30 July 2019 18:23
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She was born with a sense of adventure: although born in Switzerland, Andrea Kammermann spent her childhood with her family in Costa Rica before discovering the world on her own at a later stage. So it's surely not by chance that her husband Mike is also incapable of staying permanently put in his native Switzerland. "If you add up all of the trips we've made together, we've travelled for three years already," explains the 30-year-old when we caught up with him near Zurich a few days before they set out on their journey.
The couple married last autumn and have already been on an off-roading tour through North, Central and South America. From Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska down to Tierra del Fuego on the southern tip of Argentina. Andrea and Mike (32) covered 130,000 kilometres as part of that tour – and now they want to top that. The pair dreamed up a massive holiday. "At some point," explains freelance photographer Andrea, "Mike had the idea which led to us creating the 4-Xtremes tour." For five years, the couple tweaked the plans for the expedition, which they have now begun in their Axor motorhome.
The idea and the actual challenge behind 4-Xtremes: on this non-stop tour, which initially takes the duo east-bound, Andrea and Mike want to visit four of the planet's most extreme locations. The first destination is in Iran: the Dasht-e Lut desert, where the mercury has been known to pass the 70 degrees Celsius mark – thus making the zone the hottest place on the planet. After this stop, the couple will head to Marsimik La. The highest passable mountain road is located in the outer-most north-east of India and will take Andrea and Mike in their all-wheel-drive Axor to an altitude of more than 5700 metres.
Destination number three risks being the toughest of tests for the couple moved out of their previous flat in April and have since been living in their expedition vehicle: Oymyakon in the far-east of Russia is the coldest inhabited location on the globe. Thermometers there have already recorded temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius. "We want to visit Oymyakon in winter, when such temperatures are actually realistically achievable," says Mike. The term "extreme" is almost an understatement for something like that.
"From Zurich to Oymyakon, our route will cover approximately 35,000 kilometres." For this leg of their tour, the adventurers will leave themselves around seven months' time. And it's a stretch that will take all of their might – and a whole lot of patience: "We assume that we'll need to take a break of around four weeks in Mongolia to allow the Lena River in Siberia to freeze enough that we can cross it in our motorhome," explains Mike.
The couple want to tackle the return journey in around just two months; there is only one 4-Xtreme place left.It is at the Dead Sea in Israel, more than 400 metres below sea level – you cannot go any further below sea level than this anywhere in the world. In April 2019, Andrea and Mike hope to be back home in Zurich.
Around 45,000 kilometres are envisaged on the 4-Xtremes tour. "We spent a long time refining and adjusting the route", Andrea explains.No wonder, really, as not all of the circa 20 countries they plan on visiting are considered stable and safe. That's why the adventurers contacted the experts at the Swiss Red Cross at an early stage in their planning – and will remain in contact throughout their journey. "In some countries, the situation can change at very short notice and it is a distinct possibility that we will have to react."
The Swiss Red Cross is the partner of the relief operation which Andrea and Mike wish to support with their tour. "Our idea was that if we're already setting out to do something which is sure to attract a certain amount of publicity, then we should use that to do something charitable," explains Andrea. That's why the pair held a number of events before starting the tour, so as to collect donations for the cause. The money has already been sent to the Swiss Red Cross who will use it to finance projects in Africa and Asia which aim to fight eye diseases and provide children from destitute families with glasses. "For me as a photographer, the topic of eyesight obviously has a particularly special meaning."
On previous trips, the couple have already experienced real extremes. "In the Mexican state Baja California, we saw the thermometer reach its limits," tells Mike. But there was something else which was much harder: "The biggest challenge after that tour was coming back to reality."
And a spot of déjà-vu in that respect can't be excluded after this tour, either. "After I get back, I can just go straight back to work," says Andrea. "Mike used to work as a sales rep for a wood trading company, so for him, things aren't quite as simple as that." But the pair don't really want to think about that aspect just yet. For a while, all that will count for them is the 4-Xtremes tour.
Stick with us! Part 2 of the RoadStars series with the specifics of the expedition truck being used in the 4-Xtremes tour will be published on 25 June. From that point on, Andrea and Mike expect to provide an update about their experiences every month, right here.
4-Xtremes – the tour of superlatives.
Photos: Alexander Tempel, 4-Xtremes
Video: Alexander Tempel