The planning for the forthcoming Pub2Pub expedition has been getting into its stride over the past few months, and much of this planning has been focused on the most critical aspect of the journey – the route.
If you’ve read a few of our previous posts you’ll be aware of the goal – to travel from the northernmost bar on the planet to the southernmost, in as stylish a manner as possible. Given that this basically means journeying from the high Arctic to the Antarctic while remaining totally dapper throughout, it’s a pretty tall order.
But here at The Traveller, tall orders are what we thrive on.
According to our research, journey’s start is at the hotel bar of an obscure former mining settlement called Pyramiden, on the island of Svalbard, about 400 miles north of Tromso, Norway. Founded in 1910, Pyramiden was once a bustling mining settlement of around 1,000 residents, and boasted, among other things, the world’s most northerly swimming pool, grand piano…and bar. The settlement ceased to be viable after the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in an end to the subsidies required to maintain this Soviet outpost on the edge of Europe, and the town was abandoned in 1998. Since then, it has survived as a ghost town, frozen in time amid the permafrosts and polar bears. However, for a few months each summer, the settlement’s hotel is opened to accommodate passing adventurers, scientists and tour groups, and provide them a place to sleep amid the ruins, and a place to get a drink in the evening – the hotel bar.
(Coincidently, our research has shown that there is probably at least some sort of bar located yet deeper into the Arctic north, either at the former Soviet airbase at Nagurskoe, on Franz Josef Land, or the Russian scientific research station on Hayes Island in the same archipelago – however assuming said bars exist, the chances of them being open to passing visitors is basically zero, so for the purposes of pub2pub, we’ll only be considering bars which are open to the passing public.)
So there’s the starting point. The ghost town of Pyramiden, located 78 degrees north. Or to put it another way, 120 miles further north than Top Gear reached on their rather awesome ‘North Pole’ expedition. But what of the finishing point? This is slightly easier to pinpoint, as there’s only one bar open to the public on the whole of the Antarctic continent, which is located at Vernadsky Research Base on Galindez Island, at 65 degrees south, where you can buy vodka distilled on site for $3 a shot.
But how to get between these two arbitrary points on the world’s surface?
Well, that’s where the fun starts! The first leg of the journey will be from Pyramiden to Longyearbyen, capital of the Svalbard Archipelago. There are no roads linking the two locations, but fortunately the terrain means there are a few exciting options for leg one’s mode of transport – sea kayak or snowmobile being two of the more likely options.
From Longyearbyen, the expedition encounters its next obstacle – the small matter of a 400 mile trip across the Arctic Ocean to mainland Norway. This will be the first of several ocean crossings, and dictates the leave date of the journey, as sea ice blocks access to and from the islands for a large portion of the year.
Once the expedition reaches mainland Europe, normal service is resumed – road trip mode is engaged! Over the course of a few weeks we’ll travel down Norway’s stunning Arctic highway and across Northern Europe, eventually finding ourselves in Southampton, suited up to the hilt and all set to quaff champagne just like one did back in travel’s golden age.
The Queen Mary 2 is the last remaining ocean liner which maintains a tradition of trans-Atlantic extravagance that harks back to heady days before the routine blandness of air travel. As the spiritual successor to the Titanic, the Blue Riband trophy rivals of the ‘30s and the glamorous Queen Elizabeth II, this leg of the journey promises to be quite the experience, for there is no more civilized or stylish way of travelling from Europe to North America.
After docking in New York, Pub2Pub returns to its road trip roots, driving across the States and down to Mexico. Central America promises to be a fascinating place to drive through, a heady trip down the Pan-American highway, with its mix of beaches, volcanoes, rainforests and ruins which only ends in Panama, at the impenetrable Darien Gap.
Said 250 mile section of rainforest acts as a natural barrier separating Central and South America, and necessitates another aquatic excursion, shipping both car and crew across the water to Colombia, from where our road heads south. Equador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina will all pass beneath our wheels as we push on, taking in such incredible landscapes as the Atacama Desert, Machu Pichu, the Bolivian Salt Flats and Patagonian Grasslands in the process. And so the expedition arrives at the most southerly city on Earth – Ushuaia.
And from there, Pub2Pub will begin its final leg, sailing out across the Strait of Magellan, past Tierra Del Fuego and into the storm-strafed waters of Cape Horn, before setting a course to the South East, dodging icebergs on route to the last bar on the planet.
So there you have it – the Pub2Pub expedition. 24,000 miles of driving, 22 countries, 4 continents, several ocean crossings and more awesomeness than you can shake a stick at.
Trust us, you're not going to want to miss following this!
All photos - Ben Coombs. Further information at www.pub2pubexpedition.com