How to be braver than you look

Allow me to introduce you to Ben Coombs. He describes himself as an ‘adventurer,’ but don’t let that put you off. He’s a bit off the wall. In 2012 he decided it would be a good idea to drive from England to South Africa. Just as well he did it back then, because right now there’d be a danger of him dying of dehydration.

This was not likely to be a problem on his latest trek. In a bout of splendid Brit eccentricity, he decided to go on a bit of a pub crawl, though this was not your normal ‘18 pints and a prawn phall’ jaunt. He decided to drive to have a pint in the most northerly pub in the world, then drive downhill till he reached the most southerly pub in the world.

It transpires that the most northerly bar in the world is in an abandoned mining town on the island of Svalbad. The town, Pyramiden, is less than 700 miles from the North Pole, so simply getting there is quite a feat, particularly when I tell you, as I shall, what he was driving. Apparently finding the bar when he rode into town was easy, since everybody lives in what used to be the old hotel, and that houses the only bar. Takes the guesswork out of things, doesn’t it?

Now he’d got into his stride, he drove back through Europe, and shipped the car to the US and went south young man. He was little uncertain of his final destination*. However, after 8000 miles through Colombia**, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, he fetched up at the last bar on Earth in Puerto Williams on Tierra del Fuego. Perhaps predictably, the bar was a dive. That’s a word I might use to describe a place I was not sure I’d get out of alive.

Mr Coombs, who hails from Plymouth, is an affable looking cove, who looks as if he could probably play Bertie Wooster in an am-dram production, but he tackled the whole trip with an insouciance that belies his looks.

Here’s what made the trip really brave. He didn’t opt for a Land Rover, or a Toyota Landcruiser, or any of the other usual suspects. His transport was 20 years old, and more unsettlingly was a P reg TVR! He chose to do this epic journey in a TVR, widely regarded in the UK as the most unreliable car in the world after a Range Rover. As one of my friends puts it, ‘They’re crap, and they’re made in Blackpool.’ They have an unpleasant habit of bursting into flames, for one thing, and a bit of a penchant for just stopping working.

Hats off to Mr Coombs.


*Apparently there are bars in several of the Antarctic research stations, something that surprised me more than somewhat, but he wanted to play by the rules he’d set himself, and find a public bar.

**I imagine that was a bit tense at times.