As you may well have witnessed in previous editions of LRO, I am about as experienced at keeping it together off-road as Eric Pickles is at eating a salad. So, quite what I'm doing at the base of a Portuguese mountain after having traversed a national park where there are no roads, quite frankly, is still beyond me.
The worst part is, I’m not just jeopardising my own safety. We Scots are a bit like wolves, and always travel in packs. My long-suffering father, Colin Brown, and close friend Jordan Watt are also at the mercy of my disturbingly white-knuckle actions. The other thing is that the car in question – a special edition Camel Trophy Land Rover Discovery 1 – isn’t mine. It belongs to José Almeida, a contributor to Land Rover Owner.
It all started at the LRO show in September 2015 when José travelled over 1500 miles from Lisbon to Peterborough in his 300Tdi Discovery to join us on the magazines’ stand – displaying his Sandglow beauty right next to my dilapidated Series III. Besides making my Land Rover look like a health hazard, José explained that he organised adventure holidays around slices of Portugal that tourists don’t usually get to see. Keen to improve my off-road skills, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – including the use of the Discovery that he had to wipe my drool off. So, we booked the dates and I gathered the clan for a proper off-road adventure holiday.
Upon arriving at the airport in Lisbon José greeted us with a warm smile, no doubt masking the sheer terror that his pride and joy was being entrusted to Rab C.Nesbitt and co, and walked us to the car park where the 300Tdi was waiting.
The Discovery 1 300Tdi isn’t like any of the other, lesser 4x4s out there – I’m looking at you Suzuki Vitara. I’ll never forgive you for leaving me to be towed out the snow by a Daewoo Matiz – less a soulless round of golf with Prince Andrew, then, more like running cross-country with Princess Anne. It’s gutsy and practically unstoppable when presented with an obstacle that would leave abridged off-roaders diving for the nearest hedgerow – as clan McDiscovery found out on several occasions.
Besides getting to grips with driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, I also have to deal with repeatedly opening the driver’s door when changing gear in a left-hand-drive car and the screams from my passengers as I switch sides of the motorway trying to figure out the lane system of Lisbon’s busiest spaghetti junctions. However, having once escaped the main roads the real fun begins.
The route José has planned covers a grand total of 1500km, taking us deep into the heartland of Portugal’s lushest greenlands and up its stunning mountainsides. Yet despite scenery that would leave David Attenborough on his knees weeping, the real star of the show was our Land Rover Discovery.
On more than one occasion it deals with inclines in low range that should not have been possible, bogs at full revs that leave all three of us clenched, axle twisters that result in open jaws and tarmac blasts at 60mph in surprising comfort – much to this Solihull-worshiper’s amazement. Old Land Rovers shouldn’t be this supple in the cabin department, with room for three people and their luggage and off-roading equipment – at least, not without breaking down. Over five days the Land Rover tackles sand, mud, rivers, landslides, floods and ruts so deep that light dared not go near.
Still, at this point in the journey – buried up to the axles in mud with a flat tyre due to young foolishness – it looks as though I m in serious trouble. With night falling and my two accompanying adventurers discussing ways in which to get rid of me, until the second part of this adventure, I’ll leave you this harrowing revelation. I don’t have a clue how to get us out.
Like the sound of an adventure holiday in Portugal by Land Rover? All you need to know can be found on José's Dream Overland Land Rover Website. LRO would heartily recommend it.
Contact José through firstname.lastname@example.org