Driving on the “other” side of the road was the least of his problems. A rebel driver in Mexico was sure that his wrong turn had invited a police raid. In Turkey, a collapse among many ended with locals who helped build a fire on an icy night. In Kenya, a repair became more urgent when travelers realized they were in the middle of a road for drug traffickers.
Getting behind the wheel in a foreign country can give tourists greater freedom to explore, but also more ways for things to go wrong. For many travelers, the additional adventures are worth it.
It was a hot and humid day in La Paz, Mexico, two years ago, when Chris Collard accidentally turned his truck the wrong way. He quickly realized his mistake and backed down, but a police officer noticed his mistake.
“I thought, here we go,” said Collard, whose experiences with the police in other countries have not always been pleasant. International photojournalist and owner of Adventure Architects, expected to be forced to pay a bribe.
After explaining that he was a little lost, the officer returned from his car with a map, but no ticket in hand, and said: “I can help you find this place. Follow me. “
What could have been a tense situation became a warm memory.
Ray Hyland, a professional adventurer who organizes automotive “land rally” events in the United States, and his family bought a 1954 Land Rover Series 1 for $ 225 in 2012, put it into operation and sent it to Britain. Finally they spent nine months driving it from London to Singapore. They noticed in travel forums that people “felt they needed to build a hugely customized vehicle to go camping or” land, “said Hyland. “We wanted to point out the madness of that, using an extreme example.” The five family members, along with their camping equipment, were put in a smaller vehicle than a Volkswagen Beetle.
“It may not be fun at the time, but it broke down every day,” he said. One night, when it was minus 18 degrees Celsius in eastern Turkey, “the helpful locals tried to light a fire under the engine to warm it,” he added.
The truck broke down all the time, but the Hylands had planned that. It was cheaper to fix it on the road with cheap local parts and labor than to restore it before they left Chilliwack (a city near Vancouver, British Columbia), where they live. Local people often stopped to help, even if language was a barrier.
“Once I improvised and used a pencil to repair a defective carburetor by screwing it into the left hole when a screw fell on the road south of Istanbul,” Mr. Hyland said with a smile.
Another part, a seal between the engine and the transmission, failed as the foothills of the Himalayas rose. There were no spare parts available, so a mechanic in Darjeeling created a leather one with the hat of an old Gurkha soldier.
Dan Grec, a world traveler, photographer and author, said road trips were the quintessential vacation in his native Australia.
“Growing up, my family made many camping trips through southern and eastern Australia. This is where I got my love for going to new places, camping and just enjoying nature, ”he said.
In June 2016, he devised a plan to travel through Africa. Starting in Morocco, Mr. Grec drove south on the west coast to Cape Town in South Africa before returning north to finish in Alexandria, Egypt. He is proud of this particular adventure: “The entire trip spanned three years across 35 countries,” he said. “In total, I drove 54,000 miles.”
It doesn’t cover so many miles without some bumps in the road.
In rural Uganda, near Lake Albert, after a brief moment of inattention while driving, his Jeep crashed and fell sideways. No one was injured, fortunately, and received help from local villagers to put their Jeep back on their wheels.
Africa presents particular challenges, which Mr. Collard has also experienced.
“One night, late in Kenya,” he said, “we got lost on a two-lane road near the border with Somalia, and our Range Rover ’73 stopped working. Lying on our backs in the driver’s foot room I tried to repair a broken throttle cable with my Leatherman, packing wire, gorilla tape and headlight while my friend Sam Watson watched the lions and other creatures that could eat us. ”
Soon, trucks loaded with bales of khat and armed guards flew by, and quickly realized that they were on a smuggler’s path, he said. His desire to leave acquired a new urgency.
There are also health challenges for anyone who can embark on a four-wheel adventure.
“We all have food poisoning in India, at different times,” said Hyland. “Hygiene there is so bad that it is inevitable.”
In addition to keeping follow-up injections for a variety of vaccines, the Hyland family took prophylactic doses of antibiotics while traveling through malaria-infested areas.
“It kills the good bacteria in your system, as well as the bad bacteria, so it takes about six months for your body to return to normal,” said Mr. Hyland.
Mr. Grec contracted malaria twice, said: “The first time, in Mali, I took the” healing “medicine quickly, and for about three days, I felt like the worst flu I had.”
Months later, in Angola, he began to feel familiar symptoms. “I took the cure, although the next morning I was shaking uncontrollably in full sun wearing my jacket.”
For five days and nights, Mr. Grec could not eat, sleep or walk. He also could not speak or drink, and says he lost about 20 pounds. “My friends were injecting me with high-strength healing medicine morning and night, and I finally made it,” he said.
There is a common theme with travel, no matter what. The locals are happy to help, and a friendly smile is very useful, especially if you don’t know the language.
“People are the same all over the world. They just want to go to work and go home with their families, “Hyland said.” This is a perspective we can forget when we watch the news. Travel reminds us that we have more in common than we think. “
Mr. Collard agrees with that feeling. “If you embrace the nuances of another culture, its people will hug you,” he said.
Marianne Hyland has enjoyed traveling the world with her husband and three children.
“Experiencing the different cultures of the countries we visit and meeting people from other countries is a first-hand experience that language and culture are not a barrier to kindness,” he said. “The most important thing is to do it.”