The Best International Rallies

This is a continuation of the article on Yahoo Travel on the international rally – A Crazy New Kind of Amazing Race: International Car Rallies.

Picture the scene. You have been driving for over 15 hours. The monsoons are thundering down. You and your friend are in an auto-rickshaw, laboring along an ink-dark road in the middle of nowhere in India. Oncoming trucks barrel toward you, blinding you with their headlights. The rickshaw dangles within inches of the road’s shoulder.

It’s a test of wills on the ultimate road trip: an international rally. The whole idea dates back to 1911 in Monte Carlo, when 23 cars rallied on public streets to a finish line. It was one of the first recognized road rallies.

The quest for more authentic — and more adventurous — travel experiences has created an even more extreme subculture of road tripping. These days, the idea is not just navigating from point A to B or who can go the fastest, but, rather, to pair up with like-minded adventurers and drive an inappropriate vehicle that is slow and might even break down. The result: you can have genuine interactions with locals, see corners of a country that a typical tourist would not see, and challenge yourself at the same time.

The other benefit of these rallies is that anyone can participate; you do not need any special training or skills.

Several companies, such as Large Minority and the Travel Scientist, create and organize rallies. Each organization puts its own spin on the event. Some organizers provide the vehicles, while others don’t. Some of the rallies have set routes, while others simply tell you where the finish point is.

Here are three awesome and challenging rallies spanning the globe, plus interviews with participants who have lived to tell the tale.

Central Asia Rally

car rallies

The Vehicle

Let your creativity run wild. One team drove a 30 year old Austrian fire truck.

The Setting

The Central Asia Rally starts in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan and ends in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Think ancient Silk Road since the route includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. And there will be an interesting pit stop in Afghanistan.

The Distance and Time

You will be driving 4500 grueling miles. The rally takes 14 days.

car rally

The Biggest Challenge

Kasia Kłopocińska is a veteran of the Central Asia Rally and noted some of her challenges with the police in Russia. “I was joking with my teammates about how smoothly everything was going when we were quickly surrounded by two police car with flashing blue lights. The police demanded everything from passports to licenses. They then demanded that we stay in Russia for 10 days to wait for our court case. This wasn’t going to work since we were leaving Russia that day for Kazakhstan. My teammate attempted to bribe them with chocolate and biscuits but we were quickly rebuffed. We were eventually set free after we gave them a monetary donation.”

The Best Highlight

The nature and the landscapes of Central Asia are breathtaking and the hospitality can also be exceedingly warm. Kasia shared one of her highlights of the trip. “My team and I planned a day of off-roading in a stunning Uzbek desert. Within a short period of time, we managed to find the one patch of wet and sticky mud. Our car was stuck. We tried to dislodge it for a couple of hours without any luck. One of our teammates hiked back to the main road to look for help. He eventually came back with another team from the rally to assist. He was quite shocked to see us hanging out with a local Uzbek family who came to our rescue. We spent the rest of the day with the family.”


Timbuktu Challenge

car rally

The Vehicle

The Timbuktu Challenge encourages participants to think outside of the box. One team purchased an ice cream truck and delivered ice creams to the finish line in Mali.

The Setting

The Timbuktu Challenge takes place in six countries, half in Europe and the other half in Africa. The rally starts in the United Kingdom and ends in Mali. Other countries included are France, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania.

The Distance and Time

The Timbuktu Challenge covers approximately 4500 miles and takes 3 weeks

car rally

Biggest Challenge

Amir Jalalian-Khakshour recounted some of his biggest challenges during the rally. “There was some brutal off-roading in western Mali. We had quite a robust 4×4, but by the end of the rally, the front of the car had been ripped off. Another time, we were driving with another team across the desert. Their car broke down, and there was no help to be found for hundreds of miles. We had to tow their car across the entire length of Western Sahara.”

Biggest Highlight

Amir shared one of his highlights. “Crossing the Sahara was fantastic. We were off-road in sand and over beaches in Mauritania for a few days. The desert was pure beauty. Another incredible experience was visiting the Djenne mosque, a huge mosque built completely of mud.”  The Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali dates back over 100 years.

Amazon Challenge

amazon jungle rally

The bar is always being raised. Event organizer, Large Minority, is devising a devilishly challenging rally for 2016. The Amazon Challenge is not for the faint hearted.

The Vehicle

You will need to be a jack of all trades for this event. You will be piloting local dugouts and Amazonian long boats. You will be driving the three wheeled tuk tuk. And you will be trekking on foot through the jungle.

The Setting

This challenge will be taking place in the Amazon of South America. It will traverse three countries: Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.  The challenge starts in the southernmost corner of Columbia in a town known as Leticia. The event ends in Manaus, Brazil, the largest jungle city in the world.   And in between you will traversing through virgin Amazonian jungle.

The Distance and Time

This event will cover over 750 miles during 10 days.

large minority rally

The Biggest Challenge

Where to begin? You will be avoiding insects/reptiles/animals such as the poisonous Brazilian wandering spider, 20 feet long anacondas, or top-of-the-food-chain jaguars. And don’t forget tropical diseases like River Blindness caused by parasitic worms which of course causes blindness. There are also weather challenges. Consider the rainy season which will swell rivers potentially sinking your boat.

The Best Highlight

Picture yourself in the middle of the remote Amazon Jungle stuck in a dugout canoe trying to find a hidden lake. That night you will be camping at an indigenous village in the Amazon. Think hammocks, pink dolphins and wild canopies all with a little bit of luxury added in for good measure.

If you want to learn about more about rallies, please check out this documentary or this book!

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