While half of the adventure duo is having all the car-pimping fun, the other half has been starting the meticulous task of planning and organising all the tiny details.
Cue excel spreadsheets, lists, maps, plans, lists of lists, highlighters, colour-coding, tables.... it is an enormous task (although one, as a logistical geek, I am enjoying tremendously). An overview spreadsheet will allow us an ‘at-a-glance’ reference to the entire trip; countries in order, best time to visit, visa requirements, currency, exchange rates etc. Each of the countries in the list can then be ‘clicked’ on to access an in-depth country profile with more detail on sights and cool stuff.
While we are eager to embrace the free-spirited spontaneity of our adventure, this back-up information reserve will hopefully prevent us deep-freezing in the Arctic Circle in January, floating away in Cherrapunji (Northern India) in July or frying in the Ethiopian Danakil Desert in August.
Plus, we basically don’t want to miss out on stuff; imagine arriving in Rio as they are sweeping up the feathers and sequins, Nevada as they are stamping out the smouldering embers of the burning man, Thailand as the sun comes up following a night of full-moon partying or Munich as they are mopping up the dregs from Oktoberfest.
On a trip where budget is a huge controlling factor, planning protects pounds! Take a comparison of essential adventure supplies... in Greenland it’s £7.35 for a pint, compared to a much-easier-to-swallow 25p a pint in Tadjikistan. A dozen eggs in Delhi will cost only 24p compared to £3.60 in California. 23p will buy you 1lb of dried pasta in Brazil, yet the same amount of spaghetti will set you back £2.41 in South Africa. When motoring long distances through countries it is also useful to know costs of Diesel in advance ... preferable to travel in a straight line through Turkey where Diesel is £1.22 a litre and meander extensively in Iran at 2p a litre. It all adds up the cash, which consequently reduces the kilometres.
From a simple spreadsheet beginning, our travels will hopefully be climatically conscious, maximised for fun and economically sustainable...
Over the last week I have been ordering small bits and pieces for the car and requesting quotes for various products from various suppliers around the UK. The reason I have been doing this is because, firstly, I’m keen to save as much money as possible (we don’t pay VAT in the Channel Islands, and so any UK companies we mail order from should deduct it) and, secondly, so I can suss out which companies are friendly, helpful and reliable. Ultimately we are going to have to fork out a couple of grand on parts, extras, mods, etc and I want to make sure whoever we buy from deserves our custom.
I won’t publicly badmouth any particular company but on the whole I have been amazed at the lack of response in regard to emails. Some companies haven’t bothered to respond at all whilst others have replied to the original emails but have failed to follow up further queries.
Many companies have refused to deduct the VAT and I have been quoted prices that are far more expensive then their actual website states. I am aware that shipping to the Channel Islands can be slightly more expensive than to mainland UK, but some of the prices I have been quoted for shipping have been extreme. I operate my own personal webstore and work part-time at one of the many VAT free mail order companies that are based in the Channel Islands, so I’m well aware of the price of shipping to and from the Channel Islands.
Having said this, a few companies have been exceptionally helpful, and these are the ones we are likely to spend our money at.
In my research I have discovered that some products that are for sale on the UK over-landing market are available elsewhere for much cheaper.
For example with a bit of shopping around I picked up a Safari Snorkel with Postage from halfway around the world for £137. The cheapest I found in the UK was £239 (without shipping) but I’d have to wait 3 months for it to be shipped from South Africa. This was a similar story at two other stockists, one of which was very polite whilst the other couldn’t really be bothered to talk to me. The next cheapest I found was £265 but the store never answered their phone or returned my emails…
I have also been scoping out Split chargers, it seems the National Luna split-charge system + Dual Battery Controller is the system of choice for most “over-landers”. The average price I’ve been quoted has been in the £220 - £240 range.
After a bit more sniffing around the interwebs it seems you can purchase pretty much the same setups used by the boating and caravanning fraternity for a fraction of the price of the ‘over-landing’ counterpart. After some forum checking it also seems that many of these system are actually more reliable and robust than the National Luna set-up.
One in particular, the BEP Marine VSR relay splitter is used in fire engines and ambulances as well as in powerboats and so should be well and truly up to the job. Sourced locally from one of the many local boat suppliers I can pick one up for £53. Even if I allow another £100 for all the cabling and mate’s rates installation, that is still a huge saving.
We have also purchased a Kenlowe bonnet extractor fan kit; this was purchased directly from Kenlowe for the lowest price. The Hilux Surf range are renowned for overheating, the 2.4 more so than our 3L model. To be on the safe side we have decided to fit an extractor fan kit to the bonnet to increase the airflow through the radiator. As the car is black it also absorbs sunlight like crazy, so when we are in sunny countries the car is going to get ridiculously hot. The fan kit should drop the engine bay temperature by about 10°C which will help no end.
The installation of the fan and snorkel will be the first jobs to be done on the car. Once the snorkel is in place we can start thinking about the roof rack. Once the roof rack is done (it will be bolted through the roof) we can start thinking about the interior storage system. Once we have a bit of a plan for this we will install the secondary battery and split charge system and extra outlets.
Anyway enough writing for one day, back to the research.
Our Hilux Surf, affectionately named Bee-Bee is now in Guernsey, Emma dropped it over last week and we christened it with a lovely bottle of Champagne, the cork of which is now lovingly hanging from the rear view mirror.
The long and expensive process of prepping the car for the trip can now begin. The first job is to strip out pretty much everything in the interior from behind the front seats to the tailgate, including the roof-lining. One problem with the 2nd Generation Surf’s is the lack of roof gutters or roof rails which makes fitting a full length roof rack a bit of a mission. Having access to the internal roof and supports will allow Turx’s Custom Workshop to fabricate a full length safari roof rack which will be directly attached to the roof. Having something custom made will mean that we can design it to our exact specification with the rack as close to the roof as possible to keep the centre of gravity down (and it'll look cooler).
Once this is complete we can start work on planning the internal storage space in the back of the car, this is going to take some serious planning to maximise the space to the fullest. Before we can do this we need to purchase some of the necessary equipment for the trip. Once we have this we can begin the game of ‘Car Tetris’ to suss out the best way to fit everything in.
The 4x4 Storage Components website has been a very useful resource in researching various setups and checking out how other people deal with the same problems. I recommend everybody who is planning a trip like this should also read the 'Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide' by Tom Sheppard this book is basically my bible for the next 3 years. It's available here. This book will tell you everything you need to know and then some.
Everyday items like travel books, maps and day food supplies will need to be accessible from the passenger area whilst camping, recovery and spares will be stored in the rear of the vehicle. Heavier items like auxiliary batteries, water tanks and the Hilift Jack need to be stowed as low as possible and preferably central between the two axles.
The internal storage space will need to be enclosed and offer maximum security, for this reason it will be separate from the passenger area.Having a bulkhead or cargo barrier not only offers extra security but in the event of a roll over will help protect us from being hit by any heavy objects from the back of the vehicle.
More updates to follow soon, so please check back.