For ex-Top Gear magazine journalist Nik Berg, the drive is more important that the destination. That’s why, after many years of driving adventures across the world, he decided to set up detour-roadtrips.com. Detour goes beyond the guidebook, giving its readers the kind of in-depth local knowledge that can turn an ordinary trip into a spectacular one. While coronavirus means our bikes and cars are parked up for now, we talk to Nik about why Detour is a must visit for when you’re planning your next adventure.
Nik, what does Detour do?
Detour is about planning ahead. Getting the right information for your trip so you know which road to go to, which is the best time to go, which hotel to stay in. In the last couple of weeks our audience has grown significantly because, even now, when everyone is stuck and home and can’t go anywhere, people are planning their next adventures.
How did the idea for Detour come about?
I started out as a motoring journalist at Auto Express when I was 19 but I was a petrolhead long before that. What I’ve found over the years is that it’s not just about driving but where you drive that makes your memories. For me, it’s not about speed or performance but where the car takes you. That escalated when I joined Top Gear and we were a bit more adventurous. So, Detour is really an extension of everything I’ve learned over the years. Cars are literally a vehicle for adventure.
Why is this kind of insightful trip planning important?
A couple of years ago some friends and I went to Switzerland and everyone wanted to drive the Stelvio Pass. I said “it’s a great road, but we’ve got to get the timing right”. And we got it completely wrong. We turned up on a Saturday afternoon and it was insanely busy. Then the next morning, we got up really early and did some other Swiss passes and had the roads to ourselves. Detour is about sharing that knowledge of destinations. 99% of what’s on Detour we’ve personally experienced. We can make real recommendations. It’s not just something gleaned from the internet.
What road trip are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished writing something about the IoM TT circuit. I went there once on a group test with a bunch of hatchbacks and it was just fantastic. The whole place is a wonderful throwback. It’s like stepping back to the 1950s. It’s so evocative and there’s so many places like that around the world.
These road trips aren’t exclusive to car drivers either?
They’re aimed at everyone. Car drivers and motorbike riders. I’ve done some brilliant rides on bikes. You just reminded me of one when we went from London to Barcelona. One of our group said the number one rule is don’t race the locals. And as it turns out, it was so true – but that’s a story for another day. What’s important are the things you encounter and the people you meet. That’s what it’s all about.
What’s next for Detour?
Our long-term goal is to have a publication and a membership club where locals could share tips. At the moment we’re giving away lots of great free advice and free inspiration. Our focus has been on getting the model right, to inspire people and make a business out of it.
How has coronavirus affected Detour?
For now, people aren’t travelling but once the restrictions are lifted, they’ll want to get out there and travel. Instagram at the moment is working quite well for us in terms of gaining a following. The website is a bit of a deeper dive and more of a personal experience with maps and mini road books. It’s a learning experience.
What’s the one trip that stands out for you?
Probably Bolivia’s Death Road. I drove it about 15 years ago in a pre-production Range Rover Sport. It has a reputation of being the world’s most dangerous road. We arrived at a time when the local coca farmers had barricaded the road and there was no way to turn around. We ended up taking a 27-hour detour to the other end of the road and got multiple punctures along the way. At one point, I was stranded in a rain forest clearing while the support guys went to the local village to get our tyres patched. Eventually we did get to our destination and arrived just as the riot police were dispersing the farmers. After all that, the road was a bit of a letdown. But that’s the great thing about travelling by road. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You can make spontaneous decisions. You’re on your own timetable. That’s the thrill of it all for me.