Top 5 off-road destinations in the world
Feeling stuck in the office? Want to escape, only you and the elements of nature?
Travel isn’t just about planes and ships anymore. All-wheel-drive SUVs, such as the ones from Land Rover and Jeep, are making waves as the travel option for the thrill-seekers out there. As vehicles that can essentially travel in every road condition imaginable, these SUVs can take you anywhere all over the world, without the stresses of seasickness and cramped airplane seats.
We’ve narrowed down the top five destinations where you can take in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, and push your all-wheel-drive to the limit.
First on the list is the small but beautiful country of Morocco. Located in North Africa, this country has a variety of terrain—from green plains to rocky mountain roads and desert terrain. Morocco is home to the Atlas Mountains, where you can explore rustic Moroccan villages showcasing excellent silverware and ceramics creations. The south of the country is the Sahara Desert, the largest hot desert in the world. The terrain is composed of salt marshes, natural canyons, dry valleys, rocky plateaus, and sand dunes—all of which will test your capabilities. Southern Moroccan villages are always happy to welcome and entertain guests here.
It’s important to remember that driving in the desert is different from driving on the highway, Special care and driving technique is required in order to keep any accidents from happening. One tip is to always drive slowly. Driving too fast can cause your tires to wear out, increasing the likelihood of not being able to brake in time. And it can cause you to miss out on the scenery, even damaging it if you crash.
Another tip is to keep your vehicle in 4-wheel drive, even when you think you don’t need it yet, and reduce the strain on it by shifting to low range. Try to drive on top of ruts in the terrain, and when you encounter sand, follow the tracks of previous vehicles. This is where the sand is packed down and is most stable as a result. Also it is best to maintain speed and go into higher gear on this terrain until the trail is cleared—but don’t spin your tires to avoid the damaging them.
Rubicon Trail – California
Next on the list is the United States, where you can find some of the best road-trip destinations in the world. California’s Rubicon Trail is among the best of the bunch. Going through the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the view of the mountains is a sight not to be missed. Some of the most famous obstacles on this trail are the Devil’s Postpile—a winding, rocky path that stretches up to 50 yards; the Little Sluice and the Big Sluice—narrow, twisting trails bordered by large boulders that often cause damage to vehicles navigating them; and Cadillac Hill—a dusty uphill climb over loose rocks and requires the ability to turn very skilfully. As the trail ends at Lake Tahoe, you can rest from your journey by relaxing at one of the lake’s world-class resorts and spas.
Black Bear Pass – Colorado
On the other end of the country, Colorado has probably the most dangerous off-road trail in the US of A. The Black Bear Pass, located just outside Telluride, is an old miner trail as high up as 12,800 feet, and it is said that those who seek to try it have to be insane. It is 8 feet wide, with a cliff wall on one side and the wide open space of a 1000-foot drop on the other. The ground is loose shale, which makes vehicles hard enough to control without taking into consideration the many extremely tight switchback turns. Extreme caution is needed in navigating this unforgiving trail.
The European continent won’t lose out, though. Transylvania is not just famous for being Dracula’s home—this infamous Romanian region’s roads are mostly untouched by modernization, and surrounded by the Bucegi mountains. In particular, the Transfagarasan Road has been called “one of the craziest mountain roads in the world”. 90 kilometers long, its challenge lies within the hairpin turns and steep slopes. But traversing this highway is worth it—in addition to the mountain scenery, you can pass by Poenari Castle, the home of Vlad Tepes who was the inspiration behind Dracula. You will also get a chance to see Vidraru Lake, a beautiful man-made reservoir, and Balea Lake, a natural glacier lake housing one of the first few ice hotels in the world.
While mountain driving can be daunting and dangerous, accidents can be avoided if you are careful. Even the frightening Black Bear Pass has very few fatalities to its name. So some things to keep in mind when driving through mountainous trails are don’t go downhill faster than you can go uphill, keep your engine cool, and be observant.
When going downhill, don’t coast all the way down—this will result in an inability to control your vehicle and potential accidents. Rather, shift to a lower gear and go slowly—avoid using the brakes. This technique is also useful for going uphill. Especially if the incline is steep, go slowly, and watch the temperature gauge. The additional strain being put on your engine can cause it to overheat, so turn off the air conditioner and rest the car if necessary after such an ascent. And always be alert to incoming traffic, both in front of you and behind you. Mountain roads are generally narrow, and collisions are extremely difficult to avoid since there are few ways to swerve around an incoming vehicle.
Moreton Island – Queensland, Australia
From mountains, we go to the beaches of Australia. One of this continent’s best-kept secrets is Moreton Island, located in Queensland. Known for being the second largest sand island in the world, Moreton is a pleasant, secluded alternative to its more well-known but overcrowded fellow beaches. Due to its relative anonymity, most of Moreton’s roads, which all together reach a length of 35 kilometers, are left undeveloped with creeks, rocky outcrops, hills, and of course the beach as part of the terrain. Vehicle Access Permits are required in order to travel within this national park, which can be obtained online . There is a fee that needs to be paid before getting this permit, but the stunning sights, which include exotic marine life like dugong and humpback whales at the end of the trail, are well worth it.
In navigating the beach at Moreton, here are some pointers to consider. First, Moreton Island recommends that you drive a vehicle with high clearance, as vehicles with low clearance may find it hard to navigate the inland tracks and the soft sand. You should also refrain from driving into sand dunes, or along drift lines are these are sites for developing dunes. Stick to the firm sand between the waterline and the high tide mark, and keep your vehicle on four-wheel drive. Go slowly and carefully, watching for beachgoers and animals. It is also recommended that you drive during low tide.
In navigating the creeks on the island, check your car’s manual first to determine the depth at which your vehicle can handle water (also called the maximum wading depth). Have a companion help you in checking the water for any obstacles that could damage your vehicle, and go into the water in low gear to avoid splashing. You may accelerate a bit once you have hit the flat of the creek, but continue to move slowly and carefully to avoid raising the water around the engine bay unnecessarily. Do not turn off the engine, as this will cause water to enter the engine, but keep going until you’ve reached the other end.
Before you jump in your car though, it’s important to plan your trip and prepare for it properly. Always make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape prior to a long trip by using the BLOWBAG method as recommended by the Automobile Association of the Philippines: Brakes, Lights, Oil, Water, Battery, Air, and Gas. On the road, always remember that off-road driving trails were opened to give us a chance to get up close and personal with nature and should be treated respectfully. Stay on the paths that have been marked by previous travellers—the tires on your vehicle eat up the ground each time you pass, and it’s best to minimize such damage. Don’t scare the wildlife with our headlights, or by blasting music.
Be watchful and considerate of horseback riders, hikers, and cyclists on the trail, and remember that the person going uphill has the right of way. When resting and camping out on a trail, clean up after yourself to preserve the beauty of the area. Most importantly, don’t bite off more than you can chew—always make sure that your vehicle can navigate the terrain before you enter it because breaking down is more than just a hassle especially if you are in the mountains or in the desert—it can be extremely dangerous.
Off road driving is an amazing experience, wherever you are. So once you and your all-wheel-drive are ready, get going! Nothing can stop you from taking on the world.
This is a guest post by Sandra Thomas:
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