A Mongol Rally Story
I had been teamed up with my convoy for less than 24 hours when we finally crossed into Bulgaria. Earlier that morning I had picked up a hitchhiker from the Rally. Although I was content to drive my car solo, Mongolia was still quite far away and a little company in-between was nice for me.
The boys I was convoying with, known to me as “The Boys” drove the yellow Fiat in front of me. They had an offline navigation and three team mates (whereas I had none) and it felt nice to let them take charge for a little while. After all, one can only be the independent, badass, solo, rally-chick for so long before one needs a hot bubble bath and chocolate. I went into autopilot and although my Pink Yak, rally car was having some engine problem and struggling uphill in anything higher than 2nd gear, I was having an easy go.
I chatted with my hitchhiker while noticing out of the corner of my eye a car on the side of the road. We were not on a main road and the road was rather windy and remote. There was plenty of cars passing by, but still remote enough to cause for precautions. The vehicle had the hood up and a lot of smoke coming from the engine and what appeared to be a woman, feigning that she was holding a “baby” beside it. Her face was hidden and it was difficult to be certain it was in fact what it appeared to be. A man began waving to us upon sight of us. A red flag immediately waved in the back of my mind as I thought about the plenty of other Bulgarian cars I had witnessed passing the broken down vehicle.
Before I had time to react, the boys in front of me suddenly turned on their signal and swerved the roadside in front of the distressed car. I didn’t want to separate from my newfound convoy so I followed them and parked just behind them, leaving my engine running and windows and doors locked to first assess the situation. The man began to approach my car, but when he looked inside my vehicle and found the faces of two women, he seemed to be taken aback and instead approached the yellow car in front. He was satisfied to find 3 very young boys stuffed inside the small car, clearly not from around the area. (They had jerry cans, a roof rack, and a pineapple strapped to the roof of their car, not to mention the countless rally stickers and VERY British accents.)
My hitchhiker was chatting with me, completely oblivious to the scene taking place but I hushed her as I watched the man’s every move. He placed his hand on their rolled down windows and was pushing his head inside their window as he began to talk. Although I couldn’t hear a word, his body language said it all.
It was a scam.
I looked at his car, trying to confirm my suspicions. The other passenger in the car didn’t have a baby, though that is what she was trying to have us believe. It could have been a teddy bear rolled in a blanket for all I knew but I KNEW it wasn’t a baby. She shifted nervously as I looked at her and the smoke coming from the engine. Far too much smoke for a woman and her “baby” to be sitting calmly inside the vehicle, I concluded.
I told my hitchhiker to remain in the car as I stepped outside. The man noticed my presence and grew louder and more animated in his storytelling. He noticed the face of the three young British boys and how they all looked to me, as if I were the pack leader and they were waiting their command. The man suddenly grew very nervous as he realized I was the one holding the cars. Without saying a word I motioned to the boys to drive, QUICKLY. The man grew angry but luckily had stepped outside of their window long enough for them to roll them up and begin to roll away.
I hopped back into my Pink Yak, ready for the man’s friends to jump from the bushes with knives. I began to pull away but from the sight of my mirrors I saw the man walk casually to the hood of his car, remove the “smoke making device” from his engine, toss it on the ground, get into his car and speed away into the opposite direction.
And that’s all that happened.
You might be asking yourself, what if he really was a man that had engine problem and just needed help? Well, most engines don’t have fake smoke machines sitting on the top, and most people who’ve broken down down jump in their car and speed away in the opposite direction.
You might also be asking yourself, how did you KNOW that it was a scam and not a person in need?
My GUT. I could FEEL that something wasn’t right. And I LISTENED to my GUT FEELING. Luckily, nothing happened, but that doesn’t mean something bad couldn’t have happened!
Listen to your gut! And for other tips, stories and tricks as to HOW I am able to spot and recognize scams and dangerous situations BEFORE they get dangerous, then consider enrolling in my Travel Scams Masterclass! This class is ONLY $10.99 and helps cover the fees to run and host this website. Supporting this website means that I can continue to give information that could help prevent bad things from happening to others and by taking my Travel Scams course I know that you will feel more prepared and confident and capable of recognizing con artists while traveling to prevent yourself from getting cheated (or worse!)
For the full story of my Mongol Rally Adventure CLICK HERE.