Reporting Luke McKinney
Some people complain that the world is being choked by health and safety officials, and The Adventurists say those people are pansies because they’re sitting around whining instead of doing something about it. The Adventurists are best described as excitement combined with repeatedly failed natural selection.
They began when Tom Morgan and his friend Joolz bought a Fiat 126 in the Czech Republic. This turned out to be a Fiat 63 + 63, two dead half-cars dangerously welded together to create one complete death trap. They decided to show the car who the real dangerous ones were in the man vs. machine battle: loading it with a machete, a pack of cigars, nothing else, and driving it in the most dangerous direction possible. You might think that meant “along a cliff.” It meant bouncing off Iran and back up into 2001 Macedonian insurgency, at which point the car admitted defeat and died.
So they decided to do it again.
They used the internet to welcome anyone else insane enough to come along, inventing the Mongol Rally, announcing the Adventurists, and permanently proving that anyone bored on the ‘net is using it wrong. They understand that the same technologies which make the world safe also make it easier to endanger ourselves. Satellites have mapped the world, but this means we know where the most dangerous parts are now. The internet lets you see the world without leaving your desk, or find other people who think that’s crap. We have amazing vehicles which protect their drivers from the elements, and The Adventurists simply don’t use them.
“Ural” is known for frozen Russian mountains and World War II motorbikes, and the “Ice Run” adventure uses both. Their idea of a race is gathering a load of wildly unsuitable vehicles at starting point, naming the destination, and shouting “Go!” There’s no route, support crews or emergency assistance. The only help you get from them is the loan of a pen as you sign the legal waivers saying you won’t sue if you’re stranded, mutilated, or killed, and all of those things have actually happened. The Ice Run is from Irbit to Salekhard, the only town in the Arctic Circle, and Google Maps insists there’s no such route.
That’s because it’s only possible in the dead of winter when the rivers freeze. It’s not mapped, safe, or sane, and that’s exactly what the Adventurists want. This isn’t a bunch of annoying PR executives still acting like bungee jumping is anything but a way of falling over that’s actually safer than doing it at home. These people are genuinely out to do stupid things. Theirs is the only website with twenty-somethings talking about bear and bandit attack which isn’t about Skyrim.
Other adventures include the Rickshaw Run, dragging half-liter vehicles which are honestly challenged by level city roads across the Indian subcontinent, Mototaxis across Peru, and a 1,000 km horse race which makes many countries look small. There’s no prize for crossing the finish line first. Because the sort of person who can trek across a fair fraction of the planet in a tiny car with a team of friends,and still insist on a shiny medal to make it worthwhile doesn’t deserve one.
Each team raises money for charity but you get the strong impression they only do that so people will let them keep going. But here’s the thing: that makes just as much money. It doesn’t matter if the group raising six million dollars does it out of a deep love of the world or just to stop people calling them selfish for racing rally cars across Mongolia, as long as those dollars are raised. They make a point of applying the money to charities in the area they’re trying to kill themselves in — that way they’re providing essential services as well as insane entertainment for everyone they pass.
I met founder Tom Morgan as he hosted “Tea with The Adventurists,” an afternoon talk given by Charles Brewer-Carias (a man who has discovered more species than Noah) and sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin. That’s how kickass the Adventurists are – when they invite interesting people around for a few drinks, the drinks pay for them. He doesn’t look like someone who regularly mocks death. He looks like a really handy guy to have around when your router stops working.
Tom’s soft-spoken manner only makes people who yell and scream about being “awesome” on YouTube look even stupider, adding one more impossible thing to his already impossible list of achievements. This is someone who uses his energy actually doing things and only realized it might be interesting to other people after the fact. And if you want interesting YouTube, check out their latest project.
They’ve set their sights on the moon. Right now they’ve got no equipment, no idea how to do it, nothing but a literally lunatic ambition to achieve. You might recognize that as how the last group to make it there started. You’ll also recognize it as the correct attitude to space travel: it’s there, let’s go, woohoo. Even if it’s impossible. Especially if it’s impossible. Because that’s what the Adventurists are all about.
Luke knows from adventure! He chronicled Three More Landings which Made Neil Armstrong the Ultimate Man and excoriated The Unmanliest Ad on TV.