Singapore to London in 64 days

Singapore to London in 64 days

Seeing Britain by car is fairly commonplace. Pick up a rental when you land, punch your destinations into the satellite navigation unit and you are on your way.

But Mr Larry Leong plans to do it differently - by driving all the way to London from Singapore.

The 47-year-old IT consultant is setting off on the 20,000km two-month odyssey with his wife and their five- year-old daughter on Aug 9. He aims to arrive in London on Oct 13.

He says it is his way of commemorating SG50. "My hope is that when I'm long gone, my daughter will do something similar for SG100," he adds.

The ultra-long road trip may seem unorthodox, and perhaps even a tad loony, but it is not the first time Mr Leong is doing it. In 2007, he and a couple of Singaporeans joined a group of Malaysians who drove from London to Kuala Lumpur, as part of Malaysia's jubilee celebrations.

His Land Rover Defender traversed territories such as China, Nepal, Tibet, India, Pakistan and Iran. He will be using the 15-year-old Defender for the upcoming trip too.

And he has convinced a few others to join him, including another Singaporean, an Australian and four Malaysians.

But instead of retracing his previous route, they will be going north - through Russia and Scandinavia - because of the unrest in the Middle East.

Looking at photos of his 2007 trip, the attraction of the adventure becomes apparent. He got close to sights, sounds and smells he would have missed if he had opted for wings instead of wheels.

They drove through remote Pakistani villages where the locals swarmed the convoy because "they'd never seen Chinese people".

From Iran to Pakistan, the group drove non-stop for 24 hours because there were no refuelling stations along the way. And also because the passage was near a nuclear test facility.

They camped by Rawu Lake in Tibet, where snow-capped mountains reflecting off the blue waters rivalled the New Zealand filming location of The Lord Of The Rings. And driving on the powder white Swiss Alps was a thrill to the team used to an equatorial climate.

They had their share of accidents and incidents too. When driving from Yunnan, China, into Laos, Mr Leong's car engine caught fire and the brakes failed - while going downhill. He had to ram his Landie onto the hill side to bring it to a stop. A field mechanic who was travelling with them fixed the problem.

While approaching Tibet, they went as high as 5,600m above sea level. Although they took care to guard against acute mountain sickness - such as having oxygen tanks on hand - one team member collapsed from it.

"We gave him Viagra to relieve him of his symptoms," Mr Leong recalls. "Within 30 minutes, he was up and about." (One of the main symptoms of mountain sickness is constricted blood vessels. Viagra dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.)

This time around, the auto-adventurer is looking forward to driving through Russia and Nordic countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The trip is estimated to cost about US$20,000 (S$26,700) a person, but fuel will be less than 20 per cent of that. On the previous trip, which was slightly shorter, he spent US$2,500 on diesel.

Most of the expenses will be for accommodation and local guides, without whom such a trip would be far more daunting.

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