We asked travel bloggers from across the web what their most memorable car journey was. From the world’s most dangerous road to 1,400 mile wedding trip, we’ve now heard it all.
travel writer and blogger
Several years ago during my foolhardy guidebook-writer days, I travelled down the so-called ‘Road of Death’ from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia. It’s a white-knuckle three hours of sheer drops, potholes and roadside shrines where the last gung-ho gringo went over the edge. The bus drivers always have a crucifix swinging from the rear-view mirror and perform a blessing before they set off – very reassuring. It was while in Bolivia that I learnt my first child was on the way. I haven’t taken the death bus to Coroico since. These days I travel increasingly with her and his little sister, and I share my curiosity for the world with them. But I’ve learnt that they need me more than I need another high-risk assignment for a low-fi fee. Last week we went walking in Wales. I drove.
My most memorable journey has to be the one into Australia’s Red Centre. We drove for miles through the orange land, on rigidly straight roads, passing nothing and no one for hours. It’s a long and tiresome journey from London and I was beginning to wonder if the rock would be worth it. Of course, Uluru is much more than a unique lump of stone – it’s a sacred place, the heart of an ancient community who have respected and lived off this land for thousands of years. I left feeling humble.
former travel editor of the Independent on Sunday, travel writer and blogger
On the B-roads of Cornwall, the bottle-green VW campervan our family had rented for the week was a head-turner. We were trying out life on the road ahead of buying our own Seventies’ beauty. At first it felt swell – the idea of just pitching up wherever we fancied with a stylish ready-made home in tow. But it wasn’t long before this little looker started showing her age. The steeper the hill, the slower our motion. Every tight corner was a shoulder-wrencher, every stop sign required standing on the brakes. And the long-winded clearing of the engine’s throat every morning posed the daily question, would we even get on that open road? By the end of our week the retro dream had died – this family would stick to travelling 21st-century style.
The first trip I made that really opened my eyes to some of the incredible extravagance in the world of luxury travel was our honeymoon in 2004. I did a lot of research for that trip and was amazed at what I found and this, to some extent, fuelled my interest in starting A Luxury Travel Blog. As for the honeymoon, we went to Tanzania – an amazing safari taking in Grumeti, Manayara and Ngorongoro, followed by a stay on Mnemba Island – a luxury island off the north-east coast of Zanzibar. It was wonderful.
Green fields stretching down to the sea, criss-crossed with ancient stone walls… Weathered granite outcrops dotted about and steep cliffs tumbling to the waves… And all about, mine-workings from Cornwall’s industrial heyday, looking somehow grand and romantic. This is what I saw the first time I took what locals call ‘the Corniche’, the twisty B-road from St Ives to St Just in the far west of Cornwall. I’d deliberately taken a detour to see the area; I was heading to Sennen Cove on a surf trip. I was blown away. I’d never seen such beautiful scenery.
At Sennen, the waves were lined up and perfect. I surfed for hours. I thought about returning one day to live in this part of the world. As I drove back along the Corniche, I vowed that I’d turn an idle thought into reality. And now, 25 years later, I’ve been able to call West Cornwall home for nearly 10 years. It’s fair to say that that drive changed my life.
Twelve hours earlier I had left my home in Ireland. Not one single individual, whom I knew personally, had ever stood where I was standing. I had watched friends emigrate to Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and other far-flung places – I had heard their stories and been filled with wonder, and jealousy – but none had made it here.
It was 1990; communism still reigned supreme, but the arm of the hammer-bearer was beginning to tire. ‘Hey, America,’ the boy said, ‘you vont tour?’ I declined – this was a moment to savour alone.
My eyes circled the square; a red flag snapped to attention above the mausoleum wall; the lights of GUM department store’s windows displayed nothing but colour, and there before me was a thing I had known since I was boy from the pages of magazines and from news reels: an ostentatious ornament, the imaginings of a king – St. Basil’s Cathedral.
I lifted my camera and clicked. Now they would believe me, I thought, now they would know that I too have travelled.
the campervan man, writer, cook, broadcaster
It was an article in an old surf magazine that set our course. My two friends and I drooled over pictures of perfect waves like teenagers drooling over…well, you know… not really sure what we’d do with them once we got there. But no matter, we packed up my 1976 VW Beetle and headed for the Atlantic coast of France. At our first stop, in Brittany, we rescued a friend from a cruel summer job picking melons on his uncle’s farm. He didn’t resist, so we became four, stuffed into the old wreck, making a mess, getting thrown off campsites, cutting our own hair, drinking cheap wine, and feeling, for the first time, really and truly free. We only came home when the money ran out.
I’ve done that journey many times since now that I can surf and it still gives me the same feeling: excitement, freedom, adventure. And, of course, cheap wine.
Looking back, it was a rash and risky journey to undertake. In 2001 I drove my girlfriend on an epic 1,400-mile, six-day round trip from England’s gentle West Country to the wild and rugged northernmost point of the Outer Hebrides to get married. The eloquent local Reverend Barbara Morrison had persuaded me to trust our important day to the charm of her tiny candlelit Saxon cliff-top chapel of St Moluag’s – despite us never visiting the Hebrides before. Thankfully it was a beautiful day and we celebrated with villagers and Hebridean whisky afterwards in the room at the back of the nearby post office. It was a life-changing journey that also demonstrated there are still real adventures to be discovered by driving in the UK.
Hiring a car to drive around Syria was a simple task, back in the spring of 2009. Finding a road map of Syria anywhere in Damascus proved a harder challenge and we settled for trying to navigate the entire country using nothing more than the stick diagram in the Lonely Planet guide. Things went well for the first few days, until our journey from Aleppo across the desert to the Roman city of Palmyra. I had worked out that around 30 minutes after leaving Raqqa we should turn off our route, but as the minutes passed by we saw nothing in the endless landscape of sand that resembled a road.
We pressed on, eventually picking up a Syrian man whose motor-bike had broken down. He spoke no English, but around two hours after leaving Raqqa we reached a town and I thought perhaps we had stumbled onto the right road. Our hitchhiker thanked us and left, greeting his friends in a nearby shop. I decided to follow him with my guidebook. The men in the shop were very patient with me as they pointed to Raqqa and I shook my head, saying that I didn’t want to know where I’d just come from. It took a full five moments before it dawned on me that we had just made a perfect 200km circle in the Syrian desert.
The four of us sat in the car, not talking, scanning the dark road. And in my case, mentally calculating how far we’d have to walk if we didn’t manage to find a petrol station before the tank finally ran out. On holiday with friends in Mexico, we were staying in a small fishing village just outside Tulum having a fantastic time snorkelling, making guacamole, and visiting ancient ruins. After a day out discovering Chichen Itza and a much less discovered site at Ek Balaam, we were heading home when we realised the fuel gauge was worryingly close to empty and mile after mile went past without sight of anywhere to stop. Never have I been so relieved to finally see those neon lights. We coasted in, probably on fumes, before celebrating our narrow escape with much-needed margaritas.
A drive that changed my life forever was a road trip I took around the entire coast of Australia. In 2010-2011, my boyfriend and I bought an old VW campervan in Sydney and set out on one of the longest drives I’m sure I’ll ever take. Over the course of 18 months we journeyed around this incredible country, living out of the back of our van with little more than the clothes on our backs. When we ran out of money we would stop and work for a few weeks or months until we could restock our supplies and hit the road yet again.
In Western Australia we worked on a small scuba diving island where we spent our days fishing, swimming and scuba diving. From then onwards we would catch our own fish whenever possible and cook it over a fire on the beach.
This was such a simple, care-free way of living. We barely planned more than a day in advance and lived for each and every incredible moment. We learned that you don’t need possessions to enjoy life. All you really need is a van, a fishing rod, a good soundtrack and good company.
The Brazillian Death Road by Matthew Straubmuller