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Royal Navy motorcyclists attempt world record

21 February 2017
Six servicemen from the British Army and Royal Navy are attempting to set a world record to become the first motorcyclists to ride, in one continuous journey, the entire length of the world’s longest road – the Pan-American Highway.

The British Trans-Americas Expedition Team will leave Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America on a 20,000-mile motorcycle journey to Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast of Alaska.

The route will take them through 15 countries and include a crossing of the infamous Darien Gap.

Half of the six-man team is made up with ranks from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines – Surgeon Lieutenant Alex Bamford, Leading Medical Assistant Lee Macpherson and Corporal Tom Makin - who between them will be providing expert medical cover, mechanical support and jungle survival skills.

 

It's going to take us about five days to pass through the driest place on earth, but with the most stunning open landscapes that look like the surface of another planet.

Surgeon Lieutenant Alex Bamford RN

Team members will be required to demonstrate leadership and the core values expected of British military personnel in some of the planet’s most demanding environments.

This will be a true test of resourcefulness, robustness, stamina and endurance for the men and their machines.

The journey starts from the southernmost town on Earth - Ushuaia, on the Argentine island of Tierra del Fuego.

The team will ride north through the high Andes, the Atacama Desert, the jungles of the Darien Gap, the Rocky Mountains and the Alaskan wilderness, before reaching the finish line at Prudhoe Bay, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Between Panama and Colombia lies the reason why the Americas are not connected by road – the Darien Gap.

Since the Kingdom of Scotland first attempted to colonise the Darien in the 1690s, this vast expanse of virgin rainforest, swamp and mountains the size of Belgium has defied many attempts to cross its interior.

Dr Alex Bamford, a Royal Navy Surgeon Lieutenant and the expedition doctor, said: "Perhaps weirdly, I'm really looking forward to riding through the Atacama Desert.

“It's going to take us about five days to pass through and it's the driest place on earth, but with the most stunning open landscapes that look like the surface of another planet.”

"My biggest concern is traveller's sickness.

“Riding in the sweltering heat of central America while your stomach is doing backflips is bad... especially when you're in heavy traffic and wearing a riding suit that takes about 10 minutes to take off."

In 1972, the British Trans-Americas Expedition, under the leadership of Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, achieved the first complete traverse of the Pan-American Highway by vehicle.

During this journey his team of over 100 men and women from the British Army and Royal Navy took three months to force their two Range Rovers through the 300-mile wide Darien Gap.

To this day, no one has repeated the feat.

When Colonel Blashford-Snell was asked to comment on the 2017 expedition he said: “I’m delighted to find that there are some maniacs around in this world who are prepared to try and follow our tyre marks through the Darien Gap”. 

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