If you have a thing about cartography, Reddit’s “MapPorn” page is almost too much to bear. If you also have a thing about travel as well, beware – this one can devour entire afternoons. For example, here’s one map that has captured the imaginations of thousands of globetrotting enthusiasts in a way its creator never intended.
What’s the shortest route that will take you through every country in the world? Reddit user e8odie, laid up in bed with a broken leg, decided to find out. When he posted the resulting map on the site, the comments went nuts. Why? Because even though the map was clearly labelled a thought-experiment, most of the fun was imagining if it was a real land route. Just how practical is it? The general consensus: “not very.”
Here are a few obstacles we spotted for this ultimate round-the-world trip.
1. Darien Gap
The route takes you from Panama to Colombia by plunging into the Darien Gap, a sprawling mat of swampland and forest that was described by the journalist Robert Young Pelton as “probably the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere”. Expect such life-affirming delights as virtually impassable jungle, drug traffickers, kidnappers, understandably trigger-happy paramilitary troops and a truly profound lack of good roads. It’s perfectly possible to visit the Darien Gap, but crossing it? Have fun.
2. Russia By Land
Putting aside the bureaucratic nightmare of getting permission to cross the Bering Strait on foot (or the hot water you can land in if you don’t get it), there’s the small matter of crossing a colossal administrative region of Russia called Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Driving a vehicle designed for even the toughest roads? Too bad, because there aren’t any — barring those laid down in winter. It’s thousands of miles of roadless tundra, forest and Arctic desert. It’s what planes were invented for.
3. North Korea to South Korea
A few years back, it was still possibly to cross the border between Russia and North Korea via the train station at Tumangan — as long as you have the correct visas and a state-approved tour guide. It may still be possible, although it’s certainly not part of North Korea’s attempt to build a tourism industry. You might make it all the way down to the DMZ — but from there? Forget it. Retrace your steps and take the ferry.
4. Israel to Lebanon
Welcome to the Rosh HaNikra border crossing, administered by the United Nations and the Israel Defense Forces. Are you a diplomat or UN official? Do you work well in conditions of extreme diplomatic tension? Can you run faster than Usain Bolt? If your answers to all of these questions aren’t “yes,” stay clear.
5. Armenia to Azerbaijan
Staying with the happy topic of violent border clashes, let’s consider Armenia and Azerbaijan. They went to war in the early ’90s — a situation that endured as a mutually hostile standoff. This “frozen conflict” thawed in 2011 and it’s still pumping out a fair bit of heat. Right now, that border is officially closed — and trying to enter Azerbaijan with a passport that shows signs of being used in Armenia is a fairly terrible idea.
So – what have we missed?