We’re in Dubai, and my friend gestures to the road we are driving on and says ‘if you keep going, you’ll get to Riyadh’. Riyadh, of course being located in Saudi Arabia. It is Sheikh Zayed Rd and I trace its progress on a map, along the coast of the Arabian Gulf until it heads inland. This also answers another question about which water I was looking at, while sitting on the beach in Dubai.
It got me thinking about roads, and about the roads and routes that have a mystique about them because they have changed a bit of history or have caught the attention of popular culturists.
Test yourself with this Roads Quiz:
|(1)||Which two countries are linked by the Khyber Pass?|
|(2)||What is the name of the Gap that prevents you from making the complete journey from Alaska to Patagonia along the Panamericano?|
|(3)||What is at the other end of the famous road trip in Great Britain. From John O'Groats to ….?|
|(4)||Another north to south trip – the road from Darwin to Adelaide cuts Australia in half from north to south. How far is it between Darwin to Adelaide?|
|a. 2030 km|
|b. 3030 km.|
|c. 4030 km|
|(5)||Where is the majority of the Ho Chi Minh Trail?|
|(6)||What two cities does Route 66 link up?|
|(7)||Which road did Marco Polo travel on?|
|(8)||Where is the Via Appia?|
|(9)||Name the famous shopping street in the centre of Paris and with the Arc de Triomphe located at one end.|
|(10)||Where is the Highway to Hell?|
(1) The Khyber Pass links Kabul in Afghanistan with Peshawar in Pakistan.
Not to be confused with the Karakoram Highway which is one of the highest paved international roads in the world. It connects Sinkiang Uighur of China and Gilgit–Baltistan of Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range.
This is how I would describe the history of the region. It is, and seems to have always been dangerous.
There was the early stage, when both routes were part of the Silk Road (see below).
Then there was the colonial period where the English supervised a period of heroism and foolishness. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and reference a book on this subject that I havn’t read but have always wanted to – Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, written by William Dalrymple, and details the events of the First Anglo–Afghan War from 1839 to 1842 during the period of the British Raj.
There was a bit of a tourist heyday in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80’s. The overland trips on double decker buses from London down to Singapore, with some people driving nude. Not me, but true story.
Then there was a Russian war in Afghanistan, a brief reprieve and now it is just dangerous. If you look at an atlas instead of solid borders up in this area there are a lot of dotted lines indicating disputed territories.
(2) The Darién Gap
The Pan American Highway is a network of roads measuring about 48,000 kilometres in total length. Except for a rainforest break of approximately 100 km (60 mi), called the Darién Gap, the road links almost all of the mainland nations of the Americas in a connected highway system. However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America by road – also technically because of the Panama Canal, but also technically that is a Canal, not a Gap.
Driving the length of the Panamericano is a good challenge for those that like epic road trips.
(3) Lands End
Another epic road trip, which is a bit more achievable (970km). Why not try it by bicycle?
This question was previously ‘what are the northernmost and southern most points of Great Britain?’ I was corrected because Lands End is the westernmost point.
(4) b. 3,030km
This question is included because it is an excuse to say that I’ve driven it in a solar car. Average speed 40km/h. We were a private entry in the World Solar Challenge, the average speed of the winning car? 100km/h. They had the European Space Agency helping them. True story. This picture is not from that road, but it is an outback road in the inner north west.
Australia has a network of outback roads and road networks. They have names like Gun Barrel Highway, Canning Stock Route, the Gibb River Rd, Len Beadell Highway, Sue Beadell Highway. The. ‘outback way’ goes from Laverton to Longreach, where Laverton is a tiny town on the edge of the Great Victorian Desert, and Longreach is a bit the same but in the north east and it is where Qantas was invented.
Two follow-up references for the Outback Way – As well as being quite hard core in the sense of outback exploring, there is also a super-geek geocache trail along the Outback way.
While you are at it, put ‘Len Beadell’ into your search engine to source his books or interviews. He was one the last Australian inland explorers and a natural storyteller.
Are you as confused as I was by the geography of the Vietnam War? I was in Hanoi in the mid-90’s having a cup of green tea with a group of Vietnamese friends and feeling a bit awkward. I mumbled an apology on behalf of Australia for the war. Their response? “Which war. Do you mean the American War?” Somehow I always thought that Cambodia was involved as well, because they had their own civil war in the late ‘70’s and they seemed to be linked. They weren’t – at least not directly. Only to the extent that Vietnam was involved in both.
According to the US Military, the Ho Chi Minh Trail was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th Century, and most of it is outside Vietnam – split between Laos and Cambodia. It was a supply line between the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong in the south. It was heavily bombed.
(6) Las Vegas-Sedona-Albuquerque-Santa Fe
One of the most iconic roads in the United States is Route 66 which is, alas, no longer possible to drive in its entirety from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. After the development of the interstate highway system, much of Route 66 was bypassed, and some sections disappeared altogether.
(7) The Silk Road
Marco Polo’s journey through Asia lasted 24 years and he arrived back in Europoe in 1294. He reached further than any of his predecessors, travelling beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan of Xanadu. He travelled the throughout China and then returned to tell the tale. He didn’t invent spaghetti or tomatoes.
Probably the most famous of all the trade routes, the Silk Road lasted for hundreds of years, outliving numerous empires, wars and plagues. The closure of the route helped stimulate the Portuguese into seeking out an ocean route to Asia, eventually opening up a new historical epoch. The Silk Road connected China with India, the Middle East and Europe all through what is now Central Asia.
The region also hosted bandits, warlords and nomads, which made the crossing dangerous, yet highly profitable. The road provided an exchange of valuable goods such Chinese silk to the Roman Empire, creating a fashion for silken clothing, which was frowned upon by much of the Roman elite. The road also allowed the spread of religions and technologies from East to West, such as Islam and Buddhism as well as gunpowder from China to Europe, via the Arab world.
Reference – Five key trade routes from history
The Romans were pretty famous for their roads, and the Via Appia The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It was built in 312B. C. and was a military supply route. On it, any number of fresh troops could be sped to the theatre of operations, and supplies could be moved en masse to Roman bases without hindrance by either enemy or terrain. After the war with the Spartacus in 71 BC, 6,000 slaves were crucified along the 200-kilometer (120 mi) Via Appia from Rome to Capua.
(9) Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Like the Eiffel Tower, the avenue is a symbol of Paris. It is featured in movies, songs and evokes the idea of the sophistication of Paris. In fact it is a bit of a tourist trap, but how lovely to say that you walked along the Champs-Elysees. Excitingly it is also the setting for arrival of the Tour de France.
(10) Canning Highway, Alfred Cove. Arguably. That’s what I’ve heard anyway. ACDC’s famous and now deceased lead singer Bon Scott is from my home town, and he used to sing at the pub up the road from where I lived, off Canning Highway.
How did you go?