I hadn’t forgotten…


Well well well… it’s been a crazy old time and I just haven’t had the brain space in the last 11 weeks (yikes!) to put together “the last post”. The last post for London to Melbourne anyway.

We live in a house now! It’s the craziest thing. You don’t realise the habits that are formed after 7 months in the car; some good, some bad. Now we have a garden and a garage and a whole laundry room all to ourselves! We even took delivery of a real life, full size refrigerator yesterday… we had the National Luna on the kitchen floor for a month before I finally lost my nut over it haha! Time to move on from the camp-style food storage option. We have drinking vessels made of glass and not plastic that looks a lot like glass. It’s all rather civilised. And you don’t have to remind me that I wrote a startlingly similar post when we returned from Africa back in 2012, I know it! You learn to live without so much when you travel for long periods of time but there is joy in reintroducing some of the missing items back in to your life when things start to go back to “normal”.

Overlanding is an addiction, sort of. Richard and I are different in so many ways but also have heaps in common and share a mutual 5 to 6 month limit when it comes to travelling in the Disco, living outside rain hail or shine and climbing a ladder to go to bed. We learned when we went to Africa that we reached the end of our tethers at 5 months… two weeks later we were in Cape Town with the car in a container and our rear-ends planted firmly in an airline seat. We were 7 months and 2 days on the Asia journey and with a large number of combined factors it felt long and arduous.

I can only speak for myself and my views are often not conducive to popular opinion amongst overlanders but so be it… I do like to say things how they are so here goes; would I do it again? Asia, no. Africa, in a heartbeat. Overlanding in general, absolutely. Lesson learned, take the dog with us next time!

We didn’t really write much about our Australian leg of the journey, all our plans fell by the wayside when we struggled to put together a legal driving option with our foreign plated car… but please don’t worry, this was due to our permanent move to Australia and had we just stamped our carnet life would have been sweet. Richard had big dreams for Aus; head north from Perth, then south east to the red centre onwards east to the coast through the Simpson Desert and south again with a lot of sights and remote off-roading along the way. We only managed one day of off-roading (170KM’S) in our actual journey which took us from campground to campground along the southern and sealed roads from Perth to Melbourne via Adelaide and the Nullarbor. But you know what, we still really loved it and as disappointing as a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy was we found so many beautiful places along the way and all in all life was easy. It has made us see the endless opportunities for travelling with the car in this new country of ours (how will we find the time?!) and look forward to getting out there once the bank accounts are feeling a little healthier.

So time to put WordPress away for a little while, I am not too sure if our website even works that well at the moment! We have’t updated the map or anything! I’ll get to it this weekend, it’s about time we sorted out all the loose ends.

Thanks to everyone for their endless support, I know we make you worry Mum’s and Dad’s and we appreciate it… you shouldn’t though. It’s a doddle(?). Again, we met so many new people along the way, some of them are even headed our way to Melbourne so we can have a mini Laos reunion here at our place. And of course we are already looking at ways to improve our kit for the America’s. Suckers for punishment you say and you’re right.

Take care, J&R


Star dome…

Oh dear, naughty naughty! 20th November was the last post from us.

Tonight we are camping on a farm, under an immense night sky, in the Margaret River region of Western Australia… I guess that says it all! We drove in to Singapore, handed over the car to the shipping agent and then waited for what seemed like an age to get it back again!

On reflection to Singapore, it seems there is this belief that it’s impossible to take your car there and if you do it’s crazy expensive… none of this is true, although the temporary insurance is expensive the entire process is really quite straight forward and there’s just a $50 fee for the permit and paperwork. Really not bad at all! When you’ve come that far, who wants to gripe over $50 and some costly insurance (obviously subject to individual vehicle and personal circumstances). The rules are strictly adhered to though and campervans or vehicles with (obvious) internal sleeping arrangements are not allowed but on the day of the border crossing at Woodlands no one really looked that much at the vehicle, just the paperwork.

The entry process in to Australia was tiresome and all rather half-assed but that’s how it is here and you just wait your turn. We gave our car a DIY jetwash and a vacuum in Malaysia 2/3 days before shipping and only two things had to be cleaned for the quarantine guys at this end… our dusty max trax and a pair of old shoes we had forgotten to throw in the bin when we packed the car in Singapore. There was accumulated dust and dirt and grime all over the place and it didn’t seem to be an issue. Another potential myth busted! We didn’t have any asbestos concerns raised either but we had done our research in advance and had written confirmation from Land Rover that the cars and parts were asbestos free many years before our car was built.

So, on to more interesting topics… Mr. Frank Furter, our beloved Dachshund, is now with us and learning to travel overland! This has been a really big deal, after so many months of being miserable without him we took the plunge and flew him to Perth so he could do the last stretch with us. He’s not so sure about it just yet but if we lay on the luxurious cushions and blankets then he seems to manage. Such a diva.

While we waited for the car to make an appearance we spent time in Auckland, Melbourne and Perth, had time apart and time together that wasn’t overlanding. It’s been a rough ride this one and a long break was really what we needed, lots of sleep and time to think about other things, be with Frank, be “normal”… it was invaluable and now that we have set off again in a new environment and a new culture it is all rather invigorating. We met some lovely people over Christmas and tonight we have settled in to a campsite on a beautiful farm. The night sky takes your breath away and it’s all very peaceful. The coastline is stunning and we have so much to see and do over the next few days including a dog friendly wine tour which we are really excited about!

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!


Singapore at the window…

Blimey! Three weeks since the last post from us, I do apologise!

We have covered a fair amount of mileage in that time but not so much that we couldn’t slow down a bit and take time to do some pretty great stuff in Thailand and (west) Malaysia.

After the north of Thailand, Bangkok and Pattaya, where we left you last, we headed towards the coasts of the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea… the first seaside we had had on this route with the truck and we are water babies at heart so it was a refreshing change. We camped with the sound of the waves and the swishing of palms. We spent a night on a liveaboard at the Similan Islands and enjoyed two days of beautiful diving amongst humongous boulders and lovely corals. We have hiked in to jaw dropping caves and floated around in the ocean next to a Siam Junk (aka sailboat). It’s been fantastic but also rainy and we haven’t been able to trust the weather enough to camp as much as we would like to. I should confess we even had an accidentally massive night out and only knew what we did after finding the photos on my phone the next day. We slept in the car park we had driven the car to with the intention of a quick meal and an early night sleeping at the beach. Ha! Fitbit told me the next day we went to bed at 5am but we don’t know what we did past 11pm the night before. The restaurant owner bought us tequila shots… I blame him.

We have also faced facts in the last week or so… we are jaded and a bit over it and more than ready to get the car and ourselves to Australia for the next chapter and a new environment. This is why we are holed up on the Singapore border, on the 29th floor of a building overlooking the expanse of water we have not yet been able to drive across. Today we went on foot to Singapore and collected the permit that allows us to drive the truck there…. our faithful carriage is booked to sail the high seas this Sunday !! Tomorrow we will join the queue of vehicles on the causeway and wait our turn to drive the last 20ish km’s of Asia. There are many routes to take through Europe, Central Asia and Asia and you can’t pick them all but come tomorrow we will have driven ourselves from London to Singapore, yippee! It was 1955 when the first ever cars set off from London to reach Singapore… and they were Land Rovers [insert smug face here].

So chaps, just a short post today. We have some more detailed information we can add on Singapore for other overlanders but will do so after we have crossed this last land border.

Oh yeah, also, there are Christmas decorations everywhere in Malaysia and Singapore. It has come as a bit of a shock, I feel quite weird about it actually! It’s roasting hot, dripping with humidity plus I can’t believe we have been travelling that long already… crazy.

x J&R

A Frank shaped hole…

I’m really not sure how many people read this anymore, I realise the posts have been patchy at best… padded out with photos and so on. It’s not always easy to find things to talk about on this journey you know. I’ve guessed that once we’ve added some photos and appropriate tags to Instagram it feels like everyone probably has a reasonable grasp on what we are up to and the blog borders on redundant.

We haven’t talked much about our vehicle either, there isn’t a great need to I guess when it remains such a faithful companion… that can change at any moment though so who knows, maybe I’ve just jinxed it! We are maintenance mad and obsessive with tyre pressures and daily checks, it pays in spades. Just yesterday we spent some time at Land Rover in Bangkok to purchase oil, oil filter, plug and a new bonnet catch and switch. Ol’ Orange is now suitably fitted out with new parts and brimming with fresh oil. We’ve been a bit lax with some things, namely the issue where the alarm goes off at random because the car thinks the bonnet is open haha! It’s been doing it for about two years but now it’s like new again. We have made changes to some of our equipment since Africa in 2012 and will likely make one detailed and vehicle focused post at the finish line when we know for sure that everything has worked to its fullest potential. We have even more changes to make after this trip! That must mean there is another in the pipeline… ?

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, this route has been kinda lonely… lonelier than Africa anyway and certainly without Frank’s love and affection (and stinky breath) to cheer us. It’s also fair to say we are the misfits of the overlanding world, pretty much always have been! It never fails to amaze me how willing people are to offer their opinions on our vehicle, often ill informed or just plain old sanctimonious. It gets me down but luckily bounces right off Richard… every time we have to smile politely and nod along with the judgement being handed out it just makes us more determined to carry on. I was looking at continents of the world the other day, by Christmas/New Year this beloved vehicle of ours will have covered 4 of 7 and that determination I mentioned earlier will help us complete 6 continents, just you wait and see haha!

One crucial change for the future is how to accommodate our furry friend Frank, I can’t leave him again for this length of time… not bringing him to Asia has been immensely difficult. We have missed him desperately and for me it has affected my ability to fully enjoy the ride. These are entirely selfish thoughts of course, Frank is probably the happiest he has ever been living on the beach in Auckland and this is exactly why I sent him ahead instead of bringing him with us.

So what else have we been doing? Heaps! It feels like last week that I posted about our break in Phuket and heading off in to the jungle for a few days! We had a really really great time in Laos, for me the best country on the route by a long way. So beautiful, so genuine and authentic. We headed north east from Vientiane, via the Buddha Park which was really great and on towards Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. Typically we much more enjoyed getting drunk with locals and other tourists at a late night cafe than the Plain of Jars itself but at least we are honest about the fact we are terrible tourists. We’ve always enjoyed the social element of travel more than the sightseeing.

From Phonsavan we headed south on this nice little route that Google Maps suggested, why wouldn’t you take it when it’s almost 100km shorter than the alternative… we can give you many reasons why it turns out! When you’re driving along a beautiful new road surface and eventually notice there are no cars coming in the opposite direction you start to wonder what lies ahead. Mwahahaha! Land slides, destroyed bridges, mud pits, vertical drop offs in thick thick cloud… you name it. The “road” was so bad we had to stop, sleep the night and carry on the next day. It took a full afternoon, a nights sleep and all of the next morning to cover roughly 200km’s and we loved every bit of it.

At the end of this road we found Cool Pool spring for a much needed swim and then 2 gloriously relaxing nights at Kong Lor Cave. Then past the Limestone Forest back to Vientiane where we tried and failed to cross the border in to Thailand.

After a couple more nights in Vientiane we went back north past some of the jaw dropping scenery we had enjoyed on the way down from China previously. I specifically chose a camp area in the mountains that offered staggering views but also refreshingly cool air which we relished for the short time we were there. Then on to Vang Vieng where we came across a little camping gem and spent three nights melting in the heat and moving our bodies as little as possible. By the third night there were 6 overlanding vehicles there of all shapes and sizes, all of us trying to figure out how we would get to Thailand when we really shouldn’t be able to.

The uncertainty of being in a country where you can’t easily get your vehicle out again is too much for me. I like to know where we are going next and how we get there… this is not how it works in Laos at the moment! After considering all the options we made another attempt at the Vientiane border and after being rejected a second time and with yet another cancelled immigration stamp in our passport the customs chaos did a sudden and unexpected 360 and said they would allow us to pass… a second stamp in the passport, a couple of customs documents for the car and we were sent on our way speechless and disbelieving at what had just happened. It was about 24 hours before it really sunk in!

We have been busy little bees ever since, putting distance between us and border customs as quickly as possible! We headed north to Chiang Rai, Pai, Lampang and so on. We chose some small roads hoping to find some adventure but everything here is so beautifully paved, it’s a nice change from the road craters of Laos.

And here we are, slightly shell shocked and baffled after a visit to Walking Street in Pattaya. Sleeping in the tent at Plodd Stop with our little USB fan and headed for the west side of Bangkok tomorrow to start heading south once again.

We’re coming for you Frank! Promise!

Time to get a move on I suppose…

We’re really pretty keen to get on the road again after a long break… it’s been about 2 and a half weeks since we last made some progress in the truck. The old gal has been resting in Vientiane while we flew down to Phuket for 12 days and caught up with the Markwick crew for an extra special birthday. Safe to say many hours were spent floating in various bodies of water drinking cocktails and beers! Happy hours!

We’ve purchased ourselves a USB fan for the tent! It’s so hot here in Laos but hopefully cooling down in the next few weeks…? To get any sleep at all we were going to need some air flow though and after stopping in about 6 different places Richard convinced a guy in a computer store to sell him his fan that was plugged in and running on the desk haha! A bit of a clean and she’ll be good to go in the penthouse.

The tortured tyre that has survived three (!!) roadside DIY plugs was entirely flat on our return from Phuket so we finally sought some professional attention and had three hot patch repairs. The repairs were quick, inexpensive and more importantly we avoid another tyre rotation and having to purchase new spares so that was really good news as we figured the tyre was toast, and fairly so.

Apart from the 3 days of mutual food poisoning and the mouthful of tiny ants I ate with my Creamy Caramel Whittaker’s chocolate the other day, Vientiane and more specifically our hosts, Andy and Meera, have been truly fantastic. We have got lots of little odd jobs done that there just simply hasn’t been time for until now.

Oh also, I should add that we collected our Cleanwaste loo while in Poo-ket, this is a very exciting addition to our camping equipment I can tell you. All though it’s a little too late to the party it completes the picture for camping comfortably… it’s the most comfortable we can get with our chosen set up anyway!

Tomorrow we head towards the northeast a little and do a 5/6 day loop to take in some scenery… I’ll be pestering you all on Instagram and Facebook soon enough don’t you worry.


Laos; leave your eyelids at home…

You won’t want to miss a thing! WOW! It is so truly beautiful here, there just isn’t a picture I could ever take that would do this landscape justice.

It will take the breath from your lungs, the words from your mouth and the heart from your chest.

We crossed the border from China almost 3 days ago. The first night we waited 11 hours for a barge to take us across a 15 metre wide river because the vehicle bridge has “a problem”… it’s been like that for two months haha! We arrived at the bridge at 8pm and boarded the barge at 6.45 the next morning. Suffice to say we were very tired but arrived in Luang Prabang at 7am to find a whole host of excellent cafes with strong coffee made from locally grown and roasted beans, heaven.

It has literally been thrill-a-minute driving here, the roads are chaotic (if they are still in tact) but after 5,000+ kilometres of Chinese highways we are absolutely loving it. There are animals and birds and toddlers and school kids and bikes and mopeds and trucks and cars everywhere. While trying not to take a life you are also trying to avoid catastrophic sized potholes and falling down a mountainside… very excited to see the rest of this fabulous country.

We saw many beautiful things in China but only ever behind walls built for collecting ticket money. The cities seem fantastic too but we never stopped for more than a night and that was frustrating for us. We enjoy modern cities and what they have to offer but we just didn’t get a chance to do what we really wanted to. We would travel China again in a heartbeat but we wouldn’t take the car… it’s too restrictive having a guide, especially one who thinks he’s on his own tour and not yours. A guide who insists his impossibly tiny budget be adhered to at all times. A guide who paces around while you eat your breakfast and then immediately and relentlessly starts eating once he is inside the car. A guide who pulled so much on the back of the seat I thought he was going to snap the blimmin’ thing off. Gah! Don’t take your own car to China… but do travel there, it’s actually fantastic!

We loved a lot of things and didn’t love a lot of things. We saw incredible sights but had to pay through the nose for the privilege… although the worst ones were paying through the nose and then finding it a bit crap. We were so attractive in our orange vehicle that people would circle us on the highway (awkward) or overtake us and then slow down to have a good look (infuriating). We had fast smooth roads but each one came with a hefty toll attached (approx 500 NZD in total). We must feature heavily on China’s mobile phone photo albums too because people took pictures of us all day and all night whilst doing the most ordinary of things (boiling water for instance). There were endless pretty photos to add to Instagram and we would recommend a lot of really unique and interesting places to visit… we will go back for sure and see more of China.

We are tired, the car is filthy and all three of us need a bit of down time so it’s perfect timing to meet the family in Phuket for 12 days. My precious Pa’s 70th birthday celebrations! Can’t wait!

The humble ham and cheese…

… we won’t ever curse it again, because if we do it might be another 8 weeks before we can find bread, ham or cheese! The amount of noodle pots and boiled, plastic coated sausages we have had to eat… my god.

(A big load of bull!)

Anyhow, we made it in to China! Obviously. The photos of amazing sights have come at you thick and fast… I was called a Facebook pest the other day so I do apologise. The first two days were taken up with formalities and paperwork at the border town in the north. We had a very quick, very smooth process and it actually took half the time we were told it would which was great. Our first drive in China took us to the Great Wall at Badaling… approximately 600km’s which is easily done on Chinese highways but a word of warning to any future overlanders, there is no fuel for over 370km’s outside of Erenhot! When you leave town with two thirds of a tank things get a little worrisome.

As soon as we were free of the border our guided schedule kicked in and we have been flat sticks ever since. Today we had a day off from driving and camping which was greatly welcomed. Much sleep in a very comfortable bed, excessive showering and some tasty food in beautiful settings has refreshed and revived us for the next stint… tomorrow Xi’an and the Terracotta Army!

China has been very surprising for our first week. At the attractions we visit we are often the attraction… Richard is particularly popular with his height. I have had a small child pressed in to my arms for an impromptu photo shoot, poor child looked utterly terrified as I grimaced for their cameras. There are people with big smiles that grasp you by the arm or neck for a selfie and then the others that take photos of you thinking you don’t realise (those ones are kind of annoying admittedly, best just to ask). But absolutely everyone we come across is friendly, helpful, welcoming and wishing us a safe journey… really very nice people. So yeah, surprising and eye opening and so far a wonderful country to travel in.

I have two small gripes however; the road tolls are quite phenomenal, there are toll gates absolutely everywhere and they aren’t cheap! It really is something that should be budgeted for! Then the entry tickets to absolutely every conceivable sight, often expensive and on two occasions have put me off seeing whatever it actually was.

Will try to post more often as I was threatened with a blog shutdown today! Eek!


The star of Mongolia…

Well, we have certainly faced our fair share of adversity in Mongolia… sometimes there are places where everything seems to go a bit wobbly and for us that was this incredibly picturesque country!

Since the last post however; we have met loads of inspiring overlanders, the tent has not tried to escape the roof rack again, we have rescued three cars from rivers, streams and bogs, kept ourselves out of trouble in those same rivers, streams and bogs! Repaired two tyre punctures. Faced many many hours of difficult “roads” [slow, skeleton shaking, suspension screaming, Jo moaning, Richard wincing, mentally exhausting “roads”] that displayed immense vistas and unforgettable experiences and our route through China is now sorted (again).

We are leaving Ulaanbaatar tomorrow and crossing the Chinese border on Tuesday however we are travelling alone and not towards Nepal. The collapse of the last remaining vehicle bridge to Nepal from China has caused a real headache for us and our travel companions who have had to completely rethink their entire route. It really is very sad and so frustrating but we have had to make a call and that call is to head to Laos on our own which is a bit lonely (and a lot costly) but this is overlanding and we have to carry on. Can’t miss Christmas with Frank can we?!

I think the photo stream from Instagram tells most of our story over the last couple of weeks. The drive to the border south east of Ulaanbaatar will complete the star of Mongolia which you are possibly curious about. In our usual fashion (totally disorganised), we drove directly south from Russia to Ulaanbaatar where we got some recommendations of things to see which meant travelling north again then west, then back to UB where we followed a recommendation east then back to UB where we took ourselves south west and here we are again… in UB… about to drive south east. If I had any way to accurately describe the driving style in Mongolia you would understand that 4/5 visits to UB is not good! This city has taken back that 5 years Richard gained from swimming in Baikal!

I don’t know how much we will be able to communicate during our 22 days in China, we will do our best of course but it may be Laos before we speak again.

J&R x

“How’s the serenity?”

I’m not sure I have enough vocabulary to describe the situation we find ourselves in right now… but it does allow me the time to put together this update at least.

We are in the north(ish) of Mongolia, we have just returned from a jaunt out of Ulaanbaatar that involved one night at Amarbayasgalant Monastery and another at Khovsgol Lake. Tonight we swung in to a ger camp looking for a shower, a toilet and an early night. After extensive negotiation we managed two of these three things… the shower (filthy) and a toilet (filthy with no paper or soap) but most definitely not an early night. In the middle of these utterly idyllic surroundings that include flowing rivers, mountains, huge skies so on and so forth is a DJ and a crooner that make me want to cry myself to sleep. If, in fact, sleep was actually an option.

So, get this right… this other thing that happened today; the tent nearly came off the roof at 100kph [insert clean underpants here]. There’s this track which is more potholes than surface to get round the west side of the lake, it rattles and bumps and jiggles you all about… from the end of that track is a newly built asphalt road that in many places has collapsed creating suspension destroying troughs. To save your suspension from these troughs you achieve quite a lot of ABS assisted braking and with the previous jiggly road that rattles the nuts off everything, including the tent clamps, you find the tent is hanging over the bonnet and off to one side. Ultimately not too difficult to put right as Richard is really great with these sorts of things but if that tent had actually come off…? It doesn’t bare thinking about!

What else has happened since we posted last, we had one lovely evening at Lake Baikal with the sun out, mid-20’s and generally very pleasant. The next day it was 13 and we were walking around in very low cloud and rain that didn’t lift again for a number of days sadly. By the time we had to cross to Mongolia we had seen little of Baikal but enjoyed a fun few nights in Irkutsk and a bit of budget luxury in Ulan-Ude where we had a hotel with heated pool and sauna!!

The change of scenery in Mongolia has been gladly welcomed by both of us plus it seems that half the world’s overlanders are in Mongolia… we have been quite alone the last two months and now we cross paths with other overlanders at least once a day (they even helpfully highlighted our tent issues today but at the time we were clueless as to why they pointed with concern at the roof of our vehicle!). It’s been really great to meet so many people and enjoy some company plus what we have seen in the north of Mongolia is really quite breathtaking, I think you could describe it as biblical in many places. We both said yesterday, in one absolutely enormous valley, that it just looks like a huge and perfect painting. Without a camera it is impossible to capture with accuracy.

Anyway, our next bit of news is that our pre-arranged border crossing to exit China has been destroyed in an earthquake. Our plans are in disarray and we need to reroute. Possible for us, at great expense, but not possible for our China travel buddies and so we have a lot to sort out. This has come to light with only a week to spare and with a very tight schedule that really didn’t accommodate drastic changes… just small convenient changes, haha!

Because of the changes to the China route we now have a little bit of tweaking to do on the truck while waiting for new paperwork to be done and all while hoping to still see something of the Gobi desert if there’s time.

Hashtag, this is not a holiday.

Requesting your positive vibes for China please!


Swim for your youth…

Feels like an opportunity to celebrate a milestone, we’ve reached Lake Baikal! For some reason this was geographically an important point in the planning of the trip plus it’s pretty nice here too…

From here we are heading south and this is very close to being our most easterly point, at least until Beijing and then the end point of Melbourne anyway.

Apparently you add 5 years to your life for swimming in the brisk waters but I was not inspired… Richard was though and enjoyed the slowest entry in to the water ever known to man, credit where it’s due though! Brrr…

The lake is an interesting spot actually, it holds 20% of the worlds unfrozen fresh water! It is the largest (volume) and deepest lake and is approximately 25 million years old.

Some quick stats for you because I’m very hungry and want to have dinner!

  • Over 8,000 miles travelled
  • Crossed 5 or 6 or even 7 time zones (not entirely sure!)
  • We are 7 hours ahead of London, at the same time as Perth and 4 hours behind Auckland
  • Put diesel in the car 39 times in 8 weeks

Etc etc etc… nosh time!