Top 5 Overland Rallies
SUV, RV, scooter, 1970s Volkswagen Beetle – anything goes during the annual Put Foot Rally. And entrants can expect the same loosey-goosey approach when it comes to almost every element of the race, which the coordinators declare is definitely “not a race”. A lack of organisation, resources and a general mentality of insouciance is held in high regard on this “roughly, sort of, in the region of 8000-kilometre” rally, and responsibility for organising the route, accommodation, food and insurance rests with you. Meander through six southern African nations – South Africa (Cape Town is the starting point), Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique – stopping at six different checkpoints for six different parties in 19 days.
You’re standing at the start line of the Rickshaw Run, 3,500 kilometres of India stretching out before you and all you have to traverse it is a three-wheeled, seven-horsepower rickshaw that is really just a glorified lawn mower. At least your trusty steed looks fly: participants design their pimped-out ride from the comfort of their own home, arriving on the subcontinent to be greeted by a freshly painted set of wheels. You’ll race with two pals for two weeks, crossing paths with other like-minded (read: non compos mentis) travellers, as you putter, slowly, across the country. Between Cochin, in India’s tropical southern state of Kerala, and Jaisalmer, a city almost encroached by desert in the northern state of Rajasthan, riders can choose their own adventure by following the ‘unroute’, i.e. making it up entirely as they go.
Unlike the infamous Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) endurance race that was banned in the 1950s following a particularly devastating crash, the annual amateur re-enactment – with the same name – doesn’t slap down a thrill a minute. What it does boast, however, is one of the most beautiful rally routes in the world, traversing a course of cobbled streets, Tuscan hills and lofty mountain passes. The event draws thousands of spectators each year, all of whom share a love of classic cars: only models that participated in the original races – held between 1927 and 1957 – are welcome to enter. Even so, more than 400 teams cruise in with their vintage rides from all corners of the globe. While the route varies slightly each year, these ancient engines always rev to life during May in Brescia, at the foothills of the Alps, where motor races have been held for more than a hundred years. If you don’t happen to own a 1951 Jaguar XK120 or a 1927 Bugatti T40, make for one of the checkpoints and watch these charming beauties roll by.
Negotiate narrow dirt roads, career around snowy alpine passes and wobble over water crossings in deep rainforest – all from the seat of a diminutive 105cc Honda motorcycle. Alongside 50 other mavericks who have a taste for the open road you’ll tackle 3,500 kilometres of sand, gravel and dust on the Postie Bike Challenge, although mercifully you’ll also have a full support team behind you if (and when) things get a little hairy. After each day spent with wind whipping your face and Australia’s rugged landscapes sailing by, you’ll pitch a tent in rodeo grounds before recounting the events of the past 24 hours with your new pals over a catered dinner. This 10-day outback odyssey traces a different route every year, and has raised more than AU$1 million for charity since its inception in 2002. Rustle up the AU$5,650 entry fee and experience a two-wheeled endurance event like no other.
Quite possibly the most extreme adventure since Shackleton’s polar expeditions, the Ice Run sees motorbike riders careening across a frozen landscape in the depths of Russia’s winter. Form your own team of two and hop aboard a Ural motorcycle to traverse the world’s largest, deepest and oldest lake – a body of water so vast that it’s often mistaken for a sea – in temperatures that can reach –27°C. Three days of training preps bikers for the Siberian slogathon. Sharp gusts of 20 different winds can abruptly materialise, threatening to freeze your face; snow is pockmarked with patches of polished ice, creating a veritable skating rink; and the barren landscape, almost entirely devoid of landmarks, means riders have almost no sense of perspective. Come the big ride, the frosty beauty of Lake Baikal will take your breath away – if the freezing temperatures haven’t already – while the camaraderie will warm your heart, even if every other part of your body is frozen. The entry fee is AU$6,250 per duo, which gets you a bike and all your training. Competitors are also encouraged to raise at least AU$850 for the charity Cool Earth.