With over a decade of mildly preposterous road tripping behind us, encompassing around 90,000 miles across 80 different countries, there are bound to be a few stand-out moments. Moments which make you smile every time you recall them. I’m sure you already know about the highs of the recently completed Pub2Pub Expedition, but we have plenty of cherished memories from the trips which went before; the trips which inspired Pub2Pub. We’ve whittled the list down to ten – here they are:
10 – Rolling into Marrakesh, in the ‘Marrakesh Express’
‘I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.’ – Tahir Shah
It was dusk, but the dry air still had a velvety warmth about it, and was filled with the intrigue of a great city. Dust wandered on the breeze, mingling with the smell of roasting kebabs and the soft sounds sound of an earlier age, drifting across from the nearby Jemel el Fna. I stood next to my Classic Rover P6, heat billowing from its engine bay as its exhaust ticked contentedly, as it always did at the end of a long day on the road.
We’d left the UK ten days previously, and travelled 1,500 miles to reach Marrakesh. En-route the Rover had taken us across the High Atlas mountains to the fringes of the Sahara, through the Todra Gorge and the imperial city of Fez, and even to the Kasbah-town of Ait Benhaddou. It had taken all this in its stride, and carried us to the most evocative Saharan town of them all. Marrakesh. As the soft light faded to black and the temperature dropped to comfortable, Marrakesh came alive around us. It was certainly a moment to cherish. And the best bit was, we’d earned it.
9 – Being miles from shore on the frozen Baltic Sea in a classic Jaguar
‘The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
Our Jaguar XJ6 purred along the smooth surface, with only the smallest of vibrations from the unusual surface beneath its wheels making themselves felt. Several miles behind us, mainland Europe had receded to the horizon; ahead we could just about make out the island of Vormsi in the distance. To our left, a ferry plied its trade through a passage in the ice, and beneath our wheels, 25cm of frozen ice was all that separated us and out 2 tonnes of Jag from the icy waters of the Baltic.
Surreal doesn’t begin to describe the sensation…
8 – A dream 7 years in the making – reaching Saigon at the end of the V8Nam Expedition
‘The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.’ – Christopher McCandless
We looked out across the city – one of the great cities – from the 23rd floor of the skyscraper. Saigon bustled all around us and stretched away into the distance, until it merged with the spectacular monsoon sunset to our west, where we’d came from. Seven years previously the idea had formed. A simple idea; V8Nam. Get a couple of cars with V8 engines, and drive them from England to Vietnam. And we’d just done it. In the previous eight weeks and 12,000 miles we’d travelled half the world. We’d crossed mountains and deserts, forded rivers and red tape, and refused to believe there was any chance we wouldn’t make the finish. And at that moment, on the 23rd floor of the Saigon Sheraton, as we chinked mojitos against the sunset, all the stresses, trials and hardships of the previous 12,000 miles faded to nothing. At that moment, we realised we’d done it.
7 – Summiting El Naranjo, a 2,500m mountain in Spain, after driving there from England in a 1974 Mini
‘Because it’s there.’ – George Mallory
We perched on the summit of El Naranjo des Bulnes – the Matterhorn of the Iberian Peninsula – as a cloud inversion rolled in from the Bay of Biscay, flooding the valleys of the Picos de Europa and turning the mountain summits into islands in the sky. We were exhausted. We’d taken far too little food and drink for the arduous 350m rock-climb to the summit, and were dangerously dehydrated. We still hadn’t recovered from the 1,500 mile drive from the UK, cooped up in a 35 year old mini. And we still had to get back down of the mountain alive, and navigate through the cloud back to the refuge. But as we gazed out across the spectacular mountainscape which rose from the clouds, none of this mattered. That single moment in time, shared between friends, was all that mattered.
6 – Escaping the fuel shortages and Maoist strife of Nepal during the Rickshaw Run
‘One thing I love about travel is feeling disorientated and removed from my comfort zone.’ – Sarah Glidden
For the previous four days, our fate had been in he hands of Nepal’s Maoist rebels. We’d had to talk our way through their road blocks, swerve our humble rickshaw past their barracades of burning tyres and try to ignore their nervousness as they fingered the triggers of their automatic weapons. We’d been stranded in Kathmandu by their fuel blockade and forced to drive through the night to reach the Indian border before they closed it. Through the darkness, rural Nepal had flickered past our flimsy steed, as clouds of gangly insects made for our headlight. And then, with daybreak, there came the border, and the moment we’d been waiting for. The sound of a stamp impacting a passport. We were back in India.
5 – Regaining tarmac after days spent cycling across Iceland’s unforgiving interior during the Credit Crunch Roadtrip
‘Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering.’ – Santosh Kalwar
It was a line across the road. Behind it, to our side, was gravel. But beyond the line, which took the form of a small ridge, lay tarmac. Smooth tarmac, which signalled the end of our cycle ride across Iceland’s barren, uninhabited interior. Ahead lay an easy 100-or-so miles to journey’s end at Reykjavik. Behind us, we had put 750 miles of bad weather, sore legs and tested willpower. We knew then it was in the bag. We’d done it.
4 – Gatecrashing a party just after arriving in Brazil
‘You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.’ – Henry David Thoreau
Brummy and I chinked our Antarctica beers and took in our surroundings. Music pumped out from behind the bar, while climbing videos rolled on the wall-mounted projector screen. The room was filled with Rio de Janeiro’s hip young things, partying the night away. 48 hours previously, we’d been sat in our local Dartmoor pub, unsure what to do with our week off work. A snap decision, a toss of a coin, and there we were, gatecrashing the party in Brazil.
Just occasionally, life is awesome. That was one of those moments.
3 – Driving off the ferry at Calais, at the start of the Mongol Rally
‘There is your car and the open road, the fabled lure of random adventure. You stand at the verge, and you could become anything. Your future shifts and warps with your smallest step, your shitty little whims. The man you will become is at your mercy.’ – Dan Chaon
Daylight flooded the car deck as the ferry doors opened. I sat in my classic Mini, anticipating the long road ahead. Around us on the ferry, other teams were waiting to race off the ferry and attack the long drive to Mongolia. One of the cars started beeping its horn impatiently. Other rally cars joined in. Engines were revved, and the car deck echoed to the sounds of several dozen rally cars signalling their enthusiasm for the adventure which lay ahead. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as the noise grew louder, and the imminent adventure became real. I’d never done anything like an adventurous road trip before, and I had no idea where the experience would lead me. The future had arrived, and I knew life would never be the same again.
2 – Glimpsing the Northern Lights, having driven all the way to the Arctic in a Fiat 126
‘We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.’ – Jawaharlal Nehru
For a week, 3 of us had been crammed into the rickety, drafty Fiat 126, heading for the Arctic. We’d been chilled to the bone, nearly died in an icy fjord, and broken down more times than we could remember. We’d seen in the New Year in Trondheim and crossed the Arctic Circle beneath the charcoal grey night sky, and had given up hope of seeing the northern lights, but carried on pushing north anyway. And as we did, the clouds parted to reveal a great starscape. And then an emerald curtain draped itself across the sky, as nature decided we’d earned the right to experience its most stirring theatrical display.
We’d driven to the arctic, and been rewarded with an aurora – what a memory!
1 – A moment in southern Africa, during the AfricanPorsche Expedition
‘I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.’ – Mark Twain
And so we come to the most memorable road trip moment since we started undertaking these preposterous journeys a decade ago. The only problem is, if I announce it here, I’ll give away the end of ‘Survival of the Quickest’ – the book about the African Porsche Expedition. But here’s a clue – it’s on page 386 of the book, and takes place in Southern Africa…
To read the full story of the African Porsche Expedition, get a copy of ‘Survival of the Quickest’, the expedition book, available on Amazon.