Top Gear and The Grand Tour for a travel enthusiast

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Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

I got into TG from watching YouTube videos of their stupid challenges, and that stupidity kept me hooked through to the Amazon Series TGT, which is just the same show with a bigger budget and a worse tent. One of the features of their travel is the absence of them talking to locals, something BBC has perfected over the generations with Sir Michael Palin et. al. . These guys just do their own thing in their cars, and keep doing it until a decidedly pointless ending becomes imminent, and hence worthwhile, and hence fun. Here goes…

Bolivia: Starting from the tropical rain forest, the three middle aged men wade through rivers, jungles, the death road, and the lifeless Atacama desert to reach the pacific coast in Chile on their beaten up 4-wheel drive cars, armed with only Viagra and Condoms as emergency supplies.

Vietnam: An odd one for Top Gear, where they travel by scooters instead of cars. Starting from Ho Chi Minh city in the south, they travel up the concave country to reach Ha Long bay in the north, looking like total douche-bags. It’s Nam!

Mongolia: And now for something completely different, three drunks have 7 days to assemble a car from scratch(really) and drive through 500 miles of cliffs, meadows, and dunes, none of it on road, to reach the town of Moron where they can get a drink, and less importantly, some food. GT S03E13

Nile: Starting from Lake Victoria, which has been known as the source of the Nile for 150 years, they try to find it again, with mixed results. Going through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania in their comfy estate cars, they find that the Nile actually starts as a puddle in a hole, by some rocks in Tanzania; really.

Polar: From the equator to the North Pole. Now much older and much more useless at everything, 2 of them attempt to become the first people to drive to the pole, while drunk on G&T. Driving a pickup truck, they attempt to disprove their third colleague who thinks that traditional methods of arctic exploration work best.

Iraq: Three wise men set on a journey westward to witness the birth of a messiah in Bethlehem. Problem is, the year is 2009 and the starting point is Iraq. In open top cars, they travel through Kurdistan, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan to arrive at the sea of Galilee to witness the birth, and bring the baby Jesus a Video game as a Christmas gift.

Botswana: In second hand cars, the 3 romantics drive through the spine of Africa, through the impassable Magadikadi salt flats(one of the largest in the world) and the Kalahari desert, through dust and thorns, hippos and elephants, to fall in love with an Opel Kadett.

Namibia: Slightly to the west but much much later, 3 skeletons attempt to drive a 1000 miles through the Namib desert for a 1000 miles in their beach buggies, to reach across a crocodile infested river on the border with Angola. Starting from the Atlantic coast, they go through shipwrecks and abandoned diamond mines, fall off sand mountains and fish in the desert, and finally build a car crane to cross that river, all the while being utterly useless at everything. Great stuff. GT S01 E07–08

Patagonia: Starting from the Nazi town of Baraloche in Argentina, these 3 patriotic Britons drive to the southern most town on Earth. Nothing much happens(yeah, right), but watch it for the views.

Albania: Consulted by a member of the Albanian mafia, these 3 try to decide on the perfect car for a gangster, whether it is a Rolls Royce, a Mercedes or a Bentley Mulsanne disguised as a shit car. On the way they rob a bank, murder a fat guy, and escape the police to prove the worth of their cars. Riveting stuff.

I’m mentioning some short films from The Grand Tour concerning motoring history, unrelated to travel.

Ford vs Ferrari: The tale of Le Mans ’66 and the story of the GT40, so essentially the whole premise of Ford vs Ferrari(2019). This episode aired in 2016, so I strongly believe the producers saw this and saw the potential of a movie. GT S01E06

Lancia 037 & 1982: The story of the World Rally Championship and of the last 2-wheel drive car to win it, beating Audi’s superior design and technological might with cunning and good driving skills. Given what has happened so far, I wouldn’t bet against a movie on this, soon as the corona deluge stops. GT S02E07

Jim Clarke: A short biopic on the short life of the most successful racing car driver of all time. GT S03E05

The last of it’s kind; and Funeral for a friend: An episode long ode to the rich history of Ford family cars in Britain, as well as the end of an era for the 3 presenters. I was thinking of this episode in the aftermath of Irfan Khan’s death. GT S03E14

Physics, Films, Fiction, Food, Football, …and travel and history

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