Devon

Plymouth man completes 20,000-mile pub adventure

Volcan Cotopaxi in Ecuador Image copyright Alvaro Andres Pinzon
Image caption Ben Coombs drove across three continents to complete the challenge

A man has driven a sports car across 21 countries, starting at the most northerly pub in the world and finishing at the most southerly.

Ben Coombs, 38, from Plymouth in Devon, drove 20,000 miles across three continents from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost tip of Chile.

It took him seven months to complete the challenge.

Mr Coombs described the final pub as "a dive", but said "it's the journey that matters, not the destination".

The idea for the adventure came while he was having a pint in a pub on Dartmoor.

Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption The trip was completed in a green TVR sports car called Kermit

The journey started on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in an abandoned mining settlement called Pyramiden, which has a population of four.

Mr Coombs said finding the northernmost bar "was an easy investigative process".

"Pyramiden is less than 700 miles from the North Pole, is the northernmost settlement on earth with a permanent civilian population, and has only one bar," he added.

"The residents all live in the only building still functioning - the town's old hotel - which happens to have a still-functioning bar."

Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption The most northerly pub in the world in Pyramiden

To find the most northerly and southerly pub, Mr Coombs looked for licensed premises where anybody could walk in off the street and buy a beer.

Although there are bars in Antarctica they are located on bases and are not accessible to members of the public or are not licensed, he said.

So Mr Coombs looked for the southernmost settlement outside Antarctica, and came across Puerto Williams in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.

Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption In Arizona, Ben Coombs' car Kermit came face-to-face with a replica Herbie, a 1963 VW Beetle
Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption The journey involved 20,000 miles of driving and a range of road surfaces

From Pyramiden, Mr Coombs drove his green 20-year-old TVR Chimaera, called Kermit, across Europe to Southampton from where the car was shipped to New York in August.

He then travelled across the United States to California, before heading south to Mexico.

Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption The car had a new clutch fitted in a garage in Nicaragua, the only major repair of the trip

A number of friends joined him for various stages of the journey in the two-seater convertible car.

"Central America quickly passed beneath our wheels, before we shipped the car around the Darien gap from Panama to Colombia," Mr Coombs said.

"Then it was just the small matter of an 8,000-mile drive across Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina to get to the last bar on earth."

Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption Some of the main challenges were getting across borders and avoiding rock falls in Colombia
Image copyright Ben Coombs
Image caption The hand-built car dealt well with the journey and will now be shipped back to Devon

The final destination was Puerto Williams, where Mr Coombs arrived on 12 February and found the southernmost bar.

"It's a bit of a dive actually," he said.

"We're talking plastic patio furniture inside, Chilean line dancing on the TV, and a menu which consists only of lager and cheap whisky.

"There are probably more appealing places to travel 20,000 miles to get to, but that's not really the point. It's the journey that matters, not the destination."