A Land Rover Discovery, near the Chernobyl exclusion zone.Enlarge Photo
The journey began in Birmingham, England, and will end in Beijing, China, which Land Rover points out is one of its fastest-growing markets. Along the way, the group will pass through 13 countries, visiting avalanche teams in the Alps, a Cold-War era Soviet submarine base and even the site of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster.
On April 26, 1986, reactor number four of the Chernobyl powerplant exploded, although no one in the neighboring city of Pripyat knew it at the time. Even as fire crews rushed to deal with the disaster, residents lined nearby bridges to get a better look at the reactor fire.
As was protocol during the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union denied that anything had happened, until workers at a nuclear plant in Sweden detected unusually high levels of radiation. Even Pripyat wasn’t evacuated until the following day, and residents had no idea that their displacement would be anything but temporary.
The accident ultimately led to changes within the Soviet Union, and today the abandoned “exclusion zone” around the former nuclear power plant has become something of a tourist attraction. If you have the money and the contacts, it’s possible to arrange a guided tour of the area, including the eerily deserted city of Pripyat.
Visitors are required to carry dosimeters (radiation detectors) at all times, and are required to follow guides closely as radiation levels in various areas change on a frequent basis. Despite the proliferation of wildlife, it’s still a very dangerous place, and will be for centuries to come. It’s also an important reminder that the weakest link in the modern world is often the human operator.