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The World Off Road Pt 2

d.

nal

ditio g tra

Girls

rmin perfo

azilan in Sw e c dan

A boy surviving de ep Sahara desert, M in the auritania.

We Are All

Africans! An overland trip in Africa is the ultimate adventure and proved to be an addictive continent for our adventurous couple. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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www.overlander.com.au

The c ouple outskirvisit an old ts of w Mbab itch doc ane, S t wazil or at the and.

OVERLANDER DEC.09

43


The World Off Road Pt 2

d.

nal

ditio g tra

Girls

rmin perfo

azilan in Sw e c dan

A boy surviving de ep Sahara desert, M in the auritania.

We Are All

Africans! An overland trip in Africa is the ultimate adventure and proved to be an addictive continent for our adventurous couple. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

42

www.overlander.com.au

The c ouple outskirvisit an old ts of w Mbab itch doc ane, S t wazil or at the and.

OVERLANDER DEC.09

43


The World Off Road Pt 2

Pasta, rice, ‘The Laughing Cow’ cheese and eggs was the basic diet in Africa.

“Playing with chimpanzees in Cameroun was the highlight of our trip so far,” Vula says.

Stuck on the golden sand dunes of Em Hammid, Morocco.

I

still dream of Africa. This was our maiden adventure, the grand opening of our epic trip around the world. Given the rough character of the continent this was a weird – if not risky – choice, but we both were confident and determined to face the hazards of the place. We knew that Africa is not easy but we also knew that it’s considered dangerous more than it really is. Stereotypes apply to Africa more than any other continent, in other words. Our schedule for this overland adventure was rather optimistic. We thought we could cover Africa in six or seven months. We did it in nine months and, believe me, it felt fast! Other Overlanders we met on the road did the same route in roughly two years. Some are still there! Africa is an absorbing place. Energetic, vibrant, rough and diverse! It is black or white, fertile or arid, rainy or completely dry, poor and rich. In nine months, from north to south and vice-versa, we experienced eight climatic zones. It was like simulating two years’ time in fast forward. I remember we were surviving 45 degrees in June in Mauritania and freezing two months later while we

An u cape nexpected of Go od H welcome a t ope, S outh the Africa .

Africa is an absorbing place, energetic, vibrant, rough and diverse!

Children of Mali have plenty of swimming pools!

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 3/5/2007 – 25/ 1/2008 Days: 266 Countries: 26 Total distance: 53,488km Border crossings: 33 Refuellings: 84

beauty… Kenyan

The diva of Serengeti N ational Park .

Leading a family of elephants at the Masai Mara park, Kenya.

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OVERLANDER DEC.09

45


The World Off Road Pt 2

Pasta, rice, ‘The Laughing Cow’ cheese and eggs was the basic diet in Africa.

“Playing with chimpanzees in Cameroun was the highlight of our trip so far,” Vula says.

Stuck on the golden sand dunes of Em Hammid, Morocco.

I

still dream of Africa. This was our maiden adventure, the grand opening of our epic trip around the world. Given the rough character of the continent this was a weird – if not risky – choice, but we both were confident and determined to face the hazards of the place. We knew that Africa is not easy but we also knew that it’s considered dangerous more than it really is. Stereotypes apply to Africa more than any other continent, in other words. Our schedule for this overland adventure was rather optimistic. We thought we could cover Africa in six or seven months. We did it in nine months and, believe me, it felt fast! Other Overlanders we met on the road did the same route in roughly two years. Some are still there! Africa is an absorbing place. Energetic, vibrant, rough and diverse! It is black or white, fertile or arid, rainy or completely dry, poor and rich. In nine months, from north to south and vice-versa, we experienced eight climatic zones. It was like simulating two years’ time in fast forward. I remember we were surviving 45 degrees in June in Mauritania and freezing two months later while we

An u cape nexpected of Go od H welcome a t ope, S outh the Africa .

Africa is an absorbing place, energetic, vibrant, rough and diverse!

Children of Mali have plenty of swimming pools!

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 3/5/2007 – 25/ 1/2008 Days: 266 Countries: 26 Total distance: 53,488km Border crossings: 33 Refuellings: 84

beauty… Kenyan

The diva of Serengeti N ational Park .

Leading a family of elephants at the Masai Mara park, Kenya.

44

www.overlander.com.au

OVERLANDER DEC.09

45


The World Off Road Pt 2 River crossing on the Atlas mountains, Morocco.

Tips for crossing

SAHARA

1. Never travel alone.

2. Secure enough fuel for 1000km. 3. V  isit www.saharaoverland.com for GPS waypoints. 4. Proper tyre pressure on sand is 50 percent or less (1,2-1,5 bar). 5. N  ever drive on high dunes before checking them by foot.

Driving by night in Sahara.

Flying over Okavango delta, Botswana. The ultimate heaven on earth!

Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Our ancestors were African, so we are all Africans! were crossing the Namibian desert! The landscapes we encountered e but . iv were dramatic enough to fill our it im r p Africa n have hard disks and our memories with Childre amusing toys in ly extreme wonderful, everlasting pictures. The diversity of African landscapes blows your mind. The alpine feeling of the Atlas mountains, the huge sand dunes of Sahara, the desperately arid soil of Sahel, the photogenic sunsets in savannah, the mist of the tropical forests, the blend of red, yellow and white soil at Kalahari desert, the deep blue sky, the three dimensional clouds, the curvy, vivid starlight, all are essential elements of Africa.

After nine and a half months in 26 African countries, we could tell this was the mother of all continents and the ultimate escape for adventure seekers. Not just for the dramatic landscapes, the harsh roads, the remote villages and the mud brick huts, but for its people as well. Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Our ancestors were Africans, so we are all Africans! This is how the swahili script on our windshield – ‘sisi sote ni waafrica!’ – is translated. We still have it and are proud of it.

6. It is harder to escape flat sand if you get stuck. One second of spinning means one minute (more) of digging. 7. Feel the traction and the drag of the sand every moment. If the car decelerates dramatically when you release the gas, it means you are on deep sand. Keep the engine on torque all the time. 8. Sand is softer in the afternoon than early in the morning. 9. T  racks are softer than untouched surfaces. 10. Potholes and gravel irregularities are less visible at noon when the sun is up. 11. Sun reflections can be dangerous after sunrise and before sunset. 12. D  rive fast (80 km/h) on corrugations to save your car’s integrity. Control can be tricky though…

A two-day camel trekking was the perfect introduction to the magic of Sahara.

The ruined pyramids of Karima, in northern Sudan, still wait to be discovered.

A encou rare, four -w nterin g a eek-old weird lio creat n ure…

The famous drummers of Burundi - the essence of African soul at the shore of Lake Tanganyika.

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The World Off Road Pt 2 River crossing on the Atlas mountains, Morocco.

Tips for crossing

SAHARA

1. Never travel alone.

2. Secure enough fuel for 1000km. 3. V  isit www.saharaoverland.com for GPS waypoints. 4. Proper tyre pressure on sand is 50 percent or less (1,2-1,5 bar). 5. N  ever drive on high dunes before checking them by foot.

Driving by night in Sahara.

Flying over Okavango delta, Botswana. The ultimate heaven on earth!

Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Our ancestors were African, so we are all Africans! were crossing the Namibian desert! The landscapes we encountered e but . iv were dramatic enough to fill our it im r p Africa n have hard disks and our memories with Childre amusing toys in ly extreme wonderful, everlasting pictures. The diversity of African landscapes blows your mind. The alpine feeling of the Atlas mountains, the huge sand dunes of Sahara, the desperately arid soil of Sahel, the photogenic sunsets in savannah, the mist of the tropical forests, the blend of red, yellow and white soil at Kalahari desert, the deep blue sky, the three dimensional clouds, the curvy, vivid starlight, all are essential elements of Africa.

After nine and a half months in 26 African countries, we could tell this was the mother of all continents and the ultimate escape for adventure seekers. Not just for the dramatic landscapes, the harsh roads, the remote villages and the mud brick huts, but for its people as well. Africa is the birthplace of mankind. Our ancestors were Africans, so we are all Africans! This is how the swahili script on our windshield – ‘sisi sote ni waafrica!’ – is translated. We still have it and are proud of it.

6. It is harder to escape flat sand if you get stuck. One second of spinning means one minute (more) of digging. 7. Feel the traction and the drag of the sand every moment. If the car decelerates dramatically when you release the gas, it means you are on deep sand. Keep the engine on torque all the time. 8. Sand is softer in the afternoon than early in the morning. 9. T  racks are softer than untouched surfaces. 10. Potholes and gravel irregularities are less visible at noon when the sun is up. 11. Sun reflections can be dangerous after sunrise and before sunset. 12. D  rive fast (80 km/h) on corrugations to save your car’s integrity. Control can be tricky though…

A two-day camel trekking was the perfect introduction to the magic of Sahara.

The ruined pyramids of Karima, in northern Sudan, still wait to be discovered.

A encou rare, four -w nterin g a eek-old weird lio creat n ure…

The famous drummers of Burundi - the essence of African soul at the shore of Lake Tanganyika.

46

www.overlander.com.au

OVERLANDER DEC.09

47


The World Off Road Pt 2 It’s a privilege to encounter a mountain gorilla in his natural environment. Human conflicts threaten the existence of the rare creature at the rain forests of D.R.Congo.

Is it safe? This is a question that needs to be answered. Is Africa safe for independent travellers? From our personal experience we can say, yes. Africa is not dangerous or at least it’s not as dangerous as most people in developed countries believe it is. For sure it is a risky environment, especially for its own people. You can easily have a road accident there. You can get malaria from a mosquito bite or dysenteria if you drink tap water. HIV is another threat. You can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get intimidated or even robbed for money or whatever. Clashes are common during elections. We have witnessed some violent incidents in Kenya but you know what? When people with sticks and rocks realised we are ‘mzungu’ - white foreigners – they

Mosi-oa-Tunya – the mist that thunders - at the Zambezi river was discovered by Scottish explorer David Livingstone in 1855 and is famously known as Victoria Falls.

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Chimanuka, th family of 31 e 20-year-old grey back go at th are no mor e Kahuzi Biega Natio rilla supports a e than 30 like him in nal Park. There the world.

stepped aside and let us go. African hazards are all avoidable. You need common sense and positive energy to travel safely in Africa and totally enjoy its natural and cultural grace. If you behave yourself, in the end all the hazards will be just the spice of a dreamlike trip. This is what we did. As we were going on, every fear we had beforehand was drifting more and more into our subconscious. We were no more afraid of Berber bandits, as Berber proved to be honest and proud people. We had not the minimum problem with Nigerian authorities despite the image of the country as notoriously corrupt. In D.R.Congo we were expecting to be intimidated by police officers but the one we remember most was a funny old man with a yellow helmet who performed a theatrical dance to make us stop. He just wanted a chat with us ‘white people’.

Africa is not dangerous or at least it’s not as dangerous as most people believe it is.


The World Off Road Pt 2 Magkadigadi salt pans at Kalahari desert, Botswana; the most privileged camping in the world!

We love Africans for many reasons. They don’t give a damn about tomorrow, they just live every moment as it comes. Enjoying the crystal clear water of Lake Malawi.

We gave him a bag of rice… At the national parks we approached rhinos, lions, buffalos, crocs and elephants. Even though we were intruders, most animals were calm, even bored, and wouldn’t attack a human. We had one attack in Botswana from a hungry hyena though. She climbed on our table and ate our sausages. Africa is like this. If you don’t protect yourself everybody will take advantage of your food, your money, your belongings. You are the white, wealthy man and this is logical. On the other hand, this stimulates your survival instincts. You have to be tough but not rude. You have to smile and never be in a hurry. You must understand these people and forgive them for their naive approach to life. We love Africans for many reasons. They live on the edge every single day of their life but they survive. They don’t give a damn about tomorrow, they just live every moment as it comes. They will smile most of the time and are positive in front of illness and death. That’s why we love African people. That’s why we still dream of their country. Go to www.theworldoffroad.com to see where we are now!

Survival Tips Do’s

s 1. Take off your sunglasse (to be seen better). ake the  mile, salute and handsh 2. S officer. uments. 3. Keep handy all your doc get  e calm and patient if you 4. B d. delaye ed for money. 5. Ask for a receipt if ask

Don’ts

1. Never show you are in you really are.

a hurry even if

Next month… le East, head to the Midd is Ak d an la Vu , ria Sy , an rd through Egypt, Jo n! Ira d an y Turke

with the officer. 2. Don’t exchange jokes l language 3. Don’t speak in the loca munication com of lack es etim som – sle. has you e will sav

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Police controls are freque nt in Africa.


The World Off Road

Epic Off-Road

JOURNEY After 700 days on and off road, a Land Rover Discovery 3 pulled into Sydney. It had been driven 112,000km through 46 countries but still had a long way to go. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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OVERLANDER NOV.09

43


The World Off Road

Epic Off-Road

JOURNEY After 700 days on and off road, a Land Rover Discovery 3 pulled into Sydney. It had been driven 112,000km through 46 countries but still had a long way to go. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

42

www.overlander.com.au

OVERLANDER NOV.09

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The World Off Road

FAQ Where do you service the car? There are more than 1500 Land Rover official workshops around the world. So far we have serviced our Discovery in Morocco, Senegal, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

B

efore we get too far into what became an epic journey, let me introduce the two of us. We are a couple from Greece. A motoring journalist and a dance teacher. We had a dream for many years to travel the world without a return ticket but we never had the money, the time or the guts to take that dream seriously. That pretty much made us, just like everyone else that has a dream but never really makes the sacrifice to follow it. One day we said to each other, that’s it, we have to do it and it has to be now or never. It was not simple to make this wide ranging and rather ambitious dream come true but 23 months later we were in a brand new, fully sponsored Land Rover Discovery 3, departing to, well departing to wherever we wanted pretty much. Our trip had a name and an official site as well. Anyone that wanted to know where we’re and what we were up to, could log onto: theworldoffroad.com and we’d come up with a motto as well, ‘Explore the earth in 800 days!’ Off road, possibly… We had planned from the start to cross Europe, get to Africa and drive around the African continent for six months. In the end, we spent almost ten months eventually getting back to Greece for a break. That meant 41 border crossings, 58,000km, 45,000 photos, 70 hours of video filming and more than 150 pages of travel stories published in different magazines around the world. In 291 days, we had not put a single scratch on the car or experienced a tyre puncture. (That’s it Akis, you’re coming on tests with us from now on with that kind of luck Mate. TN) After that ten-month epic and a two-month break back in Greece, we thought, now we are strong enough to challenge Asia. So we hit the roads of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Three very hospitable countries, which was somewhat surprising for us given two of these countries’ horrific images and portrayal worldwide. Yes,

How do you wash your clothes? We give them to a laundry or wash them by hand and dry them in the car. This is a picture you’d rather not see! What do you eat on the road? Most evenings, Vula cooks. Our menu includes pasta, noodles, rice, eggs, fried vegetables, fruits and Greek salad (tomatoes, olives, onions) with olive oil is a must. In Asia, we cooked less, as the local cuisine is great even at the cheapest stalls. In Australia we discovered barbecues and it was great!

We had a dream for many years to travel the world without a return ticket but we never had the money, the time or the guts...

How do you know where you will camp by night? We don’t! We search on our guides and if there is nothing, we try to find a shelter anywhere. In Australia, anywhere means where there is not a ‘no camping’ sign. We have had no police arrests so far. Do you carry a gun? No. People are good and a smile is the best protection from the few bad ones! The worst moment of your trip? Akis’ brother died in Greece when we were in Kathmandu. In Sumatra our car stalled completely.

Cameroun The baby chimps in ming. lco we y ver were

The best moment? Difficult to say. Just take a look at the pictures in this article!

sia. ils in A eck co n l a n traditio ies on Vula tr

OVERLANDER NOV.09

45


The World Off Road

FAQ Where do you service the car? There are more than 1500 Land Rover official workshops around the world. So far we have serviced our Discovery in Morocco, Senegal, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Thailand.

B

efore we get too far into what became an epic journey, let me introduce the two of us. We are a couple from Greece. A motoring journalist and a dance teacher. We had a dream for many years to travel the world without a return ticket but we never had the money, the time or the guts to take that dream seriously. That pretty much made us, just like everyone else that has a dream but never really makes the sacrifice to follow it. One day we said to each other, that’s it, we have to do it and it has to be now or never. It was not simple to make this wide ranging and rather ambitious dream come true but 23 months later we were in a brand new, fully sponsored Land Rover Discovery 3, departing to, well departing to wherever we wanted pretty much. Our trip had a name and an official site as well. Anyone that wanted to know where we’re and what we were up to, could log onto: theworldoffroad.com and we’d come up with a motto as well, ‘Explore the earth in 800 days!’ Off road, possibly… We had planned from the start to cross Europe, get to Africa and drive around the African continent for six months. In the end, we spent almost ten months eventually getting back to Greece for a break. That meant 41 border crossings, 58,000km, 45,000 photos, 70 hours of video filming and more than 150 pages of travel stories published in different magazines around the world. In 291 days, we had not put a single scratch on the car or experienced a tyre puncture. (That’s it Akis, you’re coming on tests with us from now on with that kind of luck Mate. TN) After that ten-month epic and a two-month break back in Greece, we thought, now we are strong enough to challenge Asia. So we hit the roads of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Three very hospitable countries, which was somewhat surprising for us given two of these countries’ horrific images and portrayal worldwide. Yes,

How do you wash your clothes? We give them to a laundry or wash them by hand and dry them in the car. This is a picture you’d rather not see! What do you eat on the road? Most evenings, Vula cooks. Our menu includes pasta, noodles, rice, eggs, fried vegetables, fruits and Greek salad (tomatoes, olives, onions) with olive oil is a must. In Asia, we cooked less, as the local cuisine is great even at the cheapest stalls. In Australia we discovered barbecues and it was great!

We had a dream for many years to travel the world without a return ticket but we never had the money, the time or the guts...

How do you know where you will camp by night? We don’t! We search on our guides and if there is nothing, we try to find a shelter anywhere. In Australia, anywhere means where there is not a ‘no camping’ sign. We have had no police arrests so far. Do you carry a gun? No. People are good and a smile is the best protection from the few bad ones! The worst moment of your trip? Akis’ brother died in Greece when we were in Kathmandu. In Sumatra our car stalled completely.

Cameroun The baby chimps in ming. lco we y ver were

The best moment? Difficult to say. Just take a look at the pictures in this article!

sia. ils in A eck co n l a n traditio ies on Vula tr

OVERLANDER NOV.09

45


The World Off Road Position reporter. It transmits automatically the real position of the car to a satellite so that you can see where we are on the web.

75W solar panel by Conergy provides 220V electricity through an auxiliary 45A dry type battery and a 500W inverter.

Thrane Explorer 300 Inmarsat satellite antenna, provides broadband (492kbps) internet connection wherever in the earth (98 percent coverage). Provided by Navarino Telecom-Greece.

Snorkel, protective sliders and 10mm sump shield.

Tyres used, Cooper Discoverer STT (245/70-17) in Africa and BF Goodrich 245/75-17 in Asia. Engine CPU is tuned by Overfinch – for better torque at low revs. It is combined with a TGI air filter. Car interior: rear seats were. Two customised safe boxes and a 55litre water tank fitted.

The 4WD Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 S, MY 2007, Tonga green colour, provided by Land Rover Greece (KEDO S.A.) with manual gearbox, coil springs and 17-inch wheels. Technical support by Roverland Gabletsas, Athens, Greece.

Garmin 276C GPS.

Heavy-duty coil springs by King Springs and custom made shock absorbers by Jam Sport of Greece.

Bullbar with auxiliary headlights .

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www.overlander.com.au

Warn winch.

Car graphics designed by 4Wheels magazine art director and applied by Dobby Design-Athens.

Roof-rack and headlamp protectors.

Motorola 9505A Iridium phone. Use costs $1/ minute to landline phones.

OVERLANDER NOV.09

47


The World Off Road Position reporter. It transmits automatically the real position of the car to a satellite so that you can see where we are on the web.

75W solar panel by Conergy provides 220V electricity through an auxiliary 45A dry type battery and a 500W inverter.

Thrane Explorer 300 Inmarsat satellite antenna, provides broadband (492kbps) internet connection wherever in the earth (98 percent coverage). Provided by Navarino Telecom-Greece.

Snorkel, protective sliders and 10mm sump shield.

Tyres used, Cooper Discoverer STT (245/70-17) in Africa and BF Goodrich 245/75-17 in Asia. Engine CPU is tuned by Overfinch – for better torque at low revs. It is combined with a TGI air filter. Car interior: rear seats were. Two customised safe boxes and a 55litre water tank fitted.

The 4WD Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 S, MY 2007, Tonga green colour, provided by Land Rover Greece (KEDO S.A.) with manual gearbox, coil springs and 17-inch wheels. Technical support by Roverland Gabletsas, Athens, Greece.

Garmin 276C GPS.

Heavy-duty coil springs by King Springs and custom made shock absorbers by Jam Sport of Greece.

Bullbar with auxiliary headlights .

46

www.overlander.com.au

Warn winch.

Car graphics designed by 4Wheels magazine art director and applied by Dobby Design-Athens.

Roof-rack and headlamp protectors.

Motorola 9505A Iridium phone. Use costs $1/ minute to landline phones.

OVERLANDER NOV.09

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The World Off Road

How do we survive?

on We write articles for different magazines, report We are not rich, so we have to work on the road. that permits us to salary a earn we way This om road.c rldoff the radio and have our site, www.thewo modation. spend on average AU$10 per night for accom go on exploring. Our daily budget is basic. We AU$20 um maxim g payin hotels basic in we would stay Sometimes we bush camp (for free!). In Asia and hopefully a toilet and TV. et intern ss wirele ning, nditio air-co with per night for a decent room ts in Africa. In in cheap food stalls in Asia or in local marke Food costs us about another AU$10 per day steaks! rump the to s thank here, t but we gain weigh Australia, supermarkets cost us a little bit more shipping (like the 30visas, e), averag on 100km litres/ (12.5 fuel Most of our money is spent on diesel day shipping from Sydney to LA). e failure ‘Disco’ was under guarantee. Luckily, the engin Car repairs cost almost nothing as long as the access cash? From we do How . 00km 102,0 done g havin car was covered by Land Rover, despite the like Sudan here in the world except embargoed countries VISA compatible ATMs that are spread everyw rs in burgla the to this tell Don’t car. the , well hidden in and Iran. In case of emergency, we have $1000 your neighbourhood though!

Iran and Pakistan are some of the most hospitable countries in the world. That’s a fact we discovered first hand. As a traveller, they make you feel like a celebrity there. We then took a deep breath and entered India. We were overwhelmed by this country from our very first experience. India is a challenge for any traveller. Despite our experience, the cultural shock was unavoidable there. It is a tough country to digest. You need a strong stomach, strong eyes, of a it b a strong ears, a strong nose and e can b Africa k. h a big heart to survive there. g u o shoc g thr culture Travellin Driving is literally like being in hell. You just can’t snooze – you can’t even sneeze and take your eyes off the road for a second. Something will happen for the millisecond you clear your nose – there are so many threats around just about every corner. Communicating with people is tricky. At the beginning it’s a love/hate relationship between you and this incredible

melting pot of people, cultures, religions, languages and spices. At the end, India proves to be addictive. I still don’t know why. Next destination was Malaysia. We had to ship the Land Rover there as it was not possible to cross Burma. ‘No way’, we were told by the Burmese embassy in Delhi. From Kuala Lumpur we did a long roundtrip through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and back to Thailand and Malaysia. 13,000km in two months across one of the most diverse, historic and cultural places in the world. In the end we could easily distinguish a Vietnamese hot pot from Pad Thai (Thai egg-fried rice) and knew much more about the Khmer Rouge genocide, the Vietnam War, the Laos bombings and the opium trafficking out of the mighty Golden Triangle. Back to modern Kuala Lumpur we were feeling like we were home as we had to cross the Melaka straights by a wooden vessel and get to Sumatra. What a thrill that was, watching our valuable car hanging from a crane by rotten ropes. For a moment I was sure we would lose it in the sea. It was on the road to Bandah Aceh – where the tsunami hit in 2004 killing more than 220,000 people – that a ‘tsunami’ hit the engine of our car. It must have been

It’s a love/hate relationship between you and this incredible melting pot of people, cultures, religions, languages and spices.

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The World Off Road

The locals w ere all very friendly and welcom ing. something like that as there was no other reason to seize. That was like ground zero for . le y lifest our expedition. Where should off-road e th g Livin we take our car? And how? For how long should we wait for a new engine? And how much would the repair cost? Finally, we decided to carry our Disco back to Kuala Lumpur, the closest place where we could replace the unit. Towing and loading the car for 1200km was a painful adventure for eight days. After two months of great effort by the people at Land Rover, we were able to start our new engine and travel to Australia. Luckily, the replacement of the engine was covered under warranty by Land Rover, despite our car having more than 100,000km on it. We were told that this was a unique case that should be inspected thoroughly. We are proud that our car will

We spent the next three months in a completely different lifestyle. No more noodles, we could have the best rump steak here on a daily basis.

possibly make turbo-diesel engines better in some way after our break down. So, one morning we arrived in Australia by plane and the car came afterwards in a container. We spent the next three months in a completely different lifestyle Down Under. No more noodles, we could have the best rump steak here on a daily basis. No more traffic, the roads were open, long, deserted. (Obviously you didn’t drive through Sydney Mate! TN) No more people! Just one roadhouse every 400 to 500km, where the beer was as cold as anywhere in Sydney. That was the Outback. A 10,000km trip from Perth, to Broome, to Alice Springs, to Birdsville, to the Great Barrier Reef. What’s left from this trip? Thousands of pictures, four destroyed tyres, 43 new friends and four flies in my stomach. Outback flies are a problem for any traveller in this vast country. A real ‘pain in the arse’, to use an Australian term that we learnt on our trip. As far as the other myths about the Outback, leave them for the campfire. For sure, if you want to cross the Tanami desert, you have to take it seriously but there is nothing horrific there, just an endless nothing for 1100km. If you want to cross the Simpson Desert, this is even more serious. You need a proper 4WD, the right mental approach and good company as well. You need the right season as well and we didn’t have it, so we feel real sorry that we had to circumnavigate the French line dunes and follow the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Track. For more reasons, we felt sorry that we had to leave Australia but we are hitting the American roads and offroad tracks next. Possibly from LA to Chicago through Route 66 and on to Mexico. Or maybe we will go to Alaska first, we really don’t know. This is the way we travel. We are Overlanders, which means we are like rolling stones. So stay tuned to Overlander and follow our adventures from now on. For updated info you can also log onto: www. theworldoffroad.com to see where we are in real time!

and Vula document Next month, Akis their epic journey the first part of you can see from As through Africa. visually spectacular these photos, it’s a a fantastic story. as ll voyage as we

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The World Off Road Pt 5

Apocalypse

NOW! This is a 13,000 km. adventure from the developed Malaysian peninsula to the former war zone of South East Asia, which is now a heavenly destination for hard core travelers.

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Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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OVERLANDER FEB.10

45


The World Off Road Pt 5

Apocalypse

NOW! This is a 13,000 km. adventure from the developed Malaysian peninsula to the former war zone of South East Asia, which is now a heavenly destination for hard core travelers.

2 It is uw 7 ugdwuy etf878twe87f fgdww usdgfbu dufgiuw ywdgdw

3 id gefiugw wjgfgfiw w ig su g f u 8twe87 gwdufyigw if 7etf87 fiu It is uw iudwg fildwg gf fidwhbid

Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

1 44

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OVERLANDER FEB.10

45


The World Off Road Pt 5

ed nd surviv tunnels ahe works c o M inh t in the V . He is deaf bu grew up ents This guy rican bombardm the Ame e there. as a guid

4 kehgrire iurg8egfewiru yewfer8gyug uyvg uygdw8 gv dygwudyg wduyg7wd fydg

12th century Ta Prohm temple was constructed into the jungle and was invaded by the jungle after the decline of the Khmer empire. This mystic place was the set for famous Hollywood movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.

A

fter the Indian experience – a cultural shock on a daily basis - Malaysia seems to be so easy, reliable and affordable. The same goes in Thailand as well. Tourism is so developed here that the real colour of the country is paled. Motorways, neon signs, mini markets and malls are spread everywhere from Phuket to Bangkok. Even the monks are busy with their fancy mobile phones most of the time. Thailand and Malaysia would be identical if the former wasn’t a Buddhist society and the latter a Muslim one. Malaysia is 90% Muslim but is more multicultural, thanks to the Chinese and Indian minorities. Chinatowns and Little Indias are distinct neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka or Georgetown, the busy port of Penang island. Malays have the political power but Chinese have the money. In other words, Malaysia aims to be a bigger Singapore. You probably know Singapore; A rich, dollar oriented society, which survives in huge malls, fancy sushi restaurants, tennis courts and golf courses in a strategically situated island at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. If you have no money you are nobody here. Singapore was very expensive for us, so we had to sleep in car

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An old stories a Cambodian lad language bout the geno y could have cide if to barrier. if it wa ld many horr ific sn’t for the

orld in the w the best you with no f o e n d zoo is o g aroun Singaporeutans are hangin g n ra o . between fence in

A bus accident on a muddy road in Laos delayed our trip to Luang Prabang.

park at East Coast Park (the only beach for Singaporeans) in order to save money. Mall societies like this are not suitable for our adventure, that’s why we changed our mind there and decided to divert our route. Given we couldn’t find a car ferry to Indonesia we turned to the north, crossed Malaysia and southern Thaland and from Bangkok, we drove towards the border of Cambodia.

Khmer grandeur and Khmer Rouge atrocities This was an eye opening experience. A long, hard drive through countries we all got to know from Hollywood war movies, like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Killing Fields and Deer Hunter. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos; we were excited to make this roundtrip right from the start of our ‘around the world’ dream. I remember well the day we entered Cambodia. It was like entering the third world with all these porters pushing OVERLANDER MAR.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 5

ed nd surviv tunnels ahe works c o M inh t in the V . He is deaf bu grew up ents This guy rican bombardm the Ame e there. as a guid

4 kehgrire iurg8egfewiru yewfer8gyug uyvg uygdw8 gv dygwudyg wduyg7wd fydg

12th century Ta Prohm temple was constructed into the jungle and was invaded by the jungle after the decline of the Khmer empire. This mystic place was the set for famous Hollywood movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie.

A

fter the Indian experience – a cultural shock on a daily basis - Malaysia seems to be so easy, reliable and affordable. The same goes in Thailand as well. Tourism is so developed here that the real colour of the country is paled. Motorways, neon signs, mini markets and malls are spread everywhere from Phuket to Bangkok. Even the monks are busy with their fancy mobile phones most of the time. Thailand and Malaysia would be identical if the former wasn’t a Buddhist society and the latter a Muslim one. Malaysia is 90% Muslim but is more multicultural, thanks to the Chinese and Indian minorities. Chinatowns and Little Indias are distinct neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka or Georgetown, the busy port of Penang island. Malays have the political power but Chinese have the money. In other words, Malaysia aims to be a bigger Singapore. You probably know Singapore; A rich, dollar oriented society, which survives in huge malls, fancy sushi restaurants, tennis courts and golf courses in a strategically situated island at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. If you have no money you are nobody here. Singapore was very expensive for us, so we had to sleep in car

46

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An old stories a Cambodian lad language bout the geno y could have cide if to barrier. if it wa ld many horr ific sn’t for the

orld in the w the best you with no f o e n d zoo is o g aroun Singaporeutans are hangin g n ra o . between fence in

A bus accident on a muddy road in Laos delayed our trip to Luang Prabang.

park at East Coast Park (the only beach for Singaporeans) in order to save money. Mall societies like this are not suitable for our adventure, that’s why we changed our mind there and decided to divert our route. Given we couldn’t find a car ferry to Indonesia we turned to the north, crossed Malaysia and southern Thaland and from Bangkok, we drove towards the border of Cambodia.

Khmer grandeur and Khmer Rouge atrocities This was an eye opening experience. A long, hard drive through countries we all got to know from Hollywood war movies, like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Killing Fields and Deer Hunter. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos; we were excited to make this roundtrip right from the start of our ‘around the world’ dream. I remember well the day we entered Cambodia. It was like entering the third world with all these porters pushing OVERLANDER MAR.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 5

5

6 their wooden, overloaded carts with goods carried from prosperous Thailand. As long as we were driving through the rice fields we were enthusiastic to explore the marvels of Angkor like Lara Croft did in her first movie. We could not imagine the mass development odfdfio the ruins generated at nearby Siem f iughfu ifn9uehgiuhgiu yfe eigniebh Reap though. In a rural country guihef hgiuehguehiu hgoegufeiuhefuigh feiug ghe like Cambodia this is a Western hue hgih feiu ghefgeg parenthesis of luxurious resorts, spa and sushi restaurants. Siem Reap is the major money machine for this poor country as everybody flies here from Bangkok to visit the Angkor temples and go back. And you know what? The temples are worth it. This is one of the most breathtaking archeological sites in the world, along with the pyramids of Giza and Acropolis of Athens. Angkor is by far the biggest one. We did 150km in two days to see the temples that extend for tens of kilometers into

Visiting the S21 prison and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge period is a thrilling experience. 14.000 people are said to be tortured to death in this former school of Phnom Penh, during the four years of the Khmer Rouge regime.

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the jungle. We were astonished by what the Khmer created. The next day, in Phnom Penh, we were disgusted by what the Khmer Rouge regime brought to this country in 1975. It was a painful experience visiting the ‘killing fields’ and the Tuol Sleng museum, a school transformed to notorious S-21 prison. These were two places where thousands of people died of torture as enemies of the communist utopia that the KR wanted to bring in the country. One third of the population (1.7 million people!) died during the four years the Khmer Rouge dominated Cambodia until the Vietnamese army invaded the country for good. This genocide was so inhuman and so recent that nobody should forget. More than anybody, the people of Cambodia can’t forget. Looking in their eyes, you can see only pain. They are discreet, though, polite and generous. They don’t like reminding their past to foreigners. People of Cambodia are a personification of humanity. We admire them.

No more B52 and napalm bombs We were told that foreign vehicles were not allowed in Vietnam. You need a special permit, local plates and insurance that you can’t get issued if you don’t present a guarantee Young monks study early in the morning in front of the famous Bayon temple -


The World Off Road Pt 5

Children are adorable, especially in Laos. We loved them!

100,000 Km. er in a Land Rov Discovery3 Car km.: 101,626 ok-Ho Chi Lumpur-Singapore-Bangk 47 Trip km.: 92,626 Kuala 12,9 pur Lum ala i-Ku Ma hiang Minh-Hanoi-Vientiane-C km. Refuellings: 23 .: 13.1 Diesel lt.: 1701 lt/100 km ured in Solihull, England. 3/1/2007: Car manufact letsas, works at Roverland-Gab 26/2/2007: Development Greece ment, oil ch slave cylinder replace 22/4/2007: defected clut

BELOW: Vientiane is the most laid back capital in SE Asia. Pat that luang – the golden Buddhist temple - is the highlight of the city.

letter from your embassy at Vietnamese customs. Embassies don’t grant documents like this so the only other way was to pay money. That’s what we did. Thanks to a local tour operator, we managed to drive our Discovery in the country and it was worth the 250USD we were charged, after a hard bargain. They were asking for 700 USD… Vietnam is a totally different country to what you expect. The painful civil war that resulted to heavy military offensive by the Americans is hardly distinguishable today. A decade after its reunification in the 80’s, Vietnam decided to reform from a rural underdeveloped communist state to a fast developing economy. They imitated the Chinese model. Tourist development is impressive as well. We could not believe our eyes when we visited beach resorts like Mui Ne and Nha Trang. This is the Copacabana of Rio or Surfers Paradise with chop sticks. We traveled through the country, from the former capital Saigon (renamed to Ho Chi Minh, after the famous Viet leader) to Hanoi and what we saw was a great effort by everybody. Nobody seems to remember the war. There is no hate against Americans at all. Vietnamese are hard workers and forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Some of them give a bad reputation to this splendid country, as they like to take advantage of tourists. Overpricing is common, so you have to bargain for everything, even for a cup of coffee. Apart from this, our Vietnamese adventure was more than satisfying. We will never forget driving through the DMZ (demilitarized zone) at the 17th parallel, hiding like the Vietkong into the Vinh Moc tunnels, walking into the streets of old Hoi An or biking into the imposing citadel in Hue.

change

adventure begins! 25/4/2007, 7500 km.: The ond clutch slave cylinder 22/5/2007, 11627 km.: sec co roc replacement in Mo Service in Dakar-Senegal 18/6/2007, 17.625 km.: air in Service and handbrake rep 4/9/2007, 33.699 km.: Namibia lacement Clutch master cylinder rep 5/10/2007, 37.567 km.: in East London, S.Africa ed by 4 new Cooper tyres provid 7/10/2007, 38.343 km.: Dunlop S. Africa in Durban Service in Tanzania 8/11/2007, 45.473 km.: , Egypt front brake pads change 22/ 1/2008, 59.919 km.: Roverland at vice ser Big .: km 20/2/2008, 66.000 pinion , belts changed. Rack and Gabletsas. Clutch, brakes and i) law Ma in t roo bab replaced (after we hit a bao und) exhaust finals replaced gro distorted (by touching the re wheel base provided by spa s well. New Kaymar double . New BF Goodrich A/T tyre Outback Import of Greece las. Hel in hel 245/75 17 provided by Mic ers by nd new rear shock absorb bra .: 3/4/2008, 67.500 km d. vice ser just s one nt Fro . ece Jam Sport – Bilstein Gre lacement Clutch master cylinder rep .: km 2/6/2008, 78.574 n. ista Pak and handbrake setup in ment, .: front brake pads replace km 232 26/6/2008, 82. Nepal nder and .: Clutch slave/master cyli 22/7/2008, 85.076 km -Mumbai tors Mo nit Nav in nt me hand brake unit replace s change .: Oil and rear brake pad 24/ 10/2008, 93.845 km in Cambodia. oil .: hand brake unit, rear diff 23/ 11/2008, 100.736 km d Rover Malaysia Lan from nt me lace rep sealer and turbo

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kehg rire iu rg8eg fewiru yew fer 8gyug uyvg uygdw8 gv dygwudyg wduyg7wd fydg


The World Off Road Pt 5 Laid-back countries Laos is the most heavily bombed country on earth. By Americans – who else? Hundreds of innocent people still lose their lives every year from UXO – unexploded ordnance. Driving through the country, though, is a refreshing and much safer experience. Traffic is low on the twisty roads that run through the forested, hilly landscape. People are more relaxed than the Vietnamese Damn – they actually have a Thai style. one hou oen Saduak, a r outsid f Expatriates are more than the tourists lo a ti centuries e Bangkok, ng market ab out seems to behind in the country and the hot spots are from m odern T be left distinct here; Vientiane, Vang Vieng and hailand. – French style - Luang Prabang were the only places where we felt as if we were in the famous Kao San road of Bangkok. You know what I mean: strips full of cafes, guest houses, tour agencies and massage parlors. Every other place gets you back to a 19th century rural and peaceful lifestyle. We fell in love with Laos and we will go there again to meet more tribal people. Northern Thailand is much more developed than Laos but is laid back as well. This country is incredibly organized. Wherever we traveled, roads were perfectly paved, towns well signed and lively from dawn until late at night. Don’t

kehg rire iu rg8eg fewiru yew fer 8gyug uyvg uygdw8 gv dygwudyg wduyg7wd fydg

Kayan – Karen women do not have long necks as people believe. Wearing the heavy brass rings, pushes down their collarbone and the final result is mostly an optical illusion.

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Saigon is a motorbike hell!

get panicked by last year’s political turbulence in Bangkok. Thailand is as safe for its visitors as eight airbags in your car. Police are always there to protect foreigners. Thai people are peaceful, permissive and respectful. In their every day life, they adore food and socializing through dining, which they like to do all day long. Stalls are spread everywhere and they serve a dazzling variety of food. After a long walk in Chiang Mai – our favorite town in Thailand – you can always have a Thai massage before dinner – possibly in a Buddhist temple. It’s like an exhilarating aperitif that costs no more than five Australian dollars! From Chiang Mai, you can take the motorway and travel safe and sound to the Malaysian border but what we did was more exciting. We followed the old hippy trail to Pai village and from there to Mae Hong Son where we met some of the hill tribes living there. Visiting a village of ‘long neck” women is a must even if you do it in a package tour. The women that came 13 years ago as refugees


The World Off Road Pt 5 from Burma live here under the surveillance of the Thai government and make a living thanks to the tourists who arrive to see them in daily basis. Many people say this is an ‘anthropological zoo’ and maybe they are right. Try to change this whenever you go there. Don’t just take photos and go on, take some time and speak with these lovely ladies. They have heartbreaking stories to tell… Most hill tribes of northern Thailand are of Burmese origin. They were forced to leave their country to escape the repression of the military junta. This regime altered the history of a beautiful nation and diverted our route as well. Restrictive laws for foreigners had obliged us to ship our car from Chennai to Malaysia as independent travelers are not allowed in the country. Burma was a country we missed and that’s why we wanted to enter there. Entering Burma from Thailand is straightforward. You just need to leave your car at Mae Sot, cross the bridge and take a temporary permit, valid for one day. We visited the Myawadi, a border town, and we saw that the standards of living are much lower than in neighboring Thailand. Dusty streets, bustling markets, pedal rickshaws and a blend of Indian and Asian faces, these are our memories from our short visit to Burma. Getting back to Kuala Lumpur after a three month, 13,000 km. roundtrip to SE Asia, was like getting back home. We felt nostalgic in a way as this was a familiar place to us but we were already missing the bustling towns of Vietnam, the rice paddies of Cambodia, the fresh air of mountainous Laos and the hippy lifestyle of northern Thailand. Malaysia was like home with all these malls, fancy restaurants and multiplex cinemas but we didn’t want to go home yet. We were looking forward driving through Indonesia to East Timor and – yes! – get to Australia. A down under adventure is yet to come!

In Chiang Mai we celebrated the colorful Loi Kratong festival among thousands of locals.

7

8

Go to www.theworldoffroad.com to see where we are now!

We travelled under torrential rain in Vietnam.

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do8fuyg i9wdfh eihgeuh eiuheiu dwu w dugdwugh euigheuygh yg dwu iu yfgiuydwefg uy g hiouw h fuiw


The World Off Road Pt 3

ual leader rrent spirit most cu d an ni by Khomei ted figures . Ayatollah are respec ns Khamenei but not all - Irania

Stuck In The

Old but stylish w oman fro m Sirince , Turkey.

Middle... The Middle East is a mind-blowing adventure through history, exquisite tastes and surreal landscapes but mostly an encounter with real life characters. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Geology in Cappadocia, Turkey is surreal. The minaret-like rocks around Goreme are volcanic deposits and are used as houses, depots and monasteries for centuries.

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OVERLANDER JAN.10

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The World Off Road Pt 3

ual leader rrent spirit most cu d an ni by Khomei ted figures . Ayatollah are respec ns Khamenei but not all - Irania

Stuck In The

Old but stylish w oman fro m Sirince , Turkey.

Middle... The Middle East is a mind-blowing adventure through history, exquisite tastes and surreal landscapes but mostly an encounter with real life characters. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Geology in Cappadocia, Turkey is surreal. The minaret-like rocks around Goreme are volcanic deposits and are used as houses, depots and monasteries for centuries.

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OVERLANDER JAN.10

43


The World Off Road Pt 3

Get prepared for long delays and hassle before you book a ticket for the ferry from Tamba, Egypt to Aqaba, Jordan.

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 24/ 1 – 8/2/2008 & 5/4 - 8/5/2008 Days: 51 , Countries: Egypt, Jordan Iran , key Tur Syria, m Total distance: 12,066k Border crossings: 6 Refuellings: 20

Iconic figures at Apadana hall, Persepolis, 70 km north of Shiraz.

. sepolis, Iran siting Per vi ts en ud Young st

T

his time we were completely lost. There aren’t GPS maps for Iran, so our Garmin screen looked blank. We knew we were driving high on the Albortz Mountains but had no clue which direction to follow. We had left Masouleh, a scenic mountain village of red coloured houses near the Kaspian sea and were heading to Qazvin off road. We were driving on slippery mud and were obliged to use the hill decent control system for keeping our 3.5-ton Discovery on the road. It was supposed to get dark soon and Vula was uneasy. “Don’t bother”, I told her, “we will camp somewhere on the roadside”. She never liked the idea. I was feeling home in Iran. Right from the start, this country proved to be extremely friendly to us despite the hostile reputation of its Islamic government to the west. I was calm despite being lost in the mountains. After a while we arrived to a small village. It was a no through road. Two young women approached us. I tried to explain to them we needed a campsite but they didn’t understand. One of them invited us to her house and we accepted. We discovered the real meaning of hospitality for the rest of the night. The young lady was staying with her old parents; poor but genuine people. They offered chicken, fries and naan (Iranian flat bread) for dinner. The father smoked opium right after. His wife assisted him to burn the paste held on a skewer. By night we slept in the daughter’s room. We used many woollen blankets as it was freezing outside but this was the warmest feeling we had during our trip. The girl’s name was Hamide Natzafi from Dastandar. We will never forget her family.

te culinary dinner is the ultima Simple but hearty ered by genuine people, Iran. off experience when

Hard work at Grand Bazaar of Esfahan, the most historic city of Iran. This is the perfect place to bargain for a Persian carpet.

This country proved to be extremely friendly to us despite the hostile reputation.

In fron t of It was the famous Ay like get ting ba ia Sofia basili ck to our roo ca, Istanbul. ts here .

Salam alekum! Salam Alekum; “Peace be with you”. Wa alekum es salam; “And upon you be peace”. These are the words you learn from the moment you enter the Arabic world. Given we got there coming from Africa, Egypt seemed to be a part of the developed world for us. I remember the day we arrived in Aswan, after a 17-hour ferry trip through Lake Nasser. Everything was so different compared to Wadi Halfa, the dusty, remote town of Sudan in the Nubian desert. Egyptian roads are tarred, buildings are modern, people live in

44

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Off-road driving is limited but rewarding in Cappadocia, Turkey OVERLANDER JAN .10

45


The World Off Road Pt 3

Get prepared for long delays and hassle before you book a ticket for the ferry from Tamba, Egypt to Aqaba, Jordan.

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 24/ 1 – 8/2/2008 & 5/4 - 8/5/2008 Days: 51 , Countries: Egypt, Jordan Iran , key Tur Syria, m Total distance: 12,066k Border crossings: 6 Refuellings: 20

Iconic figures at Apadana hall, Persepolis, 70 km north of Shiraz.

. sepolis, Iran siting Per vi ts en ud Young st

T

his time we were completely lost. There aren’t GPS maps for Iran, so our Garmin screen looked blank. We knew we were driving high on the Albortz Mountains but had no clue which direction to follow. We had left Masouleh, a scenic mountain village of red coloured houses near the Kaspian sea and were heading to Qazvin off road. We were driving on slippery mud and were obliged to use the hill decent control system for keeping our 3.5-ton Discovery on the road. It was supposed to get dark soon and Vula was uneasy. “Don’t bother”, I told her, “we will camp somewhere on the roadside”. She never liked the idea. I was feeling home in Iran. Right from the start, this country proved to be extremely friendly to us despite the hostile reputation of its Islamic government to the west. I was calm despite being lost in the mountains. After a while we arrived to a small village. It was a no through road. Two young women approached us. I tried to explain to them we needed a campsite but they didn’t understand. One of them invited us to her house and we accepted. We discovered the real meaning of hospitality for the rest of the night. The young lady was staying with her old parents; poor but genuine people. They offered chicken, fries and naan (Iranian flat bread) for dinner. The father smoked opium right after. His wife assisted him to burn the paste held on a skewer. By night we slept in the daughter’s room. We used many woollen blankets as it was freezing outside but this was the warmest feeling we had during our trip. The girl’s name was Hamide Natzafi from Dastandar. We will never forget her family.

te culinary dinner is the ultima Simple but hearty ered by genuine people, Iran. off experience when

Hard work at Grand Bazaar of Esfahan, the most historic city of Iran. This is the perfect place to bargain for a Persian carpet.

This country proved to be extremely friendly to us despite the hostile reputation.

In fron t of It was the famous Ay like get ting ba ia Sofia basili ck to our roo ca, Istanbul. ts here .

Salam alekum! Salam Alekum; “Peace be with you”. Wa alekum es salam; “And upon you be peace”. These are the words you learn from the moment you enter the Arabic world. Given we got there coming from Africa, Egypt seemed to be a part of the developed world for us. I remember the day we arrived in Aswan, after a 17-hour ferry trip through Lake Nasser. Everything was so different compared to Wadi Halfa, the dusty, remote town of Sudan in the Nubian desert. Egyptian roads are tarred, buildings are modern, people live in

44

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Off-road driving is limited but rewarding in Cappadocia, Turkey OVERLANDER JAN .10

45


The World Off Road Pt 3

Driving tips

Driving on the remote Albortz Mountains was the perfect way to discover real Iran.

Hijab, th e dress co is a stat de for Muslim w e law in omen, Iran.

an. welcome in Ir You are mostly

Don’t miss a balloon flight over Cappadocia “fairy chimneys”.

We were obliged to use the hill decent control system for keeping our Discovery on the road. apartments, markets are lively and fragrant and fast food restaurants are plenty. Driving along the Nile route needs to be done in a convoy – a safety measure taken by the government after a bloody terrorist attack in Luxor. If you want to go from Aswan to Cairo you need to be at the outskirts of the town at 8am or 2pm, stay in line with hundreds of tour buses and then follow the police patrol through the traffic, at 120-130km/h! This is a crazy concept. The convoy is a perfect target for any bomb loaded fanatic but this is Egypt, a country of crazy rules. Of crazy people too! At every step somebody approaches you on the road with a different proposal; to show you his art shop, take you for a ride in a felucca (the classic sail boat on the Nile) or invite you to taste “for free” the best chawarma (doner kebab) in town. The ‘avoid tourist places’ rule is not valid in Egypt. Everything is about tourists here and how can you skip sites like Luxor, Giza or Abu Simbel? But don’t get frustrated. Street vendors are real characters. They do this for a living but it is like a theatre of life and you, as a visitor, are starring as well. Just play your role calmly, take nothing personally and you will have fun. Egyptians like women and they will often ask for yours, offering camels and goats. This is their favourite game with foreigners. Egypt is built along the Nile. Far from the river that supported ancient Egyptian civilisation in a way that changed human history, this is a desert country. You feel the contrast when you escape traffic locked Cairo and drive through the

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Suez Canal. In one hour you get from the craziness of 16 million souls to the remoteness of the Sinai desert. Sinai is a holy land and has been a battlefield during the six days war. It offers majestic beaches and world class diving. It is famous for St Catherine orthodox monastery and the bombings at Sharm El Seikh resort. We spent one night among the monks instead of staying at a resort before leaving the country. We had to get through the complicated customs procedures and clear our car first. Nobody spoke English at the port of Tamba and there were no guidelines. Given our no bribing policy we spent half a day getting the exit stamp on our Carnet de Passage. At the end I was so pissed off that I yelled angrily to a poor police officer; “I will never, never come to your country again!” He laughed understandably. I didn’t mean it actually…

Fesh-fesh, the powder gravel of the Nubian desert proved to be the nemesis for the electric handbrake of our Discovery.

Middle East get If you plan to drive in the s are notorious in ver Dri st. wor the ready for cracy frustrating. eau bur and most countries and you can easily ugh tho Fuel is bloody cheap ere. wh find a good mechanic any e obligatory. Entering Egypt: Carnet de Passag a whole day nd the country, you may spe cedures. You need pro s tom cus h oug thr getting a local plate ed issu get to car to insure the reckless, defy are s ver Dri . for about $AU220 night and by ts ligh traffic lights, rarely use are always alert y The s. car t kep ly bad have the big cities and most though. Traffic is hell in Fuel is bloody cheap k. wor ’t traffic lights don of bad quality. but (diesel: $AU0.20/litre) diesel at the pumps. for e nam the is lar” “So ntry is Jordan: Entering the cou but you need to net Car a h wit d war tfor igh stra s are much better buy local insurance. Driver man. Diesel costs Am in os cha l but traffic is stil are frequent. s tion Sta about $AU0.5/litre. e obligatory – no Syria: Carnet de Passag conditions similar ffic Tra ce. check for insuran e bit better. littl a to Egypt but drivers are be asked, will you y ntr cou the g Enterin e a diesel you driv you If ” sel? die “benzin or k of driving, wee per 100 $US will get charged e of diesel is pric The . as the fuel is subsidised have to be in a you en Oft pt. Egy as e the sam ays give priority to line to refuel but locals alw any foreign car. sage optional. You Turkey: Carnet de Pas ce. Custom procedures ran insu d need Green Car ect a quick luggage Exp are straightforward. are getting better ds roa and s ver Dri ck. che is an issue. ety saf l stil but r yea year by lights with a fic traf tech h Istanbul has hig ctically by pra key Tur timer. You can cross ece but travel is Gre to ia Syr from y hwa hig st expensive fuel in costly; Turkey has the mo ing $AU3.50/litre! eed exc es tim the world – at and Green Card Iran: Carnet obligatory Roads are wide and e. her d vali is (European) ers are aggressive driv but d decently maintaine pect traffic res y and restless at times. The s. Fuel is rule er oth the all not but lights seven litres of buy ld cou you ap; incredibly che 1. Petrol $AU for sel die of s petrol or 40 litre ve to lusi exc and ss stations are state busine s don’t refuel tion sta der Bor sel. die or petrol plates. Normally outgoing cars with foreign but locals will l fue buy to s you need coupon . help you get through this

Land of hospitality Many people are afraid of the Middle East. They consider it a hostile environment because of the explosive politics and frequent conflicts in the area. Travelling here is not only about the excellent cuisine, the breathtaking landscapes, the vibrant markets and the historic monuments, it is mostly about people. Don’t believe stereotypes about the behaviour of Muslims. We spent nearly two months in the region and we never had a negative reaction from locals. We can only recall open-hearted people. Like the Bedouin family at Wadi

Meeting the ultimate 4x4 at Wadi Rum, Jordan. OVERLANDER JAN.10

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The World Off Road Pt 3

Driving tips

Driving on the remote Albortz Mountains was the perfect way to discover real Iran.

Hijab, th e dress co is a stat de for Muslim w e law in omen, Iran.

an. welcome in Ir You are mostly

Don’t miss a balloon flight over Cappadocia “fairy chimneys”.

We were obliged to use the hill decent control system for keeping our Discovery on the road. apartments, markets are lively and fragrant and fast food restaurants are plenty. Driving along the Nile route needs to be done in a convoy – a safety measure taken by the government after a bloody terrorist attack in Luxor. If you want to go from Aswan to Cairo you need to be at the outskirts of the town at 8am or 2pm, stay in line with hundreds of tour buses and then follow the police patrol through the traffic, at 120-130km/h! This is a crazy concept. The convoy is a perfect target for any bomb loaded fanatic but this is Egypt, a country of crazy rules. Of crazy people too! At every step somebody approaches you on the road with a different proposal; to show you his art shop, take you for a ride in a felucca (the classic sail boat on the Nile) or invite you to taste “for free” the best chawarma (doner kebab) in town. The ‘avoid tourist places’ rule is not valid in Egypt. Everything is about tourists here and how can you skip sites like Luxor, Giza or Abu Simbel? But don’t get frustrated. Street vendors are real characters. They do this for a living but it is like a theatre of life and you, as a visitor, are starring as well. Just play your role calmly, take nothing personally and you will have fun. Egyptians like women and they will often ask for yours, offering camels and goats. This is their favourite game with foreigners. Egypt is built along the Nile. Far from the river that supported ancient Egyptian civilisation in a way that changed human history, this is a desert country. You feel the contrast when you escape traffic locked Cairo and drive through the

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Suez Canal. In one hour you get from the craziness of 16 million souls to the remoteness of the Sinai desert. Sinai is a holy land and has been a battlefield during the six days war. It offers majestic beaches and world class diving. It is famous for St Catherine orthodox monastery and the bombings at Sharm El Seikh resort. We spent one night among the monks instead of staying at a resort before leaving the country. We had to get through the complicated customs procedures and clear our car first. Nobody spoke English at the port of Tamba and there were no guidelines. Given our no bribing policy we spent half a day getting the exit stamp on our Carnet de Passage. At the end I was so pissed off that I yelled angrily to a poor police officer; “I will never, never come to your country again!” He laughed understandably. I didn’t mean it actually…

Fesh-fesh, the powder gravel of the Nubian desert proved to be the nemesis for the electric handbrake of our Discovery.

Middle East get If you plan to drive in the s are notorious in ver Dri st. wor the ready for cracy frustrating. eau bur and most countries and you can easily ugh tho Fuel is bloody cheap ere. wh find a good mechanic any e obligatory. Entering Egypt: Carnet de Passag a whole day nd the country, you may spe cedures. You need pro s tom cus h oug thr getting a local plate ed issu get to car to insure the reckless, defy are s ver Dri . for about $AU220 night and by ts ligh traffic lights, rarely use are always alert y The s. car t kep ly bad have the big cities and most though. Traffic is hell in Fuel is bloody cheap k. wor ’t traffic lights don of bad quality. but (diesel: $AU0.20/litre) diesel at the pumps. for e nam the is lar” “So ntry is Jordan: Entering the cou but you need to net Car a h wit d war tfor igh stra s are much better buy local insurance. Driver man. Diesel costs Am in os cha l but traffic is stil are frequent. s tion Sta about $AU0.5/litre. e obligatory – no Syria: Carnet de Passag conditions similar ffic Tra ce. check for insuran e bit better. littl a to Egypt but drivers are be asked, will you y ntr cou the g Enterin e a diesel you driv you If ” sel? die “benzin or k of driving, wee per 100 $US will get charged e of diesel is pric The . as the fuel is subsidised have to be in a you en Oft pt. Egy as e the sam ays give priority to line to refuel but locals alw any foreign car. sage optional. You Turkey: Carnet de Pas ce. Custom procedures ran insu d need Green Car ect a quick luggage Exp are straightforward. are getting better ds roa and s ver Dri ck. che is an issue. ety saf l stil but r yea year by lights with a fic traf tech h Istanbul has hig ctically by pra key Tur timer. You can cross ece but travel is Gre to ia Syr from y hwa hig st expensive fuel in costly; Turkey has the mo ing $AU3.50/litre! eed exc es tim the world – at and Green Card Iran: Carnet obligatory Roads are wide and e. her d vali is (European) ers are aggressive driv but d decently maintaine pect traffic res y and restless at times. The s. Fuel is rule er oth the all not but lights seven litres of buy ld cou you ap; incredibly che 1. Petrol $AU for sel die of s petrol or 40 litre ve to lusi exc and ss stations are state busine s don’t refuel tion sta der Bor sel. die or petrol plates. Normally outgoing cars with foreign but locals will l fue buy to s you need coupon . help you get through this

Land of hospitality Many people are afraid of the Middle East. They consider it a hostile environment because of the explosive politics and frequent conflicts in the area. Travelling here is not only about the excellent cuisine, the breathtaking landscapes, the vibrant markets and the historic monuments, it is mostly about people. Don’t believe stereotypes about the behaviour of Muslims. We spent nearly two months in the region and we never had a negative reaction from locals. We can only recall open-hearted people. Like the Bedouin family at Wadi

Meeting the ultimate 4x4 at Wadi Rum, Jordan. OVERLANDER JAN.10

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The World Off Road Pt 3

ode Muslimrm c welcome and full

Al Khazneh, the Iconic Treasury temple at Petra, Jordan.

You will have a wa en that you respect respect by locals giv es rul ic bas e som e of prayer. Sunni • Respect people’s tim day. Any a es Muslims pray five tim local will be a h wit e hav you business prayer. of e tim the at interrupted t hand to touch your • Never use your lef e. Left hand is used els dy ebo food or som iene only. hyg al for your person ds with women, • Men don’t shake han n. Ira especially in Shia Muslim and • Iranians are mostly day. a es tim e fiv don’t pray be asked if you are • Couples often will ldren. It’s better to chi e hav married and to avoid possible t, no if n declare so eve n. me ng harassment by you uld cover their hair • Foreign women sho n Ira in and curves by law ddle East, - Everywhere in the Mi ided and avo be to exposed flesh is l be appreciated. modest dress code wil rful veil. ou col t, ligh a dy han Keep a mosque with Men shouldn’t enter short pants. r shoes • Always take off you sque or other before entering a mo religious site. a code of • In Iran “Taarof” – ence of everyday cordiality – is the ess ited for dinner, you inv get y ma u Yo . life s for free but most of may be offered good cordial gesture. So, a t jus is s the time thi if the local doesn’t sal po don’t accept a pro After that, you es. insist two or three tim l. rea is sal po pro the know w service and • Be prepared for slo locals during by ers nn ma r she har Muslim fast). Ramadan (month of igion. Christians are • Don’t hide your rel e. her ryw eve welcome

Rum who offered us breakfast in the desert. Or the Syrian biker who escorted us through the hectic traffic of Damascus and found us a cheap hotel, after he offered us hot konafah (a delicious fried dessert with ricotta cheese) on the road. Another Syrian, of Armenian origins, in Aleppo left his company and spent half a day just to find a local workshop where they could clean our diesel filter. In Turkey, we were welcomed enthusiastically, especially when they realised we were ‘Yunani’ – Greeks. We were offered free kebabs or coffee more than once and one night, the mayor of Ulalar in Anatolia, arranged for us to camp safely in the municipal garage. We realised that we were positively discriminated despite the chronic political issues between Turkey and Greece. On the border of Iran a police officer enthusiastically helped us clear our car through customs. They just checked if we carried alcohol, but we didn’t. Vula was already wearing her red scarf and looked pretty in it and respectful to the Hijab dress code. Hijab is enforced by the Iranian constitution that is written according to the sharia – the Islamic law. Iranians are shia Muslims but are not Arabs, so don’t consider calling them so. They will be offended. Generally they are noble people with values of life lost in the west. Everybody wants to be your friend there. Our first friend was a teacher who helped us refuel as we didn’t have the essential coupons. Our first night in Tabriz – where we camped in a Conservat ive wom lively municipal park – we made more friends; en hiding in bridges o students who were taking pictures of us from f Esfaha one of the n. their cell phones and were curious to know more about the world. For the next three weeks we

Waking up in the wild – this is the best part of our trip.

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The World Off Road Pt 3 Our brand new BF Goodrich A/T were a match for the muddy roads of northern Iran.

had more invitations than in any other country. Thanks to the genuine hospitality of the locals and the ridiculous price of diesel, our trip through Iran was the cheapest overall. We spent $AU70 per week! We were sleeping anywhere as this is one of the safest countries. One night, in Qazvin, our fancy Land Rover was parked in a little park next to a central avenue. A police officer stopped for a check at 2am. He was apologetic for waking me up and when I asked him if he considered our campsite safe he told me; “sleep good, very safe. Iran safe, no terrorist!” The gentle policeman was not the only one who wanted to fix the bad reputation of this country. Every Iranian wanted to know what we thought about it. It is a pity because these people practically can’t travel, so they feel isolated. For conservative Iranians, the Mullah regime doesn’t feel

Living in a family is easy in Iran. This is the most hospitable country in the world by far!

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ty! Bedouin beau

oppressive. They have a decent life, good principles, safety and good education for men and women. Young people, though, are those who feel they can’t breath. We met some courageous students in Yazd who were pretty outspoken. This is the generation that protested during the last elections. They were speaking for freedom of speech, love and travel – the basic values they miss. We felt guilty after meeting some bright young Iranians. We can travel, write and speak freely. We dance, drink and choose our partners with no restrictions. They have only the national sport of Iran, which is picnic, by day or by night. Heading to the border of Pakistan we felt we would miss this region – formerly called Mesopotamia - which is considered more a battlefield than the cradle of civilisation that it is. We stayed one night in Bam – a town that was devastated by an earthquake in 2004 – and proceeded to Zahedan, through the notorious Sistan – Balochistan region. We were escorted by gentle police officers all the way to the border that was closed after 3pm. We should stay one more night in “no man’s land” on the frontier between Middle East and Central Asia. We camped next to a blue mosque. God willing, we should enter Pakistan tomorrow and hopefully survive it. Insallah, as the people of this region say.

Next month… shock as e ultimate cultural th r fo e tim It’s India. ter en d kistan an the couple cross Pa


G’day Mates!

The World Off Road Pt 6

Greek overlanders cross the Outback all the way from Perth to Sydney adding 16,000km on their Discovery. Read an Australian epic from a foreigner’s point of view… Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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e are completely on our own in a hostile environment. The soil is eroded by salt, heat is unbearable and flies are annoyingly aggressive. Even if we wear full face nets they still manage to infiltrate our ears, eyes and mouth – I’ve already eaten a dozen of them! Vzzz, vzzz, vzzz, this is the soundtrack of our trip for the last days in the Outback. We are in Dalhousie Springs on the western side of mighty Simpson Desert. We dive naked into the warm water lake and, yes, the tiny monsters don’t dare to come near us. We face a great dilemma where we are. To cross the Simpson Desert or not to cross? At Mount Dear roadhouse, the only one in hundreds of kilometeres, we were told that the notorious French line path is closed. We call the ranger from our Iridium phone and the man advises us to avoid the trip: “Nobody has entered the desert for six months, the flooding extends for about 30km. The desert will be closed for two more months at least!”

e lties” ar rm: “Sa ute. a F e il Crocod crocs are c Douglas born Malcolmuge here, new h

In and less tha n we wer three e so nly months an a stopped, we d id lcoh ol t once b 16,00 est. y po 0km lice for

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OVERLANDER APRIL.10

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G’day Mates!

The World Off Road Pt 6

Greek overlanders cross the Outback all the way from Perth to Sydney adding 16,000km on their Discovery. Read an Australian epic from a foreigner’s point of view… Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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W

e are completely on our own in a hostile environment. The soil is eroded by salt, heat is unbearable and flies are annoyingly aggressive. Even if we wear full face nets they still manage to infiltrate our ears, eyes and mouth – I’ve already eaten a dozen of them! Vzzz, vzzz, vzzz, this is the soundtrack of our trip for the last days in the Outback. We are in Dalhousie Springs on the western side of mighty Simpson Desert. We dive naked into the warm water lake and, yes, the tiny monsters don’t dare to come near us. We face a great dilemma where we are. To cross the Simpson Desert or not to cross? At Mount Dear roadhouse, the only one in hundreds of kilometeres, we were told that the notorious French line path is closed. We call the ranger from our Iridium phone and the man advises us to avoid the trip: “Nobody has entered the desert for six months, the flooding extends for about 30km. The desert will be closed for two more months at least!”

e lties” ar rm: “Sa ute. a F e il Crocod crocs are c Douglas born Malcolmuge here, new h

In and less tha n we wer three e so nly months an a stopped, we d id lcoh ol t once b 16,00 est. y po 0km lice for

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OVERLANDER APRIL.10

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The World Off Road Pt 6

Gree

ks sp oilin

Quarantine Matters!

sia we knew Before leaving Malay Quarantine n alia str how strict Au (AQIS) rules & Inspection Service in a thorough are, so we proceeded ich kept us wh , car the of cleaning inking Greek, Th s! day ee busy for thr .aqis.gov. ww (w IS we contacted AQ and for making ails det for ing ask au) dback was clear; a report on it. The fee an like new”. cle be uld “the car sho have a less t gh mi We thought we n from them in tio nta fro con us oro rig were journalists Fremantle – given we checked, traces s wa car but when the found into the re we of soil and seeds was moved to car e Th . me fra der lad worked on it a special cleaner who for three hours ter wa ed riz with pressu the test. sed pas car after which our 570 AUD for no The process cost us of contagious(?) more than 100 grams y, mum’s ntl rta po im st soil but mo . Our press ted iga fum honey should be ference or dif any identity didn’t make cleaned by the re we es sho r ou ; it did rth himself, who director of AQIS in Pe erview. The int g stin gave us an intere that quarantine officer convinced us production and matters for the bovine ive Australian sit sen the of the health ecosystem.

g Au strali a...

Vula would like to work at William Creek roadhouse – in another life maybe…

Uluru is very touristic but still overwhelming.

Welcome to Fraser Island, as far as dingoes are concerned they are not so bad but don’t feed them please!

You will never see any Aborigines around Uluru, only sacred places of their ancestors.

We felt defeated but chose to do the right thing knowing that getting stuck into the desert would mean several days of delays plus 1000 AUD per wheel, for a possible recovery, according to an unwritten Outback law. We would reach Birdsville from the famous Oodnadatta and Birdsville tracks, a 1200km loop through South Australia. “No worries mate!”, Vula said to comfort me, “Next time”!

Cultural shock the other way

You should first call Birdsville Hotel before attempting Simpson desert.

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We decided to head to Birdsville through the famous Oodnadatta tracks.

When we arrived in Australia, three weeks before, the sky seemed crispy clear and the prices exorbitantly high in comparison to our former life in SE Asia. We wanted to cross the Outback but which way? Whatever route we chose, we would miss something else. We preferred to do it the long way, driving up to Broome. We would decide what to do next from there…

It was incredible… 50km north of cosmopolitan Perth there was nothing – nothing! – till Geraldton. It was an endless stretch of tarmac with no cell phone or radio signal, no fuel or food for every 400 to 500km, until the next town or the next roadhouse. We were traveling for hours and our dot seemed still on the map screen of our GPS. North of Geraldton we diverted to Shark Bay and Monkey Mia until we got back to the main road, we had 650km added on our odometer. What a huge piece of land! On our route to Broome we passed Carnarvon and Port Headland, of course, but the best part was Karijini National Park. It was like a naturalistic amusement park but so hot, mate! After we drove a bit on the 80-mile beach, we arrived in Broome. We knew it was the most interesting little town in WA but it seemed so depressingly empty that day. At noon you the only people was saw were at the Coles supermarket. In Broome we met an

saw time we the only g together. as w it in n ay to In Gerald d aborigine kids pl white an OVERLANDER APRIL.10

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The World Off Road Pt 6

Gree

ks sp oilin

Quarantine Matters!

sia we knew Before leaving Malay Quarantine n alia str how strict Au (AQIS) rules & Inspection Service in a thorough are, so we proceeded ich kept us wh , car the of cleaning inking Greek, Th s! day ee busy for thr .aqis.gov. ww (w IS we contacted AQ and for making ails det for ing ask au) dback was clear; a report on it. The fee an like new”. cle be uld “the car sho have a less t gh mi We thought we n from them in tio nta fro con us oro rig were journalists Fremantle – given we checked, traces s wa car but when the found into the re we of soil and seeds was moved to car e Th . me fra der lad worked on it a special cleaner who for three hours ter wa ed riz with pressu the test. sed pas car after which our 570 AUD for no The process cost us of contagious(?) more than 100 grams y, mum’s ntl rta po im st soil but mo . Our press ted iga fum honey should be ference or dif any identity didn’t make cleaned by the re we es sho r ou ; it did rth himself, who director of AQIS in Pe erview. The int g stin gave us an intere that quarantine officer convinced us production and matters for the bovine ive Australian sit sen the of the health ecosystem.

g Au strali a...

Vula would like to work at William Creek roadhouse – in another life maybe…

Uluru is very touristic but still overwhelming.

Welcome to Fraser Island, as far as dingoes are concerned they are not so bad but don’t feed them please!

You will never see any Aborigines around Uluru, only sacred places of their ancestors.

We felt defeated but chose to do the right thing knowing that getting stuck into the desert would mean several days of delays plus 1000 AUD per wheel, for a possible recovery, according to an unwritten Outback law. We would reach Birdsville from the famous Oodnadatta and Birdsville tracks, a 1200km loop through South Australia. “No worries mate!”, Vula said to comfort me, “Next time”!

Cultural shock the other way

You should first call Birdsville Hotel before attempting Simpson desert.

46

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We decided to head to Birdsville through the famous Oodnadatta tracks.

When we arrived in Australia, three weeks before, the sky seemed crispy clear and the prices exorbitantly high in comparison to our former life in SE Asia. We wanted to cross the Outback but which way? Whatever route we chose, we would miss something else. We preferred to do it the long way, driving up to Broome. We would decide what to do next from there…

It was incredible… 50km north of cosmopolitan Perth there was nothing – nothing! – till Geraldton. It was an endless stretch of tarmac with no cell phone or radio signal, no fuel or food for every 400 to 500km, until the next town or the next roadhouse. We were traveling for hours and our dot seemed still on the map screen of our GPS. North of Geraldton we diverted to Shark Bay and Monkey Mia until we got back to the main road, we had 650km added on our odometer. What a huge piece of land! On our route to Broome we passed Carnarvon and Port Headland, of course, but the best part was Karijini National Park. It was like a naturalistic amusement park but so hot, mate! After we drove a bit on the 80-mile beach, we arrived in Broome. We knew it was the most interesting little town in WA but it seemed so depressingly empty that day. At noon you the only people was saw were at the Coles supermarket. In Broome we met an

saw time we the only g together. as w it in n ay to In Gerald d aborigine kids pl white an OVERLANDER APRIL.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 6

TRIP dID Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Vehicle: Lan a Netou Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vul Days: 85 (69 driving) Total distance: 16.412 Refuellings: 24 Litres: 1872 Lt/100 km.: 11,4

We saluted the Indian Ocean which we had followed from Capetown!

You need to deflate seriously to drive on the sandy path towards Steep point, the westernmost one of Australia.

Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach (Queensland) is an eye opening experience for anybody interested in Outback’s culture.

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Australian celebrity, Mr. Malcolm Douglas, an adventurer and cinematographer who runs a serious business with crocodiles. Malcolm still makes adventure documentaries like the ones that made him an Australian institution in the 60’s. Like a real star, he was not really interested in meeting with us until we told him we had travelled all the way from Greece to meet him. Finally, he spent all day with us and he told us juicy stories from his life in the Outback and delivered some crocs in front of our eyes. We loved this guy! From Broome we saluted the Indian Ocean which we had followed from Capetown! And now what? Cross the Kimberley and arrive to Darwin or cross the Tanami desert, the most remote part of the country? As the going gets tough, the tough get going, so – you guessed it – we were probably the first to tackle the muddy track at the southern-most part of Kimberley (from Derby to Fitzroy crossing through Windjana


The World Off Road Pt 6 National Park) after the rain season, when state signs still prohibited it. After an oil change at Halls Creek we entered the Tanami and crossed it all the way to Alice Springs in two days time. It was an epic driving in an arid environment where we met only two cars and more than forty carcasses in the middle of nowhere. On the way, we visited two Aboriginal villages without a permit. It was worth the risk to see what the flip side of a model country looks like: Well, it looks like delapidated houses, street fires with unemployed youngsters surrounding an old man, rusty cars parked everywhere and lost souls drinking beer all day. We tried to talk with some of them but they were hostile with us. It was the first time on our trip we couldn’t establish communication with local people. We don’t blame them. Aborigines have experienced the rudest cultural shock and human rights violations than any other tribe in history, by the advanced white man of course. Sorry mates but truth is hard to digest…

Roadhouse Country

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We were happy to arrive in Alice Springs safe and sound with only some scratches on the tyres. We were confident to consume more of the Outback, and we were actually addicted to the rusty color of the soil and the unique palette of the sky before sunset. The roundtrip to Uluru via Finke Gorge and Kings Canyon was a piece of cake. Back to Alice, we were prepared psychologically for the Simpson Desert. We followed the route to Finke, the same run by the famous Finke Desert Race, along the Ghan, the old train rail that was made by Afghan cameleers. At parts we were driving on the

It was the first time on our trip that we couldn’t establish communication with the local people.

Walking around Kings canyon was a breathtaking experience.

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The World Off Road Pt 6

Discovery News

in had just replaced the turbo broke down completely. We ine with eng ed our n trat whe frus felt atra we Sum We were in perfectly, so 102,000km and was running er. A breakdown Malaysia, the TDV6 had only que worldwide’ by Land Rov ‘uni as ed judg was ch whi t days to pull eigh ded nee We s. this unexpected incident our great adventure on a trip like a for Land Rover nity pur. ortu Lum la opp ect Kua to perf is a ote Northern Sumatra back rem from by air to way ped the ship all was car 6 or carry our brand new TDV problem. One week after, a g the car body udin incl k, bac ing impressively reacted to our ryth eve e engine were needed to assembl l requirements. Why did the Malaysia. Three more weeks e according to the LR technica d tim ove long rem for ely run plet had com ine was eng which bably a domino effect. The pro k was stuc It ? and ine ning eng war no the blow off with must have entered which tiny metal remnants engine ‘dry’ and the get to rs hou with a broken turbo, from of ter mat p went off, it was a nd 20,000 in the oil pump. After the pum ch should have cost us arou we tested our new TDV6, whi the driver’s ia, got tral we Aus th in Per So, In l. off. n wel blow generous with us for as very was ia semi tral and Aus diff of er rear Rov the AUD. Land atta (Sydney) ranty. At Trivett of Parram service, always for full a d vide pro e door lock replaced under war wer we and crown had come loose axles were replaced as the . free

parallel 4WD track, used for the rally, just for fun! For the next four days we met only a handful of people, exclusively at the famous roadhouses on Oadnadatta and Birdsville tracks; Mount Dare, Pink House, William Creek, Mungerania and finally the famous Birdsville Hotel. In the Outback we realized that the roadhouse is the absolute Australian institution, it represents the country better than anything else. Remote but unbelievably organized! We couldn’t believe we could find diesel, a mini market, restaurant, bar, pool, memorabilia, even an ATM, all in one and so far away from anything else. We were wondering how the families that run these places can make it. We found out that their kids attend the school of the Air, via radio on a daily basis. Incredible Australia. You can expect anything from a country where cattle has been guided by helicopters for the last 40 years…

We couldn’t believe we could find diesel, a mini market, restaurant, bar, pool, memorabili and even an ATM all in one area, so far away from everything. xxx xx xxxxx xx xx xxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxx

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The World Off Road Pt 6

Back to the Real World

Shark Bay: The westernmost point of Australia feels like the end of the world, which is not so far from truth. Great for camping, fishing and off road driving.

23 days after we had departed from Perth, we arrived to Longreach, where our Outback epic ended. Two days later, at Rockhampton, we felt as if our trip had ended, exactly were Australia starts for 90 percent of Aussies. We lived more adventures after that, like the off-road driving at Fraser Island, a skydive on the beach south of Sydney and a climb of the iconic Harbor Bridge, but we were missing the Outback which represents the original Australia for us. From Brisbane to Sydney, to Melbourne and back to Sydney, from where we finally shipped our car to the USA, we felt like home thanks to the hospitality of different fellow Greeks and Australians as well. We put on some kilos thanks to greek moussaka, feta cheese and Australian barbecue. Funniest part was when we were asked where we were come from; “We come from Greece”.. “You shipped your car here? Why didn’t you rent one here”? “We are on a world tour – we crossed Iran, Pakistan, India, SE Asia. We drove from Perth…” “YOU CROSSED THE OUTBACK? How many kangaroos did you hit? Did any crocodiles attack you? It is full of dingoes there… Many people died there after they ran out of fuel… or water… ” Crazy Australians… The Outback is a far away country more than any other for them. A place reached by few who like to amplify its myth. The beauty is there, same as on photoshopped pictures, but the dangers are hyped. The Outback needs respect but you have nothing to fear there, its always Australia, the most organized country in the world. By the way, we never hit or nearly missed a kangaroo mates!

Overlooking Simpson Desert from an iconic red dune, near Birdsville.

We kis climbingsed Australia goo un the Harbor dbye in a cla ssic Bridge in Syd style, ney.

.com

d offroa eworld ww.th e are now! w k c w Cli where to see

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The World Off Road Pt 6

多Habla

Espa単ol? Central America is a 10,000km drive through eight countries with turbulent pasts but plenty of colonial towns, colourful fiestas, Caribbean beaches, Mayan ruins and smoking volcanoes. You just need to speak Spanish to survive this adventure... Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Zapotitlan is the ultimate cactus reserve in Mexico.

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OVERLANDER JULY.10

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The World Off Road Pt 6

多Habla

Espa単ol? Central America is a 10,000km drive through eight countries with turbulent pasts but plenty of colonial towns, colourful fiestas, Caribbean beaches, Mayan ruins and smoking volcanoes. You just need to speak Spanish to survive this adventure... Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Zapotitlan is the ultimate cactus reserve in Mexico.

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OVERLANDER JULY.10

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The World Off Road Pt 6

The cobblestone road to Real de Catorce.

Crossing a Chiapas Village south of San Cristobal.

T

he border between the US and Mexico is an extremely vibrant place. On the northern side of Rio Grande lies the big ‘American Dream’. On the southern side, a gang war between cocaine cartels still goes on, despite the efforts of the Mexican government. At least, this is the idea you have about Mexico coming from the US. Right after you cross the border you forget the negative hype. Apart from the border areas, Mexico is a lovable and pretty safe country. This is not only for the great colonial towns, the colourful fiestas or the exquisite cuisine but mostly because of the people. Mexicans are maybe the happiest folks in the world despite many of them being among the poorest. After a long time in the US we were delighted by the vibes, the energy and the laid back approach of Mexicanos. We learned to walk again, after six months of a drive-through lifestyle in the States. Our trip started from Monterrey, the most Americanised city in the country, and took us all the way to Mexico City, through glorious towns that flourished thanks to silver and gold mines. Saltillo, Zacatecas and Guanajuato still keep a sense of their old glorious days, when the Spanish colonialists were sending tons of silver back home. Most famous of all abroad is San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful town where more than 12,000 expatriates from the US and Canada live permanently. Driving in Northern Mexico is straightforward thanks to a decent motorway network. We skipped all motorways to avoid

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Sometimes you need to be courageous with Mexican cuisine - like tasting ‘chapulinas’ - deep fried cockroaches.

You are going to travelling collect many st am in Centra l America ps while .

es by y timce we t ir h t n than only o . more xico but r a bribe d e p o e p sto y in M ely - f lit m were We and ar ed - po e polic were ask

A traine drugs befo d Labrador checks ou re we ship r Discovery it from Pan ama to Colfor ombia.

Mexico is the most populated city in the world, and an ever expanding theatre for no less than 30 million!

the expensive tolls and followed smaller roads which gave us a better insight of the country. One day, we took a cobblestone road up to 2800m, entered a mining tunnel and found the ultimate Mexican village, the heroic Real de Catorce. This was an old mining town where indigenous people where exploited humanely by the ‘conquistadores’. Real was a ghost town when the price of silver plummeted but locals rediscovered it as a pilgrimage destination thanks to a miraculous picture of San Francis of Assisi. Arriving in Mexico City we took a deep breath. This is the most populated city in the world, an ever expanding theatre of hard working life for no less than 30 million people! We camped 50km to the north, next to the famous Teotihuacan OVERLANDER JULY.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 6

The cobblestone road to Real de Catorce.

Crossing a Chiapas Village south of San Cristobal.

T

he border between the US and Mexico is an extremely vibrant place. On the northern side of Rio Grande lies the big ‘American Dream’. On the southern side, a gang war between cocaine cartels still goes on, despite the efforts of the Mexican government. At least, this is the idea you have about Mexico coming from the US. Right after you cross the border you forget the negative hype. Apart from the border areas, Mexico is a lovable and pretty safe country. This is not only for the great colonial towns, the colourful fiestas or the exquisite cuisine but mostly because of the people. Mexicans are maybe the happiest folks in the world despite many of them being among the poorest. After a long time in the US we were delighted by the vibes, the energy and the laid back approach of Mexicanos. We learned to walk again, after six months of a drive-through lifestyle in the States. Our trip started from Monterrey, the most Americanised city in the country, and took us all the way to Mexico City, through glorious towns that flourished thanks to silver and gold mines. Saltillo, Zacatecas and Guanajuato still keep a sense of their old glorious days, when the Spanish colonialists were sending tons of silver back home. Most famous of all abroad is San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful town where more than 12,000 expatriates from the US and Canada live permanently. Driving in Northern Mexico is straightforward thanks to a decent motorway network. We skipped all motorways to avoid

46

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Sometimes you need to be courageous with Mexican cuisine - like tasting ‘chapulinas’ - deep fried cockroaches.

You are going to travelling collect many st am in Centra l America ps while .

es by y timce we t ir h t n than only o . more xico but r a bribe d e p o e p sto y in M ely - f lit m were We and ar ed - po e polic were ask

A traine drugs befo d Labrador checks ou re we ship r Discovery it from Pan ama to Colfor ombia.

Mexico is the most populated city in the world, and an ever expanding theatre for no less than 30 million!

the expensive tolls and followed smaller roads which gave us a better insight of the country. One day, we took a cobblestone road up to 2800m, entered a mining tunnel and found the ultimate Mexican village, the heroic Real de Catorce. This was an old mining town where indigenous people where exploited humanely by the ‘conquistadores’. Real was a ghost town when the price of silver plummeted but locals rediscovered it as a pilgrimage destination thanks to a miraculous picture of San Francis of Assisi. Arriving in Mexico City we took a deep breath. This is the most populated city in the world, an ever expanding theatre of hard working life for no less than 30 million people! We camped 50km to the north, next to the famous Teotihuacan OVERLANDER JULY.10

47


Palenque attracts more hippy travelers than any other Maya kingdom not only for trekking in the jungle but for the magic mushrooms flourishing around as well…

An old Kuna Yala woman posing for one dollar promised fee…

pyramids and we didn’t drive our car downtown fearing we would get lost in the horrific traffic forever. Downtown ‘de-effe’ (the shortcut for ‘Distritto Federal’ as Mexico City is referred) is a lively place to stroll around but the shanty towns in the suburbs make this metropolis an unbearable place to live. One good thing is that you don’t really need to stay there as there are more colonial beauties that are worth staying at for days. This is the case for Puebla and Oaxaca, possibly the most vibrant Mexican towns of all and the ones with the best culinary culture. Taste a chicken with ‘mole poblano’ (a thick chocolate sauce) and you will never want to leave this place. Cactus is Mexico’s trademark. If you need to cross the ultimate cactus desert, don’t miss Zapotitlan biosphere, next to the main road that connects Puebla and Oaxaca. What most people don’t know is that the vast country offers a greater variety of landscapes. Around Oaxaca itself and up on the Chiapas mountains the environment is similar to Central Europe or South Australia, where pine and cedar forests are abundant. We are now in Southern Mexico and the huge Yukatan Peninsula extends to the northeast. This looks like a totally different country. An infinite plain of rainforests all the way to the Caribbean coast. The country of the Maya is always hot and humid. There are no rivers at Yukatan but only ‘cenote’, the underground, interconnected water sinkholes that played a major role in the Mayan civilization. They were used as sacrifice places. Now, cenote are used as natural swimming pools by hordes of American tourists who prefer

El Castillo, the best preserved pyramid of the Maya at Chitzen Itza; more than an architectural masterpiece it is a giant astronomical tool.

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Mundo Maya

Roots of Maya civilization date back to 2000B.C. in the tropics extending from the Yukatan Peninsula to Guatemala and to Hondura s territory. Maya had an astonishingly flourish ing period from 200 to 900 AD, during which they became masters in architecture, astronomy and mathematics. Apart from their unique culture and great architectural work, archaeologists more exci ted about why the empire declined, six centurie s before the Spanish arrived on the continent. The re are different theories on this, connecting the Mayan decline to a long draught, to an epidemic or to internal conflicts between different kingdoms. The truth is that Mayan people did not disappe ar and today they remain strong populations with in Central America. The kingdoms were just gon e so somebody supports that maybe there was a people’ s revolution that terminated the rule of the glor ious kingdoms...


The World Off Road Pt 6 The Canal is not only the backbone of the Panamenian economy, it is the reason behind the creation of the country.

Visiting Hondura the volcanic Isl s is defi a del Tig nitely re track ex an off the be in perience. aten

Yukatan more than any other place in Mexico for their summer holidays. You can find more gringos at the massive Cancun resorts than in California during summer. Cancun is the Gold Coast of the Caribbean, the kind of places we hate, you know...

Former Banana Republics Belize has a completely different feeling than any other country in Central America. It is the only former British colony in the mainland Caribbean. Belize is smaller than any Mexican state but worth a visit for the exotic islands – the Cayes (pronounced keys) that form a belt on the second longest barrier reef in the world – second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. We took a break at Caye Caulker, the only island affordable to backpackers. We had a nice grilled lobster listening to classic reggae hits and met some funny Rastafari men there for a night. The next day we hit the road to Guatemala through the mystic Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. Guatemala is a country with a turbulent past considering the civil war only ended in 1996. It’s still infamous for their high crime rate but it is actually a poor but visitor-friendly country of Mayan people. There are two main reasons to visit Guatemala. Number one is the lost city of Tikal, the most impressive one left from the Mayan golden years. After Palenque and Chitzen Itza in Mexico, we visited the place and – believe me – we were completely lost in this magic world, still hidden in dense jungle. If you go to Tikal, you can skip any other Maya ruins... Guatemala city – the capital, is a place better to be avoided. It is ugly, busy and potentially dangerous. Only 50km from there, lies the nicest colonial town in the country, Antigua. This is another one great town of the Spanish baroque architecture. Hordes of backpackers stay here for months, possibly attending a Spanish language course. Antigua lies

lay y can p ico. The AUD… x e M o, 0 anajuat less than 1 i at Gu or Mariach ng for you f a so

Driving on volcanic ash, on the slopes of Cerro Negro, one of the 17 volcanos of Nicaragua, close to Leon town.

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The World Off Road Pt 6 In the 2.5km long tunnel to Real de Catorce.

o. Guanajuat museum inen minded s ie m m u ibly op s the m Don’t misans have an increddeath! to ch Mexic oa appr

in the shadow of three volcanoes, one of which erupted in 1972 for the last time. From Antigua we had two choices en route to Panama. To enter Honduras or take the Pacific Road to El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in the region. We chose the second option. The border crossing proved to be the trickiest part of our trip – worse than any in Africa! Long queues of trucks and an incredible amount of red tape would’ve required us to stay overnight there if we were not showing our press passes to the customs director. After that, everybody moved, so we could enter the country on the same night. The pacific coast of El Salvador is a place that gets in the tourist map as a surfing destination. If you don’t surf, probably you will hate El Salvador for the heavy traffic and for the Iguana street sellers on the road to Honduras. Upon entering Honduras you realise that this is the poorest neighbour in the region. The villages look dilapidated like in Central Africa, the traffic is low and the roadside is filled with rubbish. This seems to be a country you need to drive though fast. We did less than 200km in Honduras but we have some good memories thanks to the night we spent at the volcanic Isla El Tigre. It was like going back to the colonial years as the houses, the church and the main plaza were like they were in 19th century. We were the only foreigners on the that day and we enjoyed being among the local people. The next day, a huge banner of former Sandinista leader and today president, Daniel Ortega, welcomed us in to Nicaragua. This was a country we always associated with civil wars, with the Sandinistas front and the US backed

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Upon entering Honduras you realise this is the poorest neighbour in the region. ‘Contras’ who fought them unsuccessfully for years. Nicaragua is now the hidden gem of Central America. It gets touristy at Leon and Granada, two wonderful cities with a colonial feel, but there’s definitely something more to explore here. Today’s Nicaragua is finally peaceful but still a very poor country, which is good for the adventurous traveller. It is cheap and rewarding like a downhill ride from a volcano on a wooden sand board – an activity exclusive to Nicaragua. Believe it or not, people in Nicaragua don’t hate Americans, despite the fact that they paid the price of US policies for decades...

Darien Gap Dead End... Costa Rica is a totally different scenario if you come from Nicaragua. It is like an escape from the third world. This is the only country in the isthmus which is not included in the international travel warnings. It was peaceful and politically stabilised since the end of WW2, when all the other ‘banana republics’ of Central America were in trouble. Costa Rica has had no army for the last sixty years but is equipped with a powerful tourist machine which supports the local economy as much as the coffee production. The country is a tropical paradise and thanks to their environment-friendly policies, a great amount of its territory is protected. Costa Rica offers everything a tourist dreams of; five star resorts on the beach and in the forest, canopy walks, bird watching and other outdoor activities that will keep you busy for weeks. But for the


Red tape A visa is not required from Mexico to Panama. In June 2006 Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador signed the CA-4 agreement under which travellers may travel between signature countries without completing exit and entry formalities for periods up to 90 days. Entry procedure gets a bit more complicated when you drive your own car because the FIA Carnet de Passage is not recognised. A short manual for driving on your own in Central America is as follows...

Mexico

On the border you get issued a sticker permit valid for 6 months. It costs 920 pesos. Mexican car insurance is obligatory. We paid 82 USD for a basic one (third party coverage), valid for one month. Don’t pay for a ‘departure tax’ on land borders, even if you are asked to. Ask persistently for a receipt!

sts clad touri by bikini- lum. ed er th aren’t bo aside ruins of Tu Iguanas at the se

Belize Caye Caulker of laid back destinaBelize is the ultimate tion in the Carib bean.

60km of gravel from the famous Tulum ruins, in Yukatan, take you to Punta Allen Peninsula.

54

real adventure seeker, the country is dull. Everything is oriented towards tourism, there is nothing left to discover and it lacks culture as the locals have turned to a more Western lifestyle. Sorry mates, but for all these reasons we crossed Costa Rica pretty quickly and entered Panama. Our choice was good. Panama may seem like an American colony – which it was until ten years ago – but it is more like two different countries in one. Panama City is a trade and shopping heaven, a city of unfinished skyscrapers, shipping companies and rich people, situated in the most strategic geography on earth. On the other side of the canal indigenous Panama still exists. When we took the road to the infamous Darien gap we realised that this is a place that few – if any - white collar Panamenios visit. Darien Gap is real no mans land. It’s a dense jungle gap between Panama and Colombia, synonymous to hidden drug cartels and bloody conflicts between guerrilla groups that still go on. Our trip in Central America ended at Yaviza, the easternmost village of Panama, where the Panamaricana Highway terminates. We thought we could find a path to get into Colombia but there is nothing actually beyond dense jungle and rivers. There was a TV crew in Land Rovers that attempted the trip in the 70’s and they were the last to succeed. We would need four months of winching and bridge building to cross the 400km gap – like they did - so the only way to get to South America was to ship our car to Colombia. The last part of our adventure is yet to come!

You pay ten Belize Dollars for fumigation 10 to enter the country. Procedure on customs and immigration are transparent and straightforward. Car insurance is obligatory but not checked on the border (7AUD/day). When exiting the country, we paid 25USD to get our passport stamped plus 6USD environmental tax. This is official.

Guatemala

The immigration officer asked for a 2USD ‘process fee’ for each passport. Don’t pay or ask for a receipt! Temporary car permits cost 7AUD for us. Don’t forget to get it stamped when you exit, unless you can’t enter El Salvador. We were not asked for car insurance.

El Salvador

We nearly spent the night at the border because of the long queues... Temporary car permits costs 5USD. There were signs at the customs office that the Salvadorian officers ‘don’t accept bribes’. They actually don’t!

Honduras

For every passport you pay a 3USD process fee. Temporary car permit costs 35USD and should be paid at the bank. Ask the officer politely to arrange this if you enter after working hours. Car insurance is compulsory.

Nicaragua

You pay a process fee of 7USD for every passport. A temporary car permit, valid for one month is free. Car insurance is obligatory and costs 12USD for one month.

Costa Rica

Passport process fee costs 2USD. Your car gets a fumigation for 4USD before you enter the country. A car permit is free (for three months) but gets issued only after you buy insurance that costs 17AUD – for three months.

Panama

You pay 1USD ‘tourist tax’ fee to get your passport stamped, plus 1USD for car fumigation. Car permit is free but car insurance is obligatory and costs 15USD (18AUD).

ntfytdtydytrxd ytrtyfytfu uyfuytyfty kyug yguh oih iuguyguy uwdgugd www.overlander.com.au


The World Off Road Pt 7

use er ho into h ake. s u d L lcome f Titicaca at we an th ni Island o m o w a The Amant

Caminos De La

at

In s ome We parts of boug ht it Bolivia it’s to geon black hard t o m t to La Parket in find die orde sel. az. r

Muerte

(Roads Of Death)

Our Greek explorers climbed on 6000m, drove through the most dangerous road in the world, camped in endless salt lakes, entered the driest desert on earth and they still have a long way to go throughout South America…

Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis lpaca and a llama nd Bolivia. f o s a illion f Peru o are m There altiplano

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e on th

Crossing ‘camino de la muerte’, the well advertised ‘death road’ from La Paz to Coroico.

OVERLANDER AUGUST. 10

45


The World Off Road Pt 7

use er ho into h ake. s u d L lcome f Titicaca at we an th ni Island o m o w a The Amant

Caminos De La

at

In s ome We parts of boug ht it Bolivia it’s to geon black hard t o m t to La Parket in find die orde sel. az. r

Muerte

(Roads Of Death)

Our Greek explorers climbed on 6000m, drove through the most dangerous road in the world, camped in endless salt lakes, entered the driest desert on earth and they still have a long way to go throughout South America…

Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis lpaca and a llama nd Bolivia. f o s a illion f Peru o are m There altiplano

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e on th

Crossing ‘camino de la muerte’, the well advertised ‘death road’ from La Paz to Coroico.

OVERLANDER AUGUST. 10

45


The World Off Road Pt 7

Colombian be auty du a horse ridinring a ‘cabalgata’, g event.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia, is another colonial town where we could live forever.

F

irst thing you notice in Colombia is that it is by far a more modern and developed country than what you’d expect. People are friendly, well educated with a European sophistication. Women are not just beautiful, they are dangerously gorgeous! There is a reason behind that; Colombia is both white and black. Mix is the secret... This country used to be notorious for drug trafficking, civil wars and high crime rate. This used to be true but thanks to the efforts of the latest Colombian government, crime is restricted and Colombia is on the tourist map again. As a traveller who doesn’t mess with ‘narcotraffico’, you have nothing to fear. We crossed Colombia all the way from the Caribbean coast to the south and we never felt unsafe. Being aware that the country is the number one producer of cocaine worldwide, we were surprised by the fact that nobody approached us to sell the white stuff. Police are omnipresent on the roads and during our 2500km trip we encountered more controls than anywhere else. Officers are discreet and polite by the way. More than anything, Colombia is a land of contrasting colours, landscapes, cultures and living

standards. Cartagena is a colonial beauty at its heart with overwhelming beach culture around. All of Northern Colombia, from there to Barranquilla (Shakira’s birthplace) and Taganga, has a Caribbean touch. Driving inland towards Bogota, you climb gradually on the northernmost part of the Andes. Before getting there, we diverted to Mompox, an isolated colonial town, next to the Magdalena River. We drove on rough gravel roads passing through remote, dusty villages and we saw the flip side of Colombia. It is like Africa there... Getting on higher altitude was a relief. We could finally sleep in our tent without the torture of the heat. Bogota is the first of the high altitude capitals we visited. We spent our first night in a parking lot and the second night in the house of the guy who created Legion Land Rover (www. legionlandrover.com), the only LR club in the country. Bogota reflects the wellness of upper class ‘cachacos’ on the north and the poverty of internal immigrants in the southern slums. Candelaria, the old neighbourhood downtown is a pleasant place to walk and encounter beautiful, curious students. Truth is that we spent double the time the in Colombia than scheduled. We were delighted by Villa de Leyva, a majestic town north of Bogota that makes you feel like you travelled back to colonial times. “This is a place to live!” we said to each other the first time we strolled through the cobblestone streets to the biggest plaza we had seen in Latin America. Further to the south, we visited San Agustin, a small town built next to the source of the Magdalena River. The nearby archaeological park features the monolithic statues that were created by a mysterious no name civilization, that flourished before the Incas.

Getting to a high altitude was a relief. We could finally sleep in our tent without the torture of the heat. Bogota was the first of the high altitude capitals we visited.

the r cacerole on live turtles fo x. lls se an om w po A road to Mom

occer bout s . azy a in America r c e r t a a s L n ia in olomb

yone like an

This is how you cross Magdalena River, Colombia, to get to remote Mompox town. A Colombian girl performs indigenous dance in downtown Cartagena.

else

C

Crossing The Equator Ecuador is a totally different country to Colombia. Like Peru and Bolivia, the indigenous population is dominant. This means that in every town, you see more people dressed traditionally than western style. Ecuador is a very touristic country but still cheap. It is practical for travellers as the US dollar is the official currency, and very affordable for overlanders, thanks to the low fuel price, the lowest in all America; 1 gallon of diesel costs slightly more than 1USD! This

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OVERLANDER AUGUST. 10

47


The World Off Road Pt 7

Colombian be auty du a horse ridinring a ‘cabalgata’, g event.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia, is another colonial town where we could live forever.

F

irst thing you notice in Colombia is that it is by far a more modern and developed country than what you’d expect. People are friendly, well educated with a European sophistication. Women are not just beautiful, they are dangerously gorgeous! There is a reason behind that; Colombia is both white and black. Mix is the secret... This country used to be notorious for drug trafficking, civil wars and high crime rate. This used to be true but thanks to the efforts of the latest Colombian government, crime is restricted and Colombia is on the tourist map again. As a traveller who doesn’t mess with ‘narcotraffico’, you have nothing to fear. We crossed Colombia all the way from the Caribbean coast to the south and we never felt unsafe. Being aware that the country is the number one producer of cocaine worldwide, we were surprised by the fact that nobody approached us to sell the white stuff. Police are omnipresent on the roads and during our 2500km trip we encountered more controls than anywhere else. Officers are discreet and polite by the way. More than anything, Colombia is a land of contrasting colours, landscapes, cultures and living

standards. Cartagena is a colonial beauty at its heart with overwhelming beach culture around. All of Northern Colombia, from there to Barranquilla (Shakira’s birthplace) and Taganga, has a Caribbean touch. Driving inland towards Bogota, you climb gradually on the northernmost part of the Andes. Before getting there, we diverted to Mompox, an isolated colonial town, next to the Magdalena River. We drove on rough gravel roads passing through remote, dusty villages and we saw the flip side of Colombia. It is like Africa there... Getting on higher altitude was a relief. We could finally sleep in our tent without the torture of the heat. Bogota is the first of the high altitude capitals we visited. We spent our first night in a parking lot and the second night in the house of the guy who created Legion Land Rover (www. legionlandrover.com), the only LR club in the country. Bogota reflects the wellness of upper class ‘cachacos’ on the north and the poverty of internal immigrants in the southern slums. Candelaria, the old neighbourhood downtown is a pleasant place to walk and encounter beautiful, curious students. Truth is that we spent double the time the in Colombia than scheduled. We were delighted by Villa de Leyva, a majestic town north of Bogota that makes you feel like you travelled back to colonial times. “This is a place to live!” we said to each other the first time we strolled through the cobblestone streets to the biggest plaza we had seen in Latin America. Further to the south, we visited San Agustin, a small town built next to the source of the Magdalena River. The nearby archaeological park features the monolithic statues that were created by a mysterious no name civilization, that flourished before the Incas.

Getting to a high altitude was a relief. We could finally sleep in our tent without the torture of the heat. Bogota was the first of the high altitude capitals we visited.

the r cacerole on live turtles fo x. lls se an om w po A road to Mom

occer bout s . azy a in America r c e r t a a s L n ia in olomb

yone like an

This is how you cross Magdalena River, Colombia, to get to remote Mompox town. A Colombian girl performs indigenous dance in downtown Cartagena.

else

C

Crossing The Equator Ecuador is a totally different country to Colombia. Like Peru and Bolivia, the indigenous population is dominant. This means that in every town, you see more people dressed traditionally than western style. Ecuador is a very touristic country but still cheap. It is practical for travellers as the US dollar is the official currency, and very affordable for overlanders, thanks to the low fuel price, the lowest in all America; 1 gallon of diesel costs slightly more than 1USD! This

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OVERLANDER AUGUST. 10

47


The World Off Road Pt 7 was one reason we drove a lot there but not the only one; the diversity of the country challenges you to follow more paths. From chaotic Quito, the capital that stands on 2800m, we thought about taking a plane to the famous Galapagos Islands. Given that a four day cruise would cost our monthly budget, we preferred to drive from the Andes to the lowlands different times in order to get a good taste of the country. During a week or so in Ecuador, we visited the lively market of Otavalo, crossed the equator, camped on the windswept slopes of picture perfect Cotopaxi volcano and walked down to the turquoise-coloured volcanic Lake Quilotoa, a postcardlike landscape on 4000m. We were enthusiastic enough to get down to the humid lowlands – that seems to be a completely different country – and get back to the Andes to relax at Cuenca, maybe the nicest town – with the best cuisine - in Ecuador. Last but not least was Vilcabamba, in the so-called ‘Valley of Longevity’. Apart from the hype created by expatriates of the ‘flower power’ generation, Vilcabamba is one more place that teases you to stay there forever, no matter what you make it to 140 years old, as some locals were able to do. A green, fertile valley on 1600m close to the equator is a place closer to paradise than any other, don’t you think?

derstand pa to un the pam azca lines. r ve o to fly the N You need e grandeur of th

The famous Sacred Valley, near Cuzco, Peru.

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A quechua woman brings her llama downtown Cuzco to get some money from photos like this.

A young boy selling ‘Che’ cigarettes in Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas. Che Guevara is a dominating figure anywhere in Latin America.

Peru Reloaded... Crossing the border and entering Peru was like getting back to the roots of our trip. In 2005, we had travelled for 20 days in the country in a Toyota LandCruiser. That trip was the ultimate test for the big one. We were testing ourselves and our budget to a lifestyle that was yet to come. This time we had the opportunity to cross the country from north to south. Peru is one of the top travel destinations overall. It combines three distinct zones; desert country on the coast, the high standing Andes range in the middle and the Amazon basin further to the east. Depending on the route you choose, Peru is a totally different place. You can stay for months in this country and discover new things every day. Two places you shouldn’t miss though are Machu Picchu and Titicaca Lake. We were lucky to have visited the most iconic Incas citadel in the past, otherwise we would have missed


The World Off Road Pt 7

Overlooking the famous salinas that were built by the Incas 500 years ago.

it this time. Torrential rains created havoc in the area last January and kept Machu Picchu off-limits for months. The rail that takes you to Machu Picchu was closed until last April. The Inca trail, the classic four day trek to the ruins was closed as well. No worries though... Revisiting Cuzco, a colonial beauty built on top of an old Incas town, and exploring the villages, the ruins, the experimental crop fields and the salt flats of ingenious Inca people, was as refreshing as the yoga lesson we took on Sacsayhuaman fortress, the one that overlooks the majestic town. From Cuzco and the sacred valley every traveller heads south to Titicaca Lake. This is what we did as well. We left the car at Puno and took a two day tour at the lake. We visited the floating Uros Islands, stayed with a local family, tried simple Aymara meals and had a traditional dance, dressed in wool ponchos and alpaca hats. Titicaca tours are standardised. All tourists follow the same program but even if you hate tour groups, you should try this. You will have a good time for sure...

Escape From Bolivia Bolivia seems like a poorer Peru at first sight and is by far a more indigenous country. Six to ten Bolivians still speak their own language and since 2005 an indigenous ex ‘cocalero’ from Oruro, named Evo Morales, is the president of the country. Still, most Bolivians seem to be suspicious people. They don’t trust outsiders and they have a good reason for

Peru - Bolivia border at Crossing the picturesque n shore of Titicaca Lake. her sout Yungayo, on the

Traditional clubbing in Titicaca…

Uros women reflecting brightly on the surface of the wonderful Titicaca Lake.

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The World Off Road Pt 7 that. Bolivia lost its coastline to Chile during the pacific war of 1879 and this remains a stink in its national psyche. Copacabana, a hippie village on the southern shore of Titicaca provides the only beach in the country. Don’t mention that to the locals, though... La Paz is the most chaotic and congested capital in Latin America. It’s also the highest standing in the world, squashed in a valley surrounded by Cordillera Real, on 3800m. Just for this reason, La Paz is the most breathtaking capital in the world! Bolivia proved to be an adventure for us. Everything is cheap here so you can try some crazy things you never thought about before. Like climbing over 6000m for only 140 AUD! This is the price to climb on top of Huayna Potosi, including six meals, a bed for two nights and a guide. It is a three day adventure that starts from a warm refuge at 4700m. We had a short training session with piolet and crampons on a nearby glacier and next day we trekked to the second refuge at 5130m. The next morning – at 1:00 am! – we fitted the crampons on our snowboardlike boots and started climbing slow and steady on a steep slope of ice. It was dark , cold and painful doing that in the middle of the night. What where we thinking for trying this? The mountain should punish reckless smokers like us, who think they can defy the barrier of 6000m on their first attempt, as if it was a walk in the park. Climbing on any mountain is not a walk in the park. We were walking for four hours up to 5850 m, frozen and exhausted, when the snow started falling and the black clouds covered the sky threatening to kill two ignorant Greeks and their poor guide with a single thunderbolt. We continued despite taking a

Everything is cheap in Bolivia so you can try some crazy things you never thought of doing before. Like climbing over 6000m for only 140 AUD! Bolivia has the hardest roads in South America.

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Crossing ‘camino de la muerte’, the well advertised ‘death road’ from La Paz to Coroico.

break every ten steps to breathe. At one moment the guide asked me to touch his jacket. I sensed a spark – which meant static charge – a major signal for an oncoming bolt. The same moment we turned back and started descending pretty fast. We didn’t break the mighty barrier of 6000m but we survived, thank God! Back in La Paz we were ready for more adventures. Instead of taking the road on the Andes Plateau to Potosi, we took the ‘camino de la muerte’, the notorious ‘death road’ to Coroico. This is a 2m wide gravel road that hangs on steep cliffs and descends from the Andes to the Yungas, the coca growing highlands between the mountains and the jungle. The ‘camino’ has killed hundreds of people in the past but recently it was bypassed by a new road and now is mostly used by bike tours as an adrenaline activity. How does it feel driving there in a big, fat Discovery3? Sometimes you feel your left wheel hanging off the road, which is serious trouble because the depth is abysmal at some points. But let’s be honest; we have done several more dangerous and less advertised routes during our trip. Camino de la muerte is more hype than thrill actually... A far more thrilling experience was the long loop through the Bolivian jungle. We did more than 1800km from La Paz to Cochabamba, two cities that are only 300km apart. We drove for two days on bone cracking gravel roads through hot and dusty, jungle villages until the road disappeared in the flooded basin. Now what? We should load our car in an old wooden barge to make it to Trinidad. The 50km trip took five hours. We had to use our headlights and all our anti-mosquito cream to stroll through the flooded fields and deserted villages around Mamore River, which looked


The World Off Road Pt 7

Driving in Salar de Uyuni is an extraterrestrial experience.

more like a lake after the rain season. Our Guevara’s Bolivian llage, Che r the last vi e d n ra fo ed Valleg y. adventure was photograph ospital at ivian arm In this h transferred and own by the Bol d as not over yet. body w r he was shot time afte After we visited Santa Cruz, the economic capital of the country, we followed Ernesto Che Guevara’s last path to Vallegrande. This is where Che was carried dead, after he was shot by Bolivian – CIA supported – troops. The revolutionary hero was buried here but his grave was found only in 1997. Potosi is a mining town in the remote south of Bolivia, on 4100m. At the beginning of the 17th century, it had grown bigger and more prosperous than London thanks to La Paz is built on the gold and silver mines of Cerro Rico, the hill overlooking 3800 m. It is the the town. Now many people visit the town for its colonial highest capital in heritage and the thrill of visiting one of the remaining the world and one of the most chaotic. mines, where millions of indigenous and black slaves died working there, just to make Spain an even wealthier empire. We entered a mine and – believe me – you wouldn’t southern end of Bolivia to get to Chile. A broken bolt that stand to work there for one hour... holds the rear wheel straight had a different idea. We were A gravel road leads further south to Uyuni. The ex military garrison is converted to a hot travel destination, stuck in the middle of a gravel road where not cars passed thank to its unique position, right next to Salar de Uyuni, for hours. We spent the whole day trying to find another bolt or to fix the same one. After a huge effort and the the biggest salt lake in the world. Backpackers take a assistance of some good local people at Colcha K village, three to four day tour in a 4WD to explore one of the we could go on next day. On the off road route to Chile the great landscapes on earth. We took our Discovery into bolt broke again and so we had to improvise. We tied hard the salt flat that covers an area of a small country. It was thrilling at first and amusing in the end to drive for tens of the alignment bar with the shock absorber and we kept going at a very slow pace. We drove eleven hours that day kilometres on the white surface that creates some surreal to escape Bolivia. We were relieved to enter prosperous illusions on the horizon. We camped in the middle of the Chile and take a break in the heart of the Atacama Desert, flat by night and it was a cold and creepy experience. There was no other living creature around, just us under the driest desert in the world. From here we start the final part of our long trip. After all, we are hopeful we will make the bright starlight. it to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. Next day we decided to leave Uyuni and head to the

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Day two of climbing on the Huayna Potosi mountain. We were hopeful we would make it then…

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The World Off Road Pt 8

Don’t Cry For Me Patagonia You need to survive the winds of Patagonia to make it to Tierra del Fuego, considered as the end of the world. We did it with pleasure as this was our ultimate destination before our trip back home… Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Colonia del S in Urug acramento, a fo uay, is a rmer Po bea rtu a post-Wutiful little towguese colony n with WI feel…

Passing th devastatingrough ground zero of earthquake in ConcepcFebruary’s ion, Chile.

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ds this ng winnia. o r t s and ago in Pat . atures temperner concept ays included w lo f in lw o a d s e s a w u e a w Bec as our n ed wine w lbec r A Ma

Patagonia is as isolated as the Australian Outback but in far more harsh climatic conditions.

OVERLANDER SEPTEMBER . 10

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The World Off Road Pt 8

Don’t Cry For Me Patagonia You need to survive the winds of Patagonia to make it to Tierra del Fuego, considered as the end of the world. We did it with pleasure as this was our ultimate destination before our trip back home… Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Colonia del S in Urug acramento, a fo uay, is a rmer Po bea rtu a post-Wutiful little towguese colony n with WI feel…

Passing th devastatingrough ground zero of earthquake in ConcepcFebruary’s ion, Chile.

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ds this ng winnia. o r t s and ago in Pat . atures temperner concept ays included w lo f in lw o a d s e s a w u e a w Bec as our n ed wine w lbec r A Ma

Patagonia is as isolated as the Australian Outback but in far more harsh climatic conditions.

OVERLANDER SEPTEMBER . 10

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The World Off Road Pt 8

E

ntering Chile from Bolivia is similar to entering Australia from Indonesia. It’s a total return to the developed world in other words. Northern Chile is a desert country. Atacama extends for hundreds of kilometeres along the Pacific and is considered the driest place on earth. In parts, rainfall is absent for years. Under its arid soil huge copper mines are hidden. They are the powerhouse of the Chilean economy. Driving on the Panamericana highway is a straightforward and dull process. The road is well paved and signed but petrol stations are not frequent. All major towns on the road, like Iquique, Antofagasta and Copiapo’, are within 500km of each other. These copper towns have nothing to show apart from some fancy malls. Outback drivers would feel at home in Chile as there is nothing of real interest on the road, apart from some of the most powerful telescopes in the world. Atacama’s clear sky is the ultimate observation desk for astronomers. If you want to taste the desert at full, you just need to visit San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis village hidden in a lunar landscape 100km from Antofagasta. The village itself is purposely dusty but stylish. You can find excellent pizzerias, sushi restaurants and art galleries on the main pedestrian road. Accommodation offered suits all tastes, from alternative backpackers to posh Americans.

Here is the station of the iconic Patagonian Express, which still runs for touristic purposes.

Pucon in Central Chile, is a manicured resort village next to Villarica Volcano which is still smoking…

Patagonia

is gaucho (cowboy) country.

We spent four days there and visited the natural beauties around the village, like the valley of the moon. This is an extraterrestrial landscape, where, according to well-known conspiracy theories, the Americans had filmed the landing of the Apollo 11 on the moon. Whether you believe these theories or not (personally I don’t…), Valle de la Luna is a very special place, especially at sunset. As we were driving towards Santiago, we could see the landscape getting greener and huge vineyards replacing the mines. This is the reason Chilean wine is so good and bloody cheap. There are two nice towns worth a visit in Central Chile, La Serena and Valparaiso. The second one was mentioned in the Motorcycle Diaries of Che Guevara. It is a vital port with a colonial feel and unique architecture. You can still use 19th century steam motored elevators to climb to different ‘barrios’

This is an extraterrestrial landscape where, according to well known conspiracy theories, the Americans had filmed the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.

Road signs are often ripped off by Patagonian winds.

46

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ays atures we were alw Due to low temperlike this in South America. g looking for campin

OVERLANDER SEPTEMBER . 10

47


The World Off Road Pt 8

E

ntering Chile from Bolivia is similar to entering Australia from Indonesia. It’s a total return to the developed world in other words. Northern Chile is a desert country. Atacama extends for hundreds of kilometeres along the Pacific and is considered the driest place on earth. In parts, rainfall is absent for years. Under its arid soil huge copper mines are hidden. They are the powerhouse of the Chilean economy. Driving on the Panamericana highway is a straightforward and dull process. The road is well paved and signed but petrol stations are not frequent. All major towns on the road, like Iquique, Antofagasta and Copiapo’, are within 500km of each other. These copper towns have nothing to show apart from some fancy malls. Outback drivers would feel at home in Chile as there is nothing of real interest on the road, apart from some of the most powerful telescopes in the world. Atacama’s clear sky is the ultimate observation desk for astronomers. If you want to taste the desert at full, you just need to visit San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis village hidden in a lunar landscape 100km from Antofagasta. The village itself is purposely dusty but stylish. You can find excellent pizzerias, sushi restaurants and art galleries on the main pedestrian road. Accommodation offered suits all tastes, from alternative backpackers to posh Americans.

Here is the station of the iconic Patagonian Express, which still runs for touristic purposes.

Pucon in Central Chile, is a manicured resort village next to Villarica Volcano which is still smoking…

Patagonia

is gaucho (cowboy) country.

We spent four days there and visited the natural beauties around the village, like the valley of the moon. This is an extraterrestrial landscape, where, according to well-known conspiracy theories, the Americans had filmed the landing of the Apollo 11 on the moon. Whether you believe these theories or not (personally I don’t…), Valle de la Luna is a very special place, especially at sunset. As we were driving towards Santiago, we could see the landscape getting greener and huge vineyards replacing the mines. This is the reason Chilean wine is so good and bloody cheap. There are two nice towns worth a visit in Central Chile, La Serena and Valparaiso. The second one was mentioned in the Motorcycle Diaries of Che Guevara. It is a vital port with a colonial feel and unique architecture. You can still use 19th century steam motored elevators to climb to different ‘barrios’

This is an extraterrestrial landscape where, according to well known conspiracy theories, the Americans had filmed the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.

Road signs are often ripped off by Patagonian winds.

46

www.overlander.com.au

ays atures we were alw Due to low temperlike this in South America. g looking for campin

OVERLANDER SEPTEMBER . 10

47


The World Off Road Pt 8 We did about 1500km on the infamous Ruta 40 from Bariloche to El Calafate.

The iconic Perito Mor warming bu eno glacier still def ies global t for how long?

was moved by several centimeters. Concepcion was moved 3.5m to the west. We were told by locals that they felt as if it was the end of the world.

Perito Moreno lies in Los Glaciares National Park, 70km west of El Calafate.

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(neighborhoods) that were built on the hills overlooking the Pacific. Valparaiso is a town that makes you want to stay forever… Santiago is a huge but clean capital with an entrepreneurial atmosphere. There is nothing interesting there apart from the ‘cafés con piernas’, the original coffee shops that resemble night clubs, where high heeled blondes serve you a café cortado (coffee with milk). So, we drove further south after we changed (under warranty) the fuel pump of our TDV6 engine. We could enter Argentina from Santiago but we wanted to visit the area south of the capital that was devastated by last February’s 8.8 grade earthquake. Around Concepcion we saw that people were still living in tents despite the efforts of the Chilean government to provide shelter for everyone. On February 27th 2010, the fifth most powerful earthquake ever measured hit the Pacific Coast of Chile. More than 700 people were killed and about 200,000 left homeless from the cataclysmic event. The whole continent

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Patagonia Express Chile is an extremely stretched country, about 4300km long north to south. It is a narrow strip of land located between the Andes range and the Pacific. You can enter Argentina from different high altitude passes on the Andes. We chose to drive from Temuco to Pucon and from there to enter Argentina from a twisty gravel road under the live Villarica volcano that smokes menacingly during the day. It was freezing when we arrived in Junin de los Andes, a village known as the ‘trout capital’ of Argentina. Junin, San Martin de los Andes, Villa de Agostura and Bariloche are surrounded by lakes. This is considered the ‘Switzerland of South America’, a beautiful region full of snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and delicious chocolate bars. Our trip through Patagonia started from there. South of Bariloche, the landscape changes dramatically. It gets more arid and isolated. Initially we couldn’t understand why this flat area remains unexploited. Travelling from Esquel


The World Off Road Pt 8

Driving through Torres del Paine National Park by night.

Patagonia is a land not a country. It is divided by the Andes and shared between Chile to the west and Argentina to the east.

We were on our own at Torres del Paine during winter. By summer, thousands of travelers from all over the world visit the park on a daily basis.

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to El Calafate through the roughest section of Ruta 40, we understood why. Who could live in a windy place like this? Patagonian winds are so fierce that no plants, insects, animals or human beings can survive. It is like a huge aerodynamic tunnel, with constant winds blowing at speed of 200km/h! The climatic phenomenon is created by the cold winds of Antarctica contrasting with the hot currents of the tropics. For two days we could not open a door or a window. Small stones from passing cars were catapulted like bullets towards the windshield and one nearly penetrated it. At the end of the trip, the right side of the car – the one facing the west – looked like it was shot by a machine gun and our precious roof tent was almost ripped off! Winds eased at Calafate, a nice resort village which is the base for exploring the famous Perito Moreno glacier. We visited the huge glacier that moves steadily from Chile to Argentino Lake and felt its ecological

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Some nights we had to sleep in our cars as the strong Patagonian winds could rip off our Italian roof tent.

significance. Perito Moreno is a natural thermometer and one of the ultimate reminders that in the past, all Patagonia was covered by ice. If it melts, our planet will be really sick. That’s why we all have to do something long before it does so…

To The End Of The World You have to study the map to understand the complicated geography of Southern America. Patagonia is a land, not a country. It is divided by the Andes and shared between Chile – to the west of the range – and Argentina – to the east. If you want to reach the end of mainland America, you have to head further south from Calafate. You have to cross the border to Chile and arrive in Puerto Natales first. This is a remote port connected with the Pacific Ocean by a sea route through the fiords. You can’t drive here from anywhere else in Chile. You have to take a weekly ferry from Puerto Mont - 1100km to the north - or drive through Argentinean Patagonia, like we did. Puerto Natales feels like the end of the world. It has a Nordic feeling actually, and seems like a port in Scandinavia or Iceland.


The World Off Road Pt 8 This is not the end of the Southern Hemisphere though. You have to cross the Magellan Strait by ferry and step on Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago of islands that comprises the southern end of America and the world. The main island is called Tierra del Fuego as well. One third of it belongs to Argentina, so we had to cross the border one more time, after a dusty drive through the endless steppe. The landscape changed again further to the south. The desert transformed to alpine landscape before we arrived to Ushuaia, the most remote town in the world. The natural harbor is well protected from the ultimate Andes summits. On the other side lies the Chilean Navarino island, which is sparsely inhabited. Further to the south there is just one continent, Antarctica. Ushuaia is the closest town to the southern pole and the perfect place to organize a trip there. We would like so but the vessels are stalled during winter and this is an expensive trip in anyway. You need at least 4500USD for a week’s trip to Antarctica.

The landscape changed again further to the south. The desert transformed to alpine landcape before Ushuaia.

Whale watching at Peninsula Valdez, Argentina.

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From here, you can explore the best national park in South America, Torres del Paine, a massif of granite mountains formed over millions of years thanks to internal volcanic erosions. Even if explained scientifically, the view of the horn like, twin-coloured tops seem to be a spectacular miracle. At the base of the Torres, there are pristine lakes, on the shores of which you can encounter herds of guanacos – a camelid species, like wild llamas. This is the ultimate place for trekking in South America. From Puerto Natales, we drove through Chilean territory to the southernmost town of mainland America, Punta Arenas.

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So, we just relaxed some days in this town that is like any other in Argentina, apart from its extreme geography. Ushuaia has everything! A lively market, loads of restaurants and a fancy casino. We visited the nearby Tierra del Fuego Park, the former prison (for which the town was created) and flew over the harbour in a Cessna. It was an achievement to be there, especially if you have driven all the way from Quebec. From the 45th parallel to the north to the 55th parallel to the south, this is what we did in the last few months. From now on, every kilometere would get us closer to Europe and to the end of our trip. That was the reason we were hesitant to leave Ushuaia‌

We were arrived fromat Puerto Madryn when the the warm south to make it fothe first whales r waters of Peninsula Vathe winter at ldez


The World Off Road Pt 8 On May 25th Argentina celebrated the 200 years of its independence. We followed the grandiose celebrations at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires among millions of locals.

Uruguayans adore vintage cars.

270 different falls on Iguazu River – natural border between Argentina and Brazil – comprise of supposedly the most astonishing natural attraction on earth. Iguazu falls were seen for the first time by a westerner – Spanish conqueror de Vaca – in 1541.

– and then to Brazil. After we visited the majestic Iguazu Falls, we took the long, busy motorway to Sao Paolo and Rio. It was hard to make it in the Brazilian traffic. We didn’t like the In search of cargo vessel Our trip from Ushuaia to Buenos industrial atmosphere of the Aires was fast and easy but huge country. We loved Rio of also uneventful. We drove the course, especially the southern Eastern Ruta 3, along the Atlantic beaches of Copacabana and Ocean and it proved to be the Ipanema. Finally we found dullest road we had ever taken. a vessel that could take the Yerba mate is Patagonia is an ugly place three of us to the other side of a na tio nal addiction in Uruguay. M Ar the Atlantic. We had to drive without the views of the snowthermos, whereany people go around holding gentina and they steep the th dry leaves for e essential back to Buenos Aires for that. capped Andes range. There personal use. are few towns on the endless From there we found the most road and all of them lack any history as they were built affordable way to get back home which was also the hardest way home… On July to support the oil refineries of Patagonia. The wind was omnipresent especially around the 50th parallel. So, we 26th, we got onboard a Grimaldi cargo vessel and crossed the Atlantic. On August 9th we will arrive in Dakar, the drove and drove and drove for 600 to 800km every day. westernmost tip of Africa. From there we will then follow In Buenos Aires, we started searching for a cargo vessel to ship our car. We did the same at nearby Montevideo, the the very same route we took in 2007 through the Sahara capital of Uruguay, which lies on the other side of the river Desert. Finally, from Morocco we will enter Europe. This plate. We kept searching till we arrived in Rio de Janeiro. is a dream-like finale for our three and a half month long On the way, we crossed all of Uruguay, entered Argentina, epic trip, which means that you will read at least one more from there to Paraguay – the poorest country in the region story from us…

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The World Off Road Pt 7

Mother Road

We discover the nostalgic side of America crossing its most ‘ancient’ road all the way from Los Angeles to Chicago. Let’s get our kicks on Route 66…

Fr will ee disco save unt you bookl ets up moteto $15 at most ls on -20 pe wee USD trol sta kday at t diff ions s. eren t

Want fries with that?

Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Kingman: The most photogenic section of the old Route 66 is from Oatman to Kingman, Arizona. It is a twisty, worn road with majestic views to the red rocks of Arizona.

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OVERLANDER MAY.10

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The World Off Road Pt 7

Mother Road

We discover the nostalgic side of America crossing its most ‘ancient’ road all the way from Los Angeles to Chicago. Let’s get our kicks on Route 66…

Fr will ee disco save unt you bookl ets up moteto $15 at most ls on -20 pe wee USD trol sta kday at t diff ions s. eren t

Want fries with that?

Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

Kingman: The most photogenic section of the old Route 66 is from Oatman to Kingman, Arizona. It is a twisty, worn road with majestic views to the red rocks of Arizona.

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OVERLANDER MAY.10

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The World Off Road Pt 7

T

Oatman: From Bullhead – an ugly resort town on the Colorado river – R66 climbs to a wild west village where donkeys still roam free and old cowboys can teach you how to shoot for a small fee.

here are many exciting road trips in the United States but only one is a travel destination in itself. This is Route 66. For this reason we followed this road all the way to Chicago, after we opened the container in LA and drove our Discovery after a month’s break. We thought of driving up to Alaska but our route was towards Central America and this would mean a financial disaster for us. We could head directly to Mexico from California but could we miss the most celebrated, filmed and sung road of America? So here we are, ready to get our kicks on Route 66 after an overnight in a petrol station outside San Bernardino. We are prepared to do Route 66 in the opposite way but in the best possible way. We don’t want to miss an inch of the old tarmac stretch that changed the history of the US… It’s a weird fact that Route 66 became famous worldwide only after its retirement. Since 1984 Route 66 does not connect Chicago and Los Angeles any more. There is a network of modern interstate motorways, like 55, 44, 40, 15 and 10 that connect the two iconic cities. Route 66 exists for a few different reasons. Today’s users are not desperados of the 30’s, nor post WWII beatniks or members of the flower power generation. Some of

46

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Rout

e 66 is the road to die for, d arlin

Grand Canyon: From Williams, a classic R66 stop, you can divert to the north and reach the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, the picture post card landscape of North America.

g…

Flagstaff: This classic stop gets freezing during winter and offers good food and accommodation in a green environment.

The iconic Bagdad Café in the Mojave Desert, which was used as a set for the homonymous cult movie.

Burma Shave ads revolutionized the advertising business in the 20’s. Scientifically positioned signs on the road were transmitting the right message – with a philosophical touch – while you were cruising at 35 miles per hour…

them are probably still there driving an old Chevy or a rusted VW Transporter but you can meet many more and mostly unexpected people on Route 66 today. Most visible are the born again bikers from Europe who ride rented Harley Davidsons, during their summer vacation. They look like gang members, with all these tattoos, long beards and leather jackets but they are innocent family men who are simply addicted to the legends of the road. We found some at Seligman, a fancy R66 stop in Arizona and had some fun with them. The current anthropology of Route 66 includes more heterogenic characters. You can meet new married couples from Texas in huge pick ups, retired Americans – don’t call them grey nomads - in huge motorhomes, hordes of Route 66 association members on bikes or cars, or even members of specific automobile clubs who just parade on the tarmac stretches of the good old national road… Do all these people follow Route 66 just for the breathtaking landscapes it drives through? Of course not. The road is actually a time machine. If you need to get into a simulator and live the innocent years of the American dream, follow the 66 signs and you got the feeling! OVERLANDER MAY.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 7

T

Oatman: From Bullhead – an ugly resort town on the Colorado river – R66 climbs to a wild west village where donkeys still roam free and old cowboys can teach you how to shoot for a small fee.

here are many exciting road trips in the United States but only one is a travel destination in itself. This is Route 66. For this reason we followed this road all the way to Chicago, after we opened the container in LA and drove our Discovery after a month’s break. We thought of driving up to Alaska but our route was towards Central America and this would mean a financial disaster for us. We could head directly to Mexico from California but could we miss the most celebrated, filmed and sung road of America? So here we are, ready to get our kicks on Route 66 after an overnight in a petrol station outside San Bernardino. We are prepared to do Route 66 in the opposite way but in the best possible way. We don’t want to miss an inch of the old tarmac stretch that changed the history of the US… It’s a weird fact that Route 66 became famous worldwide only after its retirement. Since 1984 Route 66 does not connect Chicago and Los Angeles any more. There is a network of modern interstate motorways, like 55, 44, 40, 15 and 10 that connect the two iconic cities. Route 66 exists for a few different reasons. Today’s users are not desperados of the 30’s, nor post WWII beatniks or members of the flower power generation. Some of

46

www.overlander.com.au

Rout

e 66 is the road to die for, d arlin

Grand Canyon: From Williams, a classic R66 stop, you can divert to the north and reach the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, the picture post card landscape of North America.

g…

Flagstaff: This classic stop gets freezing during winter and offers good food and accommodation in a green environment.

The iconic Bagdad Café in the Mojave Desert, which was used as a set for the homonymous cult movie.

Burma Shave ads revolutionized the advertising business in the 20’s. Scientifically positioned signs on the road were transmitting the right message – with a philosophical touch – while you were cruising at 35 miles per hour…

them are probably still there driving an old Chevy or a rusted VW Transporter but you can meet many more and mostly unexpected people on Route 66 today. Most visible are the born again bikers from Europe who ride rented Harley Davidsons, during their summer vacation. They look like gang members, with all these tattoos, long beards and leather jackets but they are innocent family men who are simply addicted to the legends of the road. We found some at Seligman, a fancy R66 stop in Arizona and had some fun with them. The current anthropology of Route 66 includes more heterogenic characters. You can meet new married couples from Texas in huge pick ups, retired Americans – don’t call them grey nomads - in huge motorhomes, hordes of Route 66 association members on bikes or cars, or even members of specific automobile clubs who just parade on the tarmac stretches of the good old national road… Do all these people follow Route 66 just for the breathtaking landscapes it drives through? Of course not. The road is actually a time machine. If you need to get into a simulator and live the innocent years of the American dream, follow the 66 signs and you got the feeling! OVERLANDER MAY.10

47


The World Off Road Pt 7

John Steinbeck named Route 66 the ‘Mother Road’ and ‘The Road of Second Chances’

Seligman: The old section from Kingman to Seligman will remind you the animation movie Cars. You can buy your first memorabilia here and don’t forget to taste a burger at Delgadillo’s Diner.

Main Street of America

TRIP dID Rover

Vehicle: Lan Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou Days: 17 Total distance: 4460km Refuellings: 11 Litres: 556 Lt/100 km.: 12.4

The ico nic C every dadillac ranch at ay than ks to c Amarillo tra nsf reative visitors. orms

Amarillo, Texas: Finish the 2kg steak in one hour and you get it for free!

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Route 66 was opened to traffic in 1926. It was the first, two lane road that connected the state of Illinois to California. It was 2448mi long, approximately 3,940km, and crossed eight states, including Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. In a country where private car was used as the locomotive of economic and social development (it still is!), a road of epic proportions like this changed the social map forever. Before the war, US Highway 66 – as the road was officially named – was the only path to freedom for the ‘Okies’, the victims of the depression years, in the agricultural Midwest states. California was the American dream for them and Route 66 was the only way to get there. Grapes of Wrath, the masterpiece novel written by John Steinbeck in 1939 is the bible of that heroic generation and is still studied at modern American schools. The American writer named Route 66 ‘The Mother Road’ and ‘The Road of Second Chances’. During that era, celebrity criminals like Al Capone and Bonnie & Clyde, used Route 66 to escape from the law. After WWII, America was an absolute superpower and its main street was the best expression of hope for a better, more adventurous life. Route 66 was the mother of the new American culture. It was here that neon lights appeared first. Pop adverts, drive in cinemas, drive through restaurants, mom n’ pop diners and motels were all born on Route 66. For the next few decades you could travel from the east to the west side of America in style and cheaply. Gasoline cost 17 cents per gallon and a cup of coffee only five cents. Full service petrol stations were flourishing and right next to the pump you could be served by a sexy, young waitress who would probably call


The World Off Road Pt 7

You can find plenty of vintage car museums at Santa Rosa, Clinton and other R66 hot spots.

Santa Fe: We discovered an ancient section of Route 66 south of Santa Fe and it proved to be a hard 4WD challenge.

Squ irrel! !

Gallup, New Mexico: After Flagstaff the landscape gets arid and the temperature rises as the road descends from the Colorado plateau.

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Route 66 was sung around the world thanks to Bobby Troup’s song Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

you ‘honey’ as if you were her tender love. In a simple way Route 66 was becoming a living legend year by year. It became the favourite road for flashy Chevy’s, nickel plated Greyhound buses and chopper bikes. The road was the backdrop of Mark Twain’s novels and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the absolute bible of the beatnik generation. Since 1946, Route 66 was sung around the world thanks to Bobby Troup’s song, Get Your Kicks on Route 66 which was performed by many more artists, from Nat King Cole to The Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode... Well it winds from Chicago to LA More than two-thousand miles all the way. Get your kicks on route sixty-six. Well it goes through St. Louie down to Missouri Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty. you’ll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona, Kingsman, Barstow, San Bernardino. Won’t you get hip to this timely tip And think you’ll take that California trip. Get your kicks on route sixty-six.


The World Off Road Pt 7

ants Sam w U n c le

p e a c e..

. now!

Elk City, Oklahoma: The only reason to stop in this agricultural town are two noteworthy, outdoor museums about life in 19th century and the flourishing era of Route 66.

Simple travel lyrics that everybody knows, even someone who never dreamt of crossing the US. How many times didn’t we sing the same during our trip to Chicago? The song was creating images which we were trying to see alive. Amarillo is not a village as I thought it would be but a smaller Dallas. Gallup was just a truck and train station. Winona was nothing more than a useful rhyme in the song. San Bernardino is a wealthy LA suburb. Reality was in contrast to that song at every mile for us…

Back to the Future

Weatherford: you can’t miss this town with the hundreds of wind power generators around. This is the birthplace of Apollo 10 astronaut Thomas Stafford. The aeronautical museum he created here is more inspiring than NASA’s Johnson Centre in Houston.

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In a standardized country like the US, where endless interstate highways and thousands of interchanges dominate its environment, Route 66 is a nostalgic parenthesis. Route 66 is not a copy/paste road. High rising signs, fast food restaurants, chain motels and supermarkets still exist here but they are not as visible as little, born again enterprises that sell everything, but more than anything, the 66 brand itself. Most of the sections of the old road were replaced since 1956 for the construction of multi-lane highways. Other sections were left unused for decades. Old motels, diners and petrol stations were shut down. There was no use for a road like Route 66 as long as the Americans could travel fast and cheap in jet planes. The American dream was all about moving fast and Route 66 was very slow by the new American standards. As time went by, Route 66 was revived. Americans and Europeans alike started getting nostalgic and asked for the Mother Road to come back, more as an outdoor museum of beatnik culture than as a useful route from Chicago to LA. Old motels were restored and deserted petrol stations were rebuilt and converted to R66 museums. Old barns and houses where transformed into memorabilia shops, where you can find everything and anything with a 66 logo on it,


The World Off Road Pt 7

ws Discovery Ne overy would be unscratched through thippis i,adthveenture

ad in Mississ nt that our Disc into empty, historic ro We were confide crashed violently e roadside of an th 00 on 15 m ed Ra pp e sto dg in a Do a ed in pp until we ter sto it gs un til rkway. A yo more metres un 25 r fo er. ov ed s inu Natchez Trace Pa wa nt p co . We felt our tri 7m ahead and our car, moved it fear for both of us anks to the strength of of nt me mo a s It wa ay, th r cloud of smoke. , but we were ok urance of the drive d his toes broken rtunately the ins Fo . in wn r The youngster ha do ve s Ro wa nd e t our moral 1000km to La our Discovery, bu , Hanley e car was towed air expenses. Th bodyshop in town st of covered all the rep ere we were directed to the best e co Th . ain ag w ne th as m Houston and fro ent was an overy was as good months, our Disc s fully covered. For us, this accid rodeos, Bros. After three wa ing d rid an ll D bu 2,000 US watched repair exceeded $2 to get a taste of life in Texas. We and Greek families and y n ca nit eri excellent opportu with different Am e ‘gringos’ when we hit the ll matches, lived American footba felt and looked lik we So y. mr yota Ca drove a rental To road to Mexico…

Don’t pump and run!

from a bumper sticker to a bottle of beer. Over the next few years Route 66 became a strong brand with no copyrights, so everybody here uses it to make a living. For us, this route was like a treasure hunt. We found loads of information from the internet before hitting the road and it proved to be a pleasant task to find the sections of the old tarmac among new interstates. It was worth the effort, even if we travelled for hundreds of kilometres on narrow service roads, just to get the whole feeling. After a few days we felt as if we were living in post-war America. Every town was like a movie set. Some characters are the same that starred during the peak years of the road. They are older now but they still make a living from a stretch of tarmac that crosses deserts and canyons, endless fields and remote towns. These Route 66 characters are the best part of this long trip and you know what? There will always be an old, fat waiter, a former beauty of the Mother Road, who will call you ‘honey’ while refilling your second cup of coffee. The Main Street of America is there and like Disneyland, Hollywood and the Statue of Liberty, will be waiting to sell you one more American dream… m

d.co ffroa rldo o ! w w .the e no www we ar Click where e to se

Chicago: We celebrated the end of our trip on Route 66 with a gyros sandwich in Greektown, not far from Shears Tower, the highest skyscraper in America.

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The World Off Road Pt 4

On Top Of The

World

After we cross the Karakoram Highway and survive the NWFP in Pakistan, we climb the highest roads in the world from disputed Kashmir to Ladakh, the so-called ‘Indian Tibet’. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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OVERLANDER FEB.10

79


The World Off Road Pt 4

On Top Of The

World

After we cross the Karakoram Highway and survive the NWFP in Pakistan, we climb the highest roads in the world from disputed Kashmir to Ladakh, the so-called ‘Indian Tibet’. Words by Akis Temperidis Photos by Vula Netu and Akis Temperidis

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OVERLANDER FEB.10

79


The World Off Road Pt 4

T

here are two borders worldwide where you smile in front of a webcam to get your passport stamped: the USA and Pakistan. Apart from this bureaucratic procedure, there is no other similarity between the two countries. When you enter Pakistan, you enter the third world of Islam. Villages are dusty. Sewage systems are open. Roads are dominated by dazzlingly painted, overloaded old Bedford trucks. Men have long beards and they all wear loose ‘shalwar kameez’ combined with ‘cafsons’—rounded woollen hats. You will likely see no one on the roads from Quetta all the way to Islamabad, an endless trip of 2,000km through the notorious Bolan Pass and the hot state of Sindh. This was a route we had to follow in order to get to India and, believe me, it wasn’t an easy choice given the notoriety of the place. Balochistan is a major opium route and we were warned by the Greek embassy in Tehran to skip it because of several kidnappings that occurred there during the last year. At the first police control, towards Quetta, we were asked two things by the black-uniformed policeman: one was if we needed a police escort. The second was if we could take a picture of him. We said “No, thanks,” to the optional escort service and we responded happily to the request for a photo. The officer was delighted to see his face on the camera’s screen. That moment, we learned two basic things about Pakistan: that policemen are super-friendly; and that you, the traveller, are considered a celebrity here. Which means things can get either very good or very nasty. Quetta was like a war zone, six months after the clashes that followed the murder of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. After one night and a great walk in the busy market, we decided to hit the road to the north. We were warned again by locals: “Don’t think about travelling next to the border of Afghanistan. You better follow theez rod!” ‘Theez’ meant a huge loop through the Bolan Pass, a route suitable more for a trip to Karachi, at the south end of the country, than to Islamabad, which is to the north. We obeyed, of course. When we entered Bolan Pass, we were stopped by police again. This time, we were obliged to wait for an escort team. Up to Jacobabad, we were accompanied by fully armed

Going shopping with armed police escorts in Jacobabad.

Men holding hands on the road is a common gesture in the Muslim world. This is by no means homosexual behavior.

May I have an espresso please?

Balochistan is a major opium route so we were warned by the Greek embassy in Tehran to skip it.

Vula dressed as Kalasha. This tribe—considered to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s army—kept their habits and polytheistic religion hidden for centuries in the valleys of the Hindu Kush, the core of fundamentalist Islam.

Classic Pakistani truck!

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 9/5/2008 – 30/8/2008 Days: 112 Countries: Pakistan, Kashmir, Ladakh (India) Total distance: 14,051km Border crossings: 2 Refuellings: 32

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OVERLANDER FEB.10

81


The World Off Road Pt 4

T

here are two borders worldwide where you smile in front of a webcam to get your passport stamped: the USA and Pakistan. Apart from this bureaucratic procedure, there is no other similarity between the two countries. When you enter Pakistan, you enter the third world of Islam. Villages are dusty. Sewage systems are open. Roads are dominated by dazzlingly painted, overloaded old Bedford trucks. Men have long beards and they all wear loose ‘shalwar kameez’ combined with ‘cafsons’—rounded woollen hats. You will likely see no one on the roads from Quetta all the way to Islamabad, an endless trip of 2,000km through the notorious Bolan Pass and the hot state of Sindh. This was a route we had to follow in order to get to India and, believe me, it wasn’t an easy choice given the notoriety of the place. Balochistan is a major opium route and we were warned by the Greek embassy in Tehran to skip it because of several kidnappings that occurred there during the last year. At the first police control, towards Quetta, we were asked two things by the black-uniformed policeman: one was if we needed a police escort. The second was if we could take a picture of him. We said “No, thanks,” to the optional escort service and we responded happily to the request for a photo. The officer was delighted to see his face on the camera’s screen. That moment, we learned two basic things about Pakistan: that policemen are super-friendly; and that you, the traveller, are considered a celebrity here. Which means things can get either very good or very nasty. Quetta was like a war zone, six months after the clashes that followed the murder of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. After one night and a great walk in the busy market, we decided to hit the road to the north. We were warned again by locals: “Don’t think about travelling next to the border of Afghanistan. You better follow theez rod!” ‘Theez’ meant a huge loop through the Bolan Pass, a route suitable more for a trip to Karachi, at the south end of the country, than to Islamabad, which is to the north. We obeyed, of course. When we entered Bolan Pass, we were stopped by police again. This time, we were obliged to wait for an escort team. Up to Jacobabad, we were accompanied by fully armed

Going shopping with armed police escorts in Jacobabad.

Men holding hands on the road is a common gesture in the Muslim world. This is by no means homosexual behavior.

May I have an espresso please?

Balochistan is a major opium route so we were warned by the Greek embassy in Tehran to skip it.

Vula dressed as Kalasha. This tribe—considered to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s army—kept their habits and polytheistic religion hidden for centuries in the valleys of the Hindu Kush, the core of fundamentalist Islam.

Classic Pakistani truck!

Trip ID

Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery3 TDV6 Crew: Akis Temperidis, Vula Netou When: 9/5/2008 – 30/8/2008 Days: 112 Countries: Pakistan, Kashmir, Ladakh (India) Total distance: 14,051km Border crossings: 2 Refuellings: 32

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81


The World Off Road Pt 4 policemen loaded on pick-up trucks and Chinese motorbikes. Every time we changed district, we had to wait for the next team to arrive; if we kept going, we obliged them to make a U-turn to get in front of us. They seemed delighted to protect a fancy Land Rover carrying two crazy Greeks. In Jacobabad, they took us to a hotel for the night. “We don’t want to pay for a hotel,” we said. “Whear doo yoo wont to slip, Sir?” “At the police station,” I replied. Lesson no. 3: if you don’t find a bed or a camp in Pakistan, ask for accommodation in a police station. It is the safest place to camp, unless an Al Qaeda suicide bomber decides to visit it. That was an unforgettable night. We had three policemen for company all night. They bought us kebabs, sweets, cokes and a traditional scarf for Vula. I was even offered a hashish joint by the big guy. I did not accept, considering it a bluff or a test but the chief officer lit the handmade cigarette and smoked it passionately. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The same night, we camped in the backyard of the police station, which had been heavily shot up during the previous year’s clashes. From our roof tent, I could see a bunch of prisoners watching us through the bars. That night we realised that you can do the craziest things in Pakistan. You’re a celebrity, right? At an altitude of 4,693m, the Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved border crossing in the world.

The Silk Road Islamabad was calm the days we took a rest at the only camp site right on the G6 sector, next to the busy Ampara market. “Businesses are getting better as we’ve had no bomb

Indian soldiers delighted by the Discovery3. India and Pakistan are still in a state of war over Kashmir.

attacks lately,” we were told by Ali, the gentle owner of an internet café. From the capital we hit the road to the north, and what a road! The Karakoram Highway, a narrow road through the Indus Valley to Khunjerab Pass and from there to Kashgar, China. Karakoram was inaugurated in 1982 and is a miracle of road construction, as it crosses one of the harshest geographies in the world. It is a modern version of the route followed by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan towards India and by Marco Polo on his way to China. Karakoram was the trickiest part of the Silk Road and is still an unforgettable adventure for any traveller attempting to cross it. The first part is annoyingly slow thanks to heavy traffic, mostly trucks. After 300km, the narrow, twisty road follows the Indus River, and at some points you drive through massive rock formations sculpted by the river. Karakoram passes next to Nanga Parbat, the westernmost peak of the Himalayas. There is a notorious private road leading to a tiny village, standing like an aerie under the snow-capped mountain. We bribed a local guy and risked the integrity of our Discovery3 to drive up, as only a handful of local jeeps are allowed to climb there. Our Disco was allegedly the only foreign car to ever arrive there! We survived the nerve-wrecking path but at some places we had to fill the road with stones so that the heavy, wide Land Rover could fit. It took us three hours to cover 15km! It was worth the risk plus the two hours of trekking. The same night we slept in a basic hut, under the shadow of the ‘killer mountain’. The next day we arrived at Gilgit, the commercial hub of the Karakoram. We took a break and then drove further north, towards Sost, the last town in Pakistan

Karakoram was the trickiest part of the Silk Road and is still an unforgettable adventure 82

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The World Off Road Pt 4

Horn please!

are nerve-wracking Indian traffic conditions er country in the oth no and dangerous, like worse if you the for ed par pre Be ld. wor e no. 1 is use Rul re. the e driv to e ever dar e and for tim any e, her ryw your horn eve any reason! —average  riving is incredibly slow 1. D speed is about 35 km/h. d on the 2. Indians seem to be blin by ear. Hit the road. They drive or walk ise pedestrians, erw oth horn all the time, always be an motorbikes and cars will . you for le obstac of them  atch out for cows. Most 3. W d. Be roa the of dle mid the lie in ’t care don y the m, the h patient wit horn. how long you blast your overtake,  se your horn before you 4. U . left ve mo or nobody will cars honk  on’t get stressed if ten 5. D not It’s . you ind beh their horns y do things. personal, it’s just how the let others  on’t try to be polite and 6. D Nobody will pass first at intersections. you in. let reward your kindness and ment. Many  xpect the worst every mo 7. E curves. Many people overtake on blind ction on four-lane drive in the opposite dire . ays motorw you see on the  on’t get upset at what 8. D ch the locals the tea to try ’t don and road gs. Remember that thin ng doi of ‘right’ way billion of them. one n tha re there are are mo ms. Everybody  t night, use your high bea 9. A else does. ’t even think of 10. L ast but not least: don e a train instead. Tak ia. Ind in driving a car

Pakistani traffic!

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before the border with China. At Karimabad, we met the Hunza people, the subtle, welleducated Ismaili Muslims who lived in a separate kingdom until 1972. It was a heavenly world without traffic until 1982, when the Karakoram arrived there. At Gulmit, the road was cut off by a melted glacier. “It happens,” a local told us when we were frustrated that we could go no further. “It’s a Chinese construction, that’s why,” we replied, pointing to a group of Chinese overseeing the road repairs. We waited a whole day while volunteers filled the huge gap with rocks so that we could pass. The next day, we arrived at Sost, passing through breathtaking landscapes like the knife-edged Passu Sar mountains and the Batura Glacier. 80km north is Khunjerab Pass, a hostile, otherworldly place, where only yaks and golden squirrels survive. For us, it was a benchmark to be there, right on the border with China. We were in the most hostile pass of the Silk Road but couldn’t enter China as we didn’t have the costly documents needed to drive a foreign car in the country. A$10,000 to enter China for one month? No way! We considered our options at that red-flagged border station, protected by two Chinese guards. Had we gone on, we would still be behind bars now. But it would’ve made quite a story, don’t you think? We didn’t want to return to Islamabad using the same route. So to get back to Gilgit, we decided to take the long way around the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) the notorious part of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. The unofficial country of the Taliban, a region they—the teachers-turned-fighters—still control, despite frequent bombings by American drone planes and blockades by the Pakistani army. This is a no-go zone for any foreigner. We took the risk and drove there for one reason.


The road from Leh to Manali climbs three times over 5000m and is not passable in winter.

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We wanted to meet the Kalasha people, the so-called descendants of Alexander the Great. We took a narrow tarmac road following the Gilgit river, climbed a nasty gravel section at 3700m on the Sandour Pass, and descended to Mastuj and from there to Chitral. This was one of the roughest routes we had ever travelled and a tough test for our suspension. We lived with the Kalasha for a few days and seriously considered living there forever. The Kalasha valleys are heaven on earth, a real Shangri-La. Well hidden in the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush, at an altitude of 2000m, the valleys are fertile enough to support a population of 4000 ‘kafiri’ (non-believers, for Muslims). Their wooden huts are built next to the river from which their maze crops are irrigated. You walk here and meet beautiful women with blue eyes wearing heavily ornamented dresses. “Ispata, baba!” (Welcome, Sir!”) We felt at home here thanks to the Greek Volunteers, an NGO that is putting in a great effort to make life better for the Kalasha, building schools, maternity centres and a great museum. Thanks to this initiative, the Kalasha people still retain their own unique culture, religion and language, despite being surrounded by fundamentalist Muslims. After the painful drive through the Kalasha valleys, one shock absorber became completely unscrewed and destroyed the upper mount. We had to fix it on the road. We were happy but uneasy to be there, as we still had to cross the wild west of Pakistan. We climbed the 43 hairpins of the mighty Lowari Pass, passed the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley and arrived

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in Peshawar, a city that has had the most suicide attacks in history. Inshallah, we survived it. It’s a medieval society of conservative men and invisible women, covered under fullbody burka. Arriving back in Islamabad, we felt we had returned to the modern world. The next day, a suicide bombing at the Danish embassy shocked the capital city. We realised it was time to leave Pakistan. It is an astonishingly diverse country of great history, sophisticated cultures, with generous people and breathtaking landscapes, but still a war zone.

The road to Indian Tibet Lahore in Pakistan and Amritsar in India are twin cities. Punjabi people live in both. They were separated in 1947, when India and Pakistan gained their independence from the British, and were divided according to religion. Thousands died in clashes held during the exchange of populations that followed independence. Muslims were driven to the Pakistani side and Hindus and Sikhs to the Indian side. Waga is the only border left open between Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers that are still in a chronic dispute over Kashmir, a country left ‘neutral’ after 1947 and still occupied and divided under the UN’s watch. The daily flag ceremony on the border reflects the chronic dispute between the countries in an absurd but entertaining way. A Monty Python-style show of camaraderie that is a major attraction


The World Off Road Pt 4 for tourists from both countries. The next route we followed was a risky one, too. After we paid tribute to the majestic golden temple of Amritsar, we took the mountain road to Srinagar, a twisty, traffic-jammed path leading to the valley where the best saffron in the world is cultivated. We drove for hours at an average speed of 30km/h, struggling to survive Indian drivers who do anything to kill you or commit suicide. These people are crazy! Pressing the horn ten times per second, they drive on the wrong side of the road, race each other like overgrown kids or overtake naively on blind curves. It was the first time during our trip I was sure we would have a serious accident. Srinagar is a town devastated by continuous curfews, a heavy military presence and sporadic clashes with autonomist groups or extremists supported by Pakistan. We were lucky enough to be there when everything was calm or seemed to be. Dal Lake and its labyrinth of canals is an idyllic place to relax forever. You can rent a basic houseboat for A$6 per night (or a palatial one for A$30) and escape from the honky tonky Indian traffic, strolling all day on a shikara (wooden gondola) and meeting generous Kashmiri people who are not Indian or Pakistani. “We are Kashmiri, we want to be independent and we will never stop fighting for it,” one young houseboat owner told me. Leaving Srinagar, we climbed from the fertile valley at 1600m to the Himalaya range, at 4000m. The road to Leh is a painful, two-day drive through the collision zone between Islam and Buddhism. On the way you can see faces change from dark Caucasian to Chinese. One thing remains the constant all the way: convoys of army trucks carrying troops to high-altitude military bases. The war with Pakistani forces is still on.

Bhaktapur, Nepal, is like a 17th-Century movie set. You can get lost forever here!

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We had never seen so many soldiers as on the snow-capped Zoji La Pass, one step from the disputed Line of Control (LOC) between Pakistan and India. We arrived in Leh, a remote town at 3500m, where the huge valley of the Indus River is like a desert bowl surrounded by Himalayan summits. This is a place you can’t drive during winter. It is a well-visited place the rest of the year, full of bloody cheap hostels, busy markets, Buddhist temples (stupas) and alternative yoga or meditation centres. Foreign hippies mix with Buddhist monks. In the north, we attempted a drive on the highest road in the world. We arrived at the Khardung Pass at 5602m after two hours’ or so drive. A bit further down the road, there is a dead end—the border with China. The air is so thin up here that the powerful TDV6 engine seemed to have lost half of its cylinders and a bit of black smoke was coming out of the exhaust for the very first time. We felt the altitude sickness more than our car did up there. It was as if we were left with one lung to breath with, and the high blood-pressure provoked awful headaches. Going back to Leh and from there to Manali, the drive was intoxicating as well. We climbed three more times over 5000m and we felt as if we were drunk every time we were driving downhill on that narrow, dilapidated tarmac and gravel road, full of water holes created by the melted glaciers. In Manali, we went back to India, the real one. We had survived the harshest road trip in the world. Now we were ready to face the heat, the traffic, the noise and smells of the subcontinent. Were we really, though?

The World Off Road!  

The Africa adventures of Akis Temperidis and Vula Netu

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