Three friends embarked on a “slightly stupid” adventure by driving 9,000 miles from Scotland to India in a 23-year-old Mazda they bought for £1,050 – and it didn’t even have air conditioning.
Daniel Patton, 22, and his best friends Joe Fisher, 23, and Callum Kitson, 22, mapped out an epic journey that spans 20 countries and have set off with just a GPS, three sleeping bags, and seven pairs of underwear each.
Naming themselves the ‘The Kiwis Don’t Fly Rally Team’, they set off from Duncasby Head Lighthouse, Scotland, the most northeasterly point of the British mainland, on July 11.
They hope to reach Kanyakumari, in the very south of India, after four months in their humble wagon – but they’ll have to endure some uncomfortable days in old car before they get there.
The three friends were all born in England before moving with their families to Auckland, New Zealand, as children.
They met aged 15 at secondary school and planned their madcap adventure in lockdown.
Business graduate Daniel, who was born in Bristol, said: “This is going to be quite an epic journey. I can’t think of anyone who has done anything like this at our ages.
“It’s the adventure of a lifetime. It’s slightly stupid but something we will always remember.”
While some took to baking banana bread to ease their boredom during the Coronavirus lockdowns, the three who were then students at the University of Auckland were dreaming of their big adventure and spent more than two years planning it out.
They tried to make their trip as tricky as possible, and eventually, in January 2022, Daniel, Joe, an English teacher born in Croydon, South London, and Callum, a law student born in Poole, Dorset, decided they wanted to drive from Scotland to India.
Daniel said: “We just wanted to do something completely crazy and we wanted to do something beyond just backpacking around Europe.
“We all have family in the UK, but we picked Scotland as it was really far from India and was really inconvenient.”
The trio had gone on trips together before, including backpacking across Southeast Asia between 2018 and 2019, as well as 2020, and driving 1,265 miles from the northern tip of New Zealand to the southern tip in January 2021.
But they had never attempted anything on this scale.
Daniel said: “We have always loved going outdoors and camping, and just going on adventures.
“But after two years in lockdown, we wanted to do something big and have an experience to make up for all the time lost.”
They flew to England in June 2022 and started frantically looking for a car online – eventually finding the Mazda at a car dealership in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and deciding it was “completely unsuitable and perfect”.
Daniel said: “I loved it when we saw it. We had been looking for days and struggled to find the perfect imperfect car.
“It was exactly what we needed. We loved the colour, we loved how small and inconvenient it was.
“It’s completely unsuitable and perfect, that’s why we chose it.
“This is all part of the challenge – it’s not four-wheel drive. It’s not really meant to do what we want it to do.”
They needed to fork out around £1,800 to insure the car and themselves to blaze across two continents.
Daniel said they reckon they will spend another £15K on their other expenses, which include roughly £2.5K for fuel, £2.6k on food, £800 on car servicing, £780 on visas, and £4K spending money to cover laundry, data and – most importantly – fun and beer.
But they are hoping to save as much money as possible, and will spend most nights for free, cosied up in their sleeping bags “looking up at the stars” on any soft patch of land they can find near their parked car.
Daniel said: “We have saved up quite a lot of money for a rainy day, but we are hoping do it all on a budget.
“My family were definitely sceptical about our plans but once they saw how much time we put into planning it, I think they have come around to it more.”
They set off from Duncasby Head Lighthouse at 9am on July 11, with a full tank of petrol, even more optimism, and a sense of disbelief that they were really doing this.
Daniel said: “When we left, it was absolutely brilliant.
“I couldn’t believe it – it felt really surreal that we were on this adventure after spending so long apart in lockdown thinking about it.”
Since then, the trio have travelled around 2,200 miles, navigating through nine countries so far – UK, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia.
Now in Croatia, they have slept in car parks at beauty spots sprawled across Europe, including the Alps in Austria, overlooking the lakes in Slovenia, and beside beaches on the Adriatic Sea.
Daniel said: “In Scotland, we stayed in Loch Tarff which was so stunning and we watched the sunset and sunrise together.
“The support we have had from people who see our car and give us a honk or tell us about their countries and what to do has been amazing.
“We swam in Lake Bled in Slovenia which was just breathtaking, and in Croatia we slept in a park which overlooked the Adriatic with no one else around.”
Though they thought it would be inconvenient, travelling by Mazda has turned out well, Daniel enthused, as it gives them the freedom to see any sight they want to and veer off course when they fancy.
He said: “We can just drive towards anything we want to do – which isn’t possible if you’re backpacking.
“We get lost all the time and just take off the navigation. We end up in areas with no tourists. It’s just amazing.”
Now heading to Bosnia and Herzegovina and then Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Pakistan before arriving in India, the trio realise that – though it has been smooth sailing so far – their mini motor will likely break down at some point.
Daniel said: “So far, everything has gone quite well and the car is running great.
“We’re not really scared or worried about anything, I think you have to be realistic and plan for anything but it’s just going to be so fun.
“If you don’t expect the car to break down it would be silly, but we will try to get it serviced as much as possible.”
Part of their planning included changing the radiator fans, coolant and oil in the car so it is more suited to the desert environments they will face in the Lut Desert in Iran, which is considered one of the hottest areas in the world.
And their clumsy car will need to survive all the elements as they will face 40 degree weather in the Middle East, freezing temperatures in the Himalayas, and floods of rain during monsoon season in India.
Joe, who quit his job as an English teacher to join the trip, said: “It’s all a bit mad, but we can’t wait. We are expecting the unexpected, and just want to take each day as it comes.”
Joe earmarked the Fairy Meadows in Pakistan, one the world’s most popular trekking sites, as the location he is most excited about reaching, and said he can’t wait to try the local delicacies and meet people from different cultures.
He added: “There are some truly magical places in Asia that we just can’t wait to see.
“There is so much food, culture, and people we want to immerse ourselves into.
“I heard there are some of the kindest people in Pakistan, India and Iran so I can’t wait to meet them.”
Meanwhile, Callum said: “It’s my birthday in August and we will be in Iran then, and I hope to find the desert oasis which I have seen plenty of pictures of online.
“And I am looking forward to spending the next three months with my best mates on the road.”
But he said there is a serious side to this crazy trip too as they are hoping to raise money for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
He added: “The war in Ukraine is still ongoing and it’s just devastating. We started a fundraiser to do our little part in showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people in such challenging times.”