Journey of Discovery takes Land Rovers from Moscow to Beijing [Videos]
Please Click Here to read Part 1 of the Journey of Discovery.
En-route to Moscow going up a slithering snow-covered driveway, the enthralling Mikhail Krasinets revealed a glimpse into Soviet automotive history through his incredible 300-strong collection of cars, with the modern Discovery off-roaders driving alongside an old Soviet equivalent.
In Moscow itself, an exclusive and special visit to the Kremlin was followed by a unique tour of the city's sights with a former dancer from the Bolshoi Ballet, before the route into the awaiting 'Stans' was completed with a visit to the mighty statue of Mother Russia in Volgograd, which will soon be the subject of a major motion picture under its former name of “Stalingrad” where an immense battle for the city in WWII took place.
The Journey then took a twist and went into the wild as the highways turned to potholed roads, then urban streets were replaced by remote desert outposts; slick border crossings lengthened into the night. The temperatures, which had been chilled for most of the journey, plummeted to new lows testing the team and Land Rovers endurance.
Meeting an interesting mix of camels and heavy-duty trucks, the vehicles covered long distances, stopping at truck stops. Fresh fish gutted was usually easier to obtain at truck stops than the precious fuel needed to keep the amazing roadtrip going.
Eventually, the team made it to the Aral Sea, where long abandoned rusting boats sit on a gargantuan seabed created by the chronic over-demand on its feeder tributaries 50 years ago. Another story of recovery, local inhabitants now fish a tiny re-filled lake, their catch used to re-populate another new region in an effort to re-establish the ruined eco-system in the Aral Sea.
In stark contrast, the cultural jewel of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, deep in the Uzbekistan desert, offered the chance to explore a collection of over 90,000 avant-garde Soviet artworks. These were thankfully saved from destruction through years of hiding from the KGB.
From here the team took the ancient and well known Silk Road and Spice Route and saw Islamic architecture continued driving towards China. A meetup with Bukhara 'spice master' Mirfayz, whose family have traded in the same town for generations, handing out health teas and Uzbekistan'’s most famous pop star, Karen, providing a unique glimpse of Tashkent on the route through.
As the temperatures rose and the flat arid plains turned to rolling grass then to snow-capped mountains, the roads became rugged and it was a challenging drive to Lake Issyk Kul. This is where an old Soviet Spa in Cholpon-Ata, once a closed shop but now the region's equivalent of Ibiza, Spain offered a clinical conditioning experience far different from the typical Western health hubs.
Heading south the team had clocked around 6,000 miles of driving, then came the obstacle at the final border.
The 3,752m Torugart Pass came so close to repeating the route-blocking issues that forced the original Land Rover overland expedition in 1956 to re-direct to Singapore that it was a welcome relief to reach Turpan, the first main stop in China. The team took a tour of the ancient Chinese winery that is forging ahead in a new market. Still a 25% of the journey, or 2,000 story-filled miles still remained through China.
The dunes of the Taklamakan Desert presented a playground of adventure along with China's most adventurous off-road driving club before the Great Wall offered a clear path to follow all the way to Beijing. This not the Great Wall you see in pictures, but the parts that time, sand, and weather have started to ruin. The team continued driving on to China’s biggest sand ski resort and a bizarre raft race on vessels floated by whole sheep skins on the Yellow River.
And when the wheels of the one millionth Land Rover Discovery and the other 3 easily rolled along the infamous Tiananmen Square, the journey was complete after a grueling 8,000 miles. All the Land Rovers were caked in the dirt of adventure, but without a scratch.
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