We’re frequently quizzed regarding the pros and cons of our Maggiolina Airtop roof tent. Not having any other experience with other styles of roof tent, other than camping with fellow overlanders, it’s hard to comment.
Our tent was our most extravagant purchase, but also our best. Essentially it has paid for itself many times over: It offers a little luxury which means we hardly ever stay in hotels. On an extended trip like ours that luxury and convenience is paramount.
We’ve camped in locations with views that far surpass any 5 star hotel. This really can be a room with a view (or several)... 3 of the sides have doors which roll up completely and the front end has a semi-circular window. For those hot, tropical nights, each opening has a mosquito netting flap which can be zipped up to fend off blood-sucking invertebrates and is perfect for wildlife watching.
It is surprisingly easy to set up; two clips at the front and one at the back and it ascends into position on hydraulic arms. Inside it is surprisingly Tardis-like; we can sit fully upright and have around the same space as a double bed. The tent comes complete with a comfortable mattress and pillows and is roomy enough when closed to store a duvet and sleeping bags.
It is one of the most convenient rooftop tents on the market and this is blatantly apparent when we camp with other overlanders who use canvas ‘fold over’ style tents.
Our tent takes about 20 seconds to “pop” and set-up and about one minute 30 seconds to pack away. To demonstrate this we’ve made a little video of us packing up in Kyrgyzstan (complete with obligatory high-5).
As we start to plan the next phase of our adventure and sort through some unseen footage from our travels to date we’ve had plenty of time for reflection. Here are 3 of our favourite countries to overland in.
Mongolia is one of the ultimate destinations for overland travel. In 2012 when we visited it was impossible to drive across the country from border to border on anything that resembled a “normal” road. It is big and empty and so driving here can be very remote.
The beauty of Mongolia lies in the steppe. Hospitality is a keystone of the nomadic lifestyle, and if you travel in Mongolia, it won’t be long before you’re invited into a Ger (refusing would be unthinkably rude) to be offered steaming yak’s milk, goat’s cheese biscuits, marmot Boodog, salty tea and ‘Airag’ – fermented mare’s milk, which at 5% proof wasn’t quite strong enough to stop us thinking a little too much about how exactly you milk a horse.
The driving can be challenging, we encountered some real challenges in the Khan Khentii Protected Area in the north of the country. Trudging about in the pouring rain trying to find a route through a forested quagmire was about as much fun as it sounds. With 21 river crossings under our belt by the time we left Mongolia, we wouldn’t have been without Bee-bee’s snorkel, suspension lift and four-wheel drive.
Despite incidents like this, or perhaps because of them, we would argue that Mongolia is one of the ultimate destinations for overland travel.
The main reason Tajikistan is on this list is down to the infamous Pamir Highway. The M41 is the world’s second highest international highway. I’m using the term ‘highway’ loosely as the surface, when it exists, is mostly unpaved. The ‘road’ in its entirety traverses the Pamir Mountains and travels through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan reaching an altitude of 4,655 metres. The area is notorious for landslides, rock-falls, earthquakes, floods, high winds and frequent political unrest. Part of the highway requires a special permit as it passes through the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan. All these factors rate it quite highly on the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Roads’ list; for us, it was the Holy Grail of overlanding and sounded like a fun adventure!
With most great overland destinations come challenges and the Pamir Highway is no exception. Diesel is scarce, we had to carry an extra 80-litres due to the lack of availability en-route. The altitude and lack of oxygen can also be demanding on both you and your vehicle. We suffered from some pretty atrocious headaches and dizziness, luckily this passed fairly quickly as we acclimatised to the height. The lack of oxygen also affected our vehicle, as we climbed our diesel engine began to kick out an increasingly large amount of black smoke and at times lacked power.
Stunning switchbacks, lunar landscapes, high altitude lakes and challenging driving are one reason to visit this part of Central Asia. What really sets the Pamir’s apart from other popular overland destinations is the stark reality of how powerful nature can be and our relative insignificance in the larger scheme.
We went looking for an unforgettable adventure and we found it - AK-47 gun-toting friendly young soldiers, mudslides, earthquakes, flooding, barrier free gravel roads that cling to cliff edges, gravity defying overhangs, collapsed bridges, impassable rivers, rock falls and then there’s the notorious ‘Tunnel of Death’.
Morocco is the closest country to Europe that offers the biggest contrast in culture and geography. We visited Morocco in 2013 and were limited by a closed border to Algeria in the east and an increasingly dangerous border to Mauritania in the south we would be land-locked by civil unrest and political restrictions. However, with around 280,000 miles² we had plenty to explore with the Sahara desert, Atlas Mountains and wild Atlantic coastline.
The transition from the familiarity of Europe to the unfamiliar of Africa is only a 90-minute sail across the Straits of Gibraltar. As with the arrival to any foreign country for the first time, there is always slight trepidation of the unknown.
The driving can be as challenging as you make it, you can head to the High Atlas Mountains for challenging, scarcely driven routes, complete with hair-raising cliff drops and rock crawling or you can head out into the desert for some fun dune driving. We even encountered a few river crossings.
Morocco is the perfect destination for ‘Newbie’ overlanders, but be warned off-road driving in the Western Sahara should be avoided due to the area being heavily land-mined. A fact that became glaringly obvious when a local Saharawi took me for a disheartening 1-mile walk into the desert to a site where the previous year a Landrover was annihilated killing the driver.
After spending 3 months in Morocco it was obvious why we met so many other overlanders. Morocco is essentially an off-road playground for Europeans and it is often used as a testing ground before embarking on longer trips. It offers all kinds of challenging terrain for every kind of overlander from Motorcyclists to the largest of off-road trucks. The people are friendly, the visa is easy and the fuel is cheap; it is essentially overland heaven, especially if you can speak French.
This is the English translation of our interview with Matsch-und-Piste. You can view the original article in German here....
What was your inspiration to make a world trip?
Emma had previously travelled on expedition across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen as a production manager of a wildlife documentary series. In 2010, I needed a holiday and so we did a 10-day trip across the UAE and Oman. It became apparent quite quickly that we were good travelling partners. Later in the year via a Skype conversation the subject was raised of where we should go on our next road-trip. One of us jokingly said “lets drive around the world”. 1 and a half years later we set off!
How did you prepare for your trip? How long did the preparation take?
We spent about 1 and a half years planning. We spent a lot of time on the internet researching trips undertaken by other people. This is when we discovered ‘overlanding’, before that we were just going on road trips. We were unaware it had a name, websites and a whole community. Andy researched 4x4’s religiously and compiled a short-list of potential vehicles.
Why have you chosen the Toyota?
The second value of the Toyota Hilux Surf is very low, especially one that is 22 years old. The car has just a very basic ECU, so doesn’t require special software or a computer to fix it. One of the reasons we chose a Toyota Hilux Surf (apart from the fact we couldn’t afford a 70 or 80 series Landcruiser) for this trip was because of the availability of parts. The Hilux Surf shares many parts with other Toyota models including 4Runners, Hilux pick-ups, various Landcruiser models and some obscure models that are only available through South-east Asia. 4Runners are prevalent throughout Europe. Surfs and Landcruiser Prado’s (which share our 1KZ-TE engine) are widespread through Russia, Central Asia and South-east Asia. The only country we’ve travelled through where we didn’t really see many old Toyota 4x4’s was India.
How do you finance your trip?
We sold all our possessions, worked 2 jobs and moved back in with our parents to save money. We work a little as we travel, writing articles for magazines and doing the odd graphic design jobs. We prolong our money by doing work exchanges as we travel through websites like workaway.info
What does your trip approximately cost per month?
The cost per month varies depending on route, how much many work placements we do and other factors, but on average a trip like this costs about £0.25 a mile (or €0.32 per 1.6km)
How do you navigate? What equipment do you use to navigate?
Initially we had a Garmin Handheld GPS 60csx, this was stolen in Tehran when our car was robbed. We now use our smartphones. We use an app called Galileo for the iPhone (https://galileo-app.com). This works offline using opensource maps. We also use a similar app for Android called Maps.me (http://maps.me/en/home). Both are great, we might upgrade to a designated iPad for navigation soon. Another great map app and resource is iOverlander (http://ioverlander.com). We also carry paper maps which are much better for planning routes and overviews of the country.
How many countries have you been to? How many kilometres have you driven?
We are now in country 51 and have completed more than 140,000km.
What have been your most lovely experiences so far?
The real highlight for us was driving through Central Asia, especially the notorious Pamir Highway. Many overlanders have a holy grail; some want to drive the Bolivian Death Road others the Road of Bones in Siberia. For us, the infamous Pamir Highway in Central Asia had been on the top of our list for some time. It is the world’s second highest international highway; the surface is mostly unpaved. The road traverses the Pamir Mountains and travels through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan reaching an altitude of 4,655 metres.
Part of the highway requires a special permit as it passes through the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan. The scenery was wild in every sense of the word. We experienced landslides, rock-falls, earthquakes, floods, high winds and political unrest; all factors that rate it quite highly on the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Roads’ list.
Have there been any set backs? Any situations where you have experienced fear?
Like all long term trips you are likely to face set backs. Our trip has had many. Whilst in Central Mongolia we received news that both Andy’s parents had been diagnosed with Cancer. We decided that the best course of action was to return home whilst our visas still allowed us to do so easily. We turned around and drove straight back to the UK in a pretty impressive 15 days. We had to put our trip on hold which cost us a lot of money in fuel, losing insurance, Carnet fees and other expenses.
In Turkey we cracked the cylinder head on the car as it overheated. This was a costly repair and set us back a couple of months.
In Iran our car was robbed and we lost most of the contents of the car.
We have never really experienced fear – we have had a few near misses and avoided several accidents mainly caused by bad drivers. We’ve encountered a lot of wild animals – snakes, leopards and elephants!
You were robbed in Tehran. What did they take and how did you manage to get back on the road?
In an ironic twist of fate, we were robbed whilst in Iran making an overland documentary film about how great the people are. Entrusting our security to our guides and sponsors, our few habitual self-imposed rules that had kept us safe through 45 countries were temporarily broken. We never drive at night, we never leave the car in the same place for long periods of time and if we stay in a hotel or in a city we make sure the car is in secure parking.
Unfortunately in Tehran our situation was different and somewhat out of our control. We were assured by our Iranian TV director that the neighbourhood was safe but regrettably we had no secured parking and much to our unhappiness we had no choice but to leave the car on the street.
Being woken at 6am to be told the window on your precious home has been smashed was not a nice experience. In my sleepy state it hadn’t dawned on me that we might have been robbed. For some reason, in my naivety I just presumed our car had been vandalised because we were British.
We called the police immediately, and then spent a heart-breaking hour and a half peering in through the smashed window trying to work out the extent of what had been taken.
Two Iranian motorcycle policemen arrived and, with a complete lack of compassion, promptly told us the robbery was our own fault for parking on the street! They wrote down my details, told me to go to the nearest Police Station and left without even getting off their motorbikes.
And then it began… the long, painfully slow, soul-destroying job of filing a police report in a foreign country. In total the whole frustrating procedure, with lengthy discussions in Farsi translated to only a few English words, took 4 full days with multiple visits to four different police stations to attain all the correct rubber stamps, forms and signatures before an investigation could begin. Annoyingly and somewhat expectedly we haven’t heard from them since!
The thieves indiscriminately took 6 Flatdog Wolf Boxes containing clothing, car parts, medical kit, camping equipment and personal items. Sadly, this included the box that contained Emma’s travel diaries, all our used maps and books plus every sentimental little souvenir and gift we’d acquired en-route. They also took a few larger items including my tool roll, our recovery equipment, pop-up toilet tent and the cooker.
In total it would cost approximately £6,500 to replace the items that were stolen. The financial loss was devastating but the inconvenience and time wasted was really problematic. When you travel in this way every item you carry has a purpose and we had specifically spent a lot of time researching the products we’d purchased. Trying to replace some of the ‘essential’ items in Iran proved to be near impossible especially as our visa was slowly ticking away. The stress in the days that followed was crippling, re-living every detail and not knowing if we could feasibly continue with our trip.
Thankfully the people of Iran and our friends back home proved how amazing they are and came to our rescue helping us source and replace many of the items that were taken. Our friends in England set-up a donate page for us and people donated enough that we could carry on.
Fortunately the robbery didn’t dampen our adventurous spirit and we have continued our trip.
What countries did you like most? What countries would you most likely not visit again?
We loved the wilderness off Mongolia. The driving there was amazing and the people are extremely friendly. Morocco is great because it is so close to home and has much to see and do. The landscape and terrain is also very varied from sandy desert to high mountains and the Atlantic coast to lush green valleys. The whole of Central Asia was amazing – The Pamir Highway! We also loved Thailand. Andy would really love to go back to Russia and explore the far North west!
May 1st was your 800th day on the road. Your web site is named "Around the World in 800 Days". Were the 800 days actually a goal? Why did you choose this name for the site?
The name of the trip was inspired by Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. For us though we prefer to take our time and so we added an extra ‘0’; Around the world in 800 Days! Our goal is to visit as many countries as possible in our car, we’ve had setbacks so reaching 800 days was a big deal for us!
Is there an end to your trip in sight? Or is overlanding your way of life?
The current stage of our trip is nearing an end as we have nearly run out of money. We will be heading back to England in July. We have started making plans so that we can continue to South America but this depends on lots of factors. We have been on the road (on and off) since 2012 and we are both a little tired. We have lots of plans to earn money in the UK which are related to overlanding! The dream is to be able to make enough money as you travel to continue this lifestyle.
What character traits does an overlander need?
Persistent, stubborn, a good problem solver, a little brave, a little stupid and most definitely ambitious.
If someone wants to do a world trip. What advice would you give him?
Don’t wait. People find too many excuses not to follow their dreams. Just do it! Even if you don’t think you can and you don’t have enough money, just go. You’ll have an adventure or you’ll die trying!
Never drive at night.
Never leave the car in the same place for long periods of time.
Keep on top of car maintenance.
Andy is 40 years old, a practising artist who has exhibited worldwide. Along side this he is a keen graphic designer and has a healthy interest in all areas of creativity, especially architecture.
Emma is 38, a biologist specializing in fresh water fish, ecological conservation and has worked as a production manager for a wildlife documentary series, planning and managing expeditions across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen.
This article was originally posted on http://matsch-und-piste.de/
Today is a massive milestone for us as we cross the border to Laos! We set out with a dream nearly 5 years ago to see as much of the world as we could by car. 75,568 miles and 49 countries later we've lost a few pounds (weight and financial) and gained a few scars! Our trip has had it's ups and downs and on a few occasions we've nearly thrown the towel in...
TODAY IS OUR 800th DAY ON THE ROAD and we are incredibly proud of what we've achieved with good old fashioned hard work, grit and determination. Without the support of each other, our friends, family and the encouragement of all our supporters, fans and followers we'd still be sat at home on the sofa dreaming. THANK YOU!
To help celebrate we've selected some of our favourite photographs all featuring the third and arguably the most important member of our team Bee-bee!
Bad times for Bee-bee. Parked in the wrong street at the wrong time in Tehran. On the night of Saturday 31st October/Sunday morning between 11pm - 6:30am in the Qeitariyeh area thieves smashed our window and stole most of our possessions from inside.
We are devastated and heartbroken. Bee-bee is our home and our stuff enables us to travel the way we do. We worked so hard for years to save and buy our equipment, plus many things were personal, sentimental and simply irreplaceable.
We are working with the police to help them find who did this, with the possibility of tracing our stolen items. We have made some incredible friends here who are helping and supporting us. We want to continue with our ‘View to Iran’ film project- despite this upsetting experience we have loved travelling in Iran and the people here are some of the most welcoming and friendly we have ever met. We owe it to these good people to finish our documentary.
For now we are stuck in Tehran, needing to replace essential items before we can realistically and safely move again- spare car parts, tools, camping equipment, medicines and clothing. For a full list of the items taken please check our Facebook page.
THANK YOU for all the support we have received from within Iran and around the world- every single share, comment, message and gesture has lifted our spirits that little bit more.
We will keep this page updated with any news or developments…
این روزها، اوقات غمگینی برای اتومبیل ما، بی بی است. بی بی در زمان نامناسب در مکان نامناسبی در تهران پارک شده بود. شنبه شب گذشته، نهم آبان 94، بین ساعت 11 شب و 6:30 صبح در منطقه قیطریه، سارقان شیشه اتومبیل ما را شکستند و بیشتر اموالمان را از داخل اتومبیل دزدیدند.
در حال حاضر ما درمانده و دل شکسته ایم. بی بی خونه ماست و وسایلمان به ما امکان سفر به این شکل که سفر می کنیم رو میدن. سال های متمادی ما به سختی کار کردیم و پس انداز کردیم تا تجهیزاتمان رو برای سفر کامل کنیم. به اضافه این که خیلی از این وسایل شخصی بودن و ارزش معنوی زیادی برای ما داشتند و غیرقابل جایگزین کردن هستن.
ما مشغول همکاری با پلیس برای پیدا کردن دزدها و امکان ردیابی وسایلمون هستیم. اینجا دوستان فوق العاده ای داریم که به ما کمک می کنند و از ما حمایت می کنند. قصدمون اینه که پروژه نگاه به ایران رو ادامه بدیم. علی رغم این اتفاق ناراحت کننده، ما عاشق سفر در ایران هستیم و مردم اینجا از گرمترین و مهمان نوازترین آدم هایی هستند که تا بحال دیدیم. بنابراین، ما به پایان رساندن ساخت این مستند رو به این مردم بدهکاریم.
فعلا در تهران گیر کردیم. لازمه وسایل ضروری (مثل لوازم یدکی خودرو، ابزارها، تجهیزات کمپینگ، داروها و لباس ها) را دوباره تهیه و جایگزین کنیم تا بتونیم با امنیت به سفرمون ادامه بدیم. برای دیدن لیست کامل اقلام سرقت شده، لطفا به صفحه فیسبوک ما مراجعه کنید.
به خاطر حمایت های همه شما از داخل ایران و اطراف جهان بی نهایت سپاسگزاریم، تک تک پست ها و کامنت ها و پیام های شما به ما روحیه داد و حالمون رو بهتر کرد.
اخبار جدید را از طریق همین صفحه به اشتراک خواهیم گذاشت.
After a short hibernation period were about to head back out on the road. Bee-bee’s cracked cylinder head has been replaced and she is raring to go (we hope).
Here’s a quick outline of the work she’s had done...
New Cylinder Head
Cam Belt, Glow Plugs and Fuel Injectors
Having racked up over 150 test kilometres I’m pretty convinced she’s running sweeter that she ever has. She starts on the button, no more black smoke and the temperature barely rises above 88°C. We took her (unloaded admittedly) on several long motorway climbs and up a steep 290 metre off-road climb without any problems at all. Fingers crossed.
What was that bang?
At first it seemed like Bee-bee had just overheated and popped the top off the expansion bottle. We let her cool down and refilled the radiator. We tried to start the car but got nothing but a ‘clunk’. Andy thought the starter motor might be jammed, we rocked Bee-bee backwards and forwards (for sympathy and to hopefully un-jam the starter motor). A turn of the key and she sprang back to life in a huge cloud of white smoke. It was at this point that Andy declared that we’d probably blown the cylinder head and that water had leaked into one of the cylinders which became ‘hydrolocked’. We sloped on cautiously towards the next town in a cloud of white smoke.
Stuck in Kumluca
Frantically searching the Hilux Surf forum for advice on what he suspected, Andy declared he was “95% sure the Head gasket had blown”. Aside from a crash, this was one of the worst things that could happen to our car (mechanically and financially).
We had 48 hours to get us and a broken car 301.43 miles (485.10 km) to the Port of Tasucu where a non-refundable ferry was due to take us to Cyprus. As with every tragedy there are the heroes and villains; our hero was Alim the hotel manager’s son who spoke English, understood our predicament and arranged for some tow truck people to come in the morning. The unfortunate villain was the waiter in the restaurant who informed me they didn’t serve alcohol.
Tow Truck (Wheelin' and Dealin')
The final computer translation told them we were off to rob a bank. Ironically, when Alim took us to the cash point I sat in the back with a shotgun under my feet. I assume that was a normal item in a car here and he understood we were joking about the bank. I didn’t mention it.
Tow Truck 1 - Ugel the Rally Driver
Tow Truck 2 - Mustafa the Redbull Racer
We spent about 2 hours in a smoky (but warm) station office with a Turkish soap opera on TV in the corner. A car of oily youths arrived with a few ‘new’ alternator options and scrambled about systematically until the truck roared into life again. Mustafa necked 2 cans of Redbull. We were off.
We Drove All Night
17 Hours in Tasucu Port
We walked back into town (not daring to ask for a lift). During this time we must have set a local record for number of teas drank. We were exhausted and cold, we rooted at a friendly local café, ordering small dishes with lengthy interims to justify our temporary residence at their table.
When it eventually went dark we bussed our way back to the Port but were stopped at the customs gate where we spent another hour dozing in chairs with bored customs officials in their office. Eventually they let us have access to Bee-bee (if we ran through the port and no one saw us). We popped the tent subtly, sandwiched between rows of lorries and lay down for an hour.
All Aboard The Lady Su
Crossing the Cilician Sea
He beckoned us over to come up so we made our way through the ships corridors, stepping over piles of broken furniture and tools, up onto the ships bridge. Muhammed, the lone Captain, seemed to appreciate our company up on the bridge- he gave us bananas and told us that the boat had to be registered in Sierra Leone as it would never have passed strict Turkish health and safety regulations.
Docking in Girne
Across Aphrodites' Island
The devastating news was what we expected; the cylinder head was cracked in two places.
Greece is a huge country criss-crossed with a gravel road network of unpaved tracks covering 75,603km. 4x4 is by far the best way to discover some of its outstanding beauty and with a little planning you can hunker down behind the wheel and pretty much cross its entirety without using a paved road.
This network of roads is in constant need of repair and in the mountains landslides are common. Most of the driving is fairly moderate and unlikely to push your skills (or vehicle) to the limit. The occasional unexpected rainstorm can make conditions more challenging (fun) but generally most routes are drivable throughout the whole year (with the exception of some mountain areas).
The main reason for taking these routes is not solely for the driving, with just 11 million (compared to 64 million in the UK) people living in Greece you can experience some exceptional wild areas in relative solitude. Shamefully, new roads continue to be constructed with no respect for the natural environment.
Our first experience of Greece green-laning was a route from Arta to the Meteora, the main stretch of which followed the Acheloos River valley South-east of Mount Tzoumerka. Just like the other mountains of the Pindus range, the area is home to rare mammals like bears and wolves - although they tend to keep safe distances from human intruders. Sadly nearly 80 years after it was first proposed, the massively controversial greater Acheloos diversion scheme is well under way and has pretty much ruined the natural beauty of the area. Firs, black pines, maples and other trees envelop the road creating a riotous canopy of reds, yellows and greens; thankfully obscuring the atrocity of the river diversion scheme.
Our next off-road route looked like a scenic two-hour diversion on our rather ineffective 1:425.000 scale map. From the small village of Pouri, just north of Mount Pelion, we would take the ‘scenic’ green route down to the coast then head west towards Kerasia, just 16km away.
Having tried two alternative trails and deciding they were not ‘the one’ marked on our ‘map’ we stopped at the head of a third to ask for directions (N39°28’59.525” E23°5’50.226”). With our token gesture of a map in hand and some pretty flamboyant gesticulating we questioned two old locals if we could get through to Kerasia. In typically Greek style they entered into an animated debate before offering a relatively convoluted answer. We think the gist of which was that we could but the road was so bad we shouldn’t – we pointed at Bee-bee and shrugged our shoulders, at which point, they both shrugged their shoulders and walked off. Kerasia was only 16km away, if the road was too bad or blocked we’d just turnaround and drive back, right?
Two days later we emerged in Kerasia, muddied, tired, low on fuel but buzzing from our off-course off-roading. Our two-day adventure began when we decided to ignore the advice of the locals and drove off downhill towards the coast.
The track was rutted and well used. We passed a few local working 4x4’s coming the other direction, the drivers all smiled politely and waved back at us as we pulled over to let them pass. After a slow winding 600m descent with some stunning views we arrived at sea level at a tiny fishing bay (N39°30’23.725” E23°4’47.385”).
An immaculate little fisherman’s church on the bank of a small river poignantly marked the end of the well-used track and offered a potential safe haven to travellers wishing to venture beyond. We stopped for an opportune picnic before continuing into the unknown. The track continued up the other side of the valley and from this point became muddier, rougher and at times much steeper than we had experienced on our descent. Thankfully the ominous black clouds held off until we reached the summit. After a fairly slow 950m ascent, using instinct and a compass at every junction, we found ourselves at the top of a wooded plateau on the northern part of the Pelion Range.
Once we’d reached the highland it became apparently clear that the tracks here were used by logging trucks, unfortunately the heavy traffic (weight not frequency) meant the tracks were much muddier. After 5 hours driving, the afternoon turned to evening and it became apparent we weren’t going to make it to Kerasia before nightfall. We found a clearing in the woods and set up camp. Two hours after we’d gone to bed we were woken by two cars approaching through the forest. Two 4x4’s pulled up alongside our camp and a Greek family of 7 promptly exited the vehicles and approached our camp. Much to our surprise, it turns out we were not the only ones who were lost on the mountain.
The family were attempting to complete the same journey as us but in the opposite direction. We exchanged information about the road ahead; we were relieved to discover Kerasia was just 2 hours away.
In a twist of irony we told the family the same advice we received at the start of our journey; you could get through but the road was so bad you probably shouldn’t, we also told them Pouri was about 5 hours away… They shrugged their shoulders in disbelief and carried on regardless.
At sunrise our dark, foggy camp became a beautiful, autumnal woodland haven. We set off and completed the last few muddy miles, re-joining the tarmac for a spectacular descent from the mountains and back to the coast.
The Toyota Hilux is renowned for its tank-like qualities, despite this, a trip like ours really takes its toll on the vehicle. Our time back home has gave us the opportunity to do some essential work on poor Bee-bee and get her prepped for the next phase of our trip.
The 40,000+ miles we’ve racked up already had really started to show; wandering steering, pulling brakes, rattles and shakes. Regular maintenance is essential whilst travelling, but some jobs are just too large to undertake on the road, especially by a novice like myself.
The high mileage meant that Bee-bee’s second cam-belt change was due imminently and rather than trying to do it on the road it made sense to do it prior to our departure.
Any moving parts on the running gear really get worked hard off road. The rubber bushes on the anti-roll bars, track rod ends, steering idler and spring cups all required replacing as did the rear springs which had really started to sag due to being overloaded and overworked.
The brake system had a full overhaul with new discs and pads/shoes all round. Whilst we had the wheels off it made sense to replace all the wheel studs as 70% of them had been over tightened and cross threaded by an over zealous tyre fitter with an air-gun. We changed all the wheel bearings at the same time.
The ECU Doctor came up trumps and has repaired the faulty ECU (Electronic Control Unit). My diagnosis, with a little help from the Hilux Surf Forum, was correct and the ECU is back in Bee-bee and she’s running fine.
The ECU problem coupled with a few family legal matters that required signatures had delayed our departure for an extra few weeks.
A quick service – all the filters, belts and fluids changed and Bee-bee is fit for the road.
Regular readers will be pleased to hear we’re currently on the French/Swiss border and heading southeast to eventually pick up our original route in Kazakhstan early next year.
If you are new to our adventure you can get regular updates on our Facebook page. (Don’t forget to click ‘Like’) You can also check out our YouTube channel (don’t forget to subscribe) for short films of our exploits.
It’s wonderful to be wandering again and we are looking forward to making new friends on the road.
Bee-bee certainly picks her moments… The first time she broke down was in Russia when the alternator died and the battery ran flat leaving us stranded across a railway line!
Last weekend she again threw her toys from the pram at the most opportune moment!
On Saturday prior to leaving for a family camping trip she refused to start. The car was packed, the fridge was loaded, the batteries were charged, she turned over, but just refused to start. On closer inspection I noticed the glow-plug warm-up light wasn’t coming on either. After a few checks with the meter and a quick visit to the Hilux Surf Forum I diagnosed the problem as the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). Hopefully. It seems that it’s a common problem with at least two other people on the forum suffering the same fault this year. As it’s Bee-bee’s 20th birthday this year I’m wondering if Toyota have programmed a self-destruct sequence into the ECU!
So with a little white hire car in place we headed off camping with my nieces while Bee-bee missed out on all the fun, sat inactive and sulking on the driveway. The trip was planned to not only spend time with family but to also road-test all our kit prior to setting off again.
The ECU has now been sent to the highly recommended ECU-Doctor. With a car our age these kinds of parts are not available new anymore. Buying one from a broker is risky, so the best course of action is to get the ECU repaired and remapped. The ECU-Doctor can diagnose and confirm the suspected fault, repair it and offer a 12-month guarantee in the process. Let’s hope I’ve diagnosed it correctly and that he can work his magic on Bee-bee’s brain!