How Far Can You Get On Three Wheels? Piaggio Ape Adventures

Taurinorum Charity Rally 2012 – APEMAYA Official trailer” from Taurinorum Travel Team on Vimeo.

On my recent trip to Italy, I fell hard for the tiny Piaggio Ape (say AH-peh, means bee in Italian, for its pleasant hum), a glorified Vespa scooter with a truck bed or a back seat attached. In Italy and India, you see the adorable vehicles everywhere, outfitted as delivery trucks or touristy rickshaws. With its small footprint to park nearly anywhere, high fuel efficiency and low city speeds, I think the Ape might be the perfect car for a New Yorker who just wants it for IKEA runs and those times you find a really amazing coffee table on the street.

Researching the viability and legality of these cars outside of Italy (maybe okay in America, if you don’t take it on the highway), I found the Taurinorum Travel Team, a group who has been raising charity funds with some incredible adventures. They started in 2009 in West Africa, touring in a comparably large Fiat Panda. The first Piaggio Ape trip was in 2011, from Quito, Ecuador, to Machu Picchu, Peru, for the centennial celebration of the ancient city’s discovery and to support biodiversity (watch the little trike car make it over 4,000 kilometers here). The ApeMaya trip last year went through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize, ending in Chichen Itza to combat violence against women. The 2012 trip was designed to coincide with the end of the world as prophesied by the Mayans, but the tuk-tuk survived the 3,000-mile trip. Check out more of their beautiful footage here.

No news yet on their 2013 trip, but I hope they can stop by Brooklyn so I can take it for a test drive.

Enter the Put Foot Rally for an African road trip adventure

Adventurous travelers looking for a unique road trip this summer may want to checkout the Put Foot Rally, which is scheduled to get underway in June. The event begins in South Africa and promises to send teams on a 7000km (4350 mile) long odyssey through the wilds of Africa.

The 17-day rally will kick off at two separate starting lines, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. Once underway, competitors will navigate on their own, and are free to take any path they like, but are required to reach certain checkpoints along the way by certain times. For instance, the first checkpoint is located at the Andersson Gate, just outside Etosha Park in Namibia. How you manage to find your way to that destination is entirely up to you, but you’ll certainly want to get there on time, as each of the checkpoints will play host to a party as well.

Subsequent CP’s will be located on the Okavango Delta in Botwsana, in Livingstone, Zambia, and on the edge of Lake Malawi in Malawi. From there it is on to Inhambane in Mozambique before proceeding on to the finish line in Swaziland. All told, counting the starting and finish line, there are seven checkpoints, and seven parties, in all.

The Put Foot is accepting just 50 crews for the inaugural 2011 rally, and as of this writing they are about halfway to filling that quota. A crew can consist of as many people as you want, but they all have to fit inside one vehicle. Speaking of which, you can also drive any type of car, truck, or SUV you want, as long as it gets you to the checkpoints on time. You can even elect to ride on a motorcycle if you prefer. Organizers of the rally estimate that about 95% of the route can be done on paved roads, which means a 4×4 isn’t necessary to compete. But part of the fun will no doubt be getting off the beaten path and finding interesting ways to reach the checkpoints. Just don’t take a wrong turn and end up in a country you weren’t expecting!
While the rally is going to be great fun, and will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for amazing travel experiences, it isn’t being run just for the adventure. The Put Foot Rally organizers have joined forces with the Bobs For Good Foundation to raise funds and awareness of that charity, which focuses on providing shoes for underprivileged African children. Many of those children might not ever own any kind of footwear under normal circumstances.

If you’d like to put your own crew together and enter the Put Foot Rally, you can register for the event, which gets underway on June 22nd, by clicking here. Be warned though, this is no organized jaunt down the well marked highway. It is instead a self guided safari through some of the wildest places in Africa, and if you’re not prepared for the challenges you could find yourself in real trouble. That said however, if this sounds like your kind of adventure, the rewards could be amazing as well.

Personally, I think Team Gadling would rock this rally!

Mongol Rally sends drivers on a 10,000 mile road trip

The sixth edition of the Mongol Rally got underway earlier this week when 400 teams, making a simultaneous start from the U.K., Spain, and Italy, set off on the ultimate road trip. Over the next month, their 10,000 mile journey will span two continents, pass over mountains, through deserts and jungles, and will only end once they reach the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

But the Mongol Rally isn’t just any road race. There are some strict rules that the competitors must adhere to. For instance, this isn’t a rally for speed demons, as the largest engine allowed in the competition is a mere 1.2 liters in size. And since the race is used to raise money for a number of charities, the teams are required to raise at least £1000, which is roughly the equivalent of $1650.

Perhaps the most important rule however, is that the teams are completely on their own once the race is underway. That means they have no back-up, no support, and if they run into any kind of trouble, they’ll have to find their own way out. The race is completely self-supported, and all the participants will have to be quite resourceful to over come the inevitable ostacles that will arise on their way to Mongolia.

There was a new rule added to the rally this year which requires that all the cars that are used in the race must be less than ten years old. The reason for this, is that the vehicles are also donated to charity once they reach Mongolia, and the government there has stipulated this change in order to ensure the cars that arrive are of high quality and safer for the environment.

One of the more interesting aspects of the race is that there is no set route that the teams must follow on their journey to Ulaanbaatar. In fact, they are encouraged too “get out there into the world, get lost, stuck and in trouble”, as they make their way across Europe and Asia. The Mongol Rally website does offer some examples of past routes however, and you can see that teams have ranged as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Afghanistan in their wanderings.

This looks like the ultimate driving adventure. Who wouldn’t want to load up a few friends, stock up on drinks and snacks and hit the road for a 10,000 mile drive?

2009 Dakar Rally

After taking a year off thanks to security concerns, the Dakar Rally is back, and well underway, just not where you would traditionally expect the iconic off-road race to be. The 2009 edition is the 30th running of the famous long distance, endurance race that has historically run from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal, but this year finds itself on an entirely different continent, racing through Argentina and Chile.

Beginning and ending in Buenos Aires, this year’s race officially got underway back on January 3rd, with 540 teams setting out to cover the 5,951 mile course. Broken down into 14 stages, ten in Argentina and four in Chile, the teams will endure long days in the hot desert sun pushing themselves and their machines to the limits. The final 140 mile stage is scheduled to take place on Saturday, bringing the epic race to a close for another year. Whether or not it returns to its roots in Europe and Africa in 2010 remains to be seen.

Check out this amazing gallery of photos from the race. They give a little insight into danger and intensity of a long distance rally like this one, in which racers use motorcycles, quad runners, trucks, and cars to cross the rugged and demanding terrain.