What have you guys been doing in Iran?
In our previous post we wrote about our last kilometers we had to drive towards Buenos Aires. We buy a ticket to NY and realise that this is the official end of our trip. Anouk lifts her glass and says:’ Thank you Bram that I could do this with you.’ Bram is still in denial and replies: ‘It is not over yet, we have got 25 more kilometers to go to the airport, just eat your pizza.’
We touch down at New York JFK and a grumpy old cumstom officer awaits us. Because we are not married we have to split up and Anouk passes the first step before she is sent back becasuse the customs do not beleive we have a return ticket to Holland. Bram has got the tickets and comes to the rescue but when he want’s to give the tickets he is sent away because he crossed ‘the line on the floor.’ When it is Bram’s turn the official asks: ‘What have you guys been doing in Iran?’ When Bram replies that we drove there he looks at him like he is thinking whether to shoot Bram or deport him immediately. ‘Nobody drives to Iran voluntarily’ he adds. ‘How on earth do you finance this?’ ‘Bram replies that we saved money and that we are writing for a magazine and that Anouk takes the pictures. ‘But your girlfriend told me that she worked in a restaurant!’ he shouts. He adds that it is illigal to write for our magazine whilst we are in the USA. We never felt so welcome.
Fortunately we are more welcome in NY City and it is very nice to finally see Maartje, Gerben and of course Daantje (Dawntjah). We walk, shop, eat sushi (‘Are you guys comforable with the slime texture?’ the waitress asks), buy new clothes, play ten pin bowling, see an Ipad for the first time in our life, take care of Daantje (We never realized that food can be spat at a television with such an amount of force), meet the infamous DJ Dallax who explains Spotify to us, ride push bikes at Manhattan (‘Fuck off with that stupid bike of yours you fucking idiot!). When Maartje sees that Bram still has baby food stains in his clothes she asks him: ‘you do realise we have got a maching machine don’t you’?
After this enormous culture shock we fly home where our family organised a welcome home party in Utrecht, where we left. It is very nice to see all our friends and family but we are really tired though we flew business class to make sure we would arrive home in good shape. The fact that we drank champagne for half of the night probabely did not contribute to this but hey we are not complaining that we got a free upgrade…
Next step: Looking for a job and a house!
The last stretch…
In our last message we wrote about the never ending hospitality and the bad state of the roads. The Carretera Austral is killing for our car and for us. Never ending gravel and when it rains for three days the mud is flying everywhere. Luckily the weather forecast was right and the sun came out again. We drove one of the most spectaculair stretches of the trip so far, along falling glaciers, cold rainforest and beautiful fjordes. We have difficulties finding a nice (read free) campspot because the majority of the properties are owned by gringos and thus professionally fenced. Rob, as always, is cool with everything and camps right next to our car. All goes well untill a group of 8 drunken Chileans surround our camp and start throwing beercans, shout and perform burn outs with their cars on the dirt parking spot all with loud reggeaton music pumping from their speakers. We keep quiet and they leave us alone but it does not sleep very comfortable. The next morning we look at the numerous beercans surrounding our car. Right before the officer accuses us for causing the rubbish (which is not ours) our camping neighbour comes to the rescue, because he didn’t sleep either. In the end we help to clean up the mess and we are happily surprised to find a full sixpack on our bumper which offcourse we do not throw away.
In the end we drive towards the lake district that is not only known for the lakes but also for the active vulcanoes. To arrive here we need to go by ferry. Unfortunately this ferry is delayed by 9 hours and therefore we see nothing of the stunning surroundings. The tarmac starts again and we can really appreciate this after 2 months of continuous gravel roads. The vulcanoes gave us opportunities to snap beautiful as well as bizarre pictures. We visit the town called Chaiten that got destroyed by the vulcanoe in 2008. The houses are wrecked and the streets are filled with over a meter of ash. We continue and visit our friend David again. He helped us the last time when we had car trouble and again this time he treats us with beer and BBQ. We were not expecting any thing else and this time we stay 10 full days to party, drink more beer and eat more steak. In the end Rob takes a bus to Buenos Aires because he has to catch his flight and we follow him later. From BA we will fly to New York to visit Maartje, Gerben & Daantje. We have not seen them for over a year so we are really looking forward to that.
Last time we wrote about a forrest fire that seperated us as a group after we had to be evacuated. In the meantime we are driving north on the infamous Carratera Austral. Yes you have read it right, for the first time in 15,5 months we are driving north. Our friend Rob arrived in Ushuaia and together we will drive towards Buenos Aires. His first day he had to work on our car because our steering- and trackrod joint were totally worn out. At the local fire house we fix and service the car. The firemen cook us a dinner and invite us to stay at the firehouse for the night. Rob’s first night is in a bunkbed with snoring firemen but he does not complain. Such is life of the overlander but please make it a womens firehouse next time he adds.
The route we drive is beautiful. Glaciers, national parks, lakes, rivers and endless forests. The distances are vast and there is a fuel shortage so sometimes we have to drive 900 kilometers in between fuel stations and on an average day we meet 3 cars.
Because the summer started on the southern hemisphere the temperature rises. The disadvantage is that there are numerous horseflies that make our campinglife somewhat difficult. Because we are with the three of us we vistit campisites more frequently but even now the hospitality from the locals is immense. A gaucho who sees us struggle putting up the tent in the Patagonian wind invites us in to sit around the fire place. He offers us sheep meat from the herd to feed us. We are defenitely not complaining.
At the moment it has been raining for a couple of days so we rented a cabin with cabel tv, fridge and hot shower. There are limits regarding camping life…
Happy New Year
From Argentina, we would like to wish all our friends and family a very special, amazing 2012.
Enjoy every minute of it!
At the same time would would like to use this message to tell everybody that we are doing fine. We know that by now the international press reports on a huge forest fire in National Park Torres del Paine in the South of Chile. We were in this park at the time of the fire, with our Swiss friends Barbara and Didier, and Rob, who travels with us at the moment. We have been evacuated out of the park, but got separated as group. Luckily we found each other (after a very cold night for Rob and Anouk in the forest, and 22 km extra hiking for Bram in order to find us) the following day. It was a very shocking experience that we will never forget. Now we are in Argentina and we are gonna celebrate New Year with lots of meat and wine!
You have reached you destination
It is true! After 618 days and 72.054 km on the road we have reached our final destination Ushuaia on 11.12.11 at 13.33 local time. We hardly beleive it ourselves but we are really there. The road stops here, only boats from here. We immediately call our parents who, in front of their webcam, open up a can of Dutch beer to celebrate with us. The other gringo´s at the internet cafe look and laugh.
The evening before our arrival we camp for the night at 160 km from our goal. At the campsite we meet some Argeninians who share their BBQ with us and donate liters of beer to our beer NGO. The next morning we wake up with a strange feeling, like your birthday is about to arrive when you were very young. Is this it? Is this the day that it is going to happen? Bram tells Anouk that he does not want to stop the car for the last 100 km´s becasuse he is afraid the car will not start after that just to tease us. Chocolate cookies for Anouk, money trucks or Paris Hilton at the side of the road in sexy lingerie waiting for a lift; he couldn´t care less. We are not going to stop, today we will make it.
We arrive in Ushuaia in style, unshowered, hungover, oil stains and burnmarks all over our clothes and with ¨No one said it was easy¨on the speakers. Not the coldplay girly song but the original ¨Evil Activities¨ version. After arriving in Ushuaia we park our car next to the sign indicating that you are at the end of the world. We have to cross a foothpath and some bushes but the police sees this happening every day and is not impressed. A Dutch tourist sees this differently and tells us that we have to get our car out of there immediately! We professionally ignore her and talk to other bystanders who congratulate us with our performance. 33 Countries that we crossed with an average speed of 48.9 kmph.
We had a lot of plans for the night of our arrival. 100 Liters of beer, disco, dancing untill our hiking boots wear out. Party! The reality is that after our lunch we are so tired that we run to a hotel to collapse on a bed in front of the TV, tired but satisfied. We will keep the beer for tomorrow.
Running from the rain
Last time we wrote about how happy we were in Chile. Fortunately that is still the case although we cannot get used to their siesta from 12.30 to 16.00. Do they open very early and close very late? You wish! The Chileans will probabely never know the word stress or burnout but that is probabely why they are such nice people who do not hesitate to help us. Obviously our car had some dificulties to get used to a new country and we encountered an oil leak. Oil leaks are quite comman for a Land Rover but this one was: B.I.G. Fortunately it turned out to be only an oil seal which we ordererd in Santiago de Chili. We had to wait 5 days for the oil seal and immediately the local youth invited us for a night out to hit the town. The next day Rodrigo and his wife Perla picked us up from the street as they where called by another Land Rover club Patagonia member. We have two stranded tourists and they need help. That night we had a massive parrilla (BBQ) at Davids house, again another Land Rover friend. Every time we are amazed by the never ending hospitality. Buying your own beer, wine or meat? Forget it! ´You are our guests, not customers´.
Chile itself is beautiful with countless lakes, volcanoes and the ever present Andes. This Andes makes the humid clouds coming from the Ocean travel upwards which means it rains every day. After 10 days of continuous rain we decided to cross the Andes towards Argentina. We spend the night at the base of a volcano and in the morning our car is covered in a nice layer of ash. We visit San Carlos de Bariloche which is known to be a former Nazi stronghold and perhaps too because our future king Willen Alexander and his wife Maxima Zorreguita bought a house there. We could not find Dr Mengele nor our future king so we head further South because that is our duty. Next time more about Patagonia and the last kilomters of this road!
Chile con carne
After we kind of fled out of Bolivia, we are now in a second world country: Chile!
Right after the border with Bolivia the tarmac starts and we see trafic signs without bulletholes. In a couple of hours we drive from 5020m to 2450 and it feels as if we arrive in a sauna. The latter is probably because we are still weraring our skiing pants but we like it a lot!
Our first stop in Chili is Santiago de Atacama. Very touristy with dito prices but we are not complaining. In contrary. We easily pay an insane price for a pizza and hot shower. We dust the car and collect approximately a bucket of dust from all nooks and creveces. We would like to wash the salt of our chassis after the saltflats but we are in the desert where water is scarce and washing your car is even prohibited. In the end we rest for 3 days and do not drive a single meter.
After this rest we continue towards the coast. We drive trough the Atacama desert which is the driest desert in the world. We visit places where it did not rain for 14 years. Cold water from the ocean cools the air and this cool air collides with the hot air from the desert which creates an eternal fog at the coast. The desert gets moist our this fog and once a year the desert blooms spectacular. We decide to follow the coast as far south as we can so we will have some driving to do. In the mountains of this desert there is no fog and the nights are the clearest on earth (according our guidebook) that is the reason why there are so many starobservatories . We book a night tour and becasue we arrive way too early we get a private tour. We are even allowed to control the telescope and we look in awe at the enormous 4×4 tracks on the moon. The astrologer tells us that the moon is only 380.000 km away so we already start calculating for our next trip.
At the coast we spot penguins, sealions, dolphines and sea turtles with the desert in the background which makes it somewhat surreal. The waves are high and at Puento Lopez a group of surfers invites us in their house on the beach. They want to know everything about our trip and we drink a lot of beer with them. The water is a nice 11 degrees which helps to get rid of the hangover from last night
We enjoy Chile a lot and we realize that we will only have to drive 2260 km more as the crow flies. Don´t get too excited yet because on the road this means 7000 km so it will take us a little while.
We survived Bolivia
In our last article we said that the Bolivian highlands were waiting for us. All of that is true but it really was to break into our car or destroy it.
The first days we drive together with Lynda & John from Australia with their Isuzu truck and all goes well. Like real ozzies they like their BBQ and every day we grill lama steaks on an open fire. What a nice truck, we are so jealous!
When we each go our own way we visit Sucre and during a Skype session with our parents a moron tries to break into our car and destroys 3 locks (including the fuelcap) but does not succed to get past the original Land Rover locks. This tells more about the skills from this unemployed idiotic coca chewing figure than it does about the quality from the locks. So far we did not like the lazy Bolivians because every day we have to pay fake toll for the worst roads imagenable, pay double for diesel and one toll booth operator even hits Bram after we refuse to pay the high price he mentiones. Bram opens the car door to smack the teeth out of the guys mouth but discovers that someone already did that. We suspect that the moron does not have a lot of brain capacity either so we decide not to use our wheel wrench on him and continue driving. Bram wants to rent a helicopter to airlift the car out of this hellhole but after we do some investigation we discover that they only have one helicopter and that this one is in use to do some cocaine deliveries for the Bolivian government while the fuel bill is paid for by the IMF. Even Anouk, who is often a lot more patient than Bram, wants to get the f#ck out of here ASAP!
After we arrive in Uyuni we finally realize why we liked this country 3,5 years ago. There are hardly people living here and nature is at its best. Saltflats, coloured lakes and endless desert and fortunately no Bolivians because Novib, Plan, Unicef, German Humanitarian Help, USAID, European Union and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have not found adobe brick huts yet to waste money on. Finally we really like this desolate area but we are really happy to cross the border into Chili and not only because we can descend from 5020m to 2400m after we froze our engine and Bram had to fix the radiusarm in freezing winds with frozen fingertips.Fortunately Anouk was there to provide warm lunch and hand over the tools.
Click here for our interview with a Peruvian expatwebsite. And there are new pictures of Peru and Boliva.
Next time more news from Chili & Argentina!
Officer is looking for ‘propina’
Peru is the first country that we both visited before. We expected to drive rather quickly towards Bolivia but the wide variety of attractions and the immense hospitality from the Land Rover Club in Lima make that we are here for almost 5 weeks. It is very difficult to describe this country in a couple of alineas so we suggest you take a look at the pictures for an impression. Because we do not want to make it too easy for our selves we would like to share a dialogue with you between us and the Peruvian police looking for a bribe to supplement their monthly salary of 180 Euro (244 USD)
Cop number 1 pulls us over at the toll booth on the Pan American Highway
Cop number 1: Hola buenos días
Bram: Hello sir, how are you?
Cop1: Su documentos? (Your documents)
B: Oh sorry sir, do you speak English? I don’t speak Spanish. (he does speak Spanish btw)
Cop1: Yo hablo Español! No Ingles! Su documentos? Licencia y titulo…
B: Oh you want my drivers licence and car documents… Here they are.
Cop1: Si muy bien. SOAT no tienen? (SOAT is the compulsory third party liability insurance)
B: Yes we have SOAT, look here is the big ugly sticker on the window!
Cop number 2 enters the scene…
Cop2: You infraccion, ticket!! You pay USD100 to me now!
B: Sir, For what reason do you want to give us a ticket?
Cop2: You no light!
Cop1: Si ellos tienen luz… (Yes they do have lights)
B: Yes sir, we have our lights on.
Cop2: Oh, you infraccion, ticket! No SOAT?
Cop1: Yes they do have SOAT!
Cop2: Oh no technical inspection…?
B: We don’t need a technical inspection sir… we have a temporary import document from Peruvian Customs
A2: Oh, you give me 1 dollar propina! (propina means tip or bribe)
B: No sir, we don’t. Our paperwork is OK, we have 4 working lights we don’t pay you…
Cop2: Oh, 1 soles?? (25 Eurocent)
B: No sir we don`t pay you nothing we are not the Dutch government who likes to pay people who don`t work
Cop1: Ok, siga! Buenos dias. (Ok go have a good day)
B: Thank you sir, good day! If you don´t have a good reason for giving me a ticket I am leaving right now, Hasta Luego mtf!
After 25 km we have the same conversation and sometimes we are pulled over 5 times a day with the same lame excuse. It makes us decide to leave the Pan American Highway and drive trough the mountains. The police however is just as active on the mountain roads…
We are in Cusco right now and our next stop is Bolivia. The plateaus are waiting for our Land Rover
Guerilla attack on the car?
Last time we already indicated we expected problems at the PanAmericana. Just as we tought we survived Colombia without any problems, the country came up with one last surprise. At the final day during a huge rainstorm, 4 stones the size of a football fell down the mountain on top of our car. Combined they destroyed the filter of the snorkel, the windscreen, the rightside headlight and the windowgrill in front of the backwindow. These stones scared us to death and seeing the damage we were glad to be alive! Time to cross the border after the guerilla attack.
In Ecuador our first camping spot was at the altitude of 3690 meters above sealevel. A hailstorm was happening when we arrived, but when we woke up the next morning, the view was rewarding! After this stop it was time to drive to Quito, since Odette, the sister of Anouk, was awaiting us there. We were so focused on getting to Quito before rush hour, we didn’t notice that we already crossed the Equator. So we backed up on the high way in order to take pictures of this memorable occasion.
Every day, Odette climbed in our beds to drive with us through the Andes. After some days at altitude. we decended 4000 meters in 3 hours to sealevel where the beach was waiting for us. Unfortunately, there was little sun and because of a tsunami warning we weren’t allowed to swim for a day. We had better luck during our whale tour: 5 whales jumped in front of our little boat. The rest of our beachdays consisted of parties and the search for good surfing spots. By now we are at the beach in Peru, where we found the surf spots and more parties!
Are you sponsored by Carhartt?
At our trip we get a lot of questions about the stickers on our car. Especially the big Carhartt stickers raise a lot of questions. What on earth did you do to get Carhartt to sponsor you for this trip??
Whilst preparing the car for the trip Bram meets Henk Luiken. They start talking and it turns out that Henk is the Regional Business Manager Europe and can talk about the Carhartt brand just as enthusiastic as Bram can talk about our trip. Bram asks if it is a good idea to sponsor us some clothing for the trip and Henk answers confirmative. Carhartt donates us a whole new set of clothes in exchange for some stickers on the car. There is just one other condition. Henk wants us to tow the car out of the mud with a pear of Carhartt jeans if we are stuck. Laughingly we accept this deal and after visiting the HQ in Amsterdam we leave with half the collection.
We get work dry shirts which do not smell if you sweat, ideal for our trip! We get jeans with extra heavy duty stitches in the seams which is perfect to tow a car out of the mud and to wear as well. The jeans have reinforced pockets so our Land Rover keys do not wear trough them. Other than that we get T shirts, gloves, beanies, caps and waterproof breathable jackets. To sum it all up a very fine collection of stuff to get us trough the harshest climate and conditions without wearing out too soon. If you get bored of the stuff just tell me so I can send new clothes adds Henk because you will get bored before it wears out. After being on the road for 500 days we can say a lot about the clothes but they sure are not broken. Our seatcovers wear out more than the jeans so that says it all about the sustanability of the clothes. We are very happy with the clothes and that includes others. One of Bram´s jeans was stolen out of the washingmachine in Mexico. We hope the new owner is happy with it. You can find more information about Carhartt on www.carhartt-europe.com
Welcome to Locombia!
These are the first words of our broker who helps us to get our car out of the container after the shipping from Panama to Colombia. After 5 days filling out forms, collecting stamps, paying unclear invoices and drinking Whisky with customs we get our car back! And this time in one piece contrary to the shipping to Canada where we got our car back in 3 pieces. Colombia 1 – Canada 0. This time Anouk is involved in the proces from a distance because she is in the Netherlands to visit her parents, friends and enjoy Dutch food. This is the first time Bram is on his own and this brings him some challenges. Especially corruption and safety wise. After two near break ins in the car he decides to go to a campsite where he stays for the next 7 days. Luckily there is a bar and beer in the village so he spends half the GDP of Colombia in one week in that same bar. After 3 weeks of driving in Colombia with an average speed of 24kmph and being pulled over by the police 4 times a day it is time to pick up Anouk from the airport. The first thing Anouk says is that the roads are terrible here and that the people drive like idiots. Bram kinda noticed that already. The next day we have a meeting with Odet (sister Anouk) who is here to visit Locombia and together we have lunch on behalf of our new sponsors (parents Anouk).
Odet continues traveling on her own and we visit the LR garage in Bogota because after a small argument with another Defender of our Swiss friends Marco & Jolanda our diesel tank is leaking. Luckily it turns out to be a rubber hose that came of the tank but we have to lower the tank which means a lot of work. The owner of the LR garage immediately invites us to his house for meals and showers and we pay the beer for the mechanics on Friday. With dirty hands together in the LR garage. Finally our team is complete again.
After a lot of working on the car and driving around Colombia with the LR Club it is time to leave the mountains of Bogota after 2 weeks. We visit the Tatacoa desert and have to get used to the high temperatures again. Our next destination is an archeological site called San Augustin and a terrible road connects us again with the Pan American highway. We do not look forward to the Pan Am because this means trucks, police and traffic jams.
Equator here we come!
Crocs on the beach and a dent in Brams ego
The last time we drank beer on the embassy in Nicaragua thinking about Costa Rica. We hear a lot of positive things about it and it turn out that it is all true. Nature here is beautiful and wild animals appear in three options. Alive in a tree, medium rare with salad or as roadkill.
In Costa Rica we take the less touristy roads which are ofcourse unpaved. The incredible large amount of Yankees with rentalcars do not drive any further that 25 km from their resort becasue they say the fuel is expesive here. With 1 dollar for a liter it is paradise for us and we have the roads for ourselves. We have to cross many rivers and have to look carefull at the tide before plunging headfirst in the water. At one point we have the water higher than our bonnet and that does not feel nice. In hindsights the picures reveal that the waves were more created by Brams nerves and lead right foot in the 30 meter wide river. We eat at least one coconut a day and the monkeys do not hesitate to climb our car. One monkey tries to take Anouks bikini from our backpack and when Bram tries to scare the monkey away the monkey jumps towards Bram and scratches his arm. After showing the monkey Brams size 47 shoes we can go on.
At the border with Panama we have to cross a one lane bridge. The clutch of the car makes a terrible noise since that morning and we lose our reverse gear. Bram takes of with Mach 3 across the bridge and we have to back up for desinfection of the car. We ask the customs to push us back and they refuse to do that. With half a desinfected car and half a clutch we drive into Panama. After 20 km we cannot change gears anymore and we grind to a halt somewhere between 1st and 2nd gear. Within seconds people start helping us and buy us Coca Cola and cookies. After just 30 seconds we have someone (Ricardo) towing us to the garage and he immediatly asks us to stay at his place for the night. Ricardo`s neighbour has a Defender 90 from the same year and he knows where we can buy the pressure release bearing that turns out to be broken. After just 20 hours an airplane arrives from Panama City with our new clutch kit. We have to wire money to the contact in Panama City for the parts and we are taking money out of the ATM because we have to pay cash for the upcoming shipping. We feel a bit nervous with so much cash and the teller misunderstands our nerves and says. At this bank we do not ask questions if the amount does not exceed 1 million dollar. Now we understand why the guy outside with the Hummer was unloading heavy duffelbags.
At this moment we are very busy with the shipping of the car to Colombia. There is no road between Panama and Colombia and untill now no one ever tried to build one although it is only 150 km. They have completed the Panama Canal in 1913 and one puts the first Land Rover on the moon in the sixties so we suspect that the Panamanian government earns way too much cash from the Marching Powder trade from Colombia to realize this road. We have to fill out a lot of documents and cut a lot of red tape and in our hurry to do things right Bram crashes the car in the pouring rain, full speed in reverse into a parked car which turns out to be the Land Rover Defender 110 of our Swiss friends. They came to say goodby to us and we are sure they regret that now… Their bullbar turns out to be very sturdy and puts a fair dent in our car. We will not look at our damage at this point because otherwise we will miss our boat. Luckely loading the car into the container is not too hard. The customs just said: “You are going to Colombia, so we don’t have to bring out the dogs”. This time we have damage to our car before the shipping and we hope this is going to be all this time. Bram will have to find this ou on his own, since Anouk in flying to the Netherlands for 3 weeks, to come back afterwards to Colombia.
Beer at the embassy
Because we have heard many bad stories about the Honduran police we prepare ourselves well. Our friends who are 2 weeks ahead of us got a ticket for wearing shorts, smoking in the car and their (for tourists) compulsory reflective stickers were on the wrong place. We approach the border with reflective stickers, hazard triangle, cans of cold pepsi and a fire extinguisher. Right after crossing the border take a turn for the dirt road. After a while the tracks stops at a river. With a doses luck, our GPS and pure driving skills we navigate trough the river for 40 km. We only have to drive 10km on the Pan American Highway and we are stopped by the police. We claim not to speak any Spanish but that is not a problem for the English speaking officer. Because we are blocking the road and everything is OK we are waved trough fairly quickly but driving here is not fun with checkpoint every 2 km. We meet lovely people, but Honduras itself is dirty and dusty so we drive quickly to Nicaragua.
The border is no problem at all and the country is beautiful. Colonial towns which are decorated for the holy easter week. The beaches are endless and the wives ginormous. A big wave beats a chunk out of Brams surfboard but after some makeshift repairs with polyester he can go back into the water. We hear that it is around 23 degrees in Holland and sometimes we long for temperatures like that. With temperatures at night around 35C even our fridge is around 23C but we are not complaining in our aluminum hotel.
At Playa Madera in the south of Nicaragua we find a nice sandy beach with beautiful waves and we end up staying for 8 days. A Dutch couple who run a hotel here for 7 years invite us to celebrate our Queens birthday at the Dutch Embassy. Our clothing is more anticipated for traveling than for a party at the embassy but hey lets do it. The party was very nice with free beer and Dutch food. Considering the fact that we paid taxes for all these years in The Netherlands it is not really free but it sure tastes good. We even meet friends of the sister of Anouk so that makes the evening a little extra special. The Ambassador is a very nice guy and we can leave our car at the embassy on one condition. We have to join him and his wife to the after party. Of course we accept this condition and we dance trough the night and have our driver (yes with CD plates) waiting for us to bring us back to the embassy.
Our next stop will be Costa Rica and the raining season is about to start so we dont know what that will do to the roads there.
Turn right for the bad road
The car was fixed, the mosquitos that sucked all the blood out of us and the fridge was full of rum, it was time to leave our spot at the LR garage and head towards Guatemala. At the first day, we immediately visited one of the main attractions. although we thought we could not handle anymore Maya ruins, the ruins of Tikal were stunning. At 6.30 a.m. we had breakfast at the ruins and an our later we were able to spot howler monkeys in the trees. Located in the middle of the jungle, it wasn’t difficult to spend a whole day here.
Guatemala is an amazing country, but we have a tendency to choose the worst roads present. About 5 days we drive on terrible road doing about 15 km/h. Jeah, it does give plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings (if you aren’t driving that is), but it hurts in you spine at planning you day is impossible. Luckely it brings us to places no other tourists go and overthere you can always finds a dozen of local boys who want to play soccer. Besides that, these roads bring us to beautiful waterfalls, rivers to swim in and places to zip-line.
At the lake of Atitlan we find some time to heal our spines and we enjoy the swimmingpool and stunning views on the volcanos. Right now, we are in Antigua Guatemala, the former capital of the country. The tourist police facilitates a campsite with toilets and (of course cold) showers (the last real warm shower was halfway February). We have never slept this save. However, it does not really contribute to a adventurous travel feeling it you park in between 10 other European campers. Luckely there is anough do do around here: visit the local market, stroll through the old town, climb the active vulcano Pacaya. And there is always a Land Rover with the bonnet up in the air.
Otherwise we can always dream about how to spend our 365th day on the road. Probably it will be on the beach in El Salvador.
Time is fun when you’re having flies!
While departing Mexico the Mexican customs tries to get an extra 20 US dollar departure fee of us while we already paid the same amount entrance fee. Anouk tells them very friendly that we are not going to pay twice. At the Belizean side we are welcomed by customs with dreadlocks and Bob Marley on the speakers. The ‘Ja Man’ and ‘Relaxed man’ sounds everywhere here. The locals originate from pirates (yes of the Caribbean) After buying the compulsory car insurance and fumigation of the car we enter our 22nd country on this trip. The odometer clicks 47.000 km at the border.
We see a lot of Defenders here in Belize and we are immediately invited at a Danish / German couple with a 130 Crew Cab. We have lobster for dinner and the next day we visit an airshow. At the airport we also find Adventure Trex, the local Defender garage. Our car needs immediate service as we discover that our rear axle is worn out. Besides that we replace the oilseal in the steering ball joint, we adjust the valves and the wheelbearings, replace the gastket on the transferbox and fix the steeringbox. All this took 4 days work! We also lose our nut, bolt and rubber of the rear stabilizer while driving on the dirtroads here.
We also pick up our new tyres Sponsored by Euro Tyres in Venlo The Netherlands. We donate the two used tyres that we are not using anymore to charity.
The coast and islands are very beautiful and the water is warm. The roads to the beach are all financed by the European Union and by the look and state of the road we suspect the developer is sitting on the beach somewhere sipping rum whilst checking the interest rate on his bankaccount. The only real drawback of these beaches are the sandflies. As they say here: Time is fun when you’re having flies.
We also added extra pictures to the Mexican album. Our next stop will be Guatemala where the diesel and beer is supposed to be cheaper again. The rum bottles they sell here do not fit in our fridge 😉
Corona’s on the beach
Happy new year!
From Mexico we want to wish you all a incredible and above all adventurous 2011. We have had an unforgettable year and will keep you posted on our travels.
Enjoy a good party and drink a beer on behalf of us!
Bram and Anouk
Chillaxing and vegging out
It was time to move on to Phoenix, Arizona. But not before we visited the plane cemetary in the desert of Tucson. In Phoenix Lynn and Jack were awaiting us. They are the former host family of Brams sister and have a beautiful house on the edge of a lake. A busy program was awaiting us, because in between a cocktailparty and a boat ride, we appeared on the local Fox News. Lynn calls the neighbors to inform them nobody got hurt, why else would the Fox News van arrive 😉 They also took us to the Zoo Lights, a zoo decorated with milions of lights. A little strange to walk around in thin clothes watching Christmas lights. But we can get used to that!
After that we were about to teach some adventure to the kids at the school where Pam, our host we met in Tombstone. We saw about 12 classes of kids who all posed in front of our car (“This is even cooler than Pimp my Ride”!) and asked for authographs in their schoolbooks (“Can I have one for my sister?”). All the 12 year olds were convinced that we’re gonna get famous. After that Bram convinced Anouk and the host family that he found a car show where they had a price for the car who drove the most kilometers to the show. We were the only unpolished car in between some American beauties. But with our 38.000 km the diner cheque was ours.
After an amazing PAMpering stay on the couch of the Kuznias, we were about to give the Grand Canyon a second chance. After a short stop at the Meteor Crater, that was very impressive, we had a great view on the canyon. The sunset wasn’t amazing, but a least we had more that a few meters sight. What an impressive place!
Now we found another couch to chillax on. Via via we met Serbiene, a cheerful girl from the Netherlands, who lives in Long Beach, south of LA, and invited us with a lot of hospitality. We used some bycicles on the beach and unfortunately had another car repair waiting for us. Even though we have never ever seen so many Land Rovers in one city (fancy Range Rovers that is for the rich of Hollywood and Beverly Hills), we weren’t able to find a belt tensioner for our ride. Brams father Fedexed it to us (it would have been real fast if customs didn’t decide to inspect it for 2 days) and that was fixed again. A few more days and we will cross over to Mexico. We don’t know what to expect over there, but you will read more about it next time.
Is this the Way to Amarillo?
After all the gambling and watching cars in Vegas it is time for us to head to Brice- and Zion Canyon. The transition is really big because of the fact that we head towards the mountains and the winter just started. Of course we are still sleeping in the car but that proves to be really hard with this cold weather. We have to scratch ice from the inside of the windows and our water tank and – pump is totally frozen. We try to thaw it all with a hairdryer but after 2 hours everything is frozen again so we just leave it the way it is.
Because we heard from locals that the North rim of the Grand Canyon is less touristy we approach the rim from Utah. The roads are already covered in snow so our beanies, jackets and ski pants really come in handy. Unfortunately we have a lot of fog in the Canyon so we do not see much of it. Luckily the sun is shining again by the time we reach Monument Valley. There is a 4×4 trail that goes around all the rock formations and a Japanese tourist in front of us drives his Toyota in a ditch. We break the door handle on this track that Bram tries to glue back but he manages to glue the lock shut so that did not really help.
Because we make a lot of progress we decide to visit Texas. Barren land with cattle ranches and meat packing factories dominate the landscape. We discover the city Amarillo on the map and spend the night there but not before we visit a hockey game and ‘celebrate’ the loss of the local team in a club. The bartender must have been an intern because she managed to spill beer over Anouk twice and even let the keg explode in front of us. We did not have to threaten with a lawsuit to get loads of free booze so we ended the night as professional drinkers. We sleep well in the car apart from the fact that a drunken Texan crashes his car into the lamppost next to our car. We decide to spend our hangover in a national park and we are immediately invited to have a BBQ with an Iranian couple and we even sleep at their place. Hockey and Iranians were two things we did not expect to see in Texas. Texas itself is barren and all the cities are the same with Mc Donalds and Burger King and cattle so we decide to drive back to New Mexico where we have our first official case of travel fatigue after being on the road for 8 months. Rural USA is the same everywhere and we have a hard time socializing with other people because they all watch DVD’s in their RV.
After visiting Tombstone (AZ) and a Thanksgiving diner at the firehouse in Bowie (AZ) our spirits go up again because we are invited by The Brown Family to share their holiday apartment with them. A hot tub, swimming pool and clean sheets really are something different than laying on the ground at the Wall mart parking lot to fill up the transfer box with gear oil again. We are back on the road again!
What happens in Vegas, stays on Facebook
Anouk and I stay another day in San Fran. The Defender is struggling with the hills and when we decide to walk we are making more panting noises than the car normally does. (Luckily we do not smoke) Via Sillicon Valley where we see almost no High Tech business we arrive at Yosimete National Park. Unfortunately the fog caught up with us and we do literally see nothing from the whole park. Because of the bad weather all the mountain passes are closed and we are forced to make a 350 km detour. After a while all the roads in the region are closed for high loads and RV’s. After a very difficult oil change (we thought that we could buy everything in the States) we head for Death Valley. Finally off road again and we enjoy the route trough mountains and valley’s. We almost forgot how much we hated the washboards (corrugation road if you are Australian 😉 ) roads. The weather is really nice with 27 C and we are happy that we are here in winter time.
We follow the extraterrestial Highway and visit Area 51 and Rachel. The first one is the secret airforce testbase of the American Army and the second is a tinpot town with just 39 inhabitants who are all waiting for aliens to visit planet earth. We in the end touch down in Las Vegas. Because we write and publish about our journey we are granted with two Press entry tickets for the SEMA Show. This is one of the biggest car shows in the world. To keep Anouk happy we check into a hotel for three days. After three days we still did not see all the cars on the show let alone all the casinos on the Strip. Vegas really is a city without limits and we can see why the SEMA show is held here.
PS, Besides the pictures of California and Nevada we also added new pictures of Canada.
Guns, Rum, Sand and Hamburgers
Yes indeed we are in the USA. After the overload of rain in Canada we decide it is time to head towards the USA. At the border we are immediately confronted with the rules and regulations of the USA.
The customs officer refuses to talk to us and with hand gestures he takes us out of the line for a ‘second inspection’. Inside the customs office we are the only white people apart from a hippie with a guitar case. The customs want to know why we don’t have a flight ticket, why we are traveling by car and how on earth we are going to pay for our expenses since we do not have a job. After a hearing that would make the Gestapo turn pale we are finally allowed to enter ‘The land of the Free’ and drive into Washington state.
A visit to Seattle learns us that it has as many homeless people as there are in Canada but this city has a nice vibe and here we are getting compliments about the car again. Of course we can not go here without a visit to the Boeing factory. More inland we visit the vulcano Mount St Helens which exploded in 1980. The aftermath of this explosion is clearly visible and we drive trough a landscape of uprooted trees and ashlayers.
Via Portland we finally head for the coast where we unfortunately meet bad weather again with lots of rain and wind. We discover a dune recreational area in Florence Oregon where one is allowed to drive a car. We need a bicycle flag on the car and for almost a day me drive trough this sandy area. Despite the fact that the locals think our tires are ‘way too narrow’ we have the honor of pulling two car’s out of the dunes. At the exit of the dunes there is a steep ridge which we do not want to descent on without knowing what is on the other side. We ask a couple of quad bike drivers for directions and they ask us to follow them. Unfortunately the quad trail is a little too narrow for our car and we slide sideways of the dune into a hole. We are officially stuck for the first time. We have driven all these kilometers trough Central Asia and now we are #@!%^&*!! stuck in the dunes of Oregon. Luckily for us the owner of the quads also owns a Ford Truck with an engine the size of a freight train and after some digging and a pull with the chain we are towed out of the hole.
America would not be America if our rescuer did not ask us whether we wanted to drive the quads. We are more than happy to accept the offer and we start talking about our trip. They (Wayne and Roxanne) are so enthusiastic about our trip that in the end they invite us for hamburgers and we are even allowed to shoot their rifles, guns and shotgun. Years of duckhunt on the Nintendo finally pay of and Anouk hits the target 6 out of 10. Eventually we stay in the dunes for three days and we are asked to give a little presentation about our trip at the school of their kids and answer all of their questions.
Bram’s sister works for a newspaper in Amsterdam and is sent to San Francisco for her work where we will pick her up from the airport.
Customs, a broken car and lots of glaciers
When we arrive in Canada we though we would find civilization, rich people, bears and a well organized system. After 4 weeks here, we haven’t found much of it.
A week before our container was due to arrive, we arrived in Vancouver to start preparing the customs process. However, it turned out that we couldn’t do anything as long as our container hadn’t arrived. And even the guys at the custom office and our contact person at the shipping company had no idea about the steps to be taken. So we were stuck in the red tape. When we finally collected all the stamps, it turned out that the people of the warehouse had dragged our car out of the container by using the winch cable and after that had used a forklift to move it aside. The result: a bent drive shaft, bent pasts of the chassis, dis balanced wheels, a broken winch cable and so on. And no time to repair this all, since the parents of Anouk had arrived and rented a camper van to search for bears and gletsjers. Luckily, the owner of Rovertech Automotive could lend us a spare drive shaft, so that we could be on the road while he renewed the drive shaft.
Unfortunately, we the trip started with lots of rain, but luckily we had lots of pictures to show from our trip so our nights in the back of the camper weren’t lost at all. We were on the way to the Icefield Parkway! In between the rain we had sun, but also snow and freezing nights. But the trip was amazing! The roads winded through beautiful mountains and everywhere we looked we saw snow and glaciers. We’ve seen deers, elks and 1 (!) moose just on the streets, but not a single bear. Although they were hard to find anyway in between all the rented campervans ;-). We sometimes even thought we were in Germany, since all the rented camper vans were inhabited by Germans and the campsite knew there target group. One bear made it close to our car at night, but we only knew when we saw the traces the next morning. Besides all this, we strolled through old gold mining villages and visited the Country music Capital of Canada. Our Defender still attracts a lot of attention on the ‘carcrazy’ continent and more then once we get thumbs up from fellow drivers. (of lots of bad words when they do not understand that our small engine can not go as fast as their V8).
In the meanwhile, we can not get adjusted to the fact that we can not free camp here and that everything is regulated. Besides, we think 40 dollars for 24 cans of beer is quite a lot (should we have bought more cheap wodka in Russia?). Anyway, the parents of Anouk have gone back to the Netherlands and we are making plans for the upcoming weeks. We wanted to go up north but traveling in a Defender is as much fun when it is raining 90% of the time and we have no place to dry our clothes. So should we alter our way of traveling or search for the less traveled roads on this continent? We will let you know in our next post.
Bram en Anouk
Also check our publication this month in 4×4 Activ Magazine!
Next month (2-5 November) we will visit the SEMA Show 2010 in Las Vegas so check our website and magazine for updates on this amazing show!
It is hard without the car!
In the southern part of Korea in a town called Busan we will have to ship our car towards Canada. For this task we are using a broker. She told us that we had to go to customs in the morning. On arrival the guy behind the front desk runs away from us when he hears English but after a while we make clear that we would like to ship our car. Finally it takes 4 custom officers to listen to our story and after 15 minutes of gesture language one of them takes a dictionary and aks: ‘why are you here?’ We tell them again that we would like to ship our car and his answer is very effective: ‘Why are you here?’ After he repeated this question another 3 more times we decide it is time to call our broker and let her solve this issue.
In the end they take us to the car inspection zone where a dog and an inspection team awaits us. However customs are more interested in the stickers and writing on the car.After we explain and have them write on the car as well they offer us coffee and the inspection is finished without even opening the car. After the coffee customs escort us to the container terminal where we fix the car in the container. The fuel cans on the roof rack are just a little too high so we take them of while half of the terminal crew watches us work. Besides the fuel cans the car is a perfect fit and after we disconnect the batteries they close the door of our container. We must admit that is a strange feeling to be without a car for the first time in 4,5 months. Luckily our broker gives us a ride back to the city where we find a hostel in the University District which means we have got plenty to do at night.
From Busan we take a bus (!) to Seoul where we booked a tour to the DMZ. For the ones that did not pay attention to their history teacher this stands for DeMilitarized Zone and is a 4 km wide coast to coast stretch of land that divides North- and South Korea where any Militarized activity is prohibited. Every now and then the North Koreans dig a tunnel to the south but apart from that, it seems to work. In this DMZ there is also the JSA (Joint Security Area). This is the highlight of the DMW tour because in this area the North- and the South Korean soldiers are guarding the buildings that are situated exactly on the border between the two countries. In the main building occasionally UN peace talks take place and the microphone on the table is the exact border. The strange thing is that taking pictures is no problem and we are even allowed to walk to North Korea. Apart from that the rules are very strict. We are not allowed to take anything our of our pockets and we literally have to follow the instructions of the soldiers. When we arrive there the North Koreans ‘on the other side’ take their position and look at us trough binoculars to see if whether we are placing explosives. All the time they have their finger on the trigger…
The South Korean soldiers are in a permanent Taekwondo position ready to come into operation. While doing this they hide halfway behind the buildings so that they can take cover when the North Koreans begin to shoot. We have to admit that it is really bizarre to see the last convulsions of the cold war take place in full freeze right in front of us. From our military bus we can even spot the North Korean propaganda village packed with banners and speakers blurting out that this is the place where paradise begins.
Our next big step in our travelling is the flight to Canada where our car will arrive one week after we touch down. While we placed this message we are already wrestling with Canadian customs for more than 2 weeks. Filling out forms, insurance and other red tape nonsense. We even need to fax stuff back and forth. Welcome in the so called modern world. Even Anouk’s grand parents use email and Skype! But on the other hand the sun is shining and yes the rumour is true. The Canadians indeed drive with their canoe on their cars. 😉
Anouk’s parents will visit us and we are really looking forward to liquorice and their company. Next time we will write more about our car in Canada (so we hope) but so far getting it in the country is surprisingly hard. We placed some new pictures in the Korean Album and translated some comments in the other albums.
Bram and Anouk.
Beach for professionals.
After reaching our first main goal (Vladivostok) we are driving South in the direction of the North Korean Border. Id did not matter that we were driving a land Rover but they did not let us into the country. Luckily there is a ferry that goes to Sokcho in South Korea from Zarubino in Russia. We were told that we had to show up at 11.00 at the docks. There was a lot of activity but no boat to be seen and we were told again to show up at 15.00. In Russia they prefer to communicate trough a small hole in the wall with mirrorglass in it and they can close that hatch really quick when they see a tourist coming. After a while we met some Russian crab fishers that did speak some English and they helped us out with the rest of the hassle. In the end we were the only car on the boat. After just 10 minutes on the boat the crab fishers caught up with us and showed us a huge bag of Tax Free Vodka and they repeated the following scentence: You Tourist, I Russian, we Drink! Like all Russians they drank like it was their last day on earth and we regretted that in the morning. Having a hangover on an in China manufactured South Korean Ferry from Russia in North Korean waters is really not funny!
We made it to Vladivostok.
In the mean time we added another country to our list. From Zarubino (RUS) we will take the ferry to South Korea. Bram’s dad claims to gained some of his scars in the Korean war so we decided to take a look where this must have happened. By this we mean that shipping the car from South Korea is much cheaper and faster.
From South Korea we report more on our adventures and off course the car!
Enjoy the summer!