Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean by Roads End to Roads End?
- Around the world on a north / south course, all on land, except for the South Atlantic Ocean. "Roads End to Roads End" = Arctic Ocean to Arctic Ocean.
What is the Darien Gap?
- The road-less Darien Gap is over 125 miles of thick jungles, tortuous rivers, low but rugged mountains, and a vast marshy swamp that separates Panama from South America. The Pan-American Highway stretches some 17,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina, but is yet to be completed across the Darien Gap. A 50-mile-wide delta of the Atrato River soaks most of the land, keeping the ground swampy. Several attempts have been made to build a road, but potential environmental damage, disruption of the indigenous tribes who live there, and possible influx of diseased cows from South America to North America, have thwarted roadbuilders. That means the only way to cross the gap is off-road, an extremely difficult trek due to the rugged jungle covered mountains and deep water and mud in the Atrato Swamp.
Why did it take four attempts to cross the Darien Gap?
Dry season is the only logical time to attempt a land crossing of the Darien Gap. It rains from March through December!
- Began on June 15, 1975 with a 1972 Ford F-250. While Loren was away, a member of the expedition was shot and killed, probably by bandits' gunfire. It is still somewhat of a mystery as to why the man was killed, as nothing was stolen, or it may actually have even been a terrible accident. At any rate, that put an end to the first attempt.
- Began in early 1977 in a brand-new American Motors CJ-7 Jeep. Loren and team successfully crossed the Darien Gap, including 12 miles with Jeep tethered and lashed to the top of two local piraguas (dug-out canoes) through the Atrato Swamp area of Colombia,thus not an all-land crossing. While negotiating a narrow, foggy mountain pass high in the Andean Mountains of Southern Ecuador, Loren reached out to clean the windshield (the wiper motor had been damaged while in the Darien Gap). The road made a sharp turn, he didn't. Loren was thrown clear and watched the Jeep's headlights cut through the misty darkness as it flipped end over end, landing 300 feet down the mountainside.
- Began in early 1979 in a new CJ-5 Jeep. This attempt was brought to a swift and concise end in the Darien Gap itself. Loren had a rather unpleasant encounter with a somewhat corrupt Colombian Park official and would not agree to his "pay off" demands. As a result Loren and his other expedition members were allowed to leave but the vehicle was left deep within the confines of the Darien Gap.
The fourth (and successful) attempt, World Odyssey
- Loren and his team spent a total of 741 days to travel 125 miles, from the end of the Pan-American Highway at Yaviza, Panama to the beginning of a road system in Colombia at the town of Rio Sucio on the Atrato River, all on land. Loren and his team were the first to cross the Darien Gap in a motor vehicle, entirely on land, and this achievement was first recorded in the 1992 Guinness Book of Records.
What about the rest of the roads-end to roads-end journey?
On June 15, 1984 Loren set off from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on the Arctic Ocean, farthest road north on the North American Continent. This time Loren was driving a second-hand 1966 CJ-5 Kaiser Corporation Jeep, christened, the Sand Ship Discovery. The path included:
- South through the Americas and into Panama. After the successful completion of the Darien Gap (see above), the team
- Continued south via the Pam-American highway to the farthest road south to the end of the road just south of Punta Arenas, Chile, crossed the Straits of Magellan to the Island of Tierra del Fuego, and continued traveling as far south as possible.
- Passage from Chile to Cape Town, South Africa via passage from the Pegasus Shipping Company
- Once in Cape Town, they drove further south to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of land and road on the African continent, and from there they began the journey northward.
- The team's continuing goal was to remain on land; they had to reach Egypt. The only safe option was to turn eastward in Central African Republic and head for Sudan. In order to remain entirely on land from Africa to Europe, Loren and team had to drive through the Middle East. At the time, September of 1988, the political situation was still rather delicate and they were unable to drive from the Israeli Occupied West Bank into Jordan. Traveling through Lebanon at that time was not an option. After several attempts, they got to within one mile of the Jordanian border and had to turn back.
Back in Egypt, Loren and team took the ferry from Egypt to the town of Aqaba, Jordan and from there traveled North through Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. Next, the team:
- Drove into Bulgaria and Romania, but were forced to turn toward England due to lack of permission to enter the Soviet Union and the fast approaching winter. They wintered in England.
- From England, the traveled through Europe, passing through Germany and Poland and into the Soviet Union, onto Finland and into Norway.
- After taking one American-made vehicle around the world, it was fitting that the world expedition officially terminated on the Fourth of July, 1989 at the Sletness Lighthouse in Gamvik, Norway.
What is the Final Mile?
As of today, there still remains a "gap" in Loren's world circumnavigating expedition, Roads End to Roads End. One governed not by Mother Nature, as in the Darien Gap, but rather by human nature, which is, by far, less forgiving. With the current advances in the peace process it is now possible to drive from Israel to Jordan. The plan is to hopefully drive the Sand Ship Discovery that final mile one day very soon.