“We have 208 years of off-roading experience between us” remarks Phil Jones at our morning briefing. He’s one of eight expert Land Rover driving instructors that’ll be guiding us through the prehistoric red rock landscape of Moab, Utah - a colossal area spanning thousands of square miles. It’s also home to some of the world’s most famous and challenging rock crawl trails, including “Hell’s Revenge” and “Poison Spider”. So Phil’s words offer welcome reassurance to myself and the other off-roading novice guests in the room - after all, I’d say at a stretch we had around 208 seconds of experience between us.
Safety obligatories completed, we head outside to the most stunning late-autumn morning. The sound of the mighty Colorado river passing by just metres away and the tops of tall cliff faces glow a deep red in the sun. There's a nip in the air, but I’m quickly distracted when I see our vehicles lined up, six in total - a Land Rover Discovery, Range Rovers and a Range Rover Sport. Doing my utmost to remain nonchalant (unsuccessfully, I might add, I’m excited like a 12-year-old boy), I find the vehicle that’s been allocated to me - the Discovery - and she’s a beauty. I hop in behind the wheel and without delay we head out in convoy to the head of our first trail.
I select “mud-ruts” (one of the four low-range settings) and the Land Rover gently raises itself by some inches giving us that all important extra ground clearance - now we’re all set. Within seconds, the terrain is rocky like I’ve never experienced in my life. The car tips and angles back and forth as I delicately feather the throttle delivering nothing more than walking pace. At first, I’m quite tentative, unsure of just how capable this factory-standard Discovery really is (it has no modifications whatsoever). Perhaps I’ll bash a big boulder, scrape the undercarriage or puncture a tyre? However, another 15 minutes pass and my confidence is building, albeit this is founded almost solely on vehicle capability rather than driver skill - this is a serious off-roading machine that’s totally at home in this wild and rocky wilderness.
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We arrive at the first serious obstacle. With hindsight, it’s probably a one out of five in terms of difficulty and perfect to ease me in, but at the time it felt a lot more daunting. Jimmy, my instructor, hops out and walks alongside, hand gripping the driver’s door, offering tips through the wound-down window. He also talks me through a series of hand signals - stop, go, left and right. They may sound simple, but ignore these at your peril. Jimmy then jogs ahead where he becomes my second set of eyes, deftly guiding me on the perfect line through uneven rocks and boulders, one hand signal at a time.
After an hour or so, it’s time for a picnic coffee break and warm pastries (heated on top of the engine!) from the back of the vehicles. Totally exhilarated, it’s nice to relax and take in the views and landscape. Stunning does not do it justice - 360 degrees of red rock formations millions of years old as far as the eye can see. The day continues much in the same vein, as we tackle a wide variety of terrain and challenges. Some are so steep that the windshield is filled with nothing but blue sky and Jimmy's outstretched hands giving me signals.
The cars are, without doubt, incredibly capable - including even a very sporty looking Range Rover Sport V8, exactly the same spec you would see cruising around London streets. Everything that is thrown at them they deal with, even with wildly inexperienced drivers behind the wheel. By around 4pm, the instructors call it a wrap as we emerge at the other end of the trail. Cruising along on the flat tarmac roads is suddenly a novelty as we cruise our way to the city (or rather, town) of Moab for a well earned dinner.
It’s the second and final day of our adventure driving experience. I have after another delicious feast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup from Red Cliffs Lodge’s buffet. Then we hop in the vehicles and head to the start of today’s trails. Hell’s Revenge awaits and sure enough, right off the bat, adrenaline is pumping as we climb a steep, slick rock section with a large drop on either side. Edging our way up at crawling pace, the first obstacle is completed and I’m back in the swing.
Although I thought it impossible, today’s landscape is even more dramatic and vast than yesterday. Snow-capped mountains far in the distance, dinosaur footprints stamped into the rocks beneath, I’m really taken aback. We climb up and down huge rock faces at angles I wouldn’t have dreamt of. A group of purpose-built off-road vehicles - looking like something out of Mad Max - stop and gawp at us, not quite sure what to make of our immaculate luxury production line 4x4s. Albeit these are serious obstacles and the exhilaration is awesome, the group of instructors assembled to look after us are world class experts, and they ensure total safety at all times.
That evening, back at Red Cliffs Lodge, we are treated to a phenomenal final feast - I’m very sad to be heading home tomorrow, this has been one of the best holidays ever. As we tuck into steaks cooked on the outdoor grill, then gather around a campfire cooking s’mores under the stars, singing along to live country music, I reflect on the last few days. It’s had quantities of wilderness, adventure, adrenaline, warm american hospitality, hearty and delicious meals and great new friends in copious quantities - surely all the elements one could possibly ask for in a holiday.
Fergus Scholes travelled as a guest of Land Rover on a shortened version of the Land Rover Adventure Travel Moab experience. There are two options; a five day itinerary with four nights accommodation and a four day itinerary with three nights accommodation. Prices start from £3,600 / person.
See details of this and other Land Rover Adventure travel experiences.
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