DUBAI // A couple who spent seven years travelling in a Toyota Land Cruiser have told of the moment their vehicle was written off, bringing their dream round-the-world trip to an abrupt end.
“We were having a picnic at Jebel Shams in Oman when suddenly the vehicle just took off down the hill,” said Andrew Pettengell.
His wife Ann added: “We had a console fridge in the middle and it fell on the handbrake. It was very quick, one minute we were having a conversation and the next thing the car was wrecked.”
“Ann tried to jump back in but the fridge was on top of the handbrake, she couldn’t get to it. The chassis was cracked, ” said Andrew, a 47-year-old shipwright from Australia. The couple have now settled in Dubai.
“We’re here for two years working and rebuilding our life,” said Andrew. “Ann’s got a job in human resources but it’s hard for a shipwright to get a job here.”
The couple planned to travel for one year when they set off from Sydney in the Land Cruiser, which had been converted so they could sleep in the back. They financed the trip with income from a rental property and their savings.
“It seemed like too much of a rush,” said Ann, 47, who is British. “Once we got going in each country we thought we might never be there with a vehicle again.
“The original plan was to drive and work in England for a few years but then the economy fell over there so we thought, what’s the point in hurrying?”
Their travels took them to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They made a number of short visits to Myanmar, crossing the border from Thailand.
“The border towns are probably not the best bits to see,” said Ann. “They are nice people, but there’s a real atmosphere of fear.”
Andrew and Ann are among the adventurers who took part in the Travellers Festival, a celebration of intrepid journeys held yesterday and the day before in Dubai.
Although a seven-year trip might seem quite long to most people, the Pettengells are novices compared with another couple at the event.
Emil and Liliana Schmid, from Switzerland, have been on the road for an amazing 28 years, and hold the Guinness World Record for the longest driven journey.
They have visited 172 countries and covered 680,000 kilometres in their 30-year-old Land Cruiser since setting off in October 1984.
Like the Pettengells, they never planned to continue travelling for such a long time.
“The initial plan was one or two years,” said Emil, 70. “We started in Montreal in Canada and drove two years in North America.
“Because we liked it we said, ‘OK, we still have money, why should we go back home? Let’s continue with another two years in South America, and then four years in Africa, then Australia…’, and so it went, on and on.”
They are now planning the next leg of their trip, which will take them to the Caucasus.
“We will get the ferry to Bandar Abbas in Iran and then go to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and make a tour around the Black
Sea and then go from Turkey to Port Said. If Egypt allows it then we will drive through to Sudan and down to the south, where we haven’t been.”
Liliana, 71, added: “At a certain point you cannot stop. This is the life I like, I couldn’t imagine another life.
“If I woke up tomorrow and I couldn’t travel I wouldn’t know what to do. I can’t imagine just settling down, it would be too boring for me.”
The festival was run by Emirates Travellers, a group of enthusiastic globe-trotters.
Another adventurer who took part was Malaysian Mohamed Adnan who, like the Schmids, seems to prove that travel not only broadens the mind but also wards off the effects of age.
At 70 he completed a gruelling 11,000km, seven-month bicycle ride from Kuala Lumpur to London last year.
“This is the longest trip I’ve done,” he said. “So far.”