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Three friends, one tiny car, and a 10,000-mile expedition to the far, punishing regions of the planet. Can they do it? "Yes We Khan."
It was 2020. Chris Johnston-Marr, 27, Jen Johnston-Marr, 26, and Chris’ cousin Marc Tracey, 29, were experiencing life through the state of lockdown. It was enough to make anyone reach for the stars, or even just the street, but they're taking a few steps further.
Spawned from being stuck indoors, a childhood around Motor neurone disease and the increasing volatility of climate change, they sought to accomplish a butt-numbing, jaw-dropping feat: driving across the world in a car 'your gran would drive'.
Check out the Yes We Khan team's car in the video below:
Originally, the Yes We Khan trio were set to take on 10,000 miles of 'chaos across mountain, deserts and steppe' in a race to Mongolia, known as the Mongol Rally.
Amid the geopolitical climate as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been redrafted by The Adventurists into The Poles of Inconvenience Rally. This summer, they'll set off from Orkney, Scotland, to Georgia, with pit stops planned in both the Arctic Circle and the Sahara Desert across four weeks.
Speaking to UNILAD, Chris said: "The whole concept of the Mongol rally is to do something fairly foolish which is to take a car that your gran would drive and try and get it to somewhere like Mongolia, is the original concept of the rally, which is still the plan for next year.
"We’re now gonna race to Georgia via what they’ve dubbed the Poles of Inconvenience. They’re basically these little GPS markers scattered all around the globe. They’re like, ‘Have fun trying to get to them. You might not get to them. You might get arrested trying to get to some. But it’s the most inconvenient way to get your car to Georgia.’
"So, some of them are as far up to Norway as the Arctic Circle. There’s some in the very corners of Iran and Morocco in the Sahara Desert. And it’s basically free reign - you’ve got four weeks to drive to Georgia, and you can hit as many as these pointless poles as you want."
The rally does come with a caveat: you need to do it in a car that's one litre or less in engine size. With an assured Scottish sarcasm, Chris said this will make the challenge 'all the more fun'.
He continued: "So, we’ve got a 20-year-old Nissan Micra, which we bought off a guy at an auction in a barn. We’ve taken it, got mechanics to look at it and get it in good nick, and that’s the mobile that’ll drive us to Georgia now."
Of course, they're not just embarking on a Top Gear-style challenge for the sake of it. Ahead of the event, they're fundraising for Cool Earth, a 'climate change charity who work with rainforest communities across the world, helping them deal with the impacts of climate change that affect them close to home,' Chris said.
"Obviously, the fact we’re driving petrol and diesel cars across a large chunk of the planet, you’re obviously damaging part of the Earth, so that idea is sort of giving back to them.
"They’ve set us a goal of raising at least £500, and we’re trying to push that a bit further if we can."
The trio are also raising money for My Name'5 Doddie Foundation, founded by Scottish rugby player Doddie Weir, who was diagnosed with MND in 2017.
Chris explained: "We chose that charity because myself and Mark, my co-pilot and cousin... our gran had MND when we were growing up, so we know the troubles that are faced with it and that there’s no cure for it.
"The reason we chose the Doddie Foundation over someone like MND Scotland is because we felt like Doddie Weir was doing a lot on the current impact on the research side of things."
Naturally, it's been a bit of a stress to organise, whether it's considering the toll of the trip on their humble vehicle, the Ukraine conflict or the weight of people rooting for and relying on them. At the other end of the spectrum, Chris already can't wait to do it all again.
He said: "Logistically, it’s been about a year and a half of planning. It was a bit terrifying with all the COVID restrictions and Russia and Ukraine happening, we kind of saw it coming away from us a little bit which is terrifying when you’ve put all this time and effort into it, got corporate sponsorship and trying to raise all this money for charity.
"There’s a lot of people relying on us, so that was a terrifying thought: what if it doesn’t happen this year? Oh great, now we’ve got to plan a whole other logistical nightmare on top of it with a shorter timeframe.
"There’s been a lot of stress and mental fatigue in trying to keep this thing afloat, but everyone’s been really gung-ho.
"The charities have been great with helping us keep momentum up, the sponsors we’ve had that have financially helped us totally understand given the Russia-Ukraine situation why we can’t get to Mongolia.
"They’re totally onboard with the new plan and future plans going into 2023. I’m hoping I can make this a sort of yearly thing potentially."
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