Ten Priceless Moments from the Road
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
While this website is named in honour of our TVR-based Pub2Pub Expedition, that particular adventure was only the latest in a long line of journeys which stretch back over the last fifteen years.
And today, as I work on getting this shiny new website ready for its unveiling, I'm feeling nostalgic for those long-lost days between tarmac and sky. Nostalgia is better shared, of course, and so it feels like the perfect time to do just that, by running through a few of the most memorable moments from those earlier trips, starting gently and counting down to the most unforgettable of all. So without any further ado, here are ten snapshots of time and place, which will leave you raring to get out on an automotive adventure, just as soon as this pesky virus allows...
10 - Rolling into Marrakesh, in the 'Marrakesh Express'
'I believe that Marrakesh 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 tinged 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 which drifted across from the nearby Jemel el Fna Square. 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, before carrying us into 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, by coaxing our long suffering classic car all the way there, we’d certainly 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 a 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 far in the distance. To our left, a ferry plied its trade through a passage in the ice and beneath our wheels, ten inches of frozen ice was all that separated us and the two tonnes of HMS Jag from the icy waters of the Baltic.
Surreal doesn’t begin to describe the sensation…
8 – A dream seven 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 having an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to haven 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, from where we’d came. 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 before 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 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 350 metre 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 travelling 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 barricades 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 and cross the Indian border before they closed it. Through the darkness, rural Nepal had flickered past our flimsy, eight-horsepower steed, as clouds of projectile-like 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 Road Trip
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'd been struggling against the odds for weeks, but at that moment, we knew that 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 towards 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 earlier, 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 a 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 rally 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 sound 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 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, the three 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 a 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 and began to shimmer, 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…
Apologies for the cliffhanger ending to this article; however if you're tempted to read the full story, you can get hold of a copy of the book elsewhere on this 'ere website.