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Porsche - Tours of Discovery

Tours of Discovery

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Many adventures are hard to plan. But there are exceptions. Such as the 2018 Porsche World Expedition. Its participants will explore six continents in the new Cayenne. A look at the lead-up to a unique journey around the world.

The Simpson Desert is too dry for even the hardiest eucalyptus trees. Only a few bushes and sweet grass can defy the heat and drought. The Porsche Cayenne S shouldn’t even be in this particular part of Australia. But yesterday the Porsche Driving Experience team encountered an unexpected obstacle on its scouting trip. “You can’t go any farther,” shouted an employee from the Birdsville tourist information center. “All the roads are flooded! Turn around right here!” she ordered, making energetic circular motions to indicate we should return in the direction we came.

Catja Wiedenmann, the director of the Porsche Driving Experience, is not so easily daunted, not even in the town of Birdsville at the edge of the Simpson Desert. “That’s a nice welcome,” she remarked through the open window with a smile. The next town is nearly 435 miles away, and the roads are no picnic, even when not underwater. Wiedenmann had originally intended to drive the Cayenne south from Birdsville, skirting the desert. She would now have to make a 1,242-mile detour to avoid the flooding. She considers the situation—and opts for a shortcut through the desert.

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Sharp eye: Catja Wiedenmann pauses and enjoys the view from the back seat.

Forty-year-old Wiedenmann likes to push the limits. Her job offers her a lot of contact with Porsche enthusiasts who seek to explore and expand their driving skills. She and a small team are in Australia to prepare for what may well be the most spectacular driving experience Porsche has ever offered—the 2018 Porsche World Expedition. Its participants will have the chance to drive the new Porsche Cayenne on challenging routes across the globe. Six tours on six continents, including some extreme stretches: over 13,123-foot mountain passes in the Andes and through salt deserts in Bolivia, through national parks in Africa, on sandy country roads in Southeast Asia, alongside picturesque lakes in Europe, on winding roads in Central America, and through the Australian Outback. “There’s never been anything like this before,” says Wiedenmann. And probably never will be again. The expedition is unique. And extraordinary.

Things will get rolling in May with the Australian tour, which will start off in Brisbane on the east coast and head for Perth—capital of Western Australia—on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The European tour will follow in June, leaving from Norway’s North Cape and ending in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France. Four more expeditions of thirteen to fourteen days will follow—in Africa, Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia. Each tour will be 2,175 to 4,350 miles long and involve a maximum of twenty-eight participants. Up to four of them will share a specially equipped Cayenne. They’ll take turns driving, sometimes as many as 621 miles a day, in classic rally teams. That means starting at set times and arriving at their destinations each day within specified periods. “The World Expedition is designed for passionate Porsche fans who enjoy unique experiences with kindred spirits and seek extreme driving challenges—and who long for adventures that are simply priceless,” says Wiedenmann.

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Natural wonders: The Cayenne stops near Mont Blanc.

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No end in sight: Fraser Island in Queensland is the largest sand island in the world.

Dress rehearsal for worldwide adventures

It’s exciting just to prepare for these unprecedented tours. Wiedenmann, who came up with the original idea, has put together an experienced team of professional travelers, event managers, rally experts, medical personnel, photographers, and local guides. They have spent months selecting the best possible routes, determining daily stages, and finding outstanding accommodations. Each route is being tested from start to finish. Like this one now in Australia. “We personally inspect every part of the route,” says expedition leader Annette Loftus. A travel specialist from the United States, she works around the globe and knows its most beautiful spots. And its hidden gems that people should discover. That’s her life: “I’m bored if I’m home for more than two weeks in a row.”

The organizational team is currently working nearly every day to ensure the exceptional quality of the Porsche World Expedition. For example, Loftus is negotiating with authorities in China on the conditions for Chinese driver’s licenses, which are also required for foreigners. She is having members of the Maasai guide her to a hot spring in a Tanzanian jungle. One week she might be discussing evening meals with chefs in Stockholm, and the following she’ll be organizing a tent camp in the Australian Outback. She calls it the reality check: “We inspect each room, test the food in every location, and cover 24,855 miles.” Loftus and her scouts have already mastered the routes in Europe and Africa, during precisely the same weeks they’ll be traveled next year. The Africa tour, for example, will coincide with the great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. In one of the most tremendous natural events in the world, six million animals cross the Maasai Mara. Loftus has received special permission from national park authorities for the Porsche group. The expedition will be accompanied by rangers in the Serengeti, but participants will drive the cars themselves.

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Mountain citadel: The Incas built Machu Picchu in the fifteenth century at an altitude of 7,972 feet. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

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Brave new route: Catja Wiedenmann (left) and Annette Loftus change their plans.

“Sometimes we even manage to achieve the nearly impossible,” says Wiedenmann on setting off in the Cayenne for the Simpson Desert. An experienced Porsche driver, she quickly notes that the dirt tracks are challenging—but also the perfect environment for the sporty SUV. As she drives on, she makes another decision: this impromptu shortcut is so much fun that it’ll become an official part of the Australian route. Three days and 311 miles of high-desert excitement, with a camp under star-studded skies—just one more highlight of the Outback tour.

At the foot of Uluru

A breathtaking sunset accompanies Wiedenmann and Loftus to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, before the sun vanishes behind the Australian monument. Known as a sacred place of great spiritual importance to Aboriginal peoples, Uluru draws visitors from around the world. Wiedenmann soon finds a suitable place to stop. “We could have dinner here,” she proposes. Afterwards, she and Loftus negotiate with the restaurant operators. Catering in May of 2018? No problem at all. But things don’t always fall into place so easily. “We often change our plans because something doesn’t quite meet our expectations, or because the route isn’t gripping enough,” says Wiedenmann. Or because a road becomes impassable, like the one near Birdsville. Maybe it’s precisely the departure from well-traveled paths that makes an adventure unique—along with the reassuring knowledge that even perfectly organized tours leave plenty of opportunity for an adrenaline surge.

1 Australia:
May 11–23, 2018
13 days
3,355 miles
2 Europe:
June 9–22, 2018
14 days
4,350 miles
3 Africa:
July 10–22, 2018
13 days
2,920 miles
4 Central America:
August 4–16, 2018
13 days
2,423 miles
5 South America:
September 15–28, 2018
14 days
3,604 miles
6 Southeast Asia:
October 16–28, 2018
13 days
2,175 miles


By Barbara Esser, Christina Rahmes
Photos by Theodor Barth, Kim Tonning