Four Hawke's Bay friends have completed a motoring marathon "adventure of a lifetime", but it wasn't all plain driving through some of the most uninhabitable spots on earth.
In July, Tom Bostock, Arthur Glazebrook, Rhys Wynne-Lewis and Kurt Livingston started a two-and-a-half month 17,000km journey across deserts, mountain ranges, and wilderness.
They returned home from the trip, known as the Mongol Rally, in late September with a heck of story to tell.
The Mongol Rally is a race across half of Europe and Asia in a car 1000cc or less, or a motorbike 125cc or less.
"It was something to get us out of our comfort zone and really test us and venture to places where you wouldn't normally travel to," Livingston said.
"It was a real adventure and something that really built our friendship and we're definitely closer and greater friends from the experience.
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The Mountain Oysters, the name they called their team, started in Prague and travelled down through southeast Europe, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, up to Mongolia and then into Siberia, Russia to finish.
"We drove through some of the worst roads imaginable, from desert roads and even the main field roads had massive potholes everywhere you went," Livingston said.
"You're driving on roads rally cars would never drive on."
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They managed to do all this in a 1999 Renault Kangoo which they called Sheila, which they picked up in France ahead of their trip.
"She was a dream - we only had a couple of issues but she ran perfectly, we didn't even get a single flat tyre, while others were getting five-six and also getting stopped by police and having to pay them off with bribes," Livingston said.
"We pushed her pretty hard to but she didn't fold."
For the team one of the most surprising things they came across was how generous and forthcoming the people they met were.
"One of the most amazing things on the trip was to witness all the different cultures along the way," Livingston said.
"Every couple hundreds of kilometres you come along a different culture.
"We were driving in Tajikistan along the Pamir Highway, which is the second-highest highway in the world, and it was a real rugged and rough road and for 1500km you drive along the Afghanistan border and our suspension snapped on that road," Livingston said.
"The locals were so friendly and they just came along jacked up the car, removed the suspension, drove it to the nearest town, welded it up, chucked it back on the car and we were off again."
Livingston said that so many times you hear horrible things about some of these countries, it was refreshing to see the heart of the villages and locals in it.
"All the things you hear about these countries like Iran - we were so surprised by how generous people are and how helpful they are to help you out, waving to us and giving us fruit and vegetables for our journey."
But they did find themselves in a couple of hairy situations when they got in between rebel groups or came across hostile soldiers in the various countries they travelled through.
"One night we were driving through Turkey near the Iran border and we were looking for a campsite and then there was this van that was tailing us and ended up pinning us in this alleyway," Livingston said.
"Then a whole heap of guys jumped out with machine guns, fingers on the trigger, banging on the car saying they were police asking for passports and so we reluctantly handed them over, all of us terrified, but they must have liked us for some reason because they just let us go."
One night they even came close to being faced with a well-known terrorist group.
"In Kazakhstan, we were camping right on the border and then the Kazakhstan army rushed over to us telling us to shut our lights off because just across the river there was Taliban just over in Afghanistan and with the lights on they might think we were patrol cars and take shots at us," Livingston said.
"So that shut us up and made us go to bed pretty quick."
Many people never consider doing a trip like this ever in their life but for this group of Hawke's Bay mates it all happened over a couple of drinks.
"It was something we discussed over a few beers talking about a friend of a friend, who did it, but at the time it was after a few beers and, you know, anything sounds good after a few beers," Livingston said.
"But Tom was the one pushing us saying we should do it, it's something we have to do and then next thing we paid for the deposit and it was like 'okay, looks like where doing it'."
As part of the rally each team had to raise money for the organiser's charity, Cool Earth, which is helping fight against deforestation with all the nearly 300 cars donating, but the guys had a more local focus in mind.
"The Cancer Wellness Centre was something we really wanted to support because a few of us have been personally affected and to help out meant a lot to us," Livingston said.
Before they left they had already raised nearly $17,000, breaking their goal of $10,000, and have raised all up nearly $22,000.
"Our goal is to really raise awareness because it is something that will support so many people in the region and help so many people during difficult times."
Livingston said if he ever considered doing the trip again he would possibly change it up a little doing it in a little more comfort.
"If it was in a nice plush four-wheel drive and staying in a hotel a couple times a week it would definitely be nice to do," he said.
"But the ruggedness of the trip and the car was what made it special to do and what made the trip an adventure."