What takes two weeks, covers 9 countries, and is 7000km long?
By Ric Gazarian
I have been very fortunate. I have traveled to 70 countries on 7 continents. I have seen, tasted, smelled; well, you get the idea. I am always looking to broaden my horizons when it comes to learning about new cultures and countries.
I was in Yerevan, Armenia last September, and I happened upon a Sovietesque banner ?. ?The Caucasian Challenge?. The banner was draped on the wall of one of the ubiquitous outdoor cafes of Yerevan. It caught my attention. When I visited an internet caf?; I recalled that name and promptly googled ?The Caucasian Challenge?.
As I read the description of this driving rally, I was immediately bitten by the bug. I needed to do this. The Caucasian Challenge was not your standard charter vacation to Orlando or Batumi for the week. This would be an amazing, dirty, sweaty, challenging, and maybe even dangerous journey that would take me to 9 different countries over two weeks. What sealed the deal was the race ended in Yerevan. My home away from home.
I was born in Boston to Armenian parents and have lived in Chicago for the past ten years. Yerevan holds a special place in my heart. In addition to yearly visits starting in 2003, I have lived there twice as a volunteer, in 2004 for 4 months and in 2009 for 2 months. I volunteered at Zatik orphanage and Manana, an after-school group. During my time there, I developed a strong affinity to the people and the country.
While most of you will not be able to join me on this adventure, I am still hoping you will be able to partner with me. I am raising money for three charities ? Zatik, Manana, and Armenian Volunteer Corp. You will have the ability to donate at www.7000kmtogo.com.
This venture is being guided by an impressive group of Trustees including: Linda Yepoyan, Sharistan Melkonian, Rouzan Baghdasaryan, Oscar Tatosian, Father Hovnan Demerjian, and Araz Artinian.
This driving rally will start in Budapest, Hungary; intersect the newly formed countries of the Balkans, dart over Greece, and sprint along the northern coast of Turkey, criss-cross Georgia, cruise through Nagorno-Karabakh, and finish in Yerevan. Nine countries in fourteen days. Not a scenic walk in the park.
To add to the excitement, my team will be competing against 20 other teams from around the world. Yes, this is a race. Over the two week trip, teams are required to cross 14 different check points. The team to cross these check points and arrive in Yerevan first would be declared the winner.
This is easier said than done. Recent war zones of Serbia, Kosovo and Georgia are part of the route. I can already envision the challenges of dealing with surly border officials, unexploded ordinance, getting lost on numerous back roads, and not speaking the native language. And, of course, our car is not exactly new. What is to prevent it from breaking down at the most inconvenient time and place?
Our team is counting down the days until August 14th with incredible excitement for the Caucasian Challenge. I plan on making continual updates on my blog to share with you our adventure. Feel free to comment or email me. And I look forward to meeting you in Yerevan (if you happen to live there)!
To make a donation and learn more about this race please go to www.7000kmtogo.com, or you may send a check to Birthright Armenia, 333 East Lancaster Avenue #330, Wynnewood, PA 19096. Please write 7000 in the memo section of the check.
Contact: Ric Gazarian
May 7, 2010