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Yaks in the Box | Mongol Rally 2013

Fundraising Results

The Yaks in the Box have raised over $6,000 for New Light and over $2,000 for Cool Earth. We couldn’t be happier.

Together, we have provided school uniforms, food, shelter and education for children in Calcutta, India. We have protected 22 acres of rainforest that was in imminent danger of being cut down.

Thanks so much to our friends, family, sponsors and even complete strangers for all of your support.

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We have completed the 2013 Mongol Rally!

1146300_10151631406888697_1271447050_oMongol Rally Day 40 (8/22/13): After 10,205 miles, we have made it to our final destination – Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. We are safe and sound, if not a bit bruised and tired. Even bad ass Yolanda sputtered a sigh of relief when the Yaks handed over the keys at the finish line.

Six weeks have come and gone in a flash. It was six weeks well spent. It’s never what you expect. It was at times frustrating, boring, miserable and exhausting. It was at times humbling, joyous, incredible and inspiring. Being sick, starved and overheated on an Azeri cargo ship quickly makes you wish you were at home on the sofa. Waking up to see the sun rise over herds of wild Mongolian horses on endless rolling plains makes you wish you were never at home on the sofa.

Good or bad, we come out of these experiences ...

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Mongolia Photos








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Catching up on daily updates

Yaks US Support Staff here….the Yaks appear to have successfully crossed into Mongolia! While they may be radio silent until reaching UB, here is a catch up of daily updates to report:

Mongol Rally Day 27 (8/9/13): After 7 hours of administration, what seems to be typical now for border crossings, we have arrived in our 16th country, Kazakhstan. We are staying in the Shymkent. Tomorrow we visit the city of Turkistan in the south, then make our progress towards our 17th country, Kyrgystan.

Mongol Rally Day 28 (8/10/13): Today we saw the Yasaui Mausoleum in Turkistan, described as Kazakhstan’s most beautiful building. The only reason we made this detour was because it was Sara’s burning desire to see the stunning place featured on the cover of the Lonely Planet’s Central Asia book...

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Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan Photos


Landscape 2

boy on horse

Landscape 3



Kazakhstani kids

Lake Issyk Kul


Kazakh Sky

Lake Kaindy

Lake Kaindy 2

Lake Kaindy 3

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Khiva and Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Below are some of the photos the Yaks took in Khiva and Bukhara, Uzbekistan.









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Daily updates and more photos

Updates from the past week:

Mongol Rally Day 21 (8/1/13): This morning, we drove around Ashgabat, known as the White Marble City, to view the pristine, white marble, gold accented buildings. The city, which is nearly deserted, has the feeling of a fictional city from the future.

Then we made our way north to Darvaza to view a strange, but spectacular attraction. The Gates of Hell were created by accident when a natural gas mine collapsed. The crater was lit to burn off the gas which expected to last a few days. But 40 years later, it is still going strong.

Turkmenistan collage copy

Mongol Rally Day 23 (8/5/13): The roads in Turkmenistan have been the worse we have seen thus far. Despite being paved, the roads look like they’ve been carpet bombed...

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The Gates of Hell

They Came. They Saw. They Conquered.  Wearing yak hats.


And a kick-ass red dress.


This is the Darvaza gas crater in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, affectionately known as The Gates of Hell. The Soviets drilled for natural gas here but the ground collapsed. To prevent gas from leaking into the environment, they lit the gas to burn it off, expecting it to stay ignited for a few days. This was in 1971.


If you squint it looks like Boss Floss is standing in front of a stuffed deep dish Chicago style pizza.



Ralliers from Lumberyaks and Machiniacs look into the Gate.


Socko hopes not to be tossed in and promises to be a good little monkey from now on.

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Royal Caspian Cruiselines aka The Caspian Sea Prison Boat aka Slave Ship to Turkmenistan

Below are reports compiled by Team Yaks in the Box US Support Staff from various of their Facebook posts and other sources summarizing their harrowing journey across the Caspian sea…

Mongol Rally Day 16 (7/29/13): We obtained our Turkmenistan visas and went to the dock to board the cargo ship to Turkmenbashi. There we were met by a dozen Rally teams. Unfortunately, Baku lived up to its word origin, meaning “pounded by wind.” We were unable to sail due to bad weather. Better luck tomorrow.

From Blond Ignition (7/29/13): The boat across the Caspian is on a wind hold, but spirits are high here at the Baku, Azerbaijan customs and immigration holding area. We had to sneak out for hot food and acceptable toilets (and wifi). Yes, somebody brought bagpipes.Waiting for Ferry Collage copy

Mongol Rally Day 20 (8/2/13): After wait...

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Georgia and Azerbaijan

The Yaks in the Box spent days 12-15 traveling from the eastern shore of the Black Sea to the western shore of the Caspian sea, traversing the width of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Mongol Rally Day 12 (7/25/13): Leaving Batumi, we stopped at Gori, the birthplace of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. After hearing the gals gush over how hot a young activist bad boy Stalin was, we stopped in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Tomorrow, we reach Baku, Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea.  Day 12 Update:  Change of plans… again. We need to get our Turkmenistan visas at the consulate in Baku, but it is only open on Mondays and Fridays...

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Goodbye Turkey, Hello Georgia

Mongol Rally Day 10 (7/23/13): At dawn, we rode a hot air balloon over beautiful Cappadocia. Afterwards, we explored the ancient underground city of Derinyuku – a multistory complex large enough to shelter 20,000 people. We will overnight in the town of Erzincan, Turkey and tomorrow we’ll make our way into country #12, Georgia.

Turgüt took us on a nice ride. I don’t get out of bed for much before it’s light, but I can make exceptions.

Kara and Turgut

balloon ride

balloon ride2

We spent three days in Turkey and never figured out what this means. We stopped when we should have Durred. We probably Durred when we should have stopped. Either way, we left unscathed.

Dur sign

Mongol Rally Day 11 (7/24/13): We drove north into the mountainous region of Turkey until we hit the Black Sea, then east, crossing the border, finally resting at Batumi...

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Turkey, a wonder of the senses

Blond Ignition reports: Turkey is a wonder of the senses. In one block, you’ll smell lavender from the baths, curries from the restaurants, lilac wafting from a nearby garden, the earthy heat of the stones in the road, the BO from the douchebag trying to sell you another goddam carpet, and yep, that’s definitely sewage. Keep walking.

turkish textilesturkish sweets

Mongol Rally Day 7 (7/20/13): We completed our first week of the rally and entered our 11th country. (Today we departed #9 Romania, drove through #10 Bulgaria, and arrived in #11 Turkey.) After our 14 hour day, we are resting on the outskirts of Istanbul. Tomorrow, we either head west to the coastal towns on the Aegean Sea or to Cappadocia, in central Turkey.

Mongol Rally Day 8 (7/21/13): Like the DJs say, we are gonna slow it down just a little bit...

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Week 1 Update

Most of the updates are happening on Facebook, but here is a recap for those who may be looking for info on the blog, along with a few photos culled from the larger set on the Yaks in the Box album on Facebook.

Mongol Rally Day 1 (7/14/13): We were in five countries today (England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany). Need to shower and get some rest.

Mongol Rally Day 5 (7/18/13): We are in our 9th country (since leaving #5 Germany, we have passed through #6 Czech Republic, #7 Austria, #8 Hungary and are currently in #9 Romania). Driving in Europe has been smooth sailing, maintaining mostly a 70 mph maximum speed limit. The only automobile issue was a broken headlamp. Border crossings have been uneventful...

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Photos from Rally Launch

Day 1 is in the books, and The Yaks are blazing a trail through Germany headed for the Czech Republic.  Here are a few photos from the launch at Bodiam Castle.

Launch Collage2

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The Gypsy is Packed But Her Plane is Empty

The Gypsy has done a great job packing, but too bad she is sitting in a Croatian airport instead of a London hotel.


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Boss Floss: Ready to Roll



Camping Gear

  1. Tents (2)
  2. Sleeping bags (2)
  3. Sleeping pad
  4. Sleeping bag liner
  5. Jetboil
  6. Bowl & spork
  7. Toiletries
  8. Camp towel
  9. Headlamp
  10. Compass
  11. Emergency blanket
  12. Pocket knife
  13. Lighter
  14. Emergency water filter
  15. Daypack


  1. Windbreaker
  2. Hardshell Jacket
  3. Puffy coat
  4. Fleece
  5. Shorts
  6. Tank tops (2)
  7. Tee shirts (5)
  8. Jeans (1)
  9. Trekking pants (1)
  10. Underwear (5)
  11. Socks (2)
  12. Belt
  13. Hat
  14. Gloves
  15. Bandana
  16. Head scarf
  17. Boots


  1. DSLR Camera
  2. Gorilla tripod
  3. Go Pro
  4. iPhone
  5. Laptop
  6. Car charger adapter


  1. Sock monkey
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Blond Ignition is packed and ready.


No, those aren’t giant feet.

In these two bags are all the requirements for this Yak’s successful vie at the Mongol Rally.

  1. Sleeping bag
  2. Two-man tent
  3. Sleeping mat
  4. Eight-or-so packs of backcountry Louisiana red beans and rice camping meals
  5. Backcountry cooking pot, fork and spoon
  6. First aid kit
  7. Four T-shirts
  8. Two pairs of pants
  9. Undies and socks
  10. Sole flip-flops
  11. Squishable puffy jacket
  12. Collapsible camp chair
  13. Carton of Marlboro cigarettes for bribing purposes
  14. Hat and gloves
  15. Road maps
  16. Towel and toiletries
  17. A dozen Yaks in the Box rally team shirts for distribution to unsuspecting locals

Now to enjoy one more day in the sun…

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Socko’s First Days

Over the weekend, I received Socko in a bakery in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. He was a thin, lanky fellow, but a bit taller than I had believed from his photos. Nevertheless, he appeared to be in good health, despite some deformity in the facial region.

The hand off was smooth and without incident. Shy and timid, Socko sat quietly in my car. He did not make any eye contact. He did not care to indulge in small talk. Despite my best efforts, he lay motionless and expressionless. I wondered how Socko could possibly make it through the rally’s unfamiliar, chaotic, unrelenting atmosphere.

Recently Updated1

But as the hours passed, he perked up little by little. I involved him in my daily activities, and with compassion and patience, I finally was able to break through...

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Our Box Modifications

Our car modifications are done.

We have new tires, a spare tire, a new exhaust, a skid plate and roof bars.

Now all we need are our rally stickers to make it rally ready.


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How Many Would You Get?

Here’s the map we presented to our trivia teams in addition to 45 brain-flexing questions. Best score from twenty-some-odd teams is 17.


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Introducing Socko – Our Fourth Yak


One of my past coworkers contacted me to sponsor a fourth member of the Yaks in the Box. This sock monkey, named Socko, belongs to her son. She asked if I would be willing to take Socko with us on our rally and take pictures of him along the way, with the hope that she could “pass along both the sense of adventure the rally embodies and some of the joy, awe, and mystery the world inspires when we explore beyond our comfort zone.”

Of course! I will take Socko along and treat him as if he were my own son. I hope he is durable, because I need to return him to Chicago in one piece. On cold nights, we will snuggle. On hot days, I will hope he is flame retardant. On long days, I will be happy he doesn’t talk much.

Pleased with this news, the Gypsy said, “We gotta have at least one responsible y...

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So Who All is Going on the 2013 Mongol Rally?

Team Skhandinavia put together a comprehensive list of the 2013 Mongol Rally teams, including the team names, number of people on the team, nationality, website and facebook pages.

Here are the some fun stats:

280 teams total

30 countries are represented

35 teams completely or partially comprised of Americans

43 people are riding solo (much respect- that is tough!)

107 teams with two teammates

89 teams with three teammates

36 teams with four teammates

4 teams with five teammates

1 team with 15 teammates (driving a bus)

Click here to see the data:

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Cards for Charity

Thanks to everyone who came out to play Cards Against Humanity at the Brewery last night. With the help of Ron, Jackie, and everyone at Skookum, we raised $391 for our charities!

We ended up with 21 players vying for the ultimate prize, the Sponsor Sticker on the rally car. That honor was eventually bestowed upon Denae Davis, who is also one of our generous donors, an RN from Seattle. She elected to take the sticker home and return it before the Yaks embark. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!


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Get a shirt!

Show your support with this sweet tee! If you make (or have already made) a donation to one of our fine charities, send an email to with your name, address, color (white or heather) and size (men’s L and XL, women’s L and XL) and we will send you one. While supplies last!



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If you’re in the great Pacific Northwest next Thursday, June 13th, get yourself to Skookum Brewery.

Our friends at Skookum in Arlington, Washington have opened up the brewery to us next Thursday, June 13th, for a night out you cannot pass up. Play Cards Against Humanity with a bunch of friends and strangers alike for a chance at some great prizes. If you’ve never played, no worry. The game is simple and loads of fun. All the proceeds will go directly to the Yaks in the Box and our charities!


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We have some good stuff for you

Our sponsor page has been updated!

Donate to our charities and get some cool stuff in the process.

See the details here:

  • Adventure travel
  • Outdoor gear
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Baby items
  • Dining
  • Web services
  • Apparel
  • Footwear
  • Art
  • Hair
  • Massage
  • Personal training
  • Yoga
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Tire Upgrades

Most veteran ralliers recommend getting better tires for the journey. So we are replacing our original tires with these tires.

The marketing pitch:

“Designed for small and compact cars, the Continental Eco Contact 3 Tyre has low rolling resistance giving reduced fuel consumption and has excellent wear properties to ensure high mileage. In addition, its asymmetrical tread design provides excellent traction on wet and dry roads and shorter braking distances.”

They are about $100 a tire, fitted. We are getting four plus a spare.



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One Sweet Ride

We are happy to announce that we are the proud owners of a 2006 Vauxhall Agila.

A what? I don’t know either.

When we began searching for the 1 liter engine vehicles that qualified for the rally, we came across a whole bunch of cars we’ve never heard of: Nissan Micra, Suzuki Alto, Fiat Panda, Daihatsu Terios, Reliant Robin. That made it hard to select a car having little to no perception of the make or model.

We wanted something that did not have too many miles. I liked the Agila because it seemed roomy and comfortable. With the help of a mechanic company (DK Servicing) in London, we purchased an Agila we found on

For vehicle details, see here.

agila 1

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We have a Full Box.

All it took was one phone call to find our third yak. Sara called Kara (seriously, rhyming names for six weeks?) and explained what we were doing. Kara went straight to her employer and got her leave of absence approved.  And as easily as that, we have our Yaks in the Box in full force.


So what do we all do career wise that allow us to take that kind of time off?

I own a couple internet-based businesses, and with the help of a couple wonderful employees, I am allowed to roam geographically. Sara and Kara are private airline pilots that are apparently very generous with vacation. Sara and Kara work for the same company and met during training.

I think three is the perfect number. Pilot, co-pilot, and sleeping passenger.

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It’s Official. The Yaks in the Box are in.

Entry fee submitted.
Visa paperwork mailed.
Next up: Finding a proper vehicle.


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Search for the Third Yak

Sara and I were discussing the Mongol Rally. My concern was the ridiculous amount of driving we would have to do per day to keep this adventure to six weeks. 6-8 hours a day, everyday, is pretty tough split between the two of us. We decided it would be best to add another teammate.

I shared this on my facebook:

Mongol Rally anyone?
10,000 miles.
19 countries.
6 weeks.
1 space.
You know you want it.

I had three people show some interest.

We shall see…

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An Idea is Born

“How the hell did you find out about the Mongol Rally?”

That’s what people usually ask me when I mention that I’m doing the Mongol Rally this year. But honestly, I don’t remember how it got into my mind stream. It was not recent. I probably saw it while looking at travel sites online years ago. While most people read about sports, world events, and local restaurant openings, I look for beautiful destinations and wonder how to get there. So when I came across this adventure that would span over a dozen countries by car, I was intrigued to say the least. I put the Mongol Rally on my list of things to do before I die.


It just so happened that the Mongol Rally was independently on my friend’s radar as well...

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