IT IS probably the best road trip in the world – Australian couple Chris and Elayne Clash have spent the last 18 months driving across Asia, Russia and the Middle East - and plan to finish their mega globe-trotting trip in around two and a half years from now.
The Melbourne duo made a pit-stop in the Western Isles this week – the latest region to be ticked off an impressive list - including Japan, Korea, East Siberia, the scary sounding 'Road of Bones', through Russia down to Mongolia to the Chinese border and Afghanistan.
The couple, who have been married for 31 years - although Chris jokes his wife may now ask him for a divorce - were inspired to do the trip out of a desire to meet different people. So they decided to sell their home, wave goodbye to their grown up kids and head out on the ultimate holiday of a lifetime.
Chris says: "When our kids are asked where are your parents they say: 'We don't know!'
And their amazing travelogue is not even half way through, as Chris explains: "From here we go to England and then across to the Isle of Man, where we have friends, before shipping the car to Halifax in Canada, then we will head up to Alaska, down back through America to South America across to South Africa then up through Africa.
Back home, Chris and Elayne are volunteer firefighters and when they return to Melbourne with half a decade of photos, stories and adventures, they hope to put their grand tour to good use and raise money for three causes close to their hearts.
"We will take the photos and our stories and go around the Australian fire stations to display them and ask for donations for the Epilepsy Foundation, Children's Cancer Care and the Australian Fire Brigade," says Chris.
The intrepid couple have already visited some countries that many of us never will, or would even want to visit, but their belief in the human spirit and the innate goodness of people is what fuels their adventure.
Chris explains: "We have been in some dangerous places such as Azerbaijan. There is so much bad news around but we wanted to meet ordinary folk and we've met some fantastic people with good intent - we received great hospitality in Iran – I think it is about making yourselves approachable."
The extraordinary tourists' mode of transport is also pretty impressive, built from old Australian bull bars, Chris describes: "It's a weird car - once you see it you'll never forget it."
So what drew the couple to the Western Isles?
"Well you've got sheep here and we have sheep in Australia," chuckles Chris, adding: "We've heard of Harris Tweed and the Outer Hebrides and wanted to come across, and you are islanders, and even though we are a big island, Australia is just the same – island people are better all round."
And in these islands they certainly won a few new friends, as Kiwi's Garage in Stornoway donated oil changing filters for the couple's unusual car, nicknamed 'Adventurebug'; they displayed the quirky vehicle at the Motor Fun Day at Stornoway Airport last Saturday and were presented a tasty roll of black pudding from Charley Barley's butchers to sustain them on the next leg of their world tour.
And, perhaps as an inspiration to others to also 'live an adventure', Chris says: "Anybody can do this - it is just a question of having a go. It has been a great privilege to do the trip."