We always planned to put a bit of information about how we prepared for our big trip and what we learnt during that preparation and then once we were on the road. Well we have finally got around to writing some of it down, seven months after we started! We found many other blog sites inspirational and useful while planning and we wanted to put down a few things to inspire/help others planning similar trips.
Landy – our vehicle and home
The idea of this journey through Australia and Africa distilled from a melting pot of our travel dreams. I had always thought that it would be a great experience to drive the length of Africa when I worked in Lesotho years ago, those early dreams always included travelling in a Defender, call me crazy?!
Choosing our vehicle
When we dared to start thinking of putting our dreams into some sort of reality and the possibility of actually doing the trip started to surface I knew one of the first things we had to do was look for a suitable vehicle. There were, to begin with, only a small list of factors that the vehicle had to meet; to be a four wheel drive, so we could go anywhere we wanted and get off the beaten track; to be fairly simple so we wouldn’t be electronically stranded anywhere (especially in Africa); and to be strong enough to carry us and our gear over all the pounding that outback corrugations and African pot-holes will throw at it. We also decided that we would rather get an older vehicle and get mechanical work done on it, rather than a newer vehicle to reduce the carnet costs (by having a lower vehicle value, see more below). The obvious vehicles (to me) were a Toyota Landcrusier, Land Rover Defender, and also the reliable and very common, but possibly less rugged/lower payload Toyota Hilux. To be fair any of these vehicles and many other utes/wagons would do the trip, with the set up changing depending on what vehicle body type you go for. We decided on an older turbo-diesel (300tdi) 110 Defender station-wagon as it fitted the requirements above, is very capable carrying heavy loads off road for an older vehicle, and for the very logical reason that I have wanted one since I was a boy!!
The pop-top roof and fit-out
Our original plans to kit it out included putting a roof-top tent on top and fitting storage cupboards inside, setting them up so, as a back up, we could sleep inside if we felt we needed to. We wanted something we could set up and take down easily, as we would be on the move a lot and we also wanted to camp off the ground. One day while camping we saw a pop-top Landcruiser and started thinking about that as an option. A bit of research threw up Daniel Fluckiger (www.mulgo.com.au) who does pop-top conversions for Defenders. As his workshop happens to be in Sydney we thought to ourselves we’ll go down and have a look, just a look mind. We came away impressed and could see the potential of the pop-top roof that hinges at the front and lifts up at the rear. The most notable thing was how much room it gave you inside the vehicle, easily being able to stand up inside. After a bit of thought we were sold on the idea.
So far with seven months of living in the defender, the pop-top has been great. Especially when camping close to others or when the weather’s bad. Doing a trip like this means you live so much outside and the weather has a big impact, having the option of a living space inside, get changed etc and jumping into a ready made bed is great. From our experiences on the road so far the pros and cons of the pop-top are: