Land Rover took out a team of four vehicles on a “50-day Journey of Discovery” from Birmingham, UK to Beijing—that’s a trek across 13 countries, and 8,000 miles. The departure was celebrated with the production of the millionth Discovery, (the LR 4 in the U.S.) with the arrival timed to coincide with the Beijing Motor Show.
We thought you’d enjoy the play-by-play via Land Rover’s press release:
"Yeah, we've made it," crackled a voice over the radio, speaking with relief after a nerve-wracking 72 hours of driving in one of the world's most remote and rugged regions. For one of the most epic and ambitious modern-day overland journeys, this was a truly monumental moment.
The high-alpine pass into China had been blocked by snow for days, impassable even to the hardiest of off-road vehicles. With no other route through, the team's target – the bright lights of the Beijing Motor Show – was slipping, and time was ticking.
It was with a justifiable cry of relief, then, that China finally rolled beneath the wheels of the four Land Rovers on the Journey of Discovery and this 13-country flash-tour through a mix of urban and off-road destinations - which demonstrated the fascinating diversity of the world we live in - was on the home straight at last.
It was ironic, too, that the very thing that had been blocking the path into China had been directly related to the very first story on this 'journey of discovery'.
After rolling out of the Geneva Motor Show, the first stop was the Aosta Valley, where the team joined the experts from the Pila resort to discover the technique to protecting the slopes from avalanches. There, polar explorer Ben Saunders and cameraman Johno Verity – an avalanche survivor – watched as the kaboom of 20kg of explosives triggered a perfectly controlled avalanche, removing a threatening snow cornice before it become a danger.
It was a dramatic start, and after a stint of ice driving in Austria and a tour of the cultural European cities of Milan, Saltsburg, Vienna and Budapest – travelling with a police escort through Heroes Square – it was onto even more gritty stuff, as the first week ended with a haunting trip to Chernobyl.
More than 25 years since the world's worst nuclear accident, this was the first private vehicle trip allowed into the 30km exclusion zone, and the peeling paint and sagging ceilings of buildings in the ghost town of Pripyat, once home to 50,000 young working professionals, showed a snapshot of a life destroyed.
With people filtering back, there is hope that one day the town may breathe again – and that was a story repeated time and again, in different situations, all the way along this intriguing route.
The Ukrainian cities of L'Viv, Kiev and Odessa were next up, passing by with visits to a Hogwarts-style pharmacy museum of potions and lotions; a micro miniatures museum with a 400-piece gold model ship smaller than a fingernail; and the Odessa Steppes, where a late decision by the crew to avoid damaging the famed walkway halted a planned descent.
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