16 months, 42,000 kilometer, through 39 countries in a three-wheeled Tuk Tuk, that ubiquitous means of transport in many parts of Asia. That’s what Nick Gough and Richard Sears did and now they are the proud holders of the world record for ‘world’s longest Tuk Tuk journey’. Here is the story of their kickass Tuk Tuk Travel expedition!
Tuk Tuk Travel to promote world education
The Tuk Tuk Travel team started their trip on August 13, 2012 from the British museum in London. The goal of their expedition was to drive a full loop around the world, have an adventure of a lifetime and promote education.
One of the main goals was to promote awareness of world education problems. As cliché as it sounds, the idea was hatched after teaching and traveling abroad and seeing the amazing work of the local people who are working to find innovative ways to provide an education to children in their communities.
There are still 57 million primary aged children who are out of school and countless more who lack a quality education, either through number of kids in the classroom or other factors. And we wanted to raise awareness for this saddening fact and maybe change the world a bit for the better.
Tommy Tempo the tuk tuk
Nick Gough explained why the choice for a tuk tuk was a straightforward one:
“We wanted to make the trip in a vehicle that would stand out and be noticed. We wanted to stick out like a sore thumb, so that people would take notice.
We found out that no one had driven the full length of Africa in a tuk tuk neither had anyone driven such a vehicle a full loop around the world. So there were some records on offer which made the appeal for a tuk tuk irresistible.
It helped that we were both pretty obsessed with tuk tuks and just loved being in them when we were traveling. They are nicely open on the sides and are surprisingly comfortable. So in the end the choice was very easy.
Loads of people drive and cycle their way around the world, which in many ways is more impressive than what we’ve done. We just wanted to do it in a more original way.”
They named their tuk tuk lovingly ‘Tommy Tempo”. As you can guess it had to do with the tuk tuks blazing top speed of 50 km/h.
Tuk tuk world trip route
Starting from the British Museum in London on August 13, 2012, the expedition took them through southern Europe to Turkey, where they crossed into Egypt and drove down Africa.
From South Africa, they shipped the tuk tuk to India, where they resumed their journey through Southeast Asia.
From Singapore they shipped the rickshaw to Latin America, then did a loop of South America — nearly having to give up due to mechanical issues — before reaching the finish line in Rio de Janeiro.
Many countries around the world say they won’t let tuktuks in across land borders. Persistence and patience appaered to be the solution to that for Gough and Sears.
We adopted the attitude of “we have all the correct paper work (most of the time) and we are going to stay here until you let us through. What’s challenging is getting through customs when you ship the tuk tuk. We spent days/weeks in customs in both Egypt and Colombia. We just had to be patient or at least smile and pretend to be”
Tuk Tuk troubles
Gough and Sears soon found out that a tuk tuk might be very suitable for city travel, to make a massive world circumnavigation is a different story.
The tuk tuk appeared not ideal for driving long straight lines as the maximum speed was limited to 50 km/h. It also had difficulties at high altitudes as the thin air made it hard starting the vehicle. Think mud and sand often blocked their back wheels and the lack of suspension in the back two wheels made offroading even more challenging.
But there biggest problem was to come in Peru….
Pulling the tuk tuk to break the world record
Their tuk-tuk was struck by a lorry in Malaysia, harassed by elephants in Botswana, and nearly got stuck on several difficult mountain crossings.
However, the biggest problem came in South America, when the vehicle broke down in the village of Chepen, Peru. At that time they were only 70km short of breaking the world record but when their engine blew up they thought their adventure had come to an end.
“We were 70km short of the record and we thought, if we could just get it to Lima, we could pay for one more person to fix it. That’s when we decided to push and pull it.”
Not to be beaten, they attached a harness to the bumper and dragged the 800kg vehicle – named Tommy – the last 43 miles to the record line.
They spent “a very painful three days” before they found a mechanic who could fix it, finally revealing that a hole that had been covered to stop a diesel leak earlier in the trip was actually designed to relieve pressure on the engine.
“You don’t do much exercise when you’re driving round the world so it really was a shock to the system. We basically did 15 months exercise in three days,” Sears said.
After having overcome that big hurdle the tuk-tukers went on to Chile, into Argentina and reaching their finish line in Rio de Janeiro. There they set the new tuk tuk world record to 42,120km.
A grand tuk tuk travel video
The two tuk tuk madmen made a brilliant movie about their trip that is sure to put a big smile on your face!
More kickass tuk tuk trips
Gough and Sears are far from the first tuk tuk adventurers. More kickass tuk tuk trips can be found here. Among them a pink tuk tuk journey from Bangkok to London, a mad trip in three-wheeled Piaggio ape to the North Cape and much more…