The Pub2Pub Project – Sitrep


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It’s now almost four weeks since the Pub2Pub expedition’s mighty Chimaera rolled across the finish line on Dartmoor, its 27,000 mile trip across the globe complete. And I can tell you, it’s a strange feeling, readjusting to the ‘real world’.

For the first time in eight months, home is a house, rather than an abstract memory from what feels like a previous life. The daily routine no longer involves driving long distances across unknown lands, researching road conditions, negotiating red tape and bureaucracy, and willing the car not to break down. To move from that life to the grounded existence of normality is a jarring change, even if it’s not an altogether unwelcome one, for eight months away makes even the simplest of home comforts a thing to savour.

But life hasn’t completely returned to normal. The existence I’ve returned to is a far cry from the one I left behind last July. In short, Pub2Pub has changed my world. Such is the level of publicity the expedition has achieved, that I seemingly can’t drive the TVR anywhere without it being recognised. Despite being the scruffiest TVR in the land, it’s received rounds of applause from passing vans on the M6, invites to car shows across the country and the attention of countless camera-phones. Even now, seldom a few days go by when the trip doesn’t feature in the media somewhere, adding to the 100+ articles which have already reached a global audience in the tens of millions, everywhere from Das Spiegel to the Hindustan Times. And this is all lending a slightly surreal tint to life at the moment. Effectively, my return to a daily routine is anything but routine…

In what way?

Well, Pub2Pub has opened doors to some incredible opportunities. Earlier this week, I signed the contract to produce the expedition book. Requests for written content for magazines and websites continue to pour in, while tomorrow will see the launch of ‘Pub2Pub Expedition IPA’ – a beer inspired by the journey. Public speaking engagements are beginning to appear, and a series of high profile appearances are falling into place. How high profile? Well as an example, you can’t really beat an invite to the Le Mans 24hr race, by TVR themselves. And finally, even though the expedition may be over, sponsorship continues to roll in for Kermit’s future adventures, from everyone from Classicline Insurance to TVR-Parts.

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So what are these future adventures?

Well, there are plenty in the pipeline! As well as meeting all the above commitments, you may be aware that so many people have been inspired by our trip, that I’ve been working on the launch of ‘Pub2Pub Adventures’ – dedicated to bringing Pub2Pub-style adventuring to everyone.

We’re kicking this off in the autumn with the Eagle Rally; an event which has caused quite a stir among those who’ve been following Pub2Pub’s progress across the globe in recent months. And to get Pub2Pub Adventures off to a flying start, we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to make it easy for people to get involved.

Ultimately, this crowdfunder will enable us to run a range of events across the globe, which combine elegance and eccentricity in the glorious fashion we pioneered with the Pub2Pub Expedition. We’ll be backing these journeys up with a range of merchandise and other UK-based events which mean that Pub2Pub should be able to offer something back to everyone who’s followed the journey so far.

Because trust us, crossing the finish line 4 weeks ago wasn’t the end of the Pub2Pub story. It was just the beginning…

To read more about the Eagle Rally, click here

To visit our crowdfunding campaign, click here

Eagle rally

 

(more…)

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Our top ten road trip moments


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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’

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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

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‘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.

Week One…


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Having left Dartmoor a week ago, we’re currently 2,750 miles down the road, at Tromso, Norway, from where we’ll be flying to Svalbard – and the world’s northernmost bar – soon. A lot has happened in the intervening week – for further details on our adventures so far, check out our live tracking on the website, or head over to www.facebook.com/pub2pubexpedition to stay up to speed with developments on the Pub2Pub Expedition as they happen…

Not long now…


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With one week to go until we hit the road on Pub2Pub, it’s high time we got this blog cranking!  Our primary media partner is Clarkson, Hammond and May’s new website – Drivetribe.com – and all of the expedition’s original media will be initially published there.  However, we’ll be linking all content back to this blog, so feel free to drob by for regular updates from our time on the road…

And speaking of which, here’s our first journal entry:

https://drivetribe.com/p/PrPUU9WJTRWogpeGVSni_A?iid=Ijr9PYKbRZy_mov1pMf8pA

Buying a round for ‘Mind’


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If you’ve read the ‘get involved’ section of this website, you’ll know about our ‘buy a round for Mind’ initiative which we’re launching alongside the Pub2Pub Expedition – basically, we want to encourage as many folk as possible to undertake their own Pub2Pub adventures, and help support the mental health charity ‘Mind’ in the process.

We got the ball rolling last week, when we drove from the southernmost pub in the UK, to the northernmost – that’s from The Witches Ball on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, to the Sea View Hotel in John O’Groats. We’ll post up a full trip report shortly, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from the drive – enjoy!

And feel free to get planning your own Pub2Pub adventure…

#MyPub2Pub         #BuyARoundForMind

In search of style…


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A road trip isn’t simply defined by its start and finish points, or even the places between said points, through which it passes.  No, each road trip has its own individual character, which is shaped by every aspect of the trip – the landscape, the people, the roads, the weather, and last but certainly not least, the car.  In fact, such is the importance of the choice of car, that it shapes the very essence of the journey.  As an obvious example, during our previous expedition – V8Nam – was a very different experience for the occupants of the apocalyptic-sounding, bone pounding Corvette, in comparison to those experiencing the journey from the regal comfort of its Rolls Royce travelling companion.

So, the Corvette lent my V8Nam experience a raw, anarchic air.  The previous AfricanPorsche Expedition felt a very different trip in comparison, in part due to the aloof, workmanlike nature of the Porsche.  So where, you’re probably wondering, am I going with all this?  Well, we want to make Pub2Pub a journey defined by its stylishness; in fact the exact description of what we want to achieve is along these lines:

‘…while the golden age of travel may have passed, its spirit still exists.  A spirit of conviction that travel goes far beyond simply visiting a place; it should be a stylish expression of how life should be lived – bold, daring, elegant and stylish; and with just a hint of glorious madness.’

So that raises a big question; what vehicle would fit the bill?  What car best captures the essence of ‘bold, daring, elegant and stylish, with just a hint of glorious madness’?  Well predictably, we’ve been putting some thought into the matter, and have come up with some vehicles which we feel hit the mark.  Some are viable options, whereas some of the possibilities listed are so outrageously unobtainable only an oil sheik could contemplate their purchase.  But I think they all demonstrate just the right blend of old-fashioned style, elegance and madness which we’re looking for.  So, without further ado, here we are – 5 vehicles which tick the boxes by blending elegance and style with that hint of madness:

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Jaguar XJS

Remember Jaguar’s most memorable advertising slogan – space, grace and pace?  Well, it pretty much sums up the USP we’re looking for in the Pub2Pub wheels.  Jaguar as a company has focused on producing, sleek, stylish and comfortable cars for its entire history, and so there are any number of Jags which would fit the brief, from the gorgeous XK120 right up to the modern-day F-type.  We’ve singled out the straight-6 XJS as it’s the most attainable option, combining sleek lines, a mellifluously smooth powerplant and a gorgeous handmade interior for less than £3,000.  And also, because we’ve always thought one would look absolutely fantastic in the middle of a desert, fitted with chunky tyres and a slimline roofrack.

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Aston Martin DB-series

When it comes to combining chiseled good looks with a spot of dashing madness, It’s hard to look beyond Aston Martin.  To undertake any epic adventure in an Aston would be the trip of a lifetime, as despite the company’s turbulent history, they never seem to put a foot wrong when it comes to manufacturing stylish, overengined awesomeness; well, except for the Cygnet, but we can ignore that little hiccup.  The Astons which suit the brief best have almost all bore the ‘DB’ moniker – from the grand-touring DB4s of the ‘60s through to the present day DB9 and DBS.  We’re going to attempt to be sensible by going for the DB7 as our choice.  Someone once said that style is the apparent lack of effort, and on this measure, the DB7 is the most stylish Aston DB of them all, sitting between the overtly chromed glamour of the early cars, and the self consciously bulging confidence of the more modern offerings.  Oh, and the DB7 is the only Aston we’d ever have a vague chance of affording for a road trip too…

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TVR Cerbera

So, style and madness, combined – surely that’s TVR through and through? What other manufacturer would be so mad as to replace doorhandles with buttons hidden beneath the wingmirrors, or fit right angle exhausts which can shoot flames at cyclists in the adjacent bus lane with the merest twitch of the foot?  TVRs have always been beautiful and bonkers in equal measure, and while they may lack the glamour and pedigree of some of the other vehicles listed here, what they lack in outright badge-appeal, they more than make up for with their glorious madness.

While we wait to see what the newly reborn TVR car company comes up with, we’re stuck with perusing the marque’s back catalogue, meaning the perfect choice for a big trip would surely be the Cerbera; TVR’s only real stab at a grand touring vehicle.  Sleek, low, uncluttered and brutally, biblically, unjustifiably powerful, there can’t be many more stylish ways to arrive at an obscure city.  And it wins extra style-points for the fact that once it’s out of the UK, nobody will have the slightest clue what it is; only that it’s bloomin’ awesome.

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AC Cobra

If TVR warrants a mention by virtue of blending brute power with beauty, then surely the AC Cobra – along with its surprisingly affordable replicas – represents the ultimate expression of the stylish muscle car?  While obviously moving quite a way from the restrained dignity and comfort of a modern Aston or Jag, the Cobra was, in its day, not nearly so far removed from the products of such companies as it’s perceived nowadays. Just like it’s contemporaries from Jaguar, Chevrolet and Ferrari, it’s definitely stylish, it has a pugnacious grace all of its own, its history is as daring as any automobile and when it comes to being an expression of glorious madness, nothing else on the road can touch it.  We think it’s an awesome, timeless vehicle which warrants its place on this list for its side-exit exhausts alone.

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Bentley Dartmoor Coupe

And now, we head to the stratosphere.  Look at it.  Just look at it.   Has there ever been a more perfect expression of automotive style than this coachbuilt coupe?  The £400,000 price tag may be a slight obstacle when it comes to a typical road trip, but hell, just look at it.  Again.  Inside and out, from its salubrious 6.7l straight-six to the artful chrome bumpers, it’s every inch the art-deco interpretation of the perfect grand touring automobile.  And we love it.  we’ll just have to sell another few hundred thousand copies of the book about the AfricanPorsche Expedition before we can afford one… and even then we couldn’t bring ourselves to then clatter across the Atacama Desert in such a stunning work of art.

So there they are; five different interpretations of what the ideal vehicle for a bold yet stylish road trip could be.  Obviously some of the vehicles mentioned are pipe dreams, but their inclusion still serves to aid the distillation of ideas which results in a choice being made, just as a few years ago, a similar process led to us selecting a Corvette for the V8Nam trip.

The clock is ticking.  Not long now, and it’ll be time to start shopping…

Because its there…


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As the planning phase of the Pub2Pub expedition accelerates, we’re carrying out our research with half an eye on the record books, because the very nature of the trip lends itself to pushing the boundaries of what’s been done in sports car-based travel.  And rest assured, we’re not just talking about ticking off ‘the world’s longest pub crawl’ (although predictably, we’ve already made contact with the good folk at Guinness World Records to ratify an attempt on that particular record!)

So what other monumental acts of record breaking daring-do are we looking into? Firstly, there’s the question of elevation.

When you drive across it, the world is anything but flat.  During the AfricanPorsche Expedition, we took a sports car along the lowest road on the planet; the smooth tarmac which runs through Jordan next to the Dead Sea, 418m below sea level.  V8Nam saw our over-engined steeds reaching heights of 3,767m on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, while on the Rickshaw Run we coaxed our 8HP beastie to over 4,000m on the Rotang La in northern India.

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But on Pub2Pub we’re looking to go a stage further, by boldly taking a sports car higher than any sports car has gone before.

So just how high have sports cars reached before? A tough question to answer, but an easy one to guess at.  The highest tarmac road on the planet is claimed to be the Ticlio Pass in Peru, which reaches a height of 4,818m – or exactly 11m higher than Mt Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe.  It’s reasonable to assume that sports cars have crossed this, but what of the other higher, unsurfaced passes of the world?

The highest mountain pass in the world is the Mana Pass, a graded military road on a sensitive part of the India-China border which was completed in 2010 and reaches a height of 5,610m; however the likelihood of the Chinese military letting anything so frivolous as a sports car along it are pretty much zero.  The highest non military passes are Semo La in Tibet at 5.565m and Marsmik La in India at 5.582m.  While it’s unlikely that any of these rock-strewn arteries have borne witness to anything so ridiculous as a passing sports car, it’s obviously a possibility, meaning that to be sure of setting the record for the highest altitude ever attained by a sports car, we’re going to have to beat these elevations.

So where on Pub2Pub’s long and meandering route could this be possible?

There’s really only one place – the otherworldly landscape of the Atacama.  This, the driest desert on Earth, harbours a brooding landscape of volcanoes which soar to well over 6,000m.  Near the summits of a few of these volcanoes, industrious pioneers once established sulphur mines, with service roads leading up to said mines.  Other mountains are home to high altitude solar observatories, also with their service roads, while some volcanoes seem to have tracks leading high up their flanks because… well, just because.

After a fairly extensive bout of research, we’ve came up with a list of mountains with tracks on their flanks which, with care, a sports car might be coaxed up.  Here’s the list:

Guallatiri, a 6,071m high Stratovolcano in northern Chile.

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As the volcano which the Top Gear team attempted to drive up on their ‘Bolivia Special’ episode, this fine protrusion was a logical starting point for the research. In the TV show, Clarkson & Co reached approximately 5,250m before the altitude proved too much for them.  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t have got much further if they’d persevered – a mountaineering guide to the volcano states that ‘at approximately 5200m, the track becomes impassable, and you must continue on foot.’  This probably coincides with Top Gear’s highpoint, and means that the chances of getting a sports car any higher on the mountain are slim.

Cerro Sairecabur, 5,971m

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This spectacular mountain is located near the town of San Pedro de Atacama, right in the middle of the driest desert on Earth. The region’s clear air makes it one of the best places on the planet for astronomy; the justification behind Sairecabur’s biggest claim to fame – it’s receiver lab telescope, located on the mountain’s flank at an altitude of 5.525m.  Predictably, there’s a reasonably passable gravel track leading up to the telescope installation, which morphs into a rougher track that leads to a mountain refuge at 5670m, meaning there’s definitely potential for getting a sports car higher than any of Asia’s high passes.  And if it turns out to not be possible?  Well, there are worse places to set up camp and spend a night than on the side of a mountain beneath the Atacama’s legendary night skies.

Volcan Aucanquilcha, 6,176m

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This mighty stratovolcano was once the setting for the highest road the planet has ever seen – a mining road that used to run to its summit, and was plied by 20 ton trucks bringing down load after load of valuable sulphur.

However, since the mine closed in 1993, the road has fallen into disrepair.  The best information we’ve been able to uncover is that several landslides have severed the road above 5,500m; despite this, it seems that several cyclists have succeeded in reaching the summit recently, so it may still be possible to push on above 5,500m.  Further research is needed, as the volcano looks to be a fascinating place to visit, having a history of mining dating back to 1913, and still harbouring the world’s highest permanent settlement, a village 5,334m above sea level.

Ojos Del Salado, 6,962m

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Considerably further south than the other possibilities, Ojos Del Salado is not only the world’s highest volcano; it’s also the location of the current world altitude record for cars – if you can call the jacked up, over-tyred, supercharged Suzuki that Chileans Gonzalo Bravo G. And Eduardo Canales Moya coaxed up to 6,688m a ‘car’.

While the terrain high on the mountain is almost certainly too tough for a sports car, like all the mountains on this list, there’s a track which runs high on the mountain, servicing the mountain huts which provide shelter for mountaineers.  Most climbers are taken to 5,200m on this track, where they start their ‘on foot’ ascent from the Refugio Atacama; however it seems that some of the local 4×4 owners are willing to take climbers further along the track, all the way to the Refugio Tejos at over 5,800m.  If further research shows this route to be in reasonable condition, then it may be the best possibility for setting an indisputable altitude record for sports cars.

So there you have it – our research has so far turned up 3 potential venues for an attempt at getting a sports car to over 5,500m altitude.  Whether the road conditions will allow success in this rather random goal remains to be seen, but finding out will bring yet another interesting slant to the fascinating mosaic of interests which Pub2Pub is fast becoming.

I mean, who’d have thought 2017 would see us going mountaineering in a sports car?