Former John Gray High School teacher Edward ‘Ted’ Todd, was regaining his strength over the weekend in the city of Ulan-Ude in Siberia, Russia, after completing the arduous 11,000‑mile Mongol Rally.
The road journey is described by organisers The Adventurists as “the greatest motoring adventure on the planet”. The rally, which launched in 2006 and takes drivers across the ‘Old Silk Road’, began this year in the Czech Republic on 22 July.
There are no defined routes, so drivers are free to traverse as far north as the open plains of the Arctic tundra, to as far south as the sand dunes of Iran. The last car must cross the finish line today (Monday).
Earlier this year, Todd left his job as a teacher at John Gray after 13 years and returned home to the UK before setting off on his adventure. He set off on 22 July with the other rally drivers from a forest outside of the village of Bratronice in the Czech Republic.
“It took me 58 days to complete,” said Todd. “I travelled 18,000 kilometres across the Himalayan mountain range, through the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, across rivers and hundreds of kilometres of unpaved roads.”
The only three rules of the rally are that teams complete the journey in a vehicle with an engine not exceeding 1,000cc; teams must raise at least £1,000 (CI$1,041) for charity; and teams are to complete the rally unsupported.
Todd says his Cayman students inspired him to sign up for the rally, which he completed on Friday, 13 Sept.
“When I was teaching in the Cayman Islands, I would often tell my students there is more to the world than this beautiful island,” he said. “At John Gray, we prepare our students to be competitive in this 21st century world. We tell them that in order to truly develop as … well-rounded people capable of taking on this world, they must first go and travel and see it for themselves, because then they will see how beautiful the rest of the world is, as well as how fortunate they are.”
Todd and teammate Sima Ghadirzadeh Ashkzari, along with their Vauxhall Adam motorcar, made up ‘Team Turtle’, one of 350 teams that entered this year’s expedition – and one of 300 teams to have finished by Saturday.
“I decided to actually make the connection with the Cayman Islands through the name ‘Team Turtle’ … and I called it Team Turtle to raise awareness about the work being done by the Cayman Islands Turtle Centre,” he said.
Other Cayman Islands-based organisations that Team Turtle is also raising awareness about include Special Needs Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands Early Childhood Association.
While the adventure was filled with breathtaking sights of wide-open countryside, an active volcanic mountain and bumpy off-road excursions, Todd had his fair share of setbacks.
A post on Facebook showed the car in a ditch on the side of the road. Another post on his social media page shows a video of Todd on the ground in the Mongolian grasslands, explaining that he’d been hurt after falling off “a spooked horse that bolted”.
Through it all, Todd said, he was able to spread the message about Cayman and its people.
“Everywhere I went, I was talking to people about the Cayman Islands and the Turtle Centre, and they all asked the same question, ‘Where are the Cayman Islands?’” said Todd.
“I’m pleased to have been able to put Cayman on the map in places where people had never heard about it before.”
By taking his own advice and venturing out to see the wider world, Todd also learned a few valuable lessons himself. “I have been truly humbled by people opening their doors and allowing me to stay in their homes. People gave so generously, even when they had nothing to give,” he said.
Now that the journey is complete, he said he is looking forward to returning to the Cayman Islands to tell his former students all about his grand adventure.