Four Epic Road Trips
Get your motor runnin', head out on the highway
Your definition of a road trip may vary; for some it’s a dash to the nearest late-night takeaway at the tail end of a big night out. Hardened travellers expect to cover thousands of kilometres, develop a hunch from backseat slumber, and systematically fall out with every friend along for the ride.
The inaugural automobile road trip fell between these extremes. In 1888 Bertha Benz (wife of the first patented motor car’s inventor Karl Benz) commandeered the new vehicle and took it 106km across Germany as a publicity stunt. It worked; you’ve heard of Mercedes Benz? This impromptu road trip did more than flog expensive cars. It was the genesis of a movement that still captures our imaginations today. From the books of Jack Kerouac to countless celebrity TV travelogues, all travellers yearn for the open road. So we’ve compiled four of the world’s most epic road trips to inspire your very own road movie.
Cool Runnings - The Ring Road, Iceland (1339km)
More epic in landscape than length, this circumnavigation of Iceland is a good test of your car-confined sanity and skill on sometimes challenging terrain, without leading you too far from civilisation. Still, hauntingly stark landscapes and cloud-drenched mountains quickly evoke the spirit of adventure. As night falls over Pingvellier National Park, pull over and wait for the psychedelic ribbons of the Aurora Borealis
to ripple overhead; it’s something you’ll never forget.
It’s worth taking advantage of accommodation in Reykjavik
to explore the picayune capital and its nearby attractions
. After a few car-bound days, your muscles will thank you for a steamy soak in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. Back on the road, don’t miss the earth-rending Gullfoss Waterfall in the south-west, and swap your car for a boat in Husavik to the north and go whale-watching. It might not be Kerouac, but this is a road trip like no other.
Check out this video of one our own intrepid explorer’s Iceland road trip.
A stunning view from the Trans-Canada Highway
Goin’ Down the Road - The Trans-Canada Highway (8030km)
Time to up your game. A journey across all ten Canadian provinces and six time zones might sound daunting, but the frequency of urban centres means accommodation, supplies, and directions are plentiful.
West-East, your starting point is Victoria, British Columbia
, propelling you Vancouver-bound under the stoic gaze of the snow-rimmed Rocky Mountains. From here you can trade your car for a quad-bike and search for moose in Alberta
’s Banff National Park, or stop and stretch your legs in Manitoba, Winnipeg, and Ottawa, until you reach Newfoundland on the eastern seaboard. This route is an ideal mix of grandstanding spectacle that makes you feel like the only person alive, and the creature comforts of civilisation; warm beds and chocolate milkshakes (or coffee, if you’re travelling in winter). It might not have the name-value of desolate Route 66, but you won’t feel cheated by this alternative North-American pilgrimage.
The road into Siberia (credit: Bernt Rostad, Flickr)
Into the Wild - The Trans-Siberian Highway (11,000km, approx)
Russia has an ego. It doesn’t like anyone crossing it. Just ask Napoleon. So this network of highways spanning from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan is not to be taken lightly. This route is popular with motorcyclists, and we all know how tough they are. Still, there are few better places in the world to point yourself at the horizon and get lost in the expansive scenery, as lush in places as it is barren in others.
It’s not just the distance that tests you. Once you disembark from St.Petersburg, infrastructure is sparse. The locals are largely very poor. So it’s crucial to plan ahead and stock up on supplies, particularly a good quality tent. No matter how inflated your ambition, don’t travel between October-May; weather can seriously compromise road quality, and there’s the notable concern of sub-zero temperatures. And hungry bears. Don’t turn your car into a lunchbox stocked with bear-sized ice-lollies.
The Road to Uluru (credit: Jo@net, Flickr)
Walkabout - Highway 1, Australia (14,500km)
Sources tell us Australia is big. Really big. If you’re after one road trip to rule them all, Highway 1 is it; a circumnavigation of an entire continent. It usually forms fragments of more quotidian routes, with a million people employing part of it daily. But you’re way more hardcore than that.
First of all, set aside a few months. Highway 1 joins all mainland state capitals, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth; you’re guaranteed to get distracted. And although it’s one enormous loop that forgoes the forbidding outback, it isn’t stingy with the scenery. In fact, it’s a greatest hits of Australia’s idiosyncratic tropical and gum forests, desert, expansive swampland, and curvaceous coastline. For some the linearity undermines the road tripping spirit. An excursion into the continent’s red heart is easy, the towering edifice of Uluru a popular detour. Just remember to pack water, sunscreen, and an inflatable seat cushion.
David Owen, My Destination
Follow me on Twitter: @dnjowen
Main image courtesy of Will Jones.
From the books of Jack Kerouac to countless TV travelogues, all travellers yearn for the open road