Last Friday, I reached Antelope Wells on the Mexican border. Opposite me, over the wire fence, I could see clearly the last CD crossing I made coming north from Panama, high above me in the Sierra Madre. The link with the Southern expedition through Central America and Mexico back in January, February and March, had been completed. After seeing the snows in some of the high elevation CD crossings in Colorado lingering up to this last month and still blocking some passes at 11,000 Ft, I was very pleased that I had delayed the passage through USA until the mid-summer months. Good decision!
As with all overland expeditions, it’s good to look back on high and low points to help with assessing the overall success. The articles in LRO will cover that, but let me give a summary here. First, the boring statistics …… It was my intention that the journey would attempt to make contact with the Divide on all possible occasions, using roads, tracks and all recognisable legal access whenever possible. The research suggested there would be 344 of these points, from The Darian Gap up to the US/Canadian border. In the event, we reached 279 of these – 81% success. In addition to the ‘crossings’, there were the ‘CD Tracks’ where it was possible to actually drive on the Divide for some way. (This is where you meet the CD walkers, a driven bunch if ever there was one!) My target here was to reach 39 routes which had a combined length of 683 Km (7.4% of the total length of the Divide). The expedition reached the majority of the tracks but covered only 502 Km, or 5.4% of the length. Some tracks were dangerous and unsafe for their entire distance.
Overall, I was delighted with the outcome. My average distance between the CD route and my driven track was 15 Km – pretty close to it in the scheme of things. But beyond these statistics, there has to be more importance about the outcome of the journey itself and where the planned route took me. Unquestionably, the journey was one of the most exciting and pleasant in all 350,000 Km of our expedition travel twice around the world. By necessity the route was entirely remote, and such wilderness areas in Central America and USA came as a pleasant surprise. But there were communities to pass through and kindness and help was the hallmark of these. The more remote, the more people smiled. Regarding the element of challenge, following the CD was unquestionably the most demanding that both the vehicle and driver have endured. Truly terrifying in places, I had to recognise that I was putting both Rabia and myself in harm’s way on occasions, but that is when the effort invested in vehicle maintenance pays off. Even after all our prior travels, I discovered more about the true potential of my 3.5 V8i Disco.
If I was asked to select one factor that contributed most to our success, it would be the navigation system we adopted. It’s a remarkable experience to have Google Earth visible, working with the identical navigation files on a Garmin GPS beside the screen. The journey would not have been possible without this. One humorous note – I never slept in a bed from Seattle to the Mexican border. My Australian Swag did a great job. All of my camp sites were wild camping locations, usually with a stream, mountains and forests around me. Another aspect of getting to know the place you are travelling through.
I hope you enjoy the articles covering the expedition in the upcoming issues of LRO. Please do contact me if you have any questions that these don’t cover. firstname.lastname@example.org