined to love the outdoors and get amongst as many activities as I could.
Joe: Is DKT Edits and Adventuring your primary source of income, or do you have another job that you like to keep secret?
Dan: Haha I love this question, I would love to say that DKT Edits is my life but I’m sad to say that not one cent has been produced. I started DKT Edits as a place to document and showcase the good stuff that I get up to. I’m beginning to start a nice portfolio so in the near future income hopefully will be an option. To get the cash dollars, last summer I was a Flyboard Instructor/Operator with Flyboard Queenstown. If you’ve never heard of it, google it!!
Joe: If you could go anywhere on earth and spend a month adventuring, where would it be (and you can say Portugal)
Dan: I love going to new places. I have been to Portugal twice before, once to Porto for a week of surfing and the second time was some relaxation down in The Algarve. If I could go anywhere, it would most likely be Antartica as its so remote and would be an amazing adventure.
Joe: Kanga and the Kiwis is a team of 4 – tell us more about the team and how you found each other.
Dan: Sophie and Petra have been friends ever since Sophie invited Petra to her 9th b’day party and they bonded over Bratz Dolls. Ben, Dan and Sophie met at uni while in Queenstown studying Adventure Tourism and as soon as Sophie met Ben she thought “Holy crap, Ben and Petra would be the cutest couple.” So we joined forces as one team, in they dying hopes that Ben and Petra will finally realise their love for each other.
We found out about the Mongol Rally through a friend of mine who had done it last year. We saw his photos, got excited and recruited troops that we could spend 2 months in a car with (we also convinced them that it would be a good idea to drop uni for 3 months). Lets be honest, you need to find people who you get on with pretty well as you will spending more than enough time together.
Joe: Is this the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
Dan: Apart from sleeping in a car in Walmart carparks while travelling around America, I’d have to say hands down this is the most dangerous thing any of us have ever done. Although Ben was an exchange student in Japan for a year and I think he’s pretty brave for doing that.
Joe: What are we most afraid of?
Dan: The police trying to take our money.. Also hopefully we have done everything right with our visas and it all goes smoothly at the border crossings… haha – dreams are free right?
Joe: Can you speak another language?
Dan: Only Ben can speak a second language (Japanese) and unfortunately I don’t think that will come in handy where we are going. Once upon a time Petra tried to learn Spanish… mmmm. Luckily for us though, Sophie is pretty handy at talking crap and will most likely be able to talk our way out of bribes.
Joe: One of the Mongol Rally rules is that you have to raise money for charity. How did you pick the charities to support?
Dan: Cool Earth is already chosen for you as part of signing up for the Mongol Rally and as a team we have to select another charity ourselves. So we chose Live More Awesome. With the amount of people suffering from mental illnesses these days we thought it was only appropriate to do our bit to try and help. Live More Awesome is breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness by openly talking about it and showing people how to literally “Live More Awesome”.
[Note from Joe – You can help these causes and Kanga and the Kiwis by donating here]
Joe: What are you looking forward to the most?
Dan: Getting to know each other more. We are in a tiny car for 2 months so close together, breathing down each others necks with not a lot of alone time. No doubt there will be fighting, laughing, crying (Petra being so excited), and a whole lot of other crazy antics going down. Obviously the other things we are looking forward to the most, seeing 20 different countries in 2 months, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, the food – (oh god the food!) and trying to explain to the corrupt police that “we don’t have cash on us..”
Joe: What previous adventures have you had that have prepared you for this?
Dan: I have been to a lot of countries, worked at a lot of jobs and wanted to do something crazy that I hadn’t done before. Petra worked as a volunteer in Africa – she also realised that she has spent the last 5 years of her life at university getting her masters. Ben’s always down for any adventures – living in Japan, working on a boat, hiking – you name it all you gotta do is ask and he will dive right in. He’s also dropping out of uni for a semester for this. So he is fully committed. Sophie’s just down for anything new and loves to travel.
Joe: Sophie – the charity registration is listed in your name. Are you the responsible one?
Sophie: Haha responsible… I don’t think in my 22 years of living anyone has ever called me responsible! Some one had to do it and I just wanted to get the ship sailing so I got stuck into making this dream become a reality.
Joe: Its been reported that you are an amazing punta dancer. How will this help you in Romania?
Sophie: As far as the punta dancing goes, I don’t know where that came from. I literally have no rhythm for any sort of dancing. But I have heard that the night life in Romania is insane so I’m sure I’ll try cut a few shapes on the D-Floor while we are there!
Joe: Based on your instagram feed – you seem to like dogs. Do you pick places to visit that are dog friendly?
Petra: Well no I don’t pick places that are dog friendly.
Joe: Your profile says you are “the master of getting plastered on the cheap… also pretty handy with a map and compass”. Sounds a lot like the Portuguese explorer Magellan. Apparently he spent more money on wine and sherry than on his flagship and weapons. Are there any other explorers you share traits with or look up to?
Petra: Eliza from the wild thorn berries is my girl. She’s an ultimate adventurer and loves animals (just like me).
Joe: Ben, you seem to be the odd man out on this journey – do they give you a hard time being from Australia?
Ben: Aussies and Kiwis have always had that sibling relationship with a lot of friendly banter and name-calling, and it’s no different now that we’re team mates. Unfortunately for me the rugby is on right now, so my kiwi friends get to give me a hard time whenever Australia loses and I can’t say anything since the All Blacks never seem to lose!
Joe: I’ve seen your jumping skills on video – quite impressive (see above). If you could be any other animal other than a kanga, what would you be (besides a cool rooster)?
Ben: I am not a morning person, so I don’t think I’d be a very good rooster! The signature morning cockadoodledoo would be forgotten and everyone would sleep in. I’ve been told my spirit animal is a giraffe due to my abnormally-long neck, so I think I’d have to go with a giraffe!
Joe: All of your attention must be on the rally, but any thoughts on what could top this experience and lead to your next adventure? Perhaps the Iditarod?