Planning your 2012 holidays? Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re limited to Greek islands where toned torsos and Aussiebums are mandatory. Be different – for the ultimate road trip, all you need is a car, a map, a mix tape and an all-terrain attitude.
Route 66, USA
Jack Kerouac never actually mentioned Route 66 by name in his beatnik bible On The Road, but he’s still cited as the man who made America’s ‘mother road’ iconic.
Immortalised in song and celluloid, as it’s an open highway offering more of a visceral thrill than any ride the Disney Empire could create. As you drift through eight states along 2,400 miles of road stretching from Chicago to California, old trading posts, filling stations and diners whisper tales of a bygone America.
En route, live your childhood Wild West fantasies (OK, pretending to be Woody from Toy Story) vicariously by gazing enviously at cattle-steering cowboys (warning: thoughts of Brokeback Mountain may spring to mind)) across the endless Texas plains, and pump the pedal to the metal as you pass mile-long freight trains trundling through the vast Kansas countryside.
Skyscrapers are replaced by dozens of deserted ghost towns in states like New Mexico, each littered with abandoned homes and stores; casualties of the superhighways that made Route 66 redundant as America’s main artery.
And no cross-country trip is complete if you haven’t thrown the map in the back seat and gone off-track. Flagstaff, Arizona is home to the meditative Grand Canyon; or drive through national parks like Death Valley and Joshua Tree before cruising into California, your final destination and abrupt wake-up from modern America.
Route 66 takes minimal planning – give yourself two weeks, point the nose of your car in the right direction and drive. The hardest decision is picking the right car. While a classic convertible might look the part, you’d be advised to choose something low maintenance and with air con to survive the 100f heat.
An RV allows you to sleep where and when you like, but don’t expect any Easy Rider-style credibility as you plod along in a six-wheel tortoise.
Ice Ring Road, Iceland
There’s more to Iceland than Stacey Solomon would have you believe.
Low ranking on many road-trippers’ priority lists works in Iceland’s favour, keeping the Ice Ring Road – or Highway 1- tourist free.
A maximum speed limit of just 56mph means you’ll need seven days to navigate the 840-mile journey properly through volcanic, bubbling landmass. But 18 hours of daylight in the summer will help you see everything on your itinerary.
On Iceland’s only ring road, there’s no room for complacency as patches of dirt, gravel, blind hills and bends, wooden bridges and narrow single-lane passes often demand immediate attention.
Cruise around the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón avoiding the towering icebergs, or walk under waterfalls in Seljalandsfoss. Dodge Strokkur’s powerhouse geyser or relax in Laugaskard’s geothermal steam pools.
If nature made it, the Icelandics use it.
North Yungas Road, Bolvian Andes
On paper, it sounds idyllic – a 50 mile winding mountain road, three miles above sea level, running from Bolivia’s La Paz and passing through lush rainforest.
In reality, it’s a highway to hell with 300 deaths a year on its muddy, bloody hands.
North Yungas Road was built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war, and their ghosts had the last laugh once the Inter America Development Bank gave it the dubious accolade ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road.’
It’s barely three meters wide, but that doesn’t stop the foolhardy with a low tolerance for inconvenience from attempting to overtake on hairpin bends and precipices.
Drivers need the skills of a sure-footed mountain goat to negotiate the wet track, but co-pilots are in just a precarious position as they stare down from their window at the Coroico River below, a sheer one-mile drop, and which eagerly awaits your attendance.
Still fancy your chances? Then avoid December to March’s rainy season as spontaneous waterfalls turn the road into sludge, and wash away vehicles in their path.
If you’re lucky enough to reach the peak, it gets no easier. You’re confronted with dirt track and a road that plummets with the grace of a runaway roller coaster.
Pack two essentials – a case of beer to pour into the earth to thank Goddess Pachamama for safe passage, and a parachute.
High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
The Tiz-n-Tichka high pass of the High Atlas Mountains easily makes for one of the most scenic road trips on earth.
The 300 mile circle from Marrakesh into the heart of High Atlas and back again, takes in some precarious passes, but soon after leaving the Dades valley floor, the view becomes intoxicating as you wind your way across the majestic range.
At the heart of the range lies Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain. Toubkal National Park is the most visited area of High Atlas, popular with trekkers and day-trippers and a year-round snow peaked cap.
Meet the mountain-hardened locals and try their whiskey (it’s actually mint tea) or climb Toubkal itself.
The Kasbah Du Toubkal, which overlooks the national park, sits on a small mountain spur, with panoramic views.
Alaska to Cape Horn
At 16,000 miles, this is the road trip to end all road trips: an intense highway marathon taking in 15 countries and more cultures than you can shake a tribal stick at.
Driving from Alaska, the northern most state of America, to Cape Horn, the southern most part of Chile, is not for the foolhardy. But if you have the time, the money and an all-terrain mind and vehicle, it’s the most extraordinary inter-continental car trip possible.
The Pan-America Highway is more of a concept than an actual route, but it’s the most direct way of getting to Chile.
Choose your direction through America by desert or ocean drive and the vast network of roads will eventually weave you through countries including Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Columbia before reaching Chile.
The highway passes through dense jungles, cold mountain passes and desert regions. From Navajo Indians to the Aztecs, taking time to meet the natives is just as important as finding the right hotel.
Most of the route can be done by road, except the virtually impassible 54 miles of rainforest at Panama and Columbia’s Darien Gap.
Detailed planning is the key to success, but don’t forget spontaneity. Dive amongst the Moray eels at Honduras’s El Aguila (the Caribbean’s biggest shipwreck) and gatecrash Costa Rica’s colourful Limon carnival.
Swim in the water-filled collapsed volcano in Huehuetenango, Guatemala or hang out in coffee shops with Nicaragua’s artists and poets.
Essential Road Trip Mix-Tape Tracks
Depeche Mode – Behind The Wheel
Eagles – Hotel California
Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone.
Tom Cochrane – Life Is A Highway
Sigur Ros – Glosoli
Beatles – The Long And Winding Road
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’
Lady Gaga – Highway Unicorn
Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Oasis – Roll With It
Madonna – Sky Fits Heaven
Guns and Roses – Welcome To The Jungle
U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
Tom Petty – Into The Great Wide Open
Don Henley – The Boys Of Summer
Sheryl Crow – Every Day Is A Winding Road
Rolling Stones – Start Me Up